By Nick Kocher, Michael Walsh & Cris Peter
Two years ago Marvel launched a new on-going series starring Rocket Raccoon. The title got off to a strong start with an arc written and illustrated by Skottie Young. Even after Young stepped back to let others pencil the book, the series remained delightfully inventive. Last month, Young turned in his final issue for the tittle, so that he could focus on his creator owned I Hate Fairyland. Stepping into his shoes for #7 is new writer Nick Kocher joined by artist Michael Walsh. Together they have added an entertaining chapter to Rocket’s cosmic misadventures.
The issue starts strong right out of the gate. Rocket and Groot have their hands full battling a giant space squid when the phone rings. Rocket says ignore it, but Groot simply feels obligated to answer. Kocher plays the farcical idea of Groot trying to take a phone message for all its worth, which is quite hilarious. Meanwhile, Rocket is hurtling around in the background trying to subdue the space squid. Walsh really brings this sequence to life in a two page spread full of brilliant detail work. His facial expressions in particular are perfect, from the exasperation of Rocket to the pained look on Groot’s face as he forces himself to let the call go to the answering service. Through it all the struggle with the space squid continues. This blending of humor with character, demonstrated through word and images, is one of the most striking sequences in last week’s comics.
Eventually, Rocket does pick up the phone after he hears the caller leaving a message about “Frankie.” It appears that Rocket’s old pal and grifting mentor has died. Immediately Rocket is deflated, not able to share any of Groot’s joy in casting away the space squid. Still, Rocket manages to make it to Frankie’s funeral. The downside of the affair is that the service is full of empty platitudes. The upside is that Frankie turns out to be alive anyway. Seems the veteran shyster faked his death.
And that’s just the beginning. Kocher takes this seemingly straight-forward plot point and elaborates it into absurdity. Each page adds another layer of ridiculousness along with some clever running gags involving Rocket’s vast knowledge of synonyms for slugs and two beat cops who keep getting punched in the face. Amidst the hijinks, Kocher still finds the time for a couple touching character moments, as well as tossing the space squid back into the mix when the reader least expects it.
For his part, Walsh continues to demonstrate his remarkable talent. As mentioned above, he excels at conveying the feelings of the characters not simply through their faces, but their overall figures as well. His Groot is one of the most emotive renderings of the hero. In addition, he has a fabulous knack for capturing the breezy science-fiction setting of the tale, filling it with all sorts of imaginative creatures. He even has a little fun with his page layouts. A montage sequence is brought to an abrupt end when Rocket grabs a panel sequencing it tight before another mourner can dial up another cliché.
Kocher and Walsh have another three issues on the title before it gets relaunched as part of Marvel NOW! 2.0 with writer Matthew Rosenberg and a still unnamed artist. In the meantime, the current series will get to spend its remaining issues dragged into the quagmire of Civil War II. Can Kocher and Walsh keep the same free-spirited tone while grappling with Event fallout? #7 suggests that it will be worthwhile sticking around to discover the answer.