By Skottie Young, Filipe Andrade, and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Reading Rocket Raccoon and Groot is a frustrating experience. That’s arguably true of pretty much every Marvel comic these days, but especially true of this particular book given how ingrained its origins are in the current major problem of Marvel comics these days. A major side-effect of Marvel’s near constant stream of shake-ups, new #1s, and branding exercises is that there’s just no continuity anymore. It’s not just that there’s no continuity in the sense of no real indication of when actions are occurring in connection to one another, like how this book opens with the Guardians of the Galaxy holding a funeral for Rocket and Groot even though they’re IN the Guardians monthly comic. No, the bigger problem is that there’s no consistency, comics are started and stopped with such frequency and seeming randomness that it’s become increasingly hard to invest in the books, mainly because even if it’s a well written and engaging comic, there’s every possibility it’ll just be abruptly ended to be replaced with something completely different. That’s very much the case with Rocket Raccoon and Groot, mainly because the Groot comic that predated it only ran 6 issues before unceremoniously ending and having nothing to do with this new one.
To Rocket Raccoon and Groot’s credit, it’s at least an interesting read and it’s going to be a real shame when 6 months from now it all just falls apart because Civil War 2 hits the big “new #1s” button. The set-up is a little odd, as mentioned it opens with our main characters missing and presumed dead. Obviously, the two aren’t dead, but something has occurred to tear them apart and alter both significantly, with Rocket losing his memory and becoming a tyrant while Groot has gotten all carved up somehow. Splitting the pair up is a pretty solid pitch, after all it was the crux of the Groot standalone comic and that was decidedly enjoyable, but that’s also what makes the comic feel so pointless. Groot spent 6 issues trying to find and rescue Rocket already and now we’re immediately back to square 0 with a different quest for Rocket and less quality artwork. Who’s to say that in a few issues this whole cycle won’t start all over again with some new comic? It also says a lot that there’s so little in the book to really distract from this line of thinking; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Books like Hercules and Visions could end just as easily, but they’re at least unique and engaging enough to make you forget about the fickleness of their ongoing status, Rocket Raccoon and Groot can’t help but draw attention to it.
It also doesn’t help that spending so little time with our main characters, most of the book revolves around a weird discount version of them as something adjacent to a joke, really makes this feel like filler. Seriously, there’s no reason to spend the majority of a 22-page comic with Pockets the Possum and Shrub (yes, that’s really their name) when there’s so little to them beyond just being off-brand versions of the title characters. It’s like if Superman relaunched and we spent the majority of the comic following a different super powerful dude around but his name was Special-Man. There just isn’t enough story here to latch onto and what little story there is only serves as a retread of the prior solo series that revolved around these two that was canceled abruptly as part of a bigger event relaunch.
It also doesn’t help that the art is only okay. Filipe Andrade’s style is unique, but ill-suited to this kind of comic. It’s full of a lot of sketchy lines and angular realizations that are reminiscent of Daniel Warren Johnson or James Harren, but they just feel out of place on the allegedly light-hearted “talking animal & his tree friend” comic. The color work by Jean-Francois Beaulieu is, however, an absolute stand out. Beaulieu really gets the right blend of faded background fillers along with bright, vibrant neons that really make space books like this one. He also makes much better use of block and gradient color backgrounds than most and is a very good blender.
It’s possible that event and relaunch fatigue are negatively impacting Rocket Raccoon and Groot, but as stated, there have plenty of other All-New All-Different Marvel titles that one could read without ever even thinking about their impending cancellation and restart. Superhero comics are primarily escapism after all and when they’re done well that escapism can extend to the realities of the books publishing along with life’s various other problems. Rocket Raccoon and Groot just isn’t very good escapism; it can’t escape the realities of being a filler comic on Marvel’s release balance sheet and it really doesn’t escape being a filler comic in its own series.