Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Mark Evanier
Artist: Sergio Aragones
Letterer: Stan Sakai
Colorist: Tom Luth
Release Date: September 2nd, 2015
I’ve always been vaguely aware of the exploits of Groo The Wanderer, Sergio Aragonés’ big-nosed, sword-swinging parody of Conan The Barbarian. However, until this particular book landed in my ‘review pile’, I’d never felt inclined to delve any deeper than just a passing familiarity. Oh, how wrong I was. This collection sees Groo and his canine companion Rufferto travelling the land in search of adventure, and stumbling across some familiar friends – and foes – from his past along the way.
Given the thirty-plus year history of the character, all of it with this exact same creative team, it’s safe to say that they’ve absolutely nailed the character by now. Filled with light-hearted humour and general silliness – mostly due to Groo’s constant collateral damage as he charges blindly from one fray to the next – this is a genuinely enjoyable read, and is difficult not to peruse without a smile on your face.
Aragonés’ artwork is lively and dynamic, as well as being packed with a surprising amount of detail for such a cartoony style. Tom Luth injects the pages with his bright, vibrant colours, but manages to reign things in enough so as to never overshadow Aragonés linework. The end result is an almost ‘newspaper strip’ aesthetic, which works perfectly alongside the slapstick gags and on-the-nose humour.
While it’s definitely a comic that will have universal appeal, with the barbarian-themed carnage and PG violence no doubt appealing to younger readers, Aragonés and Evanier also show some intelligent sharpness to their writing, with all manner of gentle fun-poking being directed at the fantasy genre as a w hole, as well as a cavalcade of parodies of characters and situations. Of these characters, Captain Ahax – a seaman who has had a fleet of ships sunk by Groo over the years and who turns to insurance fraud during their latest voyage together – has to be considered a definite highlight.
Overall, while I may have previously dismissed Groo as being “silly” or “lacking substance”, I think I might have overlooked the fact that, well, that’s kind of the point. Groo himself is a wonderfully light-hearted departure from the slew of ultra-serious Conan-inspired fantasy characters on the shelves today, and this particular collection serves as a perfect jumping-on point – or simply an accessible stand-alone read – for anyone who likes the idea of a cluelessly clumsy barbarian wreaking havoc everywhere he goes.
Either way, I think I may have to do some digging into the back catalogue of this particular character.
You can purchase Groo: Friends and Foes Volume 1 from Turnaround Publisher Services (who kindly provided the review copy of this title) from their official website.
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