Review by Ian Keogh
For years Groo has been near enough a complete idiot, albeit one with a basically good-hearted nature, so what would happen if instead of the stupidest person on the planet, he became one of the smartest? Once Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier committed the idea to print, it’s so forehead-slappingly obvious it’s a wonder they didn’t come up with it earlier.
A device often used in Groo is the Minstrel arriving in a town to entertain with songs of Groo’s stupidity, but for once this results in anger, not laughter, in a place where Groo is revered for his help and common sense. It’s fun seeing Groo spout ten dollar words, the ingenuity of his new personality and the reactions of those who know him of old to the change, with many of his acquaintances on hand to see the transformation. The most heartfelt is that of faithful hound Rufferto, puzzled as to why Groo is no longer fun. Aragonés and Evanier don’t over-extend the mystery either, introducing a new slimy character who manufactures a stupefaction potion. The real world parallel of an addictive potion that reduces people to idiots is hardly concealed, although as Groo remains an all-ages feature, the results are more glossed over.
Of course, Groo’s signature characteristic is that he’s stupid, with almost every running joke tied into that, so by the time everything draws to a close then surely he must revert to his old self in time for the following Groo & Rufferto. Does he? Of course, and the way it’s carried out is understated and marvellous, simultaneously solving another problem for the citizens.
With the transfer of Groo to Dark Horse and what eventually became his longest running publisher, Aragonés ended every individual issue with a one page wordless strip featuring Rufferto, and all four from the original comics are duly reprinted, establishing another Groo tradition. They leave us in no doubt who the smarter half of the partnership really is. Less welcome is the disappearance of the incredibly detailed single image spread opening every chapter as found in earlier collections. To be fair, its a rare artist other than Aragonés who’d have attempted this in the first place, and to be fairer still, they do feature as before, just not as the opening spread. Ah, what the heck, is that really so bad?