Phase Two: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
This isn't anything different than the other books in this seres: a straight retelling of the movie, nothing new - scenes, or insights - added, but I enjoyed it a lot more. Most likely because Rocket is one of my favorite characters. Not in the Marvel universe, but of all time.
He's crude, he's blunt, and he's adorable for all that. I'm a sucker for tragic backstories, particularly if they involve experimentation - Wolverine and Fantomex both had that and I loved them. Rocket has all that, plus illegal cybernetic implants. I had a couple issues with this novelization but nothing that truly dampened my joy.
I'm also going to include quotes, and maybe some gifs.
"While they were getting dressed in their yellow prison clothes, Peter saw scars and crude cybernetic implants all up and down Rocket's back. He didn't say anything, but he felt a surge of sympathy for the obnoxious little animal. Everyone had a history, and Rocket's had been especially cruel to him."
I don't think this is only tragic backstory, though, or a reason to feel sympathy for him. If you really look at Rocket - who looks out for himself, and Groot, and who's cynical and violent and mocks everyone - this makes sense. He was experimented on, and although it's never said, I'm betting it wasn't a fun and joyful experience. It certainly sounds painful and even cruel as Peter notices. And just like Peter says silence, and we have to read the sympathy there - at least in the movie - I think it should be noted that a lot of Rocket's past is left unspoken. It's there, if you look for it, but it's never dealt with head on, and it explains a lot of who he is now.
I would argue that Rocket was a child when experimented on, mentally even if not physically. He's considered a lower life form, at least to the Xandar. I relate that to a childlike mentally, personally. (Pets are called children so often for a reason: they are unable to completely take care of themselves, or to comprehend the world around them as fully as humans can, at least according to current science. They remain 'babies' or 'children' while human children grow into adults.) If this is the case, as I suspect, Rocket's tendency towards lashing out can be explained via the studies on violence on children and how that can lead to PTSD and lashing out themselves.
"Parents sometimes use harsh discipline when the child acts out, even though the child's behavior is related to a trauma." From this article.
Rocket, since he was turned into a higher life form, has been taught that he is a monster, an animal, a savage, a vermin; even his friends tell him this at first. He's been taught through what was done to him that life is pain and hurt and violence. (I would argue that cutting into him and putting those implants into him was this violence; it can be brushed away as science, as having a purpose, to see if they could do this, but there's a reason this kind of experimentation was made illegal. The scars also do more than imply violence, but show the results of that violence. It might have been calculated, but that doesn't make it any better, nor does it take away from the trauma that Rocket's been through.)
It's a lot of reading between the lines, and I doubt children will pick up on this, but I think this scene, where Rocket is quite literally exposed, is rather important. People accept his tendency towards violence because. Because that's who he is, and he's funny, and adorable, and a lot of time his horrific past is glossed over. (Never so much as in this movie, though, and Rocket as originally conceived didn't have quite this backstory.) However, it's always been important to me: Rocket can't just be a violent asshole, no matter how funny or adorable, not long term. It can't sustain me. You throw me a hint of why he's like that, though, and you can keep on going for as long as you want. Because I can take that one scene, and tease out a lot from it, and I don't think all of it is just me. I think they planted a lot there, although you do have to mine for why he reacts with violence first.
He's also been taught that if he doesn't care for himself and keep himself safe, no one will. The reason he's so close to Groot, and so devastated by anything happening to Groot, is that Groot was the first person to really care about Rocket. Groot acted as his muscle, yes, but he made sure Rocket was safe in more ways than one. Physically? Check. Emotionally and mentally? Check. Rocket felt safe with Groot because Groot might argue with Rocket - but never put him down. Never have I seen Groot call Rocket any derogatory name, and given Rocket's knee-jerk reaction to such statements, you know he would bring it up or react just as violently if Groot said something. (Maybe more so because taking away that trust would be like pulling the rug from under him; he expected the reaction from other people, but not from Groot. Rocket will go above and beyond for Groot, because Groot is, and will always have been, the first person to give Rocket those levels of safety. (Also, financial safety. Rocket couldn't pull off some of his jobs without Groot, and money can buy you safety, from weapons to places to stay, to some relief, like the races that Rocket indulges in and which no doubt allow him to take his mind off his past.)
Let's get back to the quotes. Because I could analyze Rocket all day, and does anyone really want that?
"'He thinks I'm some stupid thing! He does! Well, I didn't ask too get made! I didn't ask to be torn apart and put back together again, over and over until I'm...' He took a deep breath, almost a sob. 'Some little monster!'
Peter kept trying to calm him down. 'Rocket, no one's calling you a monster.'
But Rocket pushed Peter away. 'He called me 'vermin'! She called me 'rodent'! Let's see if you can laugh after five or six shots to your face."
This is a little more explicit. He'd been fighting with Drax over the insults, true, but he didn't bring up the gun until he was reminded of his past torture; the trauma remembered, he upped the ante. He was reacting to that, and Peter, to his credit, didn't lash out or even blame him. (He never gets blamed for this threat, and at no time does anyone ever show distrust due to this, which is interesting. It may harken to the later line about them all being losers - or people who have lost something. They all have traumatic pasts, and perhaps they understand that Rocket's outbursts don't mean that he can't be trusted, but are an immediate reaction to his own trauma.) I still feel like this is glossed over: it never comes back and no one ever really talks about this aspect. It's also something that I think will go over the heads of this book's target audience, but it's there.
Not Rocket, but Drax's cry of "'Sanity is the refuge of cowards!'" happens to be one of my favorite lines.
On page 119 Rocket is called 'Rocket Raccoon' which is wrong. In this continuity he has no idea what a Raccoon is.
The one hundred percent dick line is turned into one hundred percent jerk. Which makes me sad. Much sadder than the pelvic magic line being gone.
"A tendril reached out and stroked the side of Rocket's muzzle."
I love Rocket and Groot when they're being all bromancey.
"Across the circle, Rocket sat sobbing over a tiny sprig of Groot. Drax sad down next to him. Instead of speaking, he reached out and stroked the fur between Rocket's ears. Rocket started. Then he relaxed and the two of them sat there mourning their lost friend."
Rocket doesn't just startle; he tenses up. He doesn't expect any understanding, or anyone - other than Groot - to touch him without meaning him harm, or at least this is how I read the scene. He doesn't immediately react to this as if it's a source of comfort, but rather a source of potential harm. He may quickly understand that it's his friend trying to comfort him, and grieve with him, but the initial reaction is there. It's never said startled to me, and always seemed like fear, like fight or flight ready to happen. (Keep in mind, I don't believe I'd read much or any Guardians prior to this movie. I wasn't hopelessly in love with him as a character when I saw this movie. And still, on the first viewing, I caught that this was all bristling fur and panic. Or at least, it read that way to me. I probably subconsciously caught a lot of the trauma and how it tied into his violence, but I didn't put it all together the first time around. And since I've started thinking about it, it's only reinforced my belief that this was more than mere startling.)
"A door opened and Peter saw Drax and Rocket enter. Rocket carried a pot of earth, with a stick stuck upright in it. Peter thought it was crazy, but Rocket had insisted to they all went along with it."
More reinforcement that their shared understanding of trauma and how it works means that they can understand a lot of Rocket's reactions, and accept them, without blaming him. He's going to do something nuts that brings him comfort after one more trauma? Well, fine, they aren't going to argue, or tell him it's crazy, because they understand that sometimes you just need that thing to hold onto, and sometimes you lash out because it's all too much.
Somehow, it didn't click until I actually read this. But now a lot of little things are coming together I'm really, really happy I picked these up now.
And five stars for pure joy. This might not be the best MCU movie, but it's my favorite, and the most fun, mostly for Rocket. And Groot. But sorry, Groot, mostly Rocket. (Although I think Groot would be pleased that people enjoyed Rocket and loved him, and would give up the spotlight for his friend.)
So maybe not so sorry. Anyway, yeah, I'd read this just for Rocket.