Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

22 April 2016

Rocket Raccoon, v. 2: Storytailer

Collects: Rocket Raccoon #7-11 (2015)

Released: March 2016 (Marvel)

Format: 136 pages / color / $17.99 / ISBN: 9780785191674

What is this?: Rocket and Groot survive a frozen planet with poison wolves, then get a glimpse of the future; Rocket searches for the Halfworld Bible.

The culprits: Writer Skottie Young and artists Jake Parker and Filipe Andrade

You can expect a drop-off in quality when a popular artist stops drawing a title. It’s probably worse when that artist remains as writer.

Such is the case with Rocket Raccoon, v. 2: Storytailer. I have no idea how long Skottie Young planned to remain as writer / artist for the title — and I’m too lazy / disinterested to look it up — but after Rocket Raccoon #4, he gave up the artist part of his job to Jake Parker and Filipe Andrade.

Rocket Raccoon, v. 2: Storytailer coverThe result is a book that is significantly less interesting than what readers expected when they read Young’s Rocket Raccoon #1. The book is competently written — everything makes sense — but the story lacks the extra oomph that Young’s art supplies. The star is not playing to his strengths.

Young is not a polished writer. His plots are serviceable but unremarkable. The dialogue is not crisp or memorable, and I think we can all agree Rocket should never say “stupid fresh,” even if that expression is better than the “murdered you” he was using for a catchphrase. His Rocket makes a lot of references to Earth TV (including the season 6 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and movies for a space raccoon.

Young has three stories in the five issues of Storytailer: Rocket and Groot surviving on an ice planet for two issues, a glimpse of a possible future where Groot goes crazy, and a two-parter where Rocket finally gets to the bottom of his origins. The future story is pointless, and even Rocket remarks on the clichéd ending. The ice planet story is fine but very forgettable; introducing poisonous dire wolves as a threat to Groot’s survival is a nice complication, but Young is the one who decided Groot would be so hard to kill in the first place, so he doesn’t get any points from me on that score.

Storytailer’s ending is problematic, though. In the final two issues, Rocket gets a lead on the Halfworld Bible (called “Gideon’s Bible” in the original Rocket Raccoon limited series). He finds the bible, and with the help of another uplifted raccoon from Halfworld, he deciphers and reads his own backstory. (Again: why has he forgotten it? A footnote would be nice — I’m looking at you, assistant editors Charles Beacham and Devin Lewis.) Rocket then walks away from all of it — the explanation of his history, Halfworld, his fellow raccoon — because he feels it’s stupid. Which it is, but since I’ve read that story, I know it’s stupid in a daffily charming way. Denigrating the original Rocket Raccoon LS is needlessly insulting; that story, written by Bill Mantlo and drawn by Mike Mignola, hangs together as a memorable four-issue story, which is more than I can say for Young’s run. And if Young was going to make a callback to the original limited series, why didn’t he use a character from that story to help Rocket find the Halfworld Bible? Why invent a new character for Rocket to reject?

As I said in my review of A Chasing Tale, Young’s art is a secondary draw for me, but I felt its absence in Storytailer. Part of the problem with Young’s writing is that he’s writing for artists who aren’t named Skottie Young. Andrade is not up for drawing scenes with all the white figures and backgrounds in #7 and 8, which is a problem since those two issues take place on an ice planet. Andrade’s storytelling gets muddled at times, and it is especially difficult to distinguish what’s going on with all that white. (Maybe colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu is at fault, although Beaulieu did a fine job in the other issues.) Sometimes Young’s dialogue has to help Andrade out — like when Andrade is supposed to show eggs as big as Volkswagens, but nothing in the art hints at the eggs’ size.

I enjoyed Parker’s Rocket in issues #9-11, and his future Rocket in #9 is nice (although the scar over the eye and small bits missing from the ears is not the most original way to show “grizzled warrior”). But other elements of his art are lacking. A couple of times he’s supposed to depict amazing transforming machines, and the results are underwhelming. Perhaps I’m setting the bar too high, but I think this could be traced back to Young — Young the Writer probably thought those transforming scenes would allow Parker to cut loose and draw something astounding, maybe even Kirby-esque. But Parker is a more intimate artist who excels at characters and expressions, and while his machinery is fine, that’s all it is: fine. The same goes for the scene in which Rocket is fighting his way to a teleporter in #10; this is supposed to be a big set piece, Rocket battling through all the obstacles in his way so he can get to the truth of his existence, but it boils down to a few scattered bodies as the actual moments of violence mostly happen off-page.

Storytailer is worse than A Chasing Tale, although not by much. (Your mileage will vary if Young’s artwork is a major draw for you.) Young trades Tale’s dismissal of women for a dismissal of Rocket’s origins; the former is more troubling in a societal sense, but since Young is working in a larger framework of the Marvel Universe, the latter bothers me more. Take that as you will; I suppose I’m inured to casual sexism in comics. The entire series is disappointing and slightly overblown, and I’m kinda glad Secret Wars ended it.

Rating: Rocket Raccoon symbol Half Rocket Raccoon symbol (1.5 of 5)

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