My new first stop for genuine, GROOd natured laughs
Note: This isn't a review for issue #1, it's for the whole first series.
I picked up some new issues of Groo a while back, purely because it had Aragones, who I always enjoyed in MAD, on it (and because they were hella cheap!).
I was very very pleasantly surprised. Like a lot of people, I thought that it would be difficult for him to carry his earlier work, such as the MAD marginals, which are essentially one-liners, into a fully fledged comic book character and storyline. For over 100 issues no less!
But he blew me away. Sergio came to America a long time ago, knowing no english, and as soon as he arrived he started working for MAD. His humour reflects this, and many would even call it underdeveloped, as you wont find many clever word plays, or intensely complicated dialogue, in these comics. Essentially each issue is its own joke (as the authors often say, Groo only uses one joke (they're joking)), drawn out into a whole comic, with wonderful dialogue, characters, detail and humour. Each 'joke' is genuinely funny. I mean this in that it doesn't try to be overly ironic, or critical, it's funny in any language. Some people may have trouble with the simplicity of the humour, as many, including myself, like to feel like we are getting something a little cultured from our comics, and something to set them apart form 'kids' comics. But it's impossible to not get over this after reading an issue of Groo, which is so unassuming in its simplicity, it's truly a masterpiece, in my opinion. I imagine that Sergio 'learnt' his english through his humour, and that is the language he has continued to learn for all these years. I doubt he had much negative feedback, so he isn't too self conscious about the things he puts down on paper. This leads to brilliant, simplistic, humour, that is undeniably hilarious.
I'm sure Mark Evanier (our 'translator') catches him on a few things though, and I'm sure he gives the comic the prefect spin to really bring the humour home. Not to mention the letters pages. I'm usually not a big fan of these at all, but these are almost my highlight in Groo, every time.
It's not just about the humour though, the illustrations are amazing. Although a lot of people seem to be big fans of the covers, I'm a much bigger fan of the actual work inside (not that some covers haven't gotten a good laugh, or admiration), because I like the small details that Serge brings out in each and every panel. Personality flows from every illustration, and I doubt Serge needs much effort for this either - if you ever wanted to read a comic where the artist is comfortable enough to not rely on pencils, this is the one. Every minor character, perhaps only a part of our story for a few panels, convinces us entirely, as an actor in Groos world of constant destruction and cheese dip.
It can't all be good though... Well actually, it is for me. There's nothing I'd like them to change on this comic. It is a shame that it comes across so 'childlike', because I believe it must turn a lot of older readers, who rather reach for The Watchmen or The Sandman for instance, or a mature super-hero comic (as most, and me, do), off from picking some of these up. But that doesn't mean I would want it changed! Admittedly, I've only read the newest Groo mini-series, and these four first ones, so I'm hardly their biggest fan, but I don't doubt that all the issues in between have the same level of quality and humour. I give the whole Groo range a 5/5, but keep in mind that this could be a 4 (or even a 3 D: ) if you need extreme depth to be explored with every storyline.
Issue #5 is highly recommended, and I'm sure Sergio and Mark will forgive you if you can't find it in a store, and have to find it elsewhere (forgive me guys), like I did.
I enjoyed writing this review, because I feel like giving something back to the guys after they gave me so many laughs in just these eight issues. I will definitely be reading them a few times, and get the same great laughs every time.