In Review: Groo: Fray of the Gods #4

This fray is fraught with fights, fancy, and fun. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: The pantheon of gods look down upon Groo as he’s having trouble making sense of something. Rufferto, the dotty dog, stands next to his master, hoping that the wanderer can solve this dilemma. This is a wonderfully detailed cover that shines a spotlight on all the gods that have appeared in this series. Though none are specific deities, all have attributes that are recognizable of certain cultures; I really like the animal based gods. Plus, seeing Groo trying to work his minuscule brain matter is always fun to look at. The bright colors by Tom Luth add greatly to Sergio Aragones’s illustration, especially on the gods, whose colors emphasize the wide variety of cultures they represent. Overall grade: A+

The story: This final issue begins with the appearance of four surprising characters: the Sage, his dog, the Minstrel, and his daughter Kayli. The four are at an inn where they witness a great number of people travelling by. The Sage speaks with some of the travelers and learns that they “seek protection from a menace.” The two men realize they mean Groo and soon all four are heading to Ombolo. Meanwhile in that land, Groo is causing great distress among the villagers because he’s eating everything. King Cuffi can’t banish the warrior because he needs Groo to protect against his brother’s army and if he’s not fed he wants to battle his own soldiers. In King Saffi’s land that monarch hears troubling news that his own subjects are moving to Ombolo because they believe in the Star God that his brother concocted. What else could possibly go wrong? In a Groo book, everything! Little problems lead to bigger ones, and the first major repercussion occurs on Page 7. It’s a funny moment, and one that a reader could see happening. Even the gods are having problems, as the Star God looks to make all the others disappear. Will anyone or any land survive Groo and the trouble he brings? Yes, but not in the way that any reader can foresee. Huge credit must be given to Sergio Aragones and his wordsmith Mark Evanier for crafting such an original solution to this godly and Earthly chaos and for continuing to deliver something new and entertaining in his long running saga. I found myself laughing out loud at what defeated Groo, and King Cuffi. The book ends with a sensational punchline on Pages 22 and 23 that is hilarious; this is the greatest drawn out gag I’ve encountered in a comic. A terrific ending for another Grootasitic saga! Overall grade: A+

The art: Sergio Aragones fills a page with everything but the kitchen sink. Look at the details in the first page: the wide variety of characters and the personalities they have, the landscape, the headstock on the Minstrel’s instrument, the tokages — Whoops! Wrong series…the lizards that Kayli is playing with. Aragones establishes a lush world for his characters to inhabit. The procession of people going past the four familiar characters have no repeated people or animals. What other book matches these visuals in, essentially, throw away characters? The emotions his characters have are excellent: Page 3 shows this outstandingly with the indifferent king, the worried villagers, maniacal Groo, and the worried soldiers. Each character in this issue emotes the perfect face to follow the text. Aragones is known for having exceptional pages that show vast throngs of people and this final issue is no exception with 6 and 7 showing an army on the move and a slave rebellion, respectively. These scenes would be budget breakers in film, and bone breakers for other artists to accomplish, but Aragones does such massive scenes all the time, but he’s not done: Pages 10 and 11 are a double-paged spread showing the gods in turmoil, and 18 a splash that shows the upheaval of one individual. As spectacular as these pages are, it’s 22 and 23 that left me in stitches with 15 equal sized panels that constitute a fantastic closing joke. I continue to gape at the spectacle and laugh at the jokes in this book’s visuals. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The world of Groo is bright and alive thanks to Tom Luth. The first two pages are set “In an inn right in the middle of nowhere” and the colors show this with tans for the dead ground and a deeper, similar color for the mountains. Notice, though, that when characters receive close ups, such as in the second panel on Page 1 and the second panel on 2, a vivid blue shades the background, making the characters full of energy and joy, which mirrors their emotions. The reds used on the curtains in King Cuffi’s palace show him to be rich, for it’s a color his subjects lack in their attire. These royal reds are also used in King Saffi’s residence, showing him to be equally wealthy. The large panels on Pages 6 and 7 are stunners, given that the ground is sand and dirt and the majority of the characters are poor; Luth is able to provide colors that make each character an individual and their actions stand out. Colors rightfully explode from the gods when they appear, with oranges, reds, deep and light blues making them stand out against all on Earth. I’m so glad that Luth continues to travel with this wanderer. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings and dialogue, the Minstrel’s songs, yells, screams, and a unique font from a unique location comprise Stan Sakai’s contributions to this issue. I love that the Minstrel’s songs employ lower case letters, making his dialogue seem more proper than those around him, and that the unique font of the unique location matches how such a place would actually sound. Sakai also puts a nice, slight tweak in characters’ words that receive emphasis in the book so that a reader can better “hear” where the speaker’s stress lies in his or her speech. Always an outstanding job from Mr. Sakai. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This fray is fraught with fights, fancy, and fun. Aragones and his collaborators have created another masterpiece guaranteed to please readers of all ages. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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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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