Night Night, Groot
Writer: Brendan Deneen
Artist: Cale Atkinson
Because giant tree monster Groot was re-cast as a sapling at the end of the first Guardians of The Galaxy movie, he is now the toddler-sized Baby Groot for this spring’s sequel, which makes him the perfect age to be the audience for—and subject of—a bed-time story. Writer Brendan Deneen’s picture book Night Night, Groot is just such a story, the premise being that little Groot is settling down for the night in his pot, but his rambunctious friend Rocket isn’t about to let his fellow Guardian go to sleep without a fight…or, to be more exact, lots of fights.
“Night night, Groot, it’s time for bed,” Deneen’s text begins, “Time to rest your sleepy head.” Such simple sentences, presented in rhyming couplets, continue throughout the book’s 30 pages. An alarmed Rocket appears, waving his hands and shouting, “Wait! Groot!! Don’t go to sleep yet!!!” and, taking him by the arm/branch, he rushes Groot out of his bedroom on their ship into a series of full-page illustrations, each guest-starring the various superstars of the Marvel superhero universe.
They rush through an Avengers training session and attack a ship full of bad guys, mostly very generic ones with green skin, green uniforms, dastardly mustaches and mustache icons on their helmets—although these foot soldiers are sprinkled with some various Marvel Comics villains, none of whom have appeared in any of the films and all of whom should be considered fairly deep cuts (Baron Blood, Mentallo, The High Evolutionary, Rocket Racer…no relation to Rocket Raccoon). None of them are named, but then, neither are any of the many heroes who appear.
These are mostly those from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, clearly identifiable as such based on the specific costumes they are shown wearing, which match up with their movie rather than comics attire. In addition to the heroes who have already appeared in films, there are a few other, more obscure ones who haven’t, or, at least, haven’t yet, like Captain Marvel, Moon Knight, Nova, She-Hulk, and Red Hulk. No X-Men or Fantastic Four characters; this is clearly for Marvel Cinematic Universe fans!
Atkinson’s artwork is nothing short of darling. While Rocket and Groot might have the biggest heads and eyes and the smallest, cutest bodies, all of the heroes have stripped-down designs, their usually-busy, live-action costumes looking as abstracted as possible, and they are all smiley and happy looking, never so much as on the penultimate two-page-spread, wherein all of the assembled heroes from the previous pages (plus a few appearing for the first time) toss Groot and Rocket up in the air, as if the pair had just won the big game for their team.
Rocket’s chatter—appearing, appropriately enough, in dialogue bubbles—is in contrast to the narration and actually gets in the way of the story’s other text, which seems to be the point. The story can be read as either a recounting of Groot’s “WONDERFUL day,” or perhaps his dreams…or perhaps even Rocket’s dreams. Narratively, that’s about all there is to it, but the book’s real pleasure is in spotting all the guest-stars, whether you’re a little kid being read it as a bedtime story or an adult reading it as a bedtime story (or just a grown-up Marvel fan), enjoying Atkinson’s portrayals of the characters and the many little visual gags that fill the full backgrounds.