Graphic Novel Review: Rocket: The Blue River Score; I Am Groot: The Forgotten Door; All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Riders in the Sky

PUBLISHED: 10:25 23 January 2018

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Riders in the Sky

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Riders in the Sky

Archant

Heists, revolutions and Infinity Stones, oh my!

I Am Groot: The Forgotten DoorI Am Groot: The Forgotten Door

(Panini Books)

Despite the success of the movie sequel, the number of Guardians of the Galaxy spin-off titles on the marketplace seems to have drastically reduced in recent months, and even though two of these books are only collections of short-lived mini-series (rather than the ongoing titles we’ve seen in the past) the main title seems to be following a similar pattern of focusing on specific members.

The Blue River Score isn’t the first time we’ve seen Rocket caught up in an elaborate, multi-layered heist, but never before has it been done with such panache. This isn’t merely your average Ocean’s Eleven tribute, it also draws on classic noir, prison drama and science fiction tropes to create a package which delivers on so many different levels.

Writer Al Ewing brings a 2000AD sensibility to the Marvel Universe, using his extensive experience with the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic to excellent effect, and there’s little here which would have seemed out of place within the UK’s finest weekly.

Rocket: The Blue River ScoreRocket: The Blue River Score

Duped into pulling off a job by an old flame, Rocket finds himself up against the mercenary forces of Gatecrasher’s Technet (as originally seen in the late, lamented Captain Britain Monthly of the 1980s), and incarcerated in an apparently escape-proof private jail. But the prison hasn’t been built which can hold Rocket, and before long he’s back on the outside and looking for revenge…

It’s an exceptional book, crafted with a wit and flair that merits a wider audience than it probably received when published as individual comics, so hopefully this collection will ensure it receives the attention it deserves.

The Forgotten Door offers another outing for the anthromorphic tree Groot, following previously solo tales and team-ups with best bud Rocket, and finds him stranded in a parallel dimension after vanishing through a space-time wormhole.

Now the sapling-sized Groot must traverse alien landscapes blighted by danger, bring down the evil Administrator and free his oppressed people from tyranny, and then find a way to return home to his fellow Guardians, all while preventing the release of a Cthulhuesque monstrosity from the void between realities…

Unfortunately the three-word vocabulary of the lead character naturally limits his interaction to anyone not blessed with translation skills, although it’s interesting how many variations writer Christopher Hastings succeeds in making from “I am Groot!” using a mix of bold type, spacing, punctuation and repetition.

This lightweight tale pales somewhat in comparison to the more superior Rocket saga, but artist Flaviano is certainly one to watch out for - his mind-bending graphics brought a trippy feeling to this adventure which perfectly suited its fantastical concepts.

Riders in the Sky collects disparate issues of the Guardians series that fill in details about events which took place between this volume and its predecessor, including Groot being cut down to size, Gamora’s quest for the Infinity Stones, and Drax’s newfound pacifism, but there are also ongoing plot threads running between each instalment, including the team’s decision to go their separate ways following one final score…

The stand-out tale is unquestionably the Star-Lord instalment, which finds Peter Quill tracking down long-lost radio signals broadcast from Earth in order to re-record a particular programme (can he find the missing Doctor Who episodes while he’s there?) he first heard in childhood. Illustrated by the acclaimed Chris Samnee, it shows how important nostalgia is in our lives, and why possessing physical music recordings on vinyl, cassette or even CD feels so much more personal than streaming playlists or downloading tracks digitally.

Writer Gerry Duggan proves once again to be a worthy successor to team creators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and why Brian Michael Bendis never really understood what made them tick. Admirably capturing the best traits of the movie series without losing sight of its comics roots, this is the best the Guardians have been in years. Highly recommended.

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