Rocket Raccoon #1-4
Issue(s): Rocket Raccoon #1, Rocket Raccoon #2, Rocket Raccoon #3, Rocket Raccoon #4
I've debated with myself over how much detail to go into regarding this mini-series. On the one hand, i'm happy to just say that we've got a series of bizarre, semi-satrical zany stories that don't really have any long-term impact on the character, and leave it at that. Rocket Raccoon would be nothing more than an odd curiosity if it wasn't for the fact that, decades later, he'll be revived as a part of a revamp of Marvel's cosmic characters that comes out of the Annihilation mini-series. And with that revival, other than the fact that he's a gun-toting feisty talking raccoon, there's nothing much here that you need to know (a back-up series in a later book in that space line does include a brief revisiting of Rocket's home planet, which is the setting in this series).
On the other hand, it's a weird enough series that i feel obligated to look at it at least a little more closely. And as far as Mantlo's writing goes, this is clearly something that's more personal to him, and from a certain point of view it's one of his better efforts, although i wouldn't go so far as to call it "good".
Mike Mignola has been inking Marvel books since 1983, and he's been drawing covers for the Hulk series since the early 300s but this is the first series where he's been doing interior pencils. We're not quite at Hellboy, but his distinctive style is pretty clearly identifiable even here...
...and it's quite good.
He takes advantage of the zany subject matter and goes pretty wild, but he's also good with making the talking animals look "human".
So in a nutshell, we've got this strange planet system where the majority of the humans are mentally ill.
The exception is the "Keystone Kops", which are leftovers from the equally zany Rocket Raccoon appearance in Hulk #271, and they're shuffled off pretty early in this series.
There's a war going on between two animal toymakers, the mole Judson Jake...
...and the reptilian Lord Dyvyne...
...who controls the robot Clowns. The toymakers create their toys for the planet's patients, and they're basically fighting for market share. Rocket Raccoon is the planet's peacekeeper, and things get personal for him when his girlfriend Lylla (who is Judson Jake's niece, even though he's a mole and she's an otter or something)...
...is kidnapped by Blackjack O'Hare on Dyvyne's orders (see, i knew i didn't want to get into all the details of this...).
During the course of the adventure, it turns out that the Halfworld Bible (in the Hulk issue, it was called the Gideon's Bible, but i imagine that since that's a real thing, we've changed the name to avoid offending anyone. i imagine the choice of the original name was meant to be satirical in some way, but i don't know how, and there's no clues in this series)...
...is actually a journal of the original settlers of the planet describing how this world was set up as a lunatic asylum.
It turns out that the talking animals were bred to entertain the mentally ill people, and they eventually evolved to have the intelligence necessary to protect them.
The storyline resolves when Rocket and company take the Bible to the robots that live on the other half of the planet (called Halfworld), who build helmets that cure all of the mentally ill patients (actually all descendants of the original patients, since it's been generations since the original settlers landed)...
...leaving nothing for the two toymakers to fight over. Then the robots complete their giant human-sized rocketship, and Rocket Raccoon and his friends leave the planet.
I don't know if this is a Howard-the-Duck-on-caffeine style satire (if so, i'm not sure of what, exactly), or just a whimsical tale...
...but it's somewhat unsatisfying even if you're not sensitive to the poor depiction of mentally ill people.
On the other hand, it's awesome talking animals fighting each other.
I'll also mention, randomly, that Halfworld has a species of worms that have a "pleasure center" that doubles as a saddle.
If nothing else, a nice vehicle for Mignola.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showBlackjack O'Hare, Judson Jakes, Killer Clown, Lord Dyvyne, Lylla, Rocket Raccoon, Uncle Pyko, Walruss
Rocket Raccoon did make his first appearance in that Marvel Preview(differences aside) as a guest star in the "Sword in the Star" series. The relationship of that series to the main Marvel Universe is kind of a headache to grasp(even the 1983 Marvel Universe series couldn't quite define it). Since the initial "Sword" storyline never got resolved, and also since this mini-series made little impact, plus the fact that the "Sword" background later showed up in "Paradise X"; I've never been able to figure out if these characters were from a different dimension or a parallel universe or what.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 28, 2012 6:40 PM
I have the recent hardcover collection (includes the miniseries, the Marvel Preview appearance, and the Hulk issue) and I really thought it would be fun, but it's just kind of an incoherent mess. There's more whimsy in one page by Claremont of Kitty interacting with her pet dragon than there is in this entire miniseries that existed solely to be whimsical. If you can't communicate (ie, tell your story), you can't achieve its desired effect.
Also, as far as Gideon's Bible, much of the naming here is based on a Beatles song, Rocky Raccoon, which mentions Gideon's Bible.
Posted by: Paul | May 16, 2012 11:57 PM
Cute Sam & Max cameo in that panel with the rabbit.
Posted by: S | July 29, 2012 10:11 PM
This miniseries was first announced in March 1981.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 24, 2012 4:45 PM
There's no guarantee that the new GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie will be a hit, but if it is I bet it will be in no small part due to Rocket Raccoon. He's a tough talking raccoon with a gun it's possible that he'll hit just the right cord. Stewie from FAMILY GUY did. The Ninja Turtles did. This movie is following on the massive success of all the AVENGERS movies; it could make bank. If it does, how much of that do you think will go to RR's creator, Bill Mantlo? The oft-slammed Mantlo is currently rotting in an under-funded care facility where he's been since having his spinal cord severed by a hit-and-run driver in 1992.
Posted by: Jay Patrick | August 16, 2013 1:08 AM
We don't slam Mantlo. We slam some of his writing.
And one would hope he'd get a significant cut, but - it's Marvel, so don't hold your breathe.
Posted by: Paul | August 17, 2013 2:03 AM
Also the Mantlo story is close to home for me as I've had family experience involving such places. 'Rotting' is probably an accurate assessment; 'care facility' is a euphemism in the vein of Orwell's "Ministry of Peace."
As for Rocket, I haven't read his new appearances but he's a fun character and I expect the movie'll be a lot of fun. The quality control on the Marvel Universe movies has been amazing, I'm not sure they'll allow there to be a bad one.
Posted by: Paul | August 17, 2013 6:13 AM
Mantlo stated in Amazing Heroes #60 that the miniseries was inspired by Clifford Simak's SF novel "City".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 25, 2013 5:25 PM
What happened to Lylla exactly? They seem to be portraying Rocket as a swinger lately...
Posted by: Max_Spider | June 1, 2014 6:04 PM
This series ends with Rockey and Lylla still a couple. I don't remember Abnett & Lanning series addressing Rocket's prior history at all prior to a back-up series that has him and Groot returning to Halfworld, and i don't remember if the fate of Lylla was discussed there either, but that story did say that his memories were affected by memory implants, so it's possible a lot of what we see in this mini isn't accurate.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 1, 2014 9:52 PM
Lylla was in that ROCKET & GROOT mini. I don't think they ever specified why they split up, but I think they referred to her as Rocket's ex-girlfriend.
Posted by: Dermie | June 1, 2014 11:21 PM
Wow, even on Halfworld, stable relationships seem alien in the Marvel Universe. Well thanks, information on her seemed really sparse online.
Seems to at least get an easter egg in the new film though: http://nerdymindsmagazine.com/2014/02/21/guardiansofthegalaxytrailerdetailsyoumighthavemissed/
Posted by: Max_Spider | June 2, 2014 10:22 AM
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