Thursday, July 7, 2016

shorts SHORT Review: Rocket and Groot, Stranded on Planet Strip Mall

Rocket and Groot:
Stranded on Planet Strip Mall

Written and Illustrated by Tom Angleberger
Special Illustration by John Rocco
Designed by Megan Youngquist Parent
Published by Marvel Press, an Imprint of Disney Book Group

I'm excited about this book, sorry I'm getting ahead of myself, okay so the first time I was introduced to Rocket Raccoon was a bunch of times. Like most people when they encounter something they enjoy that thing and find more about it, and this starts their obsession. With me, I need to naturally find something that comes into my life three times, not sure that many times, but if I find something multiple (three) times it feel like it's something I need to look into. Most of the time it's true, that this is something that will be influential or has been influential (subconsciously speaking) in my life, and Rocket Raccoon is one of those characters. First was when thumbing through a Guardians of the Galaxy comic, the character stood out and seemed interesting. Second time was while looking up work of Mike Mignola, back in the day Marvel was trying to expand their Universe and bring in more characters that were one time use, so the four part series was fun and something worth a look. Third time was (like most people) in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I loved this interpretation. Though the problem about this is my only interaction with Rocket Raccoon and Groot was through the movie, like I said they were mentioned to me through points in my life, but not fully introduced. Now I'm fully trying to interact with the little Space Bandit and the Walking Tree as they surf through media and fling themselves through the universe.

My initial feelings for the book was interest, since the cover and the title characters are all interesting and since this is a kids book. It's personally funny and interesting to see such a violent character within a young readers book. Well, more or less violent, Rocket's original conception could only go so far, but he was still angry and gritty in a world of smiles and sunshine. It was a great tongue in cheek change of characters from their silver and bronze age renditions to their current state of things. Though I digress, Rocket Raccoon fits the gritty world really well, and with him having a sense of humor allows his antics and raccoon nature keeping him fun and interesting. If you've seen Guardians of the Galaxy then you've heard of Rocket and his partnership with the lyrical Groot. Groot again is an interesting character, like Wolverine he was a one off, a flavor of the week, the good guys beat 'em up and the bad guy goes down and never returns, unless letters from fans want them to return. Later they revamped each character into this modern age, like that's a good thing, but it is for these two. Groot is an alien creature, his origin is the opposite of Lobo. Rocket was captured, experimented on, and changed into a mercenary of sorts. Now both venture through the Galaxy, more or less, like Bounty Hunters. Somehow they met the Guardians of the Galaxy and became heroes of sorts, which gives their characters an update and a current frame of mind/personality.

Family Cosplays are the best, here's the Professor Steeping as Groot
and his niece Tea Steeping as Rocket Raccoon (origin costume)

Back to the cover, sorry side tracked over to the characters, though that was the main selling point for me, that it was about two bounty hunters or galactic mercenaries in kid book form. Though in this book it's never mentioned that they are mercs, mostly that they're apart of the Guardians. Anyhow the cover is a very simple and cute renditions of the titular characters. Now it says John Rocco on the cover, though these seem to be the illustrations of the author of the book, since there's a very special surprise toward the end of the novel. It's really awesome of the author, the publisher, and the artist to collaborate for something that fits so perfect into the series they are trying to develop. Though all in all this is the author's drawings and writing, everything that's happening in the book is by one man's creative mind, so this crazy creative mind put a ton of heart into this kids book. The title is what sold me, I loved the idea of a Strip Mall and these two lunatics stuck in the center of it. Since they're characters would totally be softened by the Marvelkids brand, that's not a bad thing, since like TV shows you can only have so much history and this really boils down the character to their prime elements, again not always good, but it fits the media and the premise. As a casual reader this would be something I'd take a look at and thumb through to see if it's something that I'd want to read. Though as a person that loves Space and Raccoons, that's something that I would read, and did read. As a person that knows the characters and loves to see another's version of characters I know in a different media than they were meant for is always a beautiful thing. So this was a book made for folks like me, though I guess it was made for folks like me trying to get their kids to be folks like me. Never my intent, let kids grow up how they want to, though guide them into being people that are good, or at least moral.

Now let's dive into the book and talk about the design!
From the cover, to the pages, to the free bookmarks in the back of the novel, this is beautifully designed and wonderfully thought out. Another note for the series is that each character has their own font. It's a great little detail that allows one to emerge themselves into the story or at the very least enjoy this tale more like a play. Each character interacting with each other and reacting to actions taken within each scene, I think that's my favorite part about this series, each chapter is a staged dialogue. They have a new setting each time, and a deeper understanding of themselves and how each other works within the book.

This is a little peek into the lives of Groot and Rocket Raccoon, it's a kid friendly version of the characters, but it's not off from their original renditions (or their theatrical renditions). One thing I always talk about is capturing the spirit of the character, Tom Angleberger captured each character in writing and in image. Even with this being a MarvelKids publishing Tom Angleberger did his research on the characters. Though it's a pretty general plot, it's not really an intense story, but this is a character driven tale. We're running through the life and times of Groot and Rocket as they venture through the Strip Mall Planet with their tape dispenser. Now that I've introduced this character I can complain about it. Like the book series of Zachary Nixon Johnson by John Zakour talking inanimate objects aren't my favorite. The downfall of that series was everything was talking in each book and it was just awful, though there were more problems as the series progressed, still a fun read and worth it. Though that will be a review for another day. Today we're talking about a tape dispenser that I don't like, an inanimate object that gains sentient abilities through it's A.I. and this being a story for kids. Its like that character that's in Disney movies (and copycats) that throw in a comedy relief sidekick, though this is where I contradict myself. I really enjoyed the tape dispenser, mind you the only point that we're able to get through the whole story is thanks to this little device, but that's the thing the character keeps flipping back and forth between being fun to just being annoying. Then again that's the personality of the character, so it fits, but it's not personally pleasing. Now here's the note that really pleased me, it was a tape dispenser and tape recorder, that's all, it's not a deus ex machina. The little tape machine played the role that was given to it and improved naturally and in small ways that allowed the character to grow.

Like I said it's a simple character driven story, it's not something that's trying to solve the gordian knot, though it's still a story worth reading, especially one that enjoys a one act play. This is a wonderful introduction to plays for young readers and a good little adventure that doesn't effect the main universe. Though all in all this is a fantastic trot into the mind and life of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Overall if you're like me this is a book that will have you plenty involved and intrigued in this novel and (if the cards are played well) book series, can't wait to read the next book.

I trust you enjoyed the inspection, thank you for reading.
Support the creator, check out your local library and read more about raccoons and trees in space.
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Keep well and Stay well.

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