By Nick Kocher, Michael Walsh & Michael Garland
Say what you will about Brian Michael Bendis’ main Civil War II series (which for me will not be much as I gave up on it after an uninvolving zero issue), but the tie-ins have actually been pretty solid. In the past, readers would complain about how Events would hijack their favorite titles, demolishing any sense of narrative momentum. More jarring, though, would be how editorial decisions would force characters into situations which did not match the usual tone of their adventures. This time around feels different, as if editorial learned something from the success of last year’s Secret Wars tie-ins. In the case of Secret Wars, Marvel gave creators the freedom to fashion (literally) new lands out of a patchwork of past stories. The resulting tales covered a wide range of territory from heartbreaking to whimsical. While Civil War II does not offer creators as large a scope, it has allowed for individual personalities to remain intact. Titles such as Ms. Marvel and Scarlet Witch have been able to interact with the larger narrative without losing any of the distinctive traits which make them such great reads. That trend continues this week with a delightful new installment of Rocket Raccoon & Groot.
From the opening splash page, writer Nick Kocher and artist Michael Walsh immediately place their own stamp on unfolding events. Rocket and Groot are among an assorted band of heroes listening to Captain Marvel give an update. Normally, the writer would use this for exposition, yet, Kocher turns it into a joke. Any actual meaningful content of her speech is merely rendered as “blah, blah, blah.” Rocket, who admittedly has been off planet for a bit, is trying to get caught up on who his comrades in arms are. So, while Carol rambles on about whatever, Rocket wonders who that bald guy is (“That’s Puck . . . he’s good at cartwheels”) and mistakes Sasquatch for Wolverine. Walsh’s rendering of the various heroes emphasizes their serious, attentive nature, which is contrasted with Rocket’s distracted confusion. At the same time, Walsh has his own fun with absurd superhero tropes, such as the exaggerated length of Medusa’s hair or the proper poise of The Beast’s hanging upside-down position. In such a way, any sense of Event “importance” is pretty much deflated from the start.
The actual plot kicks in when Rocket catches Carol mention an impending robbery of baby powder in rural Georgia. Naturally, he volunteers. Naturally, she assumes that Rocket has some “secret self-serving plan.” Naturally, he does. Chammy, an old bounty of Rocket’s, was in possession of a ship that is fueled on baby powder. Thus, one coach flight and station wagon rental later (“is Alpha Flight low on cash or something?”), Rocket and Groot are staking out their prey until Gwenpool shows up and steals him away from under their noses.
Yes, Gwenpool. Not only is this issue an Event tie-in, but it also features a faddish guest-star. Normally this would be two-strikes against it, yet, once again Kocher and Walsh make it work. Gwenpool contributes an antic energy which is a good fit for Kocher’s already whimsical story. She fits right in with a talking raccoon and a tree who only speaks the same three words. Meanwhile, Kocher delves a fit into Chammy’s current home situation, which allows for some relationship satire as well as sci-fi wackiness. Mix in some fast paced action sequences and readers have a fun story.
Those action sequences also provide Walsh with additional opportunity to shine. His style has a cartoonish aspect, which lends the fights a flavor of slapstick. One panel depicts Groot’s nonplussed deadpan expression while receiving a kick in the face from Gwenpool. A later scene shows Rocket tugging at Gwenpool’s face as she speeds away on her motorbike, Groot in eager pursuit behind the wheel of, yep, a rented station wagon. From the opening splash page to the final villain reveal, Walsh’s art is full of a spirited personality which matches the wit of Kocher’s script. In other words, Walsh aptly demonstrates once more how talented he is.
Events have become infamous for their artificial sense of pomposity. One of the few highlights of DC’s recent Convergence Event was the Supergirl Matrix tie-in, in which Keith Giffen gleefully highlighted the ridiculousness of the entire endeavor. Kocher and Walsh do not go quite as far, though, they do jab at some of the more tired elements. Most importantly, they craft an entertaining comic which was among the week’s best. Their run may be a short one to bridge the gap between Skottie Young’s departure and Matthew Rosenberg’s post-Event relaunch, however, two issues in, it is proving to be a quite enjoyable.
Oh and there is a visual gag which might reference an iconic musical.