(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written & Artwork by Skottie Young
Color Artwork by Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Lettering by Jeff Eckleberry
Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu could have gone for an obvious cash grab when given the opportunity to work on a Rocket Raccoon solo series; a character that many see as the next Deadpool or Harley Quinn in terms of his popularity among non-comic readers who are nevertheless obsessed with t-shirts, action figures and every species of propaganda featuring the likeness of a comic book character. However, Young and longtime collaborator Beaulieu took the high road and gave us a darn near perfect comic book full of gorgeous, eye-popping imagery and a story powered by endless kinetic energy. The lush, meticulously detailed pages stuffed to overflowing with imaginative images should come as no shocker to anyone even remotely familiar with Young’s brilliantly inventive style but what pleasantly surprised me was his skill and competence as a writer. Young deftly crafts a narrative more befitting the adult audience that will be seeing Rocket on the big screen in this summer’s hugely anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy film, that is not to say that this book is overtly “adult” in its content but Young does build on Rocket’s reputation as a bit crass and somewhat rough around the edges, he is no Lobo but he is not too far behind when it comes to attitude and conquests of the fairer sex. In fact his dealings with the ladies are the reason Rocket has found himself in hot water this time around.
This is a runaway train of epic proportions; from the very opening pages which feature two guards discussing the merits of a reality show based on the concept of a living sentient planet, Young displays his comedic prowess as he cleverly uses humor and the over the top action to propel the narrative forward at break neck speed. There is scarcely time to catch your breath between pages as Rocket is chased from a wrestling event featuring his good friend and fellow Guardian, Groot through an arena teeming with every form of flamboyant alien life imaginable, and boy can Young imagine some colorful creatures (one of them sporting a Southern Bastards patch on the back of his jacket). This is precisely the kind of exciting, fun-filled story that Rocket Raccoon was created to star in and Young really gets the most out of the character, whether it’s through the extremely sharp, spot on dialogue or just his attitude exuding posture, Rocket comes across as a bushy-tailed Han Solo, equally savvy with weapons and women. This little guy is on a rampage fueled by the possibility that he may not be the last of his race and the need to clear his name while this shadowy other is on a killing spree.
Rocket Raccoon is a decidedly more mature title than we have seen Young work on before; however he proves with a single issue that he is more than up to the task. He seems exceedingly comfortable with the material and handles the grittier fare with proficiency and flair, particularly when it comes to scripting dialogue. Young is a shrewd storyteller and one of the most gifted and inventive illustrators working today. His highly stylized, larger than life approach to sequential storytelling is a perfect fit for this character and setting especially when Beaulieu’s vivid colors are added to the equation. There is a definite otherworldliness to the finished product here. The scene inside the arena is a particular stand-out with its nearly limitless array of hues glimmering and gleaming in an ethereal glow. There is a certain cinematic sensibility to the entire work, a vivaciousness that enlivens the imagery giving life to the pages as the story unfolds as if of its own volition. It is a living narrative full of energy, heart and humor.
This is a perfect inaugural issue; there is action by the ton, there are loads of laughs, the genuine variety that are the result of good writing and there are characters that capture our collective interest and at times even our hearts. Skottie Young has done his job well; he pulled us in and made us want more, now all he has to do is continue to do that on a monthly basis, after reading this tremendous first issue I have no doubt that he can and will do just that.(5/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.