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Comics Review: ROCKET RACCOON #1

Irreverent, a little weird, and very funny, Skottie Young may have just written (and drawn) the perfect Rocket Raccoon comic. Beset by ex-girlfriend assassins, space cops, and possibly his own double, Rocket has been given a hyperkinetic adventure in the underbelly of the cosmic Marvel Universe worthy of the character.

Before I go on, let me elaborate on that last bit: Keith Giffen and Bill Mantlo’s creation – like fellow critter character Howard the Duck – have allowed Marvel creators to tell sometimes surreal, often funny stories at the fringes of the Marvel universe, offering the line some relief from grim cosmic disaster, dead girlfriends, clones, or whatever was going on in the “Draco” storyline way back when.

Howard offered a platform for more cerebral stories from co-creator Steve Gerber while Rocket could live in increasingly crazy action parodies. Howard stories worked because they were often trenchant commentaries on our ever-complicated and frustrating modern lives while Rocket’s stories took action stories to their (il)logical conclusions, usually with stuff blowing up real good.

Young’s new, very self-aware ongoing, which kicks off this month with “A Chasing Tale”, surrounds Rocket with a similarly absurd universe. And instead of diluting what makes Rocket and his buddy/muscle Groot, work, Young has made the cosmic side of Marvel even more inviting and exciting – a vast space where things can get silly, strange, and dangerous with a too-cocky rogue at the center.

We learn that when not saving the galaxy alongside his fellow Guardians, Rocket has a sideline saving princesses. Not for entirely selfless reasons, either: Rocket’s a serial princess dater, which has earned him a few powerful enemies. And then there’s the totally unrelated murder warrant out for his arrest – is there another Halfworld native out there icing fools wearing Rocket’s face?

Young embraces the idea that Rocket is kind of a jerk. A funny, sometimes charming one, but the kind of guy who’ll take a princess to his buddy’s wrestling match on a first date, or who will get arrested at the end of said first date. Abnett and Lanning played Rocket as the pint-sized badass with the acerbic wit during the Guardians of the Galaxy relaunch in the midst of Annihilation – Young smooths some of those edges out, making him less John Rambo and more Han Solo. A lot of the humor here comes from Rocket and the Guardians’ awareness that he’s kind of a furry little sociopath, and played just the wrong way, that could have been alienating. But Young plays it so broad that the approach works for the character and the book.

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And now I feel remiss in spending a lot of words talking about the script without mentioning the other important piece: Young’s excellent art. The cartoony style is perfect for the story and makes me wish that there was a TV-MA Rocket Raccoon cartoon out in the wild. Young populates his backgrounds with all sorts of diverse and lumpy alien critters while his main character is a scrawny little ball of energy. Also: more of his hyper-exaggerated Drax – I love that all-bulk/tiny head design.

Rocket Raccoon is a book that can drop in an Overfiend joke (ask your parents, kids) in the middle of a story about how many corpses its main character has racked up. Here’s hoping Marvel can keep the book’s other star – its writer and artist – on board for as long as possible.

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