Guardians of the Galaxy #16 is part of Brian Michael Bendis' swan song on the series, with each issue focusing on a different member of the Guardians as they find themselves trapped on Earth.
Which in itself is a slightly weird high concept, given that various organisations and individuals on Marvel Earth are capable of making interstellar craft, and even if they just don't like ours, they could at least borrow one until they find something better in space, right?
Anyway, this issue is Groot's issue. Groot the incredibly popular talking, walking tree of the team.
And it is sadly a spectacular failure.
Now, let's get this straight: I am not a Bendis hater! I know it seems to be incredibly popular and fun to hate on Bendis, his comics and his writing. But I am not one of them. I am actually a big, HUGE fan of Bendis. His run on Avengers is a high-point of comics for me, as is his Ultimate Spider-Man work.
However, no matter how much you like a creators work, sometimes they too fail. They're human too. This issue is an example of that.
Bendis actually crafts a pretty good story, all in all. Groot, stuck on Earth, is told by the other Guardians to stay in Central Park because simple-minded humans would be scared of him. When Groot sees a crime being committed, he intervenes, and true enough, humans turn on him too until a small boy stands up for him. With a fairly nice attempt at looking at humanity's propensity for violence against those they don't understand and children's bemusement at why adults are always shouting at each other.
The problem is that Bendis attempts to tell this story in a Dr. Seuss-style, rhymes and all. And sadly, he does it incredibly badly.
There is no meter to the rhymes to speak of, where couplets are used they are often of variable length which causes the flow to be stumbling and awkward. And quite often the rhymes are incredibly laboured, many times made worse by extraneous words (often nonsense words) added in for no discernible reason other than it 'seemed more Seuss-y'.
The difficulty in the reading experience this comic-length narration creates is sometimes furthered by the lettering by VC's Cory Petit. The narration is presented free of any narration boxes, floating on the page, in most often white text with black shadow behind. Where the page itself is white, most of the time, the text reverses. However, there are a few instances where the letters are literally white on white, the characters only just discernible from the fractious black shadowing.
All of this sounds harsh, sure, and I hate to be that guy, honestly. But overall, the narration on this story was a failure. However, the story itself does work. If the narration didn't make the Seuss attempt, or wasn't even there and the story was presented as a largely silent story, I think this issue could work wonderfully. But that is not what was produced.
Another positive of the book though has to go to the art by Valerio Schiti and Richard Isanove. The pages all look absolutely beautiful. The story looks stunning throughout, with fun action, and actually some wonderfully powerful moments which actually serve to remind how wonderful the Marvel Universe can be as a place.
Bendis' and teams Guardians of the Galaxy run has been a lot of fun, a roller-coaster of intergalactic craziness and action that has often been very character driven and witty. Classic Bendis stuff. This issue, however, is not an example of that, as a complete piece. Parts of it are, but not the whole.