I should preface this entire Rocket Raccoon #8 review by saying that it’s a little heartbreaking for me that my first official review of this great series will be a rather negative one. Ever since first picking up Rocket several months ago, it’s been one of the series I most anxiously anticipate each month, but eight issues in and it brings a generally interesting story arc to a dull ending.
I’ve really liked the story of Rocket having to save Groot from completely dying by collecting the precious egg juice from a giant Nogu Queen. Sure, it’s not all that original, but Skottie Young can write just about any generic story to be compelling with his usual style of comedy and quick wit that has been so present in Rocket Raccoon. That same high level personality is still here in this issue, complete with pop culture references, but it doesn’t quite save the odd way that the arc concludes.
During the duration of the time that Rocket and Groot are stranded on the planet, it’s constantly hinted that the Nogu Queen is a giant terrifying beast, and Jink’s clan has tried and failed several times to harvest the Queen’s eggs. Then one quick-on-his-feet raccoon comes along and claims he is sneaky enough to do it. Surely that won’t actually be the case, surely there will some kind of bigger conflict that stops from just waltzing onto the planet and succeeding. Nope.
The first three-quarters of this issue is built up with Jink and Rocket travelling to the Nogu Queen’s lair. I don’t mind the travelling bits, and I really like how it gives some back story to Rocket as well as Jink (who I hope comes back later sometime in the series). But when the payoff to all the travelling is literally Rocket harvesting what they need, then Jink easily cutting out of the Queen when she gets eaten, it all sort of feels like a waste. For all the set up of this creature being so foreboding and a terror to Jink’s clan, the fact that the two of them just pick up what they need and leave with so little effort stings.
There’s not any kind of a sense that it was written to be an easy encounter on purpose, either. No remarks from Rocket or any fourth-wall breaking nods that say Skottie Young knew the build up was a purposeful bait-and-switch. Instead, it’s meant to be played completely straight as if Rocket and Jink are just that much of a badass duo. If that kind of story and character does something for you, then maybe this is a perfectly fine issue, but to me it feels like a wasted two issues of an otherwise great series.
And I get that Rocket Raccoon is meant to be a goofy story about a raccoon and a talking tree going around doing near impossible things across the galaxy, but when there is no reference to that or any hint that it shouldn’t be played completely straight, it doesn’t work as well.
Art is another aspect of Rocket Raccoon #8 that is a major letdown. I haven’t been a fan of Filipe Andrade’s art choices while Rocket and Groot have been on this frozen planet at all. The watercolor paint aesthetic has never done the job for me in comics: everything just blends together far too much. Several times in this book in particular action is too convoluted – even in a single panel – to tell what is really going on. As well, art will look like it’s meant to bleed over into the next page, but it’s actually not. Everything about the individual art pieces just looks so similar that it can make it difficult to navigate even the speech boxes.
Andrade’s character design continues to be a mix of what looks like original ideas, and a bastardized version of Skottie Young’s Rocket. Groot looks mostly the same, with his gaunt face and buried eyes, but Rocket lacks the physical personality that he’s been known for. He’s just a typical, stocky little raccoon instead of the spindly and chaotic Young design.
I’m being harsh on the art, but I have to say – for as bad as the story section was during the dungeon encounter – the art of the Queen waking up is fantastic. Rocket faded in the foreground and the giant snarling beast “GWWAAARR”ing is pretty great. Even with that one minor high point, I sincerely hope Skottie is back for the art next week.
For all the negatives of the issue, Rocket does still retain his sarcastic personality completely, which is a welcome note. As it has been for months now, the comedy and quick-hitting references are always on point and add to the issue, instead of detract from it.
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