The Rocket Raccoon series ‘Grounded’ concluded this week in its fifth issue, written by Matthew Rosenberg, illustrated by Jorge Coelho, colored by Antonio Fabela & Rain Beredo, with letters by Jeff Eckleberry. All of the fabulous covers on this run have been by David Nakayama.
It would be hard to speak too highly of the art on this series, it’s been such a wonderfully textured presentation of Rocket, his adventures, and the world from his (short) perspective, as well as a world with Kraven the Hunter and many aliens looking to get back to their homeworlds. It’s been a series that convinces you that the world is stranger than you think, and also, perhaps, as sad as you know it can be for people who are displaced, marginalized, mistreated.
Weirdly, a Rocket Racoon book was the perfect place for these themes–because his trademark brand of dark snark and violence offsets the heavier ideas to form a manic running dialog on being an underdog. Sorry, hedgehog, as Rocket is called in this issue.
A highlight of the series was issue #3 where we watch Kraven hunting Rocket all over Manhattan and beyond, and the occasional sense that Kraven is simply an exterminator going after vermin is counterbalanced by Rocket’s absolute refusal to give up. With intermittent flashes of feeling like you’re watching a nature show following the life of an urban raccoon eluding animal control, you still see Rocket’s absolute resourcefulness, and how his ability to bounce when he falls seems to keep him in motion.
What you get is a series that actually explores pretty deeply who Rocket Racoon actually is, sheerly by watching him constantly in motion for five issues straight. Previously, we talked on Comicon.com about how Rocket can be seen as a little ball of chaos, or a trickster figure who throws a wild card into scenarios and often does good, almost by accident. But in this issue, we see Rocket at the end of a road. He’s done what he can do time and time again to help stranded, and prison-camp-incarcerated aliens get home, and yet–that may not be what he gets even if he deserves it by now.
[* Warning! Mild spoilers for Rocket Raccoon #5 below! If you don’t want to know anything about this issue, don’t read further!]
There’s a conversation with Kraven that’s very interesting in this issue. Having come to Rocket’s rescue, which we didn’t expect in the least given their history, he’s all about what a great and worthy opponent Rocket has been. He still wants to kill and skin Rocket, but he doesn’t want to see Rocket end in a camp, seized by guards, in a miserable fate. The things he says about Rocket feel true, and yet…Rocket doesn’t entirely agree. Kraven says: “…I saw the real you right away. A fierce warrior. A master strategist. There’s nobody else like you out there. Is there?” And at this point, Rocket really looms large in our imagination. If Kraven is saying this (albeit a guy dressed like a wild jungle disco reject), it means something. Rocket promptly seems to cave and resign his struggle, as if all he’s been waiting for is a little validation.
But that turns out to be an act. A manipulative stance since he knows he can’t beat Kraven by ordinary methods. “I just wanted somebody to respect me”, he says. And that, in some ways, feels true as well. And yet. The last panel of this sequence is the best, where Rocket turns the tables on everything we’ve just witnessed. And I think I realize at this point, as a reader, that Rocket has been conning me too. For five whole issues.
That’s not to say he isn’t a master strategist. But it is to say that being in awe of Rocket Raccoon is a natural thing, once you see him in action, but if you’re smart, don’t fall for it. Since he’s still the guy who will take the low blow, literally in this case, and he will “always win” for that reason.
So, if you’ve been harboring warm and fuzzy feelings about this little monster for the whole series, thanks to Matthew Rosenberg’s relentlessly wily writing and Coelho’s brilliantly funny artwork, wake up. The series takes you back down to earth in time to see the real Rocket Racoon again–the one you need to keep an eye on–and that is the best advice you’ll hear about a space wombat, or whatever he actually is.
If you haven’t read this series, get on it. All issues are available digitally and in print now.