Rocket Raccoon and Groot: Complete Collection

Rocket Raccoon and Groot: Complete Collection

Collection: Incredible Hulk (1968) #271; Rocket Raccoon #1-4; and material from Tales To Astonish (1959) #13, Marvel Preview #7, Annihilators #1-4 and Annihilators: Earthfall #1-4 © 1960, 1976, 1982, 1985, 2011, 2012 & 2013.
Publisher:  Marvel Comics © 2014
Writers: Bill Mantlo, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning with Stan Lee & Larry Lieber
Pencilers: Keith Giffen, Sal Buscema, Mike Mignola & Timothy Green II with Jack Kirby
Inkers: Keith Giffen, Sal Buscema, Al Gordon, Al Milgrom, Timothy Green II & Victor Olazaba with Dick Ayers
Colorists: Bob Sharen, Christie Scheele  Nathan Fairbairn
Letterers: Karen Mantlo, Jim Novak, Ken Bruzenak & Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles with Ray Holloway
Assistant Editors: Ralph Macchio, Ann Nocenti, Pat Blevins, Jim Massara, Rachel Pinnelas & John Denning
Editors: John Warner, Al Milgrom, Carl Potts, Bill Roseman & Mark Paniccia with Stan Lee

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Here we have a collection older Rocket Raccoon titles and appearances, along with his old buddy Groot. With that said it has various issues and stories in it, not just one continuous arc. This collection carries material prior to the Guardians of the Galaxy and some material after the original Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with that said it doesn’t hurt to read that first.
The collection jumps off with Groot’s first appearance followed by Rocket’s. Groot was hardly the fun loving character he began as, but instead as a villain by Stan Lee. His short Tales to Astonish story is your run of the mill sci-fi, horror, alien invasion story of the 1950’s. Personally, I love this stuff but it may not be for everyone. Next are two Rocket appearances, the first being in Marvel Preview in all black-and-white, and then an appearance in Hulk. The Marvel Preview I swear is a different Rocket since he’s smoking in every panel and uses British lines like “bloody” and “jolly good”. This here is more or less a walk-on cameo, whereas the Hulk appearance has more story and participation in it.

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There are really only two major arcing stories, which are in the four issue limited Rocket Raccoon series and then Annihilators. The Rocket Raccoon series actually goes into the backstory of Rocket Raccoon – his origin and where he comes from. At first it is a rather strange tale dealing with religion and psychology; it gets to a point where you wonder if it’s satire. Rocket inhabits a world with other animals like him along with robots and loonies. The animals and robots serve the loonies, in one way by selling the loonies toys, and then we end up with a toy war between two villains. Sound outrageous? Yes, it is but highly amusing. Annihilators deals with the fallout of Rocket & Groot after the Guardians of The Galaxy series of 2008, where we receive a little more origin from Groot. This series also brings Rocket back to his roots from his original limited series, but with some retconning to his origins which I wasn’t sure how to feel about. Granted, it is hilarious. And finally we have bits of Rocket & Groot in Mojoworld which too is loads of fun.

Writing wise the Groot story is fine, Rocket’s first appearance in Marvel Preview in a Prince Waynfinder story known as Sword in The Star is easily forgettable. Conceptually it sounds interesting as this space-epic fantasy traversing the cosmos but you as the reader are simply plopped down into this second chapter of a story with little background of the first, ends on a cliffhanger as the series never picked up afterwards and again Rocket shows up but provides nothing to the story. Bill Mantlo’s Hulk issue is fine but again deals with some backstory from a previous issue that the reader may or may not have knowledge of. However, Rocket is treated with more respect as a supporting character to befriend and help out Hulk in his situation that in return helps out Rocket. This Hulk issue begins to touch on the world and origin of Rocket, yet ever so slightly. In the end, you could argue these first two Rocket appearances are only appealing to the collector savvy type. In the end, you can skip straight to Mantlo’s & Giffen’s four issue Rocket series that gives you a completely fleshed out story relying on prior history and a Rocket centered arc, instead of him playing second fiddle to someone else. This limited series had killer clown, robotic bunnies, Wal Russ – a walrus with interchangeable tusks for tools and or weapons, mental patients and shenanigans. As noted before it feels like a satire on psychology, capitalism, creation myth and religion. It is almost hard to tell. The final two series as I mentioned before are in continuity with the original 2008 Guardians of The Galaxy series, it helps to read that first but not needed. It is a shame in the end Rocket gets most of the attention in this book rather than Groot, though Groot never had much material to begin with.

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As far as the art where do we start? Jack Kirby on Groot is impeccable, it’s Jack Kirby. Granted, the colorist made some odd choices like a man in a purple suit and yellow over-coat, right? Yet, they use great colors to drive up the drama, tension and horror, it almost feels and looks like a an old 50’s horror film. The pencils for the Marvel Preview short are terrific with such beautiful detail to every nook and cranny of each panel. At the same time the lack of color can make a few panels appear busy, over-loaded and hard to follow. The Hulk issue has too much unnecessary line work, patches and thick lines for my taste. It did not age well with this and it’s coloring to where it appears as an 80’s cartoon.

I will note it is great to know Mike Mignola worked on Rocket but this was not his finest work. Everything looks decent and the series looks better each issue but nothing stands out. Granted he draws anthropomorphic animals very well compared to the Hulk issue under Buscema and has good line work detailing their fur. Again, it’s just decent and nothing on par with Mignola’s Hellboy, though this was years before that. In addition, Rocket does not fit Mignola’s dark, near horror like style and design but his cover on this collection is great. Though the Rocket series had beautiful title pages with great narrative lettering that made it feel like something of a fairy tale book with the font they selected. The letter did make it problematic at times when aboard ships when it was hard to know exactly who was speaking. Luckily, the lettering was cleaned up for everything after this as we never had that problem, plus we have various styles, colors and designs for character making it easier to follow dialogue. Green’s art for the Annihilators series is on par as his work feels close to the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy artwork without being completely lifted. I feel I can read this series right after and not feel a complete tonal shift. Green’s Rocket does come off as almost too cute and less Raccoon with a very under-developed snout. All of the other characters look great, like real animals but Rocket stands out as something overly exaggerated. Meanwhile, this Groot is terrifying to look at, like an actual skeletal monster, good detail but creepy design. I prefer the colors in the final series with more muted backgrounds fitting each scene appropriately rather than a splash of primary colors and bland backgrounds from the Rocket limited series.

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This collection feels like something of a time capsule with all of the different art and colors to go by as you read from oldest to newest. The book basically gets better as you read through it for the most part. The main crux of the book is everything after the Incredible Hulk issue, as noted before that and everything prior is just history, filler, stuff to appeal to collectors and die-hards. I feel we do learn a great deal about Rocket from this, and it certainly isn’t James Gunn’s Rocket but that’s fine too. Read it with an open mind and prepare to be amused.

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