The Nico Review: Groot #6

“Professional” critics & cultural “pundits” are great and all, but what does Nico think about stuff? Thanks to The Nico Review, you’ll soon find out! In this post, he’s talking about Groot #6.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 5.22.57 PM

Groot #6 (Marvel)
Words by Jeff Loveness, art by Brian Kesinger, letters by Jeff Eckleberry

When the final issue of Jeff Loveness & Brian Kesinger’s run on Groot arrived, I came to a lingering (and partially unexpected) realization: that I was really, really going to miss this series. Who knew a talking tree could give me so many feelings, all at once? Not me.

Back when Marvel announced Groot‘s first solo title earlier this year, I saw lots of snickering and snarking about the decision. “How can Groot have his own book if he only ever says three damn words?!” cried the cynical comment sections of the Internet, in-between fancasting Nathan Fillion as any white male superhero they could think of and ranting about how “feminazi SJW” boogeymen are ruining comics. A moment of silence for them.

… alright, done.

To the credit of those skeptics, sure. It’s a fair question. A character who isn’t known to be very chatty may present a unique problem in storytelling — which is probably more true of traditional prose than something in a visual medium like comic books, but nonetheless.

As it turned out, Jimmy Kimmel Live writer Loveness was more than up for the task. Through hooking Groot up with characters you actually could hold a conversation with, Loveness allowed the plot (i.e. a lost-in-space Groot finding his way home) to move along briskly, carrying our favorite sentient tree person with it, letting him react to the world around him. Groot’s always at his best when he’s allowed to be curious and use his imagination to solve problems, which I feel Loveness really gets about the character.

Groot’s team-up with Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood in issue three, for example, provided for many touching, interpersonal moments between the two. When a downtrodden Groot feels hopeless, Surfer offers some encouraging advice:

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Property of Marvel

Considering Norrin’s long history as a lone(ly) wolf in the Marvel cosmos with lots to atone for, the two are natural contemporaries, and that issue was a delight.

That brings us back to this issue in particular, boasting a brief —but poignant— scene which allows us entry into Groot’s (conveniently English-interpreted) psyche, thanks in part to the time-displaced Jean Grey. For all the flack she’s gotten this year about helping (or forcing?) Iceman to come out of the closet, this is probably a more positive application of her powers, to say the least.

Possibly taking inspiration from this gorgeously heartbreaking variant cover of All-New X-Men #23, a party-going Groot approaches Jean, hoping she could help him out with a long-unresolved thread in his life:

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Property of Marvel

Groot’s often mistaken for being a lumbering (HAH, PUN) idiot who can only say the same three words ad nauseam, but his conversation with Jean proves he’s actually quite intelligent and articulate, when given the chance to be understood. It’s not his fault that he can’t pass the language barrier with humans! He’s just a sweet, kind-hearted tree person from Planet X who accidentally exiled himself from the people he used to call family. In those circumstances, learning English wouldn’t be much of a priority to me, either.

Back to the issue— Jean even makes a point of saying it’s hard for her to focus on his thoughts, because there are just so many of them happening all at once:

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Property of Marvel

Not to get overly deep in the middle of this review, but it’s my blog and I’ll do whatever I want, dammit! As somebody who suffers from debilitating social anxiety, I completely empathize with Groot as a character.

Because of my anxiety, I’ve never been great at expressing my thoughts and opinions with people, either. Whenever I’m forced into social situations, even around people I am familiar and comfortable with, I’m always worrying about the way they perceive me, and I freeze up.

My usual inner monologues proceed like this: Am I talking too fast? Am I stuttering? Are they bored? Do they disagree with me? Are they taking me seriously at all? Would they rather lick my ass than hear my mouth? Should I consider the favorable suggestion of going mute permanently? 

For me, socializing is a struggle — and it’s one that Groot likely understands.

I’ve been talking big game about Loveness’ writing up to now, and I haven’t even said anything about Kesinger’s fantastic art yet! You can tell he’s done time at Disney (as an illustrator and animator) through the kinetic, lively way he draws Groot & Co, not to mention the playful colorful palette he utilizes to enhance his renderings. While not explicitly marketed to children in the way comics published under Marvel’s Disney Kingdoms imprint are, you could hand any issue of this series to a kid and they’d eat it up.

But that’s not to say his art is juvenile; I mean, look at this splash page!

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Property of Marvel

A strong, silent type like Groot lives or dies on the way they’re drawn, and Kesinger’s art does a lot of the heavy lifting required of him here, making Groot aesthetically appealing, visually distinct, and incredibly sympathetic.

I haven’t been reading comics for as long as some people, so my reference pool isn’t as deep as it could be, but I truly believe Loveness and Kesinger did some fantastic work over the course of this series. Very few comics have punched me in the gut like Groot has done so frequently. I think part of the way I regard this book is colored by some recent experiences of mine, none of them particularly great.

2015 hasn’t been a great year for me; I’ve lost friends, I’ve sunken into further anxiety and depression, I’ve felt utterly useless and lost. Needless to say, the synchronicity between myself and Groot in this comic has been nothing short of astonishing, and even a bit disheartening. I can only hope that I’ll start seeing better days sooner rather than later, especially with Groot as my guide towards getting there:

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 7.10.50 PMLike I mentioned above, Groot ends at issue six, making way for the impending reunion of Rocket Raccoon & Groot by Skottie Young and Felipe Andrade during the “All-New, All-Different Marvel” relaunch. As much as I enjoy both of those those creators and their respective work in comics, I gotta say that Loveness & Kesinger will be a hard act to follow. They really captured something special with this series, and I can only hope I’m the only one it touched in such a profound way. Something this special deserves to be prized among many.

I may not be Groot, but I’m definitely with Groot on this one, folks.

 

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