You can always trust Al Ewing to deliver a compelling take on a superhero concept. He’s been Marvel’s secret weapon for years, and in 2017, he’s done strong work revitalizing both the Inhumans and Rocket Raccoon. Rocket is an especially engaging new Marvel title, teaming Ewing with artist Adam Gorham, colorist Michael Garland, and letterer Jeff Eckleberry for a hard-boiled cosmic crime story has surprising connections to Marvel history. (I was not expecting the return of Technet, and this creative team makes the group of alien bounty hunters compelling and really cool.) Rocket reads like a sci-fi superhero take of Richard Stark’s Parker stories, following a gruff, down-on-his-luck antihero that suffers the consequences of the criminal lifestyle. This connection is reinforced by Ewing’s narration-driven storytelling, which is handled with a deft touch that effectively creates drama and humor while immersing the reader in situations that aren’t necessarily being shown in the artwork.

This exclusive preview of next week’s Rocket #3 opens with the titular raccoon in prison receiving a visitor, then jumps back to show Rocket’s introduction to this new environment and his fellow prisoners. The images in the first two pages are like the illustrations you’d find in a novel, detailing a specific moment that is more fully fleshed out by the prose. Eckleberry’s lettering plays a massive role in the tone of this series, and having this typewriter text along the side of the page adds an intriguing grit to the story. You also get a sense of expansion when the narration disappears and the art team switches into more traditional comic-book layouts, and one of the most fascinating things about this series is the varying dynamics of the storytelling. Gorham and Garland do exceptional work creating vivid, memorable alien characters and environments, and the structure of the book gives them the opportunity to show off their versatility as they compose both standalone illustrations and conventional comic pages.

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Image: Marvel Comics; cover by Mike Mayhew
Image: Marvel Comics; variant by Adam Gorham
Image: Marvel Comics

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Image: Marvel Comics
Image: Marvel Comics
Image: Marvel Comics

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