Marvel’s Rocket Raccoon was an off-hand creation by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen (based loosely on the Beatles song “Rocky Raccoon”) that has recently transformed from an interesting wrinkle in the Marvel Universe to one of its most unlikely new stars. Step aside Wolverine, there’s a new short anti-hero taking up residence in the Marvel U.
Rocket Raccoon is essential two supremely divided genres forming an unlikely pairing inside one diminutive body; one part space-adventuring, ray gun wielding Flash Gordon type, the other a kid-friendly anthropomorphic raccoon that would play in the same fields as Bugs Bunny or Spider-Ham.
He’s had a single solo series back in the early 80s (illustrated by a young Mike Mignola), but he’s become more popular as a team player inside the reformulated Guardians of the Galaxy. And with a new comic book and movie on the way, we set our sights on this powder keg of a creature and roll out three stories to get to know him. That is, until he gets his due and has an extensive Logan/Wolverine Origin style prestige special.
Rocket Raccoon: Guardian of the Keystone Quadrant: This little wonder of a book has all of Rocket Raccoon’s early adventures, from his debut in the back of a stray issue of Marvel Previews all the way to the aforementioned solo miniseries by Mantlo and Mignola. Although slightly more whimsical than the gritty adventures people now know him for in Guardians of the Galaxy, it betrays the character’s furry animal heritage without diminishing his expert aim with a blaster. Taking place mostly on his home planet of Halfworld, Rocket Raccoon is a startling different kind of comic from what you’d expect then or now, and that’s a (very) good thing.
Annihilation: Conquest, Book 1: Fast forward a couple decades (and a brief appearance in a Sensational She-Hulk arc) and Rocket Raccoon is drafted into the big leagues by Star-Lord to fight of the impending menace of Phalanx and its new leader, Ultron. Collected in this is the excellent Starlord mini written by co-creator Kieth Giffen, which has a Mission: Impossible-esque recruitment of Raccoon, Groot and others.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Legacy: This is the go-to guide to the modern-day Guardians, and for a Rocket Raccoon story it’s not too bad either. Expert cosmic comics writer Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and under-rated artist Paul Pelletier team-up to show this team pulling together officially despite Raccoon disagreeing famously with the team’s HQ head honcho, the Russian space dog Cosmo. If you think nothing is worse than cats and dogs fighting, then you have to read this.