Groo Vs. Conan
What happens when a parody meets the source of its satire? That's the curious conundrum seasoned comics talents Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier tackle with their usual breezy ease in the somehow historic GROO VS. CONAN. Groo was born from the mind of the fastest cartoonist alive, Mad Marginals maestro Aragonés, for a 1982 debut in the Destroyer Duck #1 benefit comic. The character has always been a sword and sorcery send-up, with Robert E. Howard's pulp hero Conan the Barbarian as the source material. While in the proceeding thirty plus years Groo has taken on a life of his own, the long-threatened crossover with the primary subject of its playful scorn is indeed something of a moment.
To ease the unusual melding of Groo's ridiculous world with the takes-itself-seriously Conan universe, Thomas Yeates pencils the Conan sequences and character. With a pedigree including takes on Conan and other classic adventure characters Tarzan, Zorro and Prince Valiant, Yeates brings the perfect weight of fantasy realism to make this merger almost believable. The other conceit is a framing sequence, where, in classic meta Groo fashion, Aragonés and Evanier bicker and cajole as Aragonés gets a temporary insanity inducing knock on the head, setting off the whole adventure in the first place.
"GROO VS. CONAN is the culmination of many years of fine Groo comics."
In the comic, Aragonés and Evanier are contemplating and mocking the idea of their barbarian facing the Barbarian. They encounter an independent comics store under siege by a developer's lawyer gone astray. When the police intervene, Aragonés gets clubbed, launching the story's main action. In Aragonés' delusion, Groo is convinced to aid a rogue king's vizier in his illicit scheme to destroy a community bakery in order to build his own palace. Conan is recruited to stop him, setting the stage for their ultimate titular battle.
Aragonés and Evanier previously tackled this kind of mainstream superhero-comics-meet-comedic-spoof in FANBOY (1999), while Evanier has his own solid and strange track record to draw from, co-piloting FANBOY and helming 2000's SUPERMAN AND BUGS BUNNY. Groo enthusiasts will be greeted by Aragonés gorgeous hand, nicely complimented by Yeates, and plenty of cheese dip jokes. Regular colorist Tom Luth returns, providing exceptional splashes of digital hues over Aragonés' intricate pencils and Yeates intentionally cleaner lines alike. Not on the book is longtime GROO letter Stan Sakai, missed as he presumably continues to mourn the loss of his late wife, Sharon.
GROO VS. CONAN is the culmination of many years of fine Groo comics. It completely lives up to the excellent Groo canon while introducing its original target, Conan. Strong plotting, great art and lots of fun await adherents of either or both franchises, though it's questionable whether a new reader would get a lot out of this (hopefully) once in a lifetime pairing. For a lifelong Groo fan such as myself, this book is a triumph that trods on the well-worn path of the last three decades while introducing the novel element of Conan the Barbarian. Any new Groo book is always welcome, and this one certainly lives up to Groo's beloved legacy.
Reviewed by Jonathan Rotsztain on April 28, 2015