This week at Marvel opposites attract as baby Groot’s newest solo adventures are perched right next to Venom’s milestone issue. With Groot’s higher profile it seems that Marvel is looking to cash in on his solo adventures but is Groot’s personality complex enough to carry an entire series? With the alien symbiote swapping hosts back to Eddie Brock what can Venom’s big #150th issue do to set the series apart from other books? I think it’s time for The Marvel Rundown to weigh in on this week’s big releases!

I am Groot #1

Writer: Christopher Hastings
Artist: Flaviano
Colors: Marcio Menyz
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by A.J. Frost

Summer is right around the corner, and there’s one thing that’s perfectly clear: this is the summer of Baby Groot. And here’s a twee one for the wee ones with I Am Groot #1, a charming, colorful tale centered around everyone’s favorite child-twig bag of anarchic, monosyllabic fun. No doubt thought up by Marvel to capitalize on this month’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2 explosion for all things Groot ephemera, the first issue of these solo series—thankfully—hit the majority of the beats it needs to while also being an antidote to the darkening nature of contemporary comics imagery.  For me, the phenomenon of Baby Groot is endlessly fascinating. I get it, but why has it captured the zeitgeist so much? Besides the memetic qualities, as a conceit, what was Groot brought to the broader world for comics readers, at the culture writ large?

Well, for one thing, anything that revels in the bizarre accessibility of Groot is just plain fun. There’s a winsome quality to Groot which, despite his nature as an alien tree-beast that can rip apart a man limb from limb, underlies his naturally genial constitution and desire to learn about the universe; this latter characteristic plays a significant role in this issue. Whether in adult form or infant form, Groot is the philosophical heart of the Guardians of the Galaxy. While I’m sure the epistemological nature of Groot was far from the mind of Christopher Hastings as he wrote this inaugural issue, it became apparent to me that the locus of emotional development centers around Groot and his inner worlds, as much as the outer world.

And it is that outer world which gives the larger Guardians franchise its singular sheen. While Hastings’ story is undoubtedly ebullient and filled to the brim with charm and science fiction thrills, the artwork by Flaviano Armentaro is a highlight. It is exquisitely realized, especially for a piece of mainstream comic fair. In the course of the action, This is espeically apparent when the Guardians gang end up going through a not-quite-black-hole/maybe-a-worm-hole(?) type gap in spacetime, and Groot ends up on a strange interdimensional planet, the characters pop from page (many kudos to colorist Marcio Menyz—the unsung hero of the tale!). The splash pages are crammed with the minutest of detail and panels frame the action with a delicate ease; tverything fits together wonderfully. Such carefree visuals are all too rare nowadays.

So what do we have here? Thankfully, I Am Groot is the beginning of something good. All the pieces are there story-wise, art-wise, and character-wise. Now the task is the new journey we’re taking with some ink and paper friends. Fans of the movies and fans of the original comics will find much to appreciate with this issue. Time to blast up the jams on your old cassette tape deck and enjoy with a smile.

VERDICT: As Groot might say: I am Groot (trans. This is a BUY!)


Venom #150

Writer: Mike Costa, Robbie Thompson, David Michelinie
Artist: Tradd Moore, Gerardo Sandoval, Ron Lim
Colors: Felipe Sobreiro, Dono Sanchez-Alamara, Lee Loughridge
Inks: John Livesay
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

Returning the alien symbiote over to Eddie Brock felt like a step backward for Marvel but there’s no stopping the publisher now. Unlike Thompson, Brock doesn’t exactly have a clear sense of why he is bonded to the symbiote and doesn’t even seem to posses the same capability as Thompson to keep that power in check. Mike Costa and Tradd Moore are dealt a bad hand in this issue with a character fueled by rage. Instead of giving readers a Vision-esque morose tragedy, Venom #150 is a little juvenile. Being juvenile doesn’t have to be a bad thing either which is where artist Tradd Moore comes in.

Moore’s over-the-top pencils are a welcome addition to this anniversary, capturing all the paranoia pulsating through Brock’s mind with a spectacular vision. There are loads of absurd layouts and rounded lines that make this comic trigger a sensory detail overload in the best way possible. There’s something ironic about using Moore’s cartoonish art to deliver horrifying violence and nightmarish scenes. Writer Mike Costa utilizes Moore for some excellent layouts and symbolism contributing to a strong comic book. The fight scenes and over-the-top action moments add a little something to this comic. There are a couple of splash pages touching on the history Venom that are truly marvelous.

Venom is…well…Venom meaning this series is absurdly violent. Marvel was swinging in a much different direction for this character only a few months ago with Guardians of the Galaxy writer Brian Michael Bendis began to change the symbiote as an agent to do good that needed to be purified. This new direction that sees Venom commit horrific acts of violence channels a different era of comics and sits in very stark contrast to what Marvel has done with the character a few months ago.

There are a few other stories in this collection as well that tap into this newer direction for the character. The extreme pencils of Gerardo Sandoval make the first back-up story feel a little tired. Watching Venom struggle to put his world back together is sad and a little maddening as well. The second story adds a few visual presentation tricks to Ron Lim’s pencils that package the story in an endearing manner but Venom’s personality melts the air out of the narrative.

Getting a different, rage-fueled Venom isn’t a bad thing if it has handled in a responsible manner with a few different supporting cast members. Unfortunately, Costa’s storyline is here is just so simplistic and fueled with violence that your $4.99 may be better spent elsewhere. If there is any chance of this comic book retaining reader interest overtime, something about the scripting or the approach needs to be changed here. There isn’t that much to this story and getting a pedestrian angry ’90s take on Brock is not the story that I want to read. This series is armed with slick presentation and art from Moore but something about this comic is missing.

Final Verdict: Venom #150 is a disappointing milestone in the life of Eddie Brock.