In Review: Groo: Friends and Foes #9

This book never fails to impress with its timeless humor and stunning visuals.

The cover: Within a coliseum, Pal is trying to get the attention of his friend Drumm, a fighter. Drumm thinks he’s doing fantastic against his opponents because they’re running away in fear. If only he knew that right behind him is Groo and his dotty dog Rufferto. Everyone is trying to scramble away from Groo since death, even accidental death, always follows this wanderer. Sergio Aragones has created another fantastic, highly detailed cover. He could have gotten away with just showing the action on the battleground, but he also includes the spectators watching the match, who can be seen behind the book’s title. Even they are frightened by the appearance of Groo. The coloring on this cover is also well done. I’m assuming it’s done by interior colorists Michael Atiyeh and Cailin McCarthy. I love how the gold on Drumm’s costume is a close enough match to the yellow on Groo’s sword, which leads the reader’s eyes to see the real cause of chaos in the coliseum. Overall grade: A+

The story: This issue, conceived by Sergio Aragones and wordsmithed by Mark Evanier, starts with the Minstrel again regaling a group of listeners with the antics of Groo. This time he’s before a group of townspeople listening to how Groo has irritated Pal and Drumm. However, with the turn of a page, his listeners have run off frantically. There can be only one reason why…In his best Rita Moreno imitation, Groo yells, “Hey, you Minstrel!” causing the singer to become worried at the barbarian’s appearance. But the Minstrel does something that other “Friends and Foes” have not done upon seeing Groo: he runs off! Groo asks “Have you seen a mother who has a son but does not have him now?” but the entertainer is long gone. Therefore he will continue on his quest to find the mother (actually the father) of the little boy (little girl; this is Groo, so you know he’s really going to be confused) named Kayli who has been popping up in every issue of this series. Meanwhile, at a nearby coliseum, Pal hears that a rich little girl is seeking her father and decides to take advantage of the situation. He bolts to Drumm, telling him to vanquish his opponents quickly because they have something to do. After collecting their winnings, they leave, and that’s when the trouble starts. Things were doomed to go poorly from the dialogue in the third panel on Page 6. The banter between Pal and Drumm on Page 7 is fantastic, right up there with the dialogue of Abbott and Costello. In fact, it was so good if the story had focused only on them and without — dare I say — Groo, I would have been more than pleased with the story. The arrival of an individual on 8 has the expected results, but not for what occurs in panels four and five on 9 — that was funny! Kayli also gets her biggest scenes in quite a while as she’s placed in a certain place where she has a plan. The character Lucretia was a fantastic addition to the Groo-universe and I hope she returns at some point. Naturally things go wrong for Pal and Drumm but I didn’t expect it go where Drumm’s garb goes. A funny, entertaining read. Overall grade: A+  

The art: You just can’t go wrong in picking out something drawn by Sergio Aragones. Look at the fantastic splash page he’s created with the Minstrel singing about Pal and Drumm. The upper half of the first page contains tiny images of the characters getting into trouble because Groo is around. The bottom of the page shows the Minstrel singing (with his instrument’s top always changing) before a crowd. The work on each character’s clothes and faces has them instantly spring to life for the reader. Heck, even the wall that the Minstrel leans against is full of detail, as is the small pool, complete with frogs, before him. When the story moves to the coliseum, things are as epic as can be with the crowds and the fighters, but I direct your attention to the fifth panel on Page 3. Pal is looking a post board which contains several notices — YOU CAN READ THE NOTICES! Grab your magnifying glass and have yourself a good chuckle as you read the room to let note (which contains specific instructions as to what’s not allowed) and you can read the highlights of Weaver’s tale about Kayli. How many artists would go out of their way for this type of miniscule detail? You could probably count on one hand! If that hasn’t wowed a reader, the double-paged spread of 4 and 5 will, which shows Drumm in combat. Look at the details in the fighters’ costumes and the variety of faces watching the spectacle. It’s jaw dropping! Other highlights include the line up of combatants on Page 8, their reactions on 9, the bottom three panels on 11, the design of Lucretia on 15, the little girl atop 20, and Drumm stealing the issue with the oldest visual gag in the world on Page 22 and 23, but still working to hilarious effect. Even without the text, Aragones can tell a wonderful joke with his imagery. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Beautiful bright colors issue from Michael Atiyeh and Caitlin McCarthy. The first page has gorgeous coloring that brings the reader into this sensational fantasy world. I really love how the yellow parchment that encloses the Minstrel’s song is bright and commands a reader’s attention. The green and light orange in the Minstrel’s costume makes him pop out of the page as well. Really impressive work comes on the double-page spread of 4 and 5 where the crowd has each individual character’s clothes colored so that they stand out from their neighbor, creating a terrific crowd visual, but they’re not so bright as to overpower the action going on in the foreground. Heck, Atiyeh and McCarthy even differentiate the color of the sandy ground. They could have gone for a blanket color and no one would have really minded, but there are different colors in the sand — How cool is that? The highlight of the book is Drumm’s clothes in his final appearances. It’s over the top and makes the gag even stronger. I really liked the Fred Flintstone five o’clock shadow around his mouth. It will be impossible to get his image out of my head thanks to the coloring. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Stan Sakai does this lettering on this issue and he’s created Minstrel song (which also functions as his speech), dialogue, yells, and the tease for next issue. I really like the way Sakai puts certain words in a darker font for emphasis. Doing so makes the characters’ speech more easy to “hear” as one reads this book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Take every kopin you’ve got and buy this book. This book never fails to impress with its timeless humor and stunning visuals. 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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