I had such a good time with my review of Phantom Lady #13 that I decided to review another really old comic. Marvel Unlimited has about 340 comics before 1962 on their service, and one of them happens to be the first appearance of everyone’s favorite tree. I’m talking about Groot.
This Groot comes from the era of monster comics, where not everything was a Fin Fang Foom or a Groot. Just skimming the list, I’ve got Monstrollo, Sserpo, Klagg, Moomba, and Kraa. Groot looks to be one of those standard one-issue space monsters wreaking havoc for no apparent reason other than he could. I wanted to see if there was anything in there that resembled the character that we’ve come to adore.
For the purposes of this review, I’m only going to review the eight page Groot story. As an aside, if you type Groot into Marvel.com’s search bar, you will hear Groot say, “I am Groot!”
Writer: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
Pencillers: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck
Inkers: Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko, Don Heck
Colorist: Stan Goldberg
Letterers: Ray Holloway, Artie Simek
Biologist Leslie Evans and his wife Alice are returning home from a party. She is belittling him for not being more manly, unlike George Carter. They’re surprised by a luminous object coming down in a nearby forest. Alice doesn’t want to check it out. She’s too tired. They go home.
A few days later, Alice notices two of their trees are missing, as is a neighbor’s fence. Leslie says he’s going to drive over to the forest where the object landed. Alice suggests he walk so he can toughen up a little.
When Leslie arrives, he spots a wooden giant absorbing a variety of wooden objects and trees in order to grow larger. He goes to warn the sheriff, but the monster is spotted marching into town, shining so bright that it almost hurts to look at it.
The monster announces himself as Groot, monarch of Planet X. He’s come to take their town back to his planet and experiment on the people. He intends to surround the town with trees that will interlock their roots as a net. Groot will then steer the trees up off the Earth and across space to Planet X for experimentation.
Leslie speaks up and tells Groot that he will destroy Groot, but runs off. The townspeople’s guns cannot penetrate Groot’s body. The wood making up his body is also too tough to burn. Groot commands the trees to surround the town. Working in his lab as the trees slowly surround the town, Leslie ignores Alice’s haranguing as weak and spineless for not helping the other men fight Groot.
The tree’s roots begin to form a net and Leslie arrives and sets loose his plan to destroy Groot. Groot’s body seizes up and the monster falls dead. Leslie explains that he developed termites in his lab, the natural enemies of wood. Alice apologizes for being a fool and promises to never complain again.
The story is simple. The threat is discovered. Everything looks bleak. The hero defeats the monster at the last minute using science instead of force. The interesting aspect that is really entertaining is Alice’s berating of Leslie. It’s such a defining characteristic of her, that it almost needs to be developed. All of the other men in town are cyphers. They exist for Leslie to be set apart from with his meekness. Groot’s abilities are scientifically farcical. Even the plan makes no sense, but the interweaving of trees into a net has been incorporated into the modern Groot. It even shows up at the climax of the film Guardians of the Galaxy.
Jack Kirby’s art is basic, but retains an attractiveness in its design. There’s a reason that Jack Kirby is called the King. It’s Kirby’s dynamic style of posing characters that Stan Lee defined as “the Marvel style.” However, Kirby even makes for calmer moments that are still dramatic, such as when Alice explains the missing trees and fence. The panel after that almost looks as if Kirby is taking a cue from Wally Wood with the figures in an open panel. I love the art, and Kirby at this stage is amazing, even though this almost looks like it was drawn in a couple of days. Knowing the legends of Jack Kirby drawing up to five or six pages a day, it’s quite possible that it was done in three or four days.
This story has been reprinted numerous times. Most recently it was reprinted as part of Marvel’s True Believers line as True Believers: Kirby 100th – Groot. Of course, you can read the issue online on Marvel Unlimited. If you want the actual issue, be certain your credit card is paid up, because it’s going for thousands of dollars. In really bad shape, you might get a copy for a few hundred dollars.
Final Rating: 7.0 (out of 10)
So where does this story fit in the modern Groot’s continuity? In Groot #6, it was established that this Groot and the modern Groot are separate members of the same species. The problem has been solved.