|Sergio Aragonés’ Groo: 25th Anniversary Special
by Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier
Dark Horse Comics – saddle-stitched, $5.99
WITH THIS REMINDER THAT GROO IS OLDER THAN I AM, I figured it was probably time I gave the world’s dumbest warrior a shot. I’m glad I did. Sergio Aragonés is a master cartoonist who crams every page with gags and funny-looking characters and makes it look easy. This issue covers a lot of the characters and settings of Groo, thereby giving Aragonés ample opportunity to show off those talents. As written by Mark Evanier, the stories are also pretty funny.
The issue begins with an introduction, in which Evanier explains the significance of a silver anniversary to Aragonés, a cute method of running down Groo’s publication history. The first story is called “The Plague,” in which a sneezing epidemic is the vehicle for an effective and funny satire of the many unnecessary medicines pushed on society by pharmaceutical companies, and the hypocrisy of governments, churches and the rich when peasants are in trouble. Aragonés fills every panel to the brim with details, which all pop nicely thanks to Tom Luth’s colors. Evanier keeps pace with Aragonés (and keeps letterer Stan Sakai busy), making sure almost every panel has a one-liner or insult. Not all of them hit, but since another is coming in the next panel, that’s not a big deal. Evanier’s only problem here is a tendency to over-write mildly; some of dialogue and many of the thought balloons are redundant next to Aragonés’ facial expressions.
Next is a text piece by Evanier addressing urban legends about Groo. Here Evanier goes into the origins of the Groo character and expands on the publication history mentioned in the intro. It’s whimsical and informative, especially for someone new to the material.
The second story, “Groo For Sale,” begins to make some of the themes of Groo clear: greed and exploitation are punished once again, this time by an oblivious young Groo. I don’t know if young Groo is something done just for the anniversary issue or if it’s a recurring feature, but it’s definitely charming. Groo is less talkative than those around him to begin with and here, as a child, he has only one line. The rest of the time he’s a destructive miniature force of nature. That’s the only sure thing in the story, as the adults are all working at cross-purposes and the consequences of Groo’s accidental destruction pleasingly turn the plot around several times.
The closest this issue comes to filler material is the “Groo Alphabet,” 14 pages (counting a title page) of rhyming couplets about Groo’s cast, in alphabetical order, two per page. It’s not clear if this is meant to introduce a new reader to the cast or elicit recognition from long-time readers, but I decided part way through that it wasn’t important. While I think I’d have preferred a third long story, I started to see that the real purpose of the section was to showcase Aragonés drawing all of the characters and the many diverse settings they represent. Again showing what a great cartoonist he is, Aragonés suggests an entire story with each image, quite a feat of storytelling. Some of the poems read awkwardly, but several are funny and most complement the images quite well.
As a complete package, this anniversary issue of Groo is definitely worth the $6. I got several laughs out of it and enjoyed the intro to all things Groo. I’ll now be on the lookout for more Groo material from Aragonés and Evanier.