I AM GROOT! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Tales To Astonish #13 awaits!
Writer: Stan Lee/Larry Lieber
Penciler: Jack Kirby/Joe Maneely/Steve Ditko
Inker: Dick Ayers/Steve Ditko
Colorist: Stan Goldberg
Letterer: Ray Holloway/Artie Simek
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: “Zenith Publishing Corp.”/Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $8500.00
Previously in Tales To Astonish: After the second World War, the market for superhero comic books began to decline, with even the mighty Justice Society taking their bow in 1951. The comic book market found success with western comics and the debut of the romance comic drew in additional readers by appealing to grown-up and female markets. Publisher Martin Goodman, ever expert at negotiating the changing winds of fly-by-night publishing, following the trends of the comic biz, and when things shifted towards tales of the uncanny and giant monsters near the end of the 1950s, his comic companies (Goodman had multiple corporate entities operating under his Atlas comics umbrella) followed suit. This issue is the debut of one of the most noteworthy of many giant monsters created by Lee and Kirby, a character who would later be adapted into a million selling movie franchise. His first appearance, however, has a slightly different Groot than ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ fans might recognize…
Aside from being much more verbose (something which has been given separate explanations in different stories, including one which claims that there are TWO different members of the same arboreal race who use the name Groot), this Groot is drawn by Jack Kirby, and thus much more muscular than his modern depictions. That’s true of everybody, though, it’s just Kirby. One night, as nebbishy Leslie Evans and his wife Alice are driving home from a party…
The next day, after Alice discovers two of their trees have gone missing and a nearby fence is gone, Leslie returns to the woods to investigate the strange “falling star.” He finds a humanoid tree-creature absorbing wooden objects from all over town… somehow? It’s kind of unclear, but the visual are amazing…
The townspeople prepare to open the proverbial can of whoop-ass on their Ent-like invader, only to hesitate as Groot explains what he can really do: Awaken all the trees in the area and command them to do his bidding!
Man, I bet “Timber Overlord” looks great on a business card. As Groot’s boasting ends, the Sheriff prepares to open fire, only to have Leslie interfere. But does he have a plan or is he just a coward?
The scientist beats feet while the men of his hamlet open fire, finding bullets useless against Groot’s onslaught. As the very forest begins to walk at the aliens command, Leslie works feverishly in his lab, as his friends discover flames cannot stop Groot either. The monarch of Planet X makes good on his threats, and the roots of the local flora begin to weave a net to steal their whole town away…
TERMITES! The natural enemy of tree-people everywhere! Leslie’s skills in the lab save the day (though presumably these are more than just regular Coptotermes formosanus, given how quickly they dropped the alien) and the action-oriented men (and fickle Alice) are reminded that brains are also cool. As first appearances go, this one is perhaps further from later appearances than most, except maybe Deadpool, but it’s still a clever Atlas-era monster-flick story. The rest of the issue is likewise interesting, especially with our second story, featuring Jack Kirby inked by Steve Ditko!
Seeing these two archetypical artists working together is really interesting, and the finished art bears hallmarks of each of their trademark styles. The story is clever enough, featuring Stan Lee’s shot at a Rod Serling-style twist ending, even if it doesn’t really flesh out or explain that ending…
But man, that collaboration is worth the price of admission, at least if you’re not buying a Near-Mint copy. The next story is another comic-book horror story, featuring a talented wood-carver who falls in love with one of his own sculptures…
It’s Ditko alone on this one, with another uncanny twist ending, making for a really strong story, followed by one where those new-fangled television sets are evil, with art by Don Heck. Tales To Astonish #13 is a well-done anthology monster-chiller-horror book, and it’s ties to modern comics are pretty much in-name-only, but it still makes for a lovely showcase of the storytelling skills of the men who would build modern Marvel Comics, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. Someday, someone will finally create a high-quality package that represents stories like this, featuring Zzutak, Googam, Xemnu and all the other Marvel monsters who have become part of the mainstream Marvel Universe, and we can all be happy…[taq_review]