Writer/Artist: Skottie Young
Release Date: July 2, 2014
The upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy flick smells like a big budget Firefly retread, but as McDonalds French fries have taught us time and time again, enticing odors don’t always tell the real story. In fact, even hoping to get a derivative yet worthwhile lark out of Guardians might be hazardously optimistic. If Chris Pratt’s wholly unconvincing delivery of hacky lines like, “If we don’t protect the galaxy, who will?” are the best snippets of dialogue available for trailers designed to lure the movie-going public, anticipate a rough two hours of cinematic grinding come August 1st. Despite these bad omens, many of us will still pay money to see this film. We will do that because we very much want to watch a talking raccoon tell jokes and blow things up. If that makes us idiot overgrown children, we’re cool with that.
Thus, it’s hard to dislike Skottie Young’s take on Rocket Raccoon and the rest of the Guardians’ quirky corner of the Marvel Universe. Rocket Raccoon #1 launches a series of solo adventures for the playfully-homicidal cosmic critter and embraces Rocket’s ridiculousness without much irony or cynicism. “This is all very stupid,” artist/writer Young isn’t — but might as well be — telling us. “But that doesn’t make you stupid for reading.” The drawings, which resemble Bill Watterson rendering Futurama, adeptly underscore the mirthful “Wif! Bam! Pow!” spirit of the proceedings.
Mercifully, this is not an origin story, and Young avoids burdening the reader with exposition or references to bygone continuity. Rocket Raccoon is a space raccoon with guns, and that’s all you need to know for a jumping off point. If you’ve seen Rocket striking an epic pose while double-fisting a blaster and a mini-bazooka that’s half the size of his entire body (and of course you have because that’s the cover) then you’re caught up.
And if you have an iota of common sense, you expect Rocket to rescue space princesses, because that’s what irreverent, desperado space animals do. He also takes his dates to do dumb, romance-less stuff like watch Groot, his dendrophobic nightmare of a best pal, get trounced in a wrestling match by a giant, fanged, slug monster. Precisely one such occasion goes south when space police inexplicably descend upon Rocket with threats of lethal force.
“It looks like you’re wanted for murder,” Star-Lord, leader of the Guardians, explains when Rocket calls and asks him to search the equivalent of space Google to find out why space cops are chasing him.
“What?! That’s crazy!” exclaims the adorable antihero.
“Is it really? Are you murdering someone right now?”
“What? Maybe. That’s not the point!” Rocket barks while murdering a space police officer.
Greedo shot first, after all. Clearly, some shady, raccoon-hating ne’er-do-well has framed our protagonist, who only slays in self-defense. If that wasn’t enough plot to keep Rocket busy in upcoming issues, the final page reveals [spoiler] an elaborate conspiracy orchestrated by the skeletons in Rocket’s closet. The evil syndicate’s identities and motivations could, perhaps rightfully, trigger some readers’ misogyny alarms. But I’m sort of tempted to hand Young a free pass on the gender politics faux-pas. It’s a funny twist ending to the start of promising sci-fi comedy romp, and it’s a prime example of how basically godawful characters can flourish in the hands of savvy creators.