In Review: Groo: Play of the Gods #3

Groo switches allegiances, foes continue to squabble, and the gods watch the follies of man.

The cover: Groo pulls one of his swords to do battle with the many men of Mexahuapan who are dressed for war. The foes looks fantastic wearing garb similar to those of the ancient people of South America. Each man is of a unique build and each wears a unique type of clothing and sports a unique weapon. Often on comic book covers, when the hero is battling an army, the antagonists are dressed in the same clothes. Sergio Aragonés doesn’t do that — each character is visually different from the other, making this cover epic. One also has to admire the title character’s dog, Rufferto, who looks as though he’s trying to communicate to his master that he’s about to make yet another mistake in his long list of errors. Overall grade: A

The story: To keep Groo distracted, his foes have posted signs on the beach that lead to cheese dip, so the wanderer is circling the island, with Rufferto in tow, out of everyone’s way. After Groo and his dotty dog pass, Taranto is seen speaking with one of his mercenaries, expressing his disbelief that Captain Ahax would steal the island’s gold and leave him stranded. “That is a deed so foul that I would have done it!” The men pause as Groo passes them again; he gets around for a mendicant. Meanwhile, the clergymen of Iberza decide that they need to begin to convert the natives and they will use their army, headed by Taranto and his men, to “torture and slay those who do not convert!” As this is occurring, the realm of the gods continues to become more crowded as more of the native people’s gods appear, which causes some of the older gods to lament their arrivals. Complicating things further still is Captain Ahax’s return from the sea. He knows he needs a ship so that he can flee the land…with more gold. Cue Groo and Rufferto continuing to make another loop of the island. Just when a reader thinks Groo has done every possible stupid thing there is for someone as clueless as him to do, wait until one sees what he does on Page 7 — I’ve been reading Groo since the Pacific Comics days and this is a new one to me! Sergio Aragonés’s story, wordsmithed by Mark Evanier, continues to heat up tensions on the island, with the clergymen pushing their beliefs onto the natives, the natives trying to resist, the gods blaming Megatheos for the Iberzans’ behavior, and Groo fraying and slaying. This issue has more laughs than the previous issue, with Groo getting a new job and things going horribly wrong, naturally. One especially funny element of the story is the twisted logic of the clergymen in converting the locales. One has to laugh, because their justifications are historically true. There’s also a sweet turn in this story with Page 22. This has also never occurred in a Groo comic and the barbarian’s response is truly touching. Of course, this couldn’t last long, with the fifth panel on 23 being laugh out loud funny. This series concludes next issue, but I have no idea how this could possible wrap up all the plot lines. Overall grade: A

The art: The details in Sergio Aragonés’s artwork are impressive. On the first page note how the surf crashes on a rock in the first panel, and that rock has a trio of crabs scuttling over it. The comrade that Taranto speaks with has a delightful collection of tiny skulls for a necklace, with one of the skulls ending a long, slim ponytail. The final panel on the page has the surf rolling in the distance, a cute lizard in the foreground. The second page returns to the clergymen whose robes are incredibly detailed. Taranto’s crew is shown in the bottom panel and motley isn’t a disturbing enough word to describe this collection of rogues. The first panel on Page 3 is a tremendous collection of deities, with familiar ones reacting to the new ones. They are humorous, sexy, and lavish in their accoutrements. I think I spy one based on Edie McClurg in the upper left corner. The variety of characters on display in this book is amazing, from Taranto’s crew, to the forced laborers on 6, and the natives on 21. The building of the temple on 9 is terrific for the details in the illustration. Plus, look in the upper right corner of that first panel — there’s a distant hut complete with family and animals watching the construction. Pages 20 and 21 is a double-paged spread with Groo in battle. Besides the men he’s commencing to fray, the clergymen are watching, their troops are being beaten back, the setting shows the ruined temple, the Mexahuapan army is attacking, and the gods are shown watching the sad display. This is an epic illustration. Often this series has humorous illustrations, but this has an incredibly serious moment that made me gasp, but then left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. The action on 22 contains these serious and sweet illustrations. The final page is a full-paged splash showing the gods watching the chaos continue and it’s just as lavish as the double-page splash. Aragonés continues to create visual wonders. Overall grade: A

The colors: John Ercek and Tom Luth color this book and it’s beautiful work. The sky on the first page has dark blues high up, while the colors go much softer the closer they get to the ocean, mirroring the actual colors of the beach. The waters are a beautiful shade of blue that would be the envy of any coastal city. The gold on the clergymen’s clothing instantly identify them as men of wealth. The gods are resplendent in every color imaginable. Their bright colors truly have them set apart from those on Earth. When the panels are populated with so many different characters the colors explode off the page, such as on 7, 18 and 19, and 22. The colors on this book make the artwork bright and bold. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings and dialogue (the same font) and yells are crafted by Stan Sakai. His lettering skills have won him several deserved Eisner Awards. These hand lettered pages are done in a joyful style to make the comedic adventures of Groo fun, while the yells are so massive as to increase their humorous impact. These yells often occur when someone is trying to get the title character to stop doing something. Overall grade: A

The final line: Groo switches allegiances, foes continue to squabble, and the gods watch the follies of man. Oh, and mistakes are made. Again, again, and again. Fun reading with some nice commentary on faith. All ages accessible. 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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