Some comics are unabashedly fun. Comics like Nextwave and Superior Foes of Spider-Man fall into this category. They flaunt their imagination and the versatility of their artists while cracking wise at popular culture and the form itself.
Rocket Raccoon #2 is just such a comic.
Skottie Young is not afraid to embrace the innate silliness of Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen's creation from the 1970's. From the first to the final page, the book is exciting, fun, and filled with laughs. This tone is delivered by over-the-top presentations of everything on the page. There is no sequence in the issue that requires a fun approach. Jailbreaks and interrogation scenes are typically cast in a serious, tense mood. Young chooses to play with those expectations though.
One sequence in particular, a two-page spread of a jailbreak, is incredibly effective. It blends the effects of a maze with plenty of visual and dialogue-based gags. It's funny and fun to read, a real highlight for the comic. Young provides plenty of his visual flair throughout the comic, inventing lots of new concepts and characters. Each page gives readers plenty of reasons to parse every panel looking for puns or jokes buried in the background.
A lot of the non-visual humor is driven by references to pop culture. A Few Good Men and True Detective both make their presence felt early on in a sequence that had me laughing out loud. Younger readers may not pickup on the quotes from R-rated material, but it shouldn't take away from their enjoyment. Rocket's non-sequiturs are still amusing.
That example shows the line Young is carefully walking in this series. He is attempting to craft a comic that is fun for both older and younger readers. It's not an easy balance to strike. Too many references to mature material and it risks alienating young readers, too muck slapstick and older readers may become bored. The balance Young strikes is to not pander to either side, but to find a middle ground that is truly in the spirit of an all ages comic.
It is in his wild, imaginative drawings and fast-paced storytelling that anyone can be pulled into Rocket Raccoon. The work is reminiscent of his collaborations with Eric Shanower on the Oz adaptations at Marvel. He introduces new wonders on every page and uses big expressions and body language to hook readers into the tone of the comic. This style of storytelling is very effective and doesn't rely on experience with stories or a lack thereof to function.
The only drawback to the fast paced humor of this comic is a lack of characterization for Rocket and his companion Groot. Rocket is rambunctious, cocky, and creative, but it's clear he's putting on a show not just for the reader, but also for everyone around him. Young's plot about Rocket not being the last of his species provides ample opportunities to get beneath the raccoon's fur and understand what makes him tick. In order to make this series function in the long-term, creating a sense of empathy will be important. For now though, it's fun to just be along for the ride.
It's possible to imagine a father and son sitting down with Rocket Raccoon and enjoying it for a variety of reasons, some very different and some the same. That is a testament to Young's versatility as both an artist and writer. He is capable of bringing wild imagination to each page and playing to multiple levels with both his characters and gags. That is ultimately why this comic succeeds. It understands that it is okay to have fun.0comments