Jeff Loveness/ Brian Kesinger/ Jeff Eckleberry; Marvel Entertainment
When I read that Groot was getting his own book, I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I forgot about it until I saw a small stack remaining on the shelves at my local comic shop here in Lincoln, Nebraska. I debated buying it at first, but I figured I’ve been enjoying “Rocket Raccoon” by Skottie Young, Jake Parker and Jean-François Beaulieu, so why not give it a try?
Groot convinced Rocket to take a trip with him to a dump of a planet called Earth. Unfortunately for them, the spaceship that they’ve…borrowed…is a piece, so Rocket tries to fix it and ends up blowing the thing up. As usual, Groot saves Rocket and they continue their journey by ways of hitchhiking.
As they make their way across the universe to Earth, they encounter numerous hiccups. Jeff Loveness’s script works to create a playful chemistry between the best buds. They squabble over things like who has the most expensive bounty on their heads and the scruples of killing endangered space-sharks. Loveness writes true to the characters. Groot is quiet and nearly speechless and often overshadowed by the overly-talkative Rocket. Rocket likes to hear his own voice, so he talks a lot. The comics pages are filled with his dialogue. While I didn’t find it unreasonable because that’s the nature of Rocket, I did find it a bit saddening because it’s Groot’s comic after all. It has his name on the cover. Rocket already has one. I appreciate that the script is genuine to the characters and allows for Loveness to show use humor. On the other hand the plot, script and Rocket’s need to be the center-of-attention made “Groot” #1 read like another issue of “Rocket Raccoon”.
I was left unimpressed because I was expecting more. It wasn’t until the second read through that I realized I did receive more, I was just looking in the wrong places.
Groot’s vocabulary is limited. Okay, let’s be upfront – it’s extremely limited. For this reason I wasn’t sure how “Groot” would work as the main character of a story. Then it dawned on me that I was reading “Groot” wrong. In order to fully appreciate “Groot” and this story, you have to look at Groot, not what he’s saying.
Brian Kesinger has gone above and beyond as his job as a comics artist. His designs and work in “Groot” define what it means to tell a story using comics. His line-work is top-notch and defines the characters well, but the magic is all in the facial expressions and body language. To understand Groot, you must understand feelings. Everything we need to know about Groot can be seen and told in his face and his body language. Kesinger is able to make a Groot show us how he feels.
As I was reading “Groot” #1 for a second time I saw a multitude of emotions come from Groot: happiness, sadness, shock, amusement, anger, and rage.
As I kept reading I started to make connections to other aspects of my life. I thought about my cousin who has autism and limited speech, yet is one of the most expressive people I know. I thought about all of the times I’ve seen him interact with his parents, his siblings, and the rest of our family. It’s a type of communication requires more than just words. It requires full attention and understanding. It requires recognizing facial expression, body language, tone, inflection and volume. It requires information about the environment around him to provide the context for these feelings.
By understanding this, it allowed me to take everything into context when reading “Groot” #1. The way Groot reacts to Rocket’s snarky comments can only be understood by using contextual clues in order to fully understand their relationship. It requires readers to open their minds to imagine and dissect what Groot might be saying. The more I made these connections, the more I read the “Groot” differently, perhaps correctly.
I started to notice intentional color choices more vividly. The atmosphere changes from cosmic blues and purples, to violent reds and oranges, to eerie green mixtures as the mood of the story changes. “I am Groot” means so much if read in relation to what is happening around him. “I am Groot” means “I love you”, “Back away from my friend”, “I’m sorry”, and an endless number of things. It allows for Groot to be humanized. It allows for empathy and understanding.
The issue ends with the discovery of high priced bounties and the capture of Rocket, leaving Groot to escape into space alone. This brought up questions of longevity for me. The ball is in this creative team’s court. They’ll have to give Groot more characters or an interesting environment for Groot to react to or else Groot can’t communicate with us.
“Groot” #1 may not be the book for everybody and the longevity may be questionable with Rocket out of the picture (for now). If read patiently, it carries potential to teach us a thing or two and is sure to wow in the art department.