Review: Rocket Raccoon #1 – The League of Evil Exes
That’s how long it took for me to get sucked into Rocket Raccoon #1. Two. Lousy. Stinking. Pages. Most new books that I end up liking have me by the end of the first issue. A few others require the slower build that comes with the three issue test. But Skottie Young had me wrapped around his finger before we were even aware Rocket had appeared in the book. Well done, sir.
I suppose it’s worth noting that I was probably already predisposed to liking this book, having been a fan of Marvel’s furry firearms fanatic since I first discovered him in the 1985 limited series by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola. But save for a handful of scattered appearances following the series, being a Rocket fan was the definition of long-sufferance until he returned to prominence in the pages of Abnett and Lanning’s Annihilation: Conquest and the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy revamp that spun out of it. Now Rocket’s name is on the lips of people who didn’t know he existed just a scant couple of years ago. It’s a weird time to be alive, but a good time to be a fan.
But back to the book at hand. Our pal Rocket is caught up in some space hijinks involving a date gone wrong, a mysterious figure that could shed light on his troubled past, and the little matter of his status as a wanted outlaw. Skottie Young, so well-known for his amusing and adorable variant Marvel covers and occasion interior work, handles double duty here. Serving as both series artist and writer, we get our first real chance to see if Young’s scripting chops are up to the level of his well-known visuals.
Young’s writing has a very similar tone to his artwork: light and loose with a hefty splash of cartoonish glee. It’s nice to see that he can write just as well as he can draw, because too often something gets lost in the transition and translation from one person’s script to another’s interpretation of it. But Young knows exactly how to nail every exaggerated expression, every manic smile, every wary side-eye, because he knows exactly how he wants these characters to behave and emote. Meanwhile, Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s heavy usage of vibrant, rich secondary colors sets off the “other”-ness of the outer space milieu and perfectly complements Skottie’s linework.
I’ve made no bones recently about my dislike for Brian Michael Bendis’ handling of Rocket in the pages of the current Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing. Sure, Rocket’s character has undergone a personality evolution throughout the years: from the forthright defender of his mini-series to the humorous tactical mastermind of his post-Annihilation return. But under Bendis’ pen, he’s edged pretty close to unlikable; a sardonic, sarcastic, angry little beast with one of the worst forced catchphrases in recent memory. Young, on the other hand, finds a new heart in Rocket. With a roguish, flirty side and a hefty dose of (easily deflated) ego, he most closely resembles a fusion of Han Solo and his old DnA-era Guardians self. Considering Groot has long been his Chewbacca, this sits totally fine with me.
My face was a broad, constant smile as I eagerly devoured Rocket Raccoon #1. That’s not something I can say about many other books in recent memory, much less the first issue of a brand new series. Skottie Young has brought back something that’s been desperately missing from too many books published by the Big Two these days: fun. Good, simple, enjoyable fun. Rocket Raccoon #1 hits so many sweet spots, it’s actually kind of sickening. It’s light without being fluffy pap. It’s cute without being twee. It’s effortlessly funny without feeling forced or relying on cheap yuks. It’s the kind of zany, madcap, cartoony space romp we’ve wanted for years without even realizing it. My recommendation for this could not be any higher. Sleep on this one and it’s your own loss.