In Review: Groo: Fray of the Gods #1

A laugh out loud story with lush illustrations -- Now with gods! Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Groo deflects lightning with his swords as the gods above him battle, while poor Rufferto looks skyward in fear. Great introduction to whom the wanderer will be encountering in this issue and what they’ll be doing. The gods look great, having attributes that make them instantly recognizable as gods, but without them being specific deities. The illustration by Sergio Aragones is great (but when isn’t it?), and it’s nice to see Groo actually doing something correct on the cover and that’s saving his bacon. The colors are by Tom Luth. He puts an outstanding contrast between the gods’ world and that of man by giving the light blues and pinks to the heavenly surroundings and darker colors to where Groo roams. Excellent. Overall grade: A

The story: This is a surprising and funny opening. The village sentry for Remba sends a message via arrow to another, who then relays the message to a bell ringer via pigeon. With the bell sounding throughout the village the people happily know what it means: there is no sign of Groo anywhere! They rejoice in the streets as they go about their day as the Sage and Minstrel smile, knowing that all will be well with Groo faraway. Meanwhile, in a faraway village, Groo notices that there are no men. He’s told by one of the women that the men are over the hill having a battle. That’s enough for Groo to pull his swords and go running to the battle. Once there, he begins to slay those around him until he’s asked a very important question in the second panel on Page 6. The response he gives on 7 is the only one that Groo could give. This is very funny, but on 9 Groo does something that I’ve never seen done in a comic book before, and that’s saying something. I laughed out loud at whom he’s battling. Sergio Aragones created this story which was “wordsmithed” by Mark Evanier. After this fray, Groo and his dog go to another village in search of food and find the means to get some. It’s here that Groo does something that other books don’t do: it addresses how gods are made from men. This is completely applicable to man’s past, with Groo asking questions that those in the past undoubtedly asked, though his conclusions are very different. Don’t worry, Aragones and Evanier don’t have this become a history lesson, Groo does what Groo does best. The gods do appear in this book, but their joviality won’t last once Groo becomes aware of their existence. Funny and refreshingly informative. Overall grade: A+

The art: Sergio Aragones is famous for his visuals. He creates lush, populated settings and incredibly funny images that often work without words. This book showcases both of these abilities. The world’s first historical fist bump occurs in the second panel on Page 2; a gesture that anyone can understand, but comes out off as incredibly funny considering what the characters are saying to each other. The bottom two-thirds of the same page shows the people of Remba celebrating the lack of Groo, and look at all the details! Carts, horses, clothing, rugs, dancing citizens, a well, animals, as well as four familiar faces. It’s only the second page and this looks great! When Groo enters the fray on 5 in the third panel the characters are shown in silhouette. This makes the eyes of the men look twice as large as they are, all wide open in shock as they see the infamous Groo coming upon them. The fight panel at the bottom of the page is amazing, with the men trying to escape Groo’s wrath — I love the poor unfortunate soul that’s being thrown in the air because of the wanderer’s might. Page 12 has a new setting and it’s so sumptuous. Look at the number of characters, the tools that they’re using, the structure and its perspective. It’s like a page out of history come to life before the reader’s eyes. The flashback story is also beautiful with the characters’ emotions and garb wonderful. Page 21 has the funniest visual of the entire book in the fourth panel. There’s no dialogue in the panel whatsoever, because the text in the panel before it sets it up flawlessly. I still find myself smiling at this panel each time I look upon it. The final two pages introduce the pantheon of gods and they look great. It’s a terrific mix of deities who are being served by smaller beings. These two pages are a fantastic taste of hopefully more to come of these beings. Simply incredible art. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The colors on this book by Tom Luth increase the power of every setting and every action. The first two pages of the book show Groo-less Remba in soothing greens and calm blues, making this village seem like Eden. When Groo appears on the third page his clothes are much brighter than those that others wear on that of the structures: this is the perfect way to always have the reader focus in on the wanderer. The characters that arrive on 8 have a color scheme that takes the focus from the title character, but this sets up the joke of what happens to them soon after appearing. The colors go very pale on 12 because of this new setting, aping the classical color scheme of an ancient civilization. Royalty has bright reds, blues and golds to show their status. The gods live in the clouds and are surrounded by brilliant pinks, pale greens, and wonderful yellows and oranges. Luth increases every aspect of this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Narration and text (the same text), sounds, Minstrel speech, yells, and screams are created by Stan Sakai. Normally I dislike when narration and dialogue share the same font, but the narration in this book is set apart in the design of the balloon that contains it and the colors, making it look epic every time, so I have nothing to complain about. The yells are great with their larger and thicker font and it’s impossible not laugh when a group of men scream out “GROO!!?” Overall grade: A+

The back cover: There’s an eight panel Rufferto story on the back of this issue. Sergio Aragones shows, without any text, how the dotty dog overcomes his hunger. It’s cute, funny, and illustrates how smart he is. Very funny. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A new Groo saga has begun and anyone can jump in comfortably with this first issue. The gods better have someone they can pray to for help if Groo is going to crossing their paths. A laugh out loud story with lush illustrations — Now with gods! 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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