The Guardians of the Galaxy went up against the new Universal Church of Truth and only a few of them made it out. Groot and Moondragon went to the other person they could for help: Rocket Raccoon. There’s only so much he can do since he’s on death’s door, but once a Guardian, always a Guardian. How did this foul-mouthed rodent get into such dire straits to begin with? Well, prepare to get your heart broken.
Guardians of the Galaxy #8 delves into Rocket’s backstory and it’s sure to bring a tear to your eye. He began life as an emotional support animal and was later experimented on to become the walking, talking warrior we know and love. Artist Cory Smith’s depictions of these traumatic events hit like a punch to the gut. There’s one page in particular that contains so much pain and anguish. It’s broken up into a number of different panels, each one capturing a tiny detail about these horrifying experiments.
Despite these painful beginnings, Rocket soldiered on. He found a life full of adventure, but more importantly, he found a family. When he got sick, he decided to spare his loved ones the heartache and distance himself from them. If they were mad at him, they’d be less likely to be upset once he finally kicks the bucket. Writer Donny Cates hits on such a true-to-life concept with this. A talking anthropomorphic raccoon is not the first to think like this.
Present day Rocket is wasting away. He wasn’t that big to begin with but now he’s practically a furry skeleton. Letterer Cory Petit adds a tinge of pain to Rocket’s voice with scraggly word balloons. You get the impression that it’s painful for Rocket to stand, let alone speak.
The family dynamic definitely comes into play in more ways than one in Guardians of the Galaxy #8. There’s the relationship between Rocket and Groot, where the former tries to explain his actions and the latter will not take any of it. Again, this is some very real emotion at work. Groot is furious that Rocket wouldn’t share this with him with how close they were. Under normal circumstances, you don’t get to choose when you die or how you go. Groot sums it up in this really poignant line. “Because you won’t be there when you die. But we will.” Excuse me for a moment because I’m tearing up while writing this.
Also, as a quick aside, if anyone complains about not being able to relate to characters based on how they look or anything like that, I’m practically crying about a conversation between a talking tree and a raccoon. That’s the power of this medium and the stories it can contain.
Anyway, family comes into play with the rest of the Guardians too as Star-Lord has a connection to the Universal Church of Truth. The organization’s new vessel is a frightening one, made even more so by the pulsing pink energy that seems to fuel it. Colorist David Curiel adds a perfectly eerie glow to this that contrasts well with the dark nature of the Church’s actions.
The family dynamic elevates Guardians of the Galaxy way past a sci-fi adventure comic. This is a character-driven story about a dysfunctional family that loves each other more than anything, despite the many flaws they each possess. It makes for a riveting tale that I can’t put down.