Rocket Raccoon, pop culture powerhouse. Strange times are upon us.
While not quite as goofy as DC’s Captain Carrot (who, oddly enough, graces the cover of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity event later this summer), it can’t be said that Rocket Raccoon has ever been a top-tier character. That status looks to be on the cusp of changing. With a high profile appearance in Marvel’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie, an endless array of toys and novelty items emblazoned with his visage hitting store shelves, and this week’s launch of an ongoing monthly comic series, we’re witnessing something of a Rocket renaissance.
Scottie Young takes the reigns of Rocket Raccoon #1 as writer and artist, delivering a fun yet somewhat racy adventure for the furry space hero. Best known for his Oz books and steady stream of hot-selling variant covers for the House of Ideas, (he might be responsible for sending more than a few Marvel executives’ children through college) Young’s distinctive brand of cartoon art feels like the perfect fit for the subject matter at hand.
Young thrusts Rocket into hijinks from the first page and keeps the momentum going throughout. The story feels wonderfully freewheeling and off kilter, a unique space romp slightly different from anything else going on in the Marvel Universe. Where Marvel’s big summer event Original Sin paints the cosmic landscape in bleak noir tones, Rocket shows us a bright, bombastic, and rowdy space scene filled with variety and excitement. I’ll leave it to you to decide which take works best.
In what’s become something of a rarity in comics, the artwork is the main draw here. Young is a brilliant cartoonist in the truest sense of the word. His jaunty style is applied not just to characters, but the entire world around them. He infuses Rocket Raccoon with a strong sense of tone throughout, from the expressions to the seedy surroundings of the “used” outer space universe. In what must be a first for comics, there’s a Beastie Boys reference used as a sound effect. That’s a good indicator of how this book rolls.
As fun as Rocket Raccoon #1 is to read and as easy as the issue’s lush pages are on the eyes, it does fall short in the characterization department while simultaneously over-delivering on the brashness. The humor is mostly harmless, but this isn’t the book to hand over to a very young child just getting into comics. In fact, it very much carries a teenage-plus vibe, with cartoony swearing (#$%@, $%!#, etc.) and more than one bit of innuendo. While enjoyable for most audiences, I can’t help but think Marvel missed an opportunity to provide a truly all-ages entry point into their cosmic comics.
The positioning of women throughout the story is a bit disappointing as well. While Young clearly shows Rocket as a clueless clown outwitted by the women around him, the aura of hard living ladies man feels archaic and is not particularly charming. Yes, it’s the character’s personality, but the way it’s played here makes it so that one could easily substitute Lobo for Rocket Raccoon and essentially have the same story. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. The first issue doesn’t quite flush out the situation enough to make a call. Hopefully we’ll see some stronger women and a slightly dialed-back Rocket in the issues ahead.
Rocket Raccoon #1 is a fun kick-off to what just might be the comic series of the summer. While surprisingly risqué in parts, Scottie Young delivers the rare funny comic book that works. With gorgeous pages throughout and a unique energy that stands out from Marvel’s other offerings, this is an enjoyable summertime comic book that dovetails nicely into the hype surrounding the Guardians of the Galaxy film. Don’t hand this one off to your little brother or sister, but share it with any mature comics reader.