Guardians of the Galaxy #8
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Cory Smith
Colors: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Peter Quill was last left with his father, while the rest of the team was looking about getting Rocket Racoon back. When Rocket was finally revealed it was clear he is dying and it is this issue we get filled in on his absence. While Peter Quill’s story line is touched on in this issue, it is mainly a Rocket Racoon story.
Rocket Racoon has been gone and the reader finally get to understand why that is. He is a huge part of the public conscious of The Guardians of the Galaxy and him missing from the book has been clear since issue one. For those who are not up on their Rocket history (I am not) this issue fills us in on his origin along with a montage of his journey up until this point. We learn that he was a service animal in a psychiatric ward. When the scientists left the planet the robot caretakers took over and changed Rocket into what he is today. There is still a mystery of exactly what happened but it is clear that he suffers distress and trauma from the event. It turns out that this process that made him stronger is now the same thing that is killing him.
Donny Cates wrote a lot of emotional weight into this comic. I have always loved Rocket Racoon, in the films, and this comic made me fall in love with the character all over again. His struggles are written in such a way that it is impossible not to feel empathetic or sympathetic to the character. There are two parts that hit the hardest. In one part Rocket, in the narration, is seeming strong and at ease with what has happened to him. However the art shows that he is being an unreliable narrator and in fact wishes he could go back to being a simple service animal. The second part focuses on Groot and Rocket’s relationship. Everyone knows how close they are and you can feel the betrayal that Groot felt when Rocket abandoned the team. Learning that his friend has left to die rips him apart and gives us one really heartbreaking scene. It takes a special writer to take an established character and make us care even more about them, yet Cates did it with ease here. He was able to balance this heavy issue with one hell of a cliffhanger for where Rocket goes from here that can only end up being one fun ride. Cates knew not to focus too much on Peter Quill and his father and gave us just enough at the end of this issue to remind us where the arc is going (which also had a cool twist). I appreciate that he let this be Rocket’s comic first and foremost and did not shoehorn in anything more that would have ruined the pace.
Cory Smith pulled off an amazing issue as well here. Rocket goes through a range of emotions and physical changes and Smith makes these all jump off the page. The reason I had empathy for our main character was because the art was able to match the writing and bring everything to life. There are truly some gut wrenching panels that work on the art alone. Again, I am not familiar with Rocket’s history but the art and layouts moved through decades of material in a very easy to follow and understand way. This was a masterclass in storytelling and should be used to show how a writer / artist team can work together.