Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon & Groot Steal the Galaxy
Author: Dan Abnett
Release Date: 2014
This prose novel featuring characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy comics (and tv show, and movie, etc.) is written by Dan Abnett, one half of the writing team that revamped the team’s lineup and has led to some obscure characters becoming as recognizable as the X-Men. Back when he (and Andy Lanning) first released those Guardians of the Galaxy comics, my wife and I got so hooked on them they quickly became our favorite characters. Along with Groot and Rocket Racoon, Star Lord, Drax, Gamora, Bug, Cosmo, Mantis and plenty of others were totally unique in the Marvel cosmic landscape and in comics in general.
Since that time, a lots happened with our favorite characters. As mentioned, they starred in a huge success of a film, have their own cartoon on Disney, and have been written by various A-List comic writers including Brian Michael Bendis on the most recent run. Groot, Star-Lord, Rocket Racoon, Gamora and even Drax have had their own solo series in addition to the ongoing team book. Abnett and Lanning have stopped writing together (sadly I’ve tried a lot of each of their solo stuff and haven’t enjoyed any of it as much as all of their earlier stuff they wrote together). The result of all of that? The Guardians have had a major drop in quality and the two most obscure characters of the bunch have really been run into the ground for the sake of capitalizing on their new fame.
Yeah, I get it. Complaining about overexposure on obscure Marvel superheroes is kind of like saying “I liked the Backstreet Boys where they were underground,” but anybody who reads comics knows that publishers will take a character that sells and put them in a dozen books until the bottom falls out of the market. What does all of this have to do with this prose novel? Unfortunately, the entire novel felt like a cash grab more than a story that needed (or deserved) to be told.
The plot goes as follows: Rocket and Groot come into contact with a Rigellian space recorder (a robot that records everything, who also serves as the 1st person narrator for the book). The robot is being hunted by Timely, Inc. (basically the Wal-Mart or Amazon of the Galaxy) for its contents which may prove so valuable that along the way others start chasing after it as well. Those include Annihilus, The Badoon, the Kree, a Galadorian Space Knight, The Shiar Empire, Gamora, the Xandarians (Novas, or space police) and just about every Marvel alien race short of the Inhumans. Rocket and Groot don’t know why the robot is so valuable, but they try to hang on to him to save their own skins, make a profit and/or protect their new friends depending on the chapter.
The plot of the book felt like a six issue story arc in the comics, where every few chapters there’s a new alien race or bounty hunter involved in the pursuit, but despite the huge cast of fairly disposable characters the book takes a low stakes cartoony approach where nobody ever feels in danger. The humor is most reminiscent of Skottie Young’s Rocket Racoon series, but without the fun artwork to accompany it the story feels tedious at 350+ pages. Rocket and Groot work best as supporting fun characters than as their own protagonists, and this book really suffers for it until a third guardian shows up to provide some additional plot movement.
The best things going for this book is the humor by Abnett, who routinely puts in pop culture references and adolescent voyeur humor by the narrator that work OK. A list of the top five worst jobs in the Marvel cosmic universe was very well done and showed the potential of a prose setting in a Marvel story. Jokes about disconcertingly human like hands worked less well, particularly on their 39th landing. I got another of these prose novels recently that takes place in the Marvel Cosmic universe, as apparently it’s a new line of books Marvel it trying. Based on this first outing, I’ll read that one before I purchase any more of these.