In Review: Groo: Friends and Foes #3

This is funny and entertaining to read, which is an absolute joy in a medium drowning in somber, grim heroics.

The cover: What’s the one thing you never do when in a witch’s lair? Don’t drink from the boiling cauldron! Naturally, regardless of the demonic shaped smoke issuing from it or the tentacles or bat wing seen within, Groo takes a healthy spoonful of the gooey substance. The two witches Arba and Dakarba are watching in disgust–and they’re the pair that made the potion! A great cover by Sergio Aragones that sums up the lack of thought in the title character’s brain. Pokka dot dog Rufferto is even looking on in horror. Speaking of horrors, look at all the items on the shelf next to Arba. There are some wonderful little nasty terrors there that would fit beautifully into anything by Guillermo Del Toro or Mike Mignola. The coloring is also really good, with the bright colors of the characters standing out against an appropriately dark background. There’s no specified colorist for the cover, so I’m going to assume it was Michael Atiyeh. It’s excellent. My favorite cover of this series yet. Overall grade: A+

The story: The story opens with the Minstrel in a tavern entertaining a crowd with another tale of Groo, this time involving the witches Arba and Dakarba. This rambunctious scene then moves to Groo and Rufferto who have been walking for days. Groo can’t understand why they haven’t seen anyone in all this time, but the reason is made very clear by the visuals. The hero also wonders what happened to the little boy searching for his mother. Rufferto thinks, ‘You mean the little girl searching for her father…’ Night falls and the scenery becomes a little frightening. Then they enter a clearing and come across three giant sized dragons accompanied by giant versions of Arba and Dakarba, whose hands glow with energy they’re about to release. This story by Sergio Aragones and “wordsmithed” by Mark Evanier is the best yet. These opening pages have Groo in the greatest peril he’s faced as supernatural characters should be able to take out “He-who-shall-not-be-called-mendicant.” Why our hero is encountering these monstrous sized mistresses of mayhem is great, and makes logical sense, but even logic cannot withstand the onslaught of Groo. How he escapes the five foes is funny and where he goes takes the tale in an unpredictable direction. A terrific read. Overall grade: A+

The art: The fantasy element of this book goes into overdrive with the two witches causing havoc for the hero. The first page is amazing with details as the Minstrel tells his tale to the laughing crowd in the tavern. Every mug is studded and there’s even waste on the floor, complete with dog gnawing the last bit of flesh from a bone. The double-page splash of Pages 4 and 5 is fantastic for the monstrous menaces. The dragons look excellent, one can never have enough dragons in a story, as do the female furies, but look at what’s framing these foes: lizards, bones, skulls, mushrooms, a vulture, and an excellent moon. This is exactly what one would want in a fantasy tale with witches. Things only improve when the story shifts to the witches’ abode, with all the knickknacks. Their residence is resplendent with things any reader would want to pick up and look at, but serve only to provide sensational set pieces for these wrong women. Sergio Aragones seems to be in heaven decorating their lair, and I was in heaven looking at it all. But this is only up to the first seven pages, there’s tons more that Aragones creates. The town that Groo enters is incredible looking. Page 18 takes a incredible step up in the number of characters in the panels, and it’s amazing and visually funny. The full paged splash on 20 is stunning. I wonder if Aragones ever considered using a computer? I’m sure glad he didn’t. Fantastic. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Filling in for the incredibly talented Tom Luth is the incredibly talented Michael Atiyeh. This book is vivid because of Atiyeh’s strong colors. The opening page shows readers instantly that this is not going to be a dark or dim book. Aragones’s art is detailed and the coloring could make it look muddied if the colorist doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Atiyeh knows exactly what he’s doing, as every element stands on its own and in a panel or page. My favorite pages included 1, 4 & 5, 14, 17 (How could anyone not love that “BURP!”?), and 20. Atiyeh is excellent. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Stan Sakai provides Minstrel song, dialogue, and sounds. Sakai provides the perfect font style on every page and is the absolutely perfect compliment for Aragones’s art. My favorite contribution by him to his book are the yells–and there are plenty of yells and screams in every Groo book. The last panel on Page 3 has Rufferto and Groo making bold exclamations that are intense, yet keep the comedic charm. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I’ve been reading Groo since he started at Pacific Comics, and to say this was unpredictable is a credit to its creators. They continue to keep this funny and entertaining to read, which is an absolute joy in a medium drowning in somber, grim heroics. Fun for all ages. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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