Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Graphic Novel Review: Groo: Hell on Earth

Groo: Hell on Earth
by Sergio Aragones
Genre: Humor

Groo the Wanderer, the most dangerous and dumbest barbarian in the world, is at it again. Through his own carelessness, he singlehandedly escalates pollution and aggression throughout an entire region. At the same time, the Sage (one of the wisest men in the land) realizes the increased levels of pollution may have serious long-term effects. Groo finds employment doing what he does best (killing people in pointless wars) while the Sage tries to get the leaders of the region to focus on long-term solutions to their environmental problems, instead of letting themselves be distracted by short-term problems like pointless wars. What are the chances it’ll all fall apart? Does a duck quack? Does Groo love bean dip and a good fray?

Readers of Mad Magazine will be familiar with cartoonist Sergio Aragones’ work if they pay close attention; he’s the artist who draws the tiny cartoons in the margins. For over 25 years he and co-writer Mark Evanier have been producing the adventures of Groo the Wanderer, the dumbest barbarian in the world. The art, while cartoony and exaggerated, is incredibly detailed. Think of the level of detail in the pages of Where’s Waldo, and you’ll have some idea what I mean.

The humor comes primarily from Groo’s well-meaning but stupid mistakes, which inevitably leave a trail of death and destruction in his wake. It’s simple, obvious, and hilarious. The timing of each joke, the way Aragones and Evanier set up and then deliver the punchline, is impeccable. These are masters at work.

The environmental message and political allegories aren’t particularly subtle. Of course, nothing about Groo is particularly subtle, so that’s par for the course. And while the commentary does give the story some additional weight, nobody should be reading Groo for a serious message. They should read Groo because it makes them laugh. And that’s really what Groo does best.

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