I’ve been trying to read more comics recently, but it can be a confusing prospect. While I understand they’re usually written so that it’s possible to start with any issue, it can still be confusing to start in the middle of a storyline. Series are frequently restarted, and the adventures in one series often intersect with those in others. Still, at least as far as superhero comics go, most of the main players are defined pretty clearly, and much about them is part of general cultural knowledge. It’s also an expensive hobby, which is why I’ve been trying to find as much as I can at the library. They pretty much always seem to be missing volumes in ongoing storylines, but obviously they can’t stock everything. Since I quite enjoyed the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I decided to look into those characters, particularly Rocket Raccoon and Groot.
The library had a collected volume that included Rocket and Groot stories from throughout the characters’ histories.
Groot’s first appearance was as an an alien invader, and Rocket first showed up in some weird 1978 story about a space knight. Since this story is set in future and the character speaks in a British dialect, it might not actually be the same character, but it was certainly a predecessor. A 1978 Incredible Hulk tale gives Rocket a proper introduction as a resident of Halfworld, a planet functioning as an insane asylum staffed with sentient robots and anthropomorphic animals. Rocket’s love interest is an otter who later marries a rabbit and has a walrus for an uncle. I’m not sure how all that works out, but the origin story is left purposely ambiguous. A later story arc indicates that much of this earlier story was watered down, with the truth being rather darker. It does appear, however, that while Groot comes from a planet of walking, talking trees, a talking raccoon is an anomaly in the Marvel Universe. The later story, which takes place after the Guardians have temporarily disbanded, has Rocket return to Halfworld with Groot to fight a body-hopping criminal called Star Thief.
Comixology recently had a sale on the first volume of another Rocket series, so I picked up that one as well. This series was written and illustrated by Skottie Young, who also illustrated the Marvel adaptations of the first six Oz books, and whose style works well with Rocket and Groot.
Here, Rocket is framed for murder and has to hunt down his doppelganger while also avoiding a gang of jilted ex-lovers. While the stakes are high, it’s quite humorous throughout. An amusing side story has Groot as narrator, and due to his limited vocabulary it’s almost entirely visual.
The second collected volume of this series is out, but I think I’ll wait until I can find it either at the library or on sale.
In addition to the space raccoon, I’ve also enjoyed some of the recent Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel stories, and will probably have more to say about them in the future. I’m catching up on Fables as well, and there’s significant Oz content in some of the later volumes. Then there’s the third-party comic Princeless, featuring a sixteen-year-old black princess as the protagonist.
Locked in a tower by her chauvinistic father, Princess Adrienne decides to take her destiny into her own hands, teaming up with the dragon guarding the tower and a dwarf blacksmith’s daughter to rescue her sisters. It includes some clever spoofs on fairy tale clichés while also striking a blow against traditional gender roles. There are some fun references as well, like when the blacksmith Bedelia shows Adrienne three designs for female armor based on Red Sonja, Wonder Woman, and Xena.
The princess decides she prefers armor that actually protects her body. I read the first two volumes, which collect the first eight issues. I believe the third collection is out, but the library doesn’t have it (at least not yet), and again I don’t want to have to pay full price for it. If only I had a dragon’s hoard I could trade in.