We’ve seen Star-Lord.  We’ve seen Groot.  But are you fully prepared for the first appearance of Rocket Raccoon?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Marvel Preview #7 awaits!


Writer: Chris Claremont/Bill Mantlo
Penciler: Vicente Alcazar/Keith Giffen
Inker: Vicente Alcazar/Keith Giffen
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Archie Goodwin
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $1.00
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $250.00

Previously in Marvel Preview: In the mid-70s, Marvel Comics was no longer the upstart company that had to distribute their titles through their biggest competitor.  Their comic book output had exploded not only in the amount of titles published but in the quality of those titles and the themes addressed.  As such, in 1975, Marvel branched out into adult-oriented black-and-white magazines that could showcase art at a much larger size while dealing with more adult themes for the readers who had grown up.  Marvel Preview had already introduced Star-Lord and Dominic Fortune, as well as given Spidey villain The Punisher his first solo adventure by the time this issue arrived.  The lead tale of this issue features one of the earliest appearances of Satana, the Devil’s Daughter, with art that looks like this!Seeing that, you can probably understand how, even though I have a complete run of Preview thanks to finding a crateful of them in the back of the comics shop I used to work in, I had forgotten about the backup story in this issue.  Titled ‘The Sword in the Star’, it’s a swords-and-sorcery/science fiction hybrid featuring one Prince Wayfinder, a vaguely Hamlet-styled warrior whose wizard mentor was killed in the previous segment, but still talks to him, ghost-like from the great beyond.

If any of this sounds familiar to fans of ‘Star Wars’, keep in mind, that movie wouldn’t even be released until May of the following year.

Wayfinder, who is in many ways just Space Conan, slashes open his arm as a tribute to his fallen wizard pal, is disappointed to find no wine on the ship and sets out for the nearest planet to gather provisions.  That world is called Witch-World but such a name doesn’t frighten a son of the Royal House of Ithacon!  Setting out from the ship, Wayfinder discovers a world that has defenses of its own and is attacked by the vines of a strangely animate tree.  Barely getting free thanks to his sonic-disruptor sword, Wayfinder is mocked by a voice from the trees.

This story is well-drawn, but if you’re familiar with Barry Windsor-Smith’s Conan work (which had in ’75 was one of Marvel’s big hits), you can see that my references to Space Conan are justified.  Our Raccoon friend, who for some reason seems to speak with an English accent, introduces himself as “Rocky” (the fact that it’s short for Rocket doesn’t actually come up until a slightly later appearance in an issue of ‘Incredibly Hulk’)  and offers to share his food.  On their journey, though, they fall into the clutches of a creature known as a plagueosaur, where we first see Rocket’s love of heavy weaponry.

With the beast not only dead, but literally cooked by their attacks, Wayfinder and Rocket prepare to eat (though that “plague” bit in the name plagueosaur might deter me a bit) only to find that the caretaker of the forests has arrived.  Moreover, she’s been looking for Rocket, who has been poaching from her forests.  Introducing herself as Kirke (a variant of Circe, making her the witch of Witch-World), she lets them take out her minions before laying our heroes low with a blast from her power gem.

This issue is fascinating to look at, as Giffen is deep in the throes of his Jack Kirby period (something especially obvious in Wayfinder’s face, which looks like it was carved from a slab of granite.)  That last page blurb asked for letters to support more ‘Sword In The Star’ chapters apparently didn’t work, as no more installments ever appeared.  Given that this story ostensibly takes place in the future, Wayfinder later appeared in Bill Mantlo’s ‘Micronauts’ epic in the distant past of the Microverse, muddying the waters of continuity that much more.  Marvel Preview #7 is officially recognized by Marvel as Rocket’s first appearance, though, and it’s a pretty beautiful magazine from top to bottom, with a wacky Claremont story that never gets continued properly backed by a wacky Mantlo story that never gets continued properly making for a better than average 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I recommend it, but then I recommend snapping up any and all Preview issues on sight.

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Probably apocryphal, beautifully drawn and full of promise that never fully materialized, it's one of those bizarre comics that make collecting so much fun.

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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