Review by Ian Keogh
Because he’s become so associated with him, it’s hard to believe Groo only met his faithful hound Rufferto two books back in The Groo Houndbook, and by this selection he’s evolved into his final form, visually, and as a character whose unwavering trust in Groo’s genius can’t be dislodged. It not only provides the writing team of Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier with a further recurring joke, it gives Groo someone to bounce thoughts off. Or such few thoughts as he has. In the second story Aragonés and Evanier remember a plot dangling from Rufferto’s introduction, namely that the king has a standing reward of a thousand kopins for Rufferto’s return. For that amount some people are even willing to risk Groo’s wrath. Cleverly, that’s just a plot on the writers’ part to have Groo believe he’s… Well, let’s just say it induces great guilt and introduces good jokes as Groo and Rufferto are separated over a two part story. It seems incredible to read it, but Evanier’s afterword discloses that at the time he and Aragonés considered Rufferto might have served his purpose and wouldn’t be reunited with Groo, who’d continue his wanderings alone.
Before Groo and Rufferto’s separation they turn up outside the town of Miggeldy, where the news that Groo’s arrival is imminent sends the townspeople into a panic with ever-escalating disastrous consequences. The finale is a quest. All sword and sorcery graphic stories have a quest, and most start with them, so it’s about time Groo got with the plan. His quest is for a glass carafe with a black rose pattern, the joke being that they’re everywhere, but Groo keeps breaking them, a slapstick inevitability that sustains the story far longer than you’d imagine to arrive at a conclusion that most people will have figured out as the quest began. Still, it’s the journey that’s worth the while.
When these stories were originally printed, the first page of each was actually shorter than the remainder to incorporate the small print found in most monthly publications. You wouldn’t know that from these collections, however, as Aragonés respects his readers enough to draw new little continuity panels ending the first page of every story. Thanks.