Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Groo: Friends and Foes, Vol. 1 by Sergio Aragones with Mark Evanier

I feel like I've read Groo comics off-and-on almost since I knew what comics were, but that can't be true, on either end. The first Groo appearance was in 1982, when I was thirteen. And the only Groo book I've ever covered here is the utterly goofy Groo Vs. Conan, four years ago.

So I may instead be thinking, "My kid brother used to love Groo in the '80s, and I ended up reading pretty much all of the Marvel series, which is a hell of a lot of Groo, isn't it?" And it was a hell of a lot of Groo. But there's been a lot of Groo in the twenty-five years since then, too.

Not different Groo stories, mind you. Groo stories are always pretty much the same: that's the whole point. (Comedy thrives on repetition and expectation.) But more Groo stories.

One of the more was the one I recently picked up: Groo: Friends and Foes, Vol. 1, which collects the first third of a twelve-issue series from 2015. As always with Groo, it's written and drawn by creator Sergio Aragones, with letters from Stan Sakai and colors from Tom Luth. Mark Evanier does something to do with writing - the general guess has always been that he's somewhere in the vague territory among scripter and editor and translator - which role is not being given oddball labels these days as it was back in the Old Times.

Friends and Foes is episodic, and I suspect the rest of the series follows exactly the same pattern, since Groo has always been about doing something funny and then repeating that thing over and over and over again. Groo is traveling, as he often is, since no one actually likes having him around. And, each issue, he meets one of the major recurring characters from his history, and runs through his standard plot with that person.

To back up slightly: Groo is the guy in the right foreground of the cover. He's a barbarian adventurer in a standard secondary fantasy world, full of kingdoms, dragons, magic, and so on. He is exceptionally skilled at violence. And he is as dumb as a post. This is comedy, and generally comedy suitable for younger audiences, so he tends to hurt people rather than slaughter them, and even more so cause gigantic destructive calamities that everyone somehow escapes, moaning and wringing their hands about how stupid and destructive and horrible that Groo fellow is.

That's what a Groo story is. He comes to a place, causes chaos by being really stupid and/or clueless and/or overly literal-minded, and generally leaves at the end.

He is the epic fantasy Amelia Bedelia, basically.

The four "friends and foes" here are Captain Ahax (whose every ship is sunk by Groo), Granny Groo (who tried, and failed, to teach the young Groo to be a "gypsy" thief), Arba and Darkaba (two witches whose plans for domination are always foiled, inadvertently, by Groo), and Arcadio (a very handsome "hero" whose schemes are always disrupted by Groo).

And that's what happens. There's also a little girl who wanders through each issue; I presume her story is what makes this a mini-series, and her quest for her missing father will eventually be the overall plot. Of course she will find that father in the last book, and her father will be a major character in the series - probably not Groo himself, but that's an outside chance.

As I expected, Groo stories are Groo stories. If you've ever read one, you've basically read them all: they just ring changes on the same bag of tricks. Aragones is an amusing cartoonist, and whoever does the final script has some clever wordplay, so it's always fun and entertaining. But you will never be surprised by anything in a Groo story, and I was not here.

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