In Review: Groo: Friends and Foes #1

To have a new Groo appear for the next twelve months is like having Christmas every thirty days.

The cover: Groo and his trusty dog Rufferto watch as Captain Ahax and his crew look at the man responsible for sinking their ship. If there’s a ship and Groo is onboard, it’s going to sink. I like that the barbarian is wringing out his togs in the empty boat and none of the dunked sailors want to join him. They’d probably have better luck if they stay with their sinking ship than team with Groo and his dog. The art is by the iconic Sergio Aragones with colors by Tom Luth. The actual cover is much brighter than this poor scan I made at home. Overall grade: A

The story: The issue opens in fine fashion with a song from the Minstrel recounting to a laughing audience what has happened to Captain Ahax’s ships if the wanderer is aboard. The tale then moves to Groo who has wiped out a horde of men and cannot understand why the two men he was battling for will not reward him. The answer is obvious: the pair had hired the horde to protect them from Groo. Upset at not being paid, Groo wants to go to “places where I have friends…or at least foes who do not totally hate me!” He and Rufferto make for the docks and encounter Captain Ahax who reacts appropriately at seeing him. The reaction of the crew upon seeing Groo near their ship is priceless. Realizing he cannot escape Groo’s presence on his ship, Ahax comes up with a scheme to profit on the jinx’s abilities. Naturally, things do not go as planned. The pirate sequence was funny, but I was really laughing out loud at Page 18. Truly, this is the Groo I have known for years and love. Sergio Aragones conceived this tale and Mark Evanier, co-creator of the DNAgents and Crossfire (Track those down!) scripted it. This is absolute fun. Overall grade: A+

The art: For those who only recently came to this planet, Sergio Aragones is one of the many famous contributors to Mad Magazine. He was responsible for many pages of gags in that periodical, but is well known for his tiny marginals within the book’s margins. The detail he puts into his art is legendary and it’s fully on display in this book. The opening splash contains a visual summary of Groo’s travels with Ahax, as well as the Minstrel singing to a crowd in a village. It’s so lush, you could get lost in all the details. If you thought that was impressive, take a look at the double-paged spread of 2 and 3. A horde of beaten soldiers lie at Groo’s feet and in the background is a cliff side village. Aragones even put a pen of oxen on the side of the hill! When Groo gets to the docks, the ships are beautiful. The pirate attack on Page 14 is a spectacular visual joke. The payoff on Page 23 is so full of detail, you’ll join Ahax in his reaction. It’s rare to say this of an artist, but not enough can be said of Sergio Aragones’s skill. You’ll be mesmerized by the illustrations and laugh at what he does with them. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Beautiful coloring by Tom Luth, whose colors have to lead readers’ eyes so they don’t get lost in Aragones’s art. The first page is beautiful, with Luth using pale colors for the flashback, bright yellow for the banner that holds the Minstrel’s song, and bright colors at the bottom for the singer and his crowd. It’s perfection. Pages 2 and 3 uses dark blues for the defeated horde and pale yellow for the beach. Groo stands out with his orange togs. The sky is a brilliant blue with it paling as it meets the horizon. What other colorists would be good enough to do this? Luth is creating perspective with his colors. My favorite pages by Luth involve the pirates, because of their bright colors and the pale violet sky. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Stan Sakai, the creator/writer/artist of Usagi Yojimbo, is the letterer on this book. He creates a wonderful font for the Minstrel’s song, wonderful dialogue, slick scene settings, and several yells. I really appreciate Sakai’s ability to italicize words. It allows readers to hear the dialogue more clearly from the characters, and there are also different degrees of italicization, and if it goes thick and heavy it’s easy to see that someone is screaming. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Groo is one of the greatest comics of the last thirty years. To have a new Groo appear for the next twelve months is like having Christmas every thirty days. It’s entertaining for anyone of any age. Highest possible recommendation. 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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