Writer: Mark Evanier
Artist: Sergio Aragonés
Colorist: Carrie Strachan
Letterer: Stan Sakai
Cover Artist: Sergio Aragonés
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: February 22, 2023
Reviewer: David Dunham
In Heaven, the gods try to escape an eternity with Divine Groo. On Earth, the priests of Diothos plot to convert Groo’s believers and end his heavenly reign. Can Divine Groo and Earthly Groo survive the fray? Let’s leap into Groo: Gods Against Groo #3 and find out!
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So opens the third issue of this four-issue story arc, which concludes an epic storyline that began in Groo: Fray of the Gods and continues in Groo: Play of the Gods. Writer Mark Evanier throws you into the midst of this multi-faceted story without much introduction. Here’s the situation. Groo: Gods Against Groo #3 involves three countries: Mexahuapan, Iberza, and Tlaxpan. Mexahuapan has gold, and Iberza and Tlaxpan want it. The story mirrors the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Evanier’s light, engaging style mixes different peoples, periods, and regions into a fun gooey mess of comic humor.
Groo’s ascension to godhood reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s novel Small Gods, in which the strength of worshippers’ beliefs sparked a god’s birth, determined One’s importance within the pantheon, or consigned that particular Almighty to oblivion. (Does anyone still mourn for Adonais, Star Trek fans?) Aside from all the fun and games involving a selfish Queen, intriguing priests, an imprisoned court jester, and much more, this issue speaks to how our beliefs determine our reality and empower others.
Sergio Aragonés crams more art into each panel than most artists put in a page. With his pencils and pens, he creates epic scenes involving old-world ships and architecture, populated by a cast of thousands. Groo: Gods Against Groo #3 may not compare with Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments or David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia, but it’s a MAD epic pitting the clergy against the laity and even their deities. Wise Men quote philosophy amid political scheming. As nations war against nations, even the gods leap into the fray. Their lives in the clouds might not be fit to adorn the Sistine Chapel. But then, if Sergio had lived during the High Renaissance period, who knows?
What’s so wonderful about this is that Groo remains untroubled by it all. Although everything revolves around him, he’s not interested in any of it. While he likes the statues they’ve erected and will readily accept their gifts, he’s just interested in living life on his terms, the free and easy way I think we’d all like to live. And then, of course, there’s his delightful dog Rufferto who truly is a god’s best friend.
Long-time colorist Tom Luth may have retired, but Carrie Strachan does an admirable job in this issue. Her extensive color palette breathes life into all the people and animals. The tones are soft and pleasing to the eye, and nothing ever looks muddy or unclear. There’s not much light sourcing aside from the dungeon scenes. Perhaps more shadowing would increase each scene’s overall depth and better convey the reality, but her light touch fits the art’s cartoony appearance.
Given his success with Usagi Yojimbo, it may surprise new readers that Stan Sakai still letters Mark and Sergio’s Groo stories. His upper-case letters may not have exactly even spacing between letters, words, and lines of text. Nor do variances in darkness readily indicate sound level or intonation. Still, the fact that he hand-letters each issue strengthens Groo: Gods Against Groo #3’s classic vibe. Narrative boxes unfurl like banners to set scenes, and Rufferto’s thought balloons resemble puffy clouds. While a few sound effects could have enhanced the story, colored musical notes accompany anyone singing.
While it will take the first-time reader a few pages to get up to speed with all the intricately woven subplots, there’s so much going on here that you won’t mind being a little lost as you follow along. The densely packed, multi-faceted story invites laughs and contemplation. Each panel of art invites serious study. Those seeking a five-minute-read or more mature fare should look elsewhere. I don’t usually recommend reading a comic or book when you’re feeling angry or down. But without hesitation, I can prescribe the high-spirited farce of Groo: Gods Against Groo #3 to chase even your deepest and darkest blues away. Plus, there’s a one-page silent story focusing on Groo’s dog Rufferto and a letter column! Comic Book fans: does anyone mourn letter columns?