The current arc of Rocket Racoon, written by Matthew Rosenberg and drawn by Jorge Coelho, with colors by Antonio Fabela, and letters by Jeff Eckleberry, has been an endearing series so far, with beautiful artwork that goes well beyond the strictly necessary to tell the story. But with issue #3 it goes from being a good comic to a great comic.
[Cover art by David Nakayama]
Issues #1 and #2 followed Rocket through New York City, looking for a way to get home to outer space. And in many ways his observations and experiences followed what a foreigner or refugee might feel dropped into the middle of an unfamiliar, howlingly crazy metropolis like NYC. On other levels, we just got to experience the humor of Rocket’s murderous rage bouncing around between cops and criminals, before getting in touch with a kind of alien underground. This only increases his problems when he finds that aliens, like himself, are being mysteriously hunted down for sport.
Without friends, allies, official paperwork, or the protection of the police, these outsiders are ripe for the pickin’. When he becomes a target, Rocket finally comes face to face with a truly frightening opponent–Kraven the Hunter. What follows is an excellent chase comic, set in the alleys and open spaces of New York, ranging across the island. The pacing of this pursuit is more serious than you might initially expect, building in tension until you really do feel the mythical weight of Kraven in the history of the Marvel universe and you begin to see even Rocket struggling to come up with increasingly tricky methods of evasion. You worry. And at that point, it becomes a great comic.
The page layouts and panel choices, as well as the use of silence to focus in on small gestures, are what create this increasing sense of tension, maybe even dread. It takes remarkable comic artists to construct sequences like this. In all, we see Coelho’s zest for dynamic detail, and his linework always seems active even when we are seeing a “still” moment. Rosenberg must have had his work cut out for him choosing how to punctuate this chase, and how to develop the sense of escalation that really captures your attention page by page.
There’s humor in this comic, as there should be in a story about Rocket–the whole narrative is laced through with his own brand of juvenile and acid distaste for humans and earth. His resilience is also funny–in the same way that Charlie Chaplin’s is still funny, sad, and inspiring, in his silent films. But if we didn’t care about the underdog, it wouldn’t amount for much. And in this issue, we definitely care for the under-racoon. Sorry, I mean, not a racoon. You wouldn’t want him to murder you, however much he’d probably enjoy it.
Rocket Raccoon #3 is out in shops already. Rocket Raccoon #4 arrives on March 22nd.
[Cover art for Rocket Raccoon #4 by David Nakayama]