WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Infinity Countdown #1 by Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder, on sale now.
Like the rest of the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the giant sentient tree known as Groot was turned into one of Marvel’s A-list characters almost overnight with the arrival of James Gunn’s film. Even before the movie arrived in theaters, Marvel’s ragtag team of cosmic superheroes became a worldwide phenomenon. By the time the first weekend’s box office had been tallied, everyone knew who Star-Lord was, they understood Drax’s unique sense of humor, and they were familiar with Groot’s speech pattern. In fact, “I am Groot” became a world-famous line, three words spoken by every Marvel movie fan, young and old.
While the “I am Groot” vocabulary did originate in the comics, it was a fairly recent development in the grand scheme of the character’s history. Therefore, while it might come as a surprise to newer readers when, in this week’s Infinity Countdown #1, Baby Groot regains his full speech pattern, for longtime fans it’s a return to a different era. What’s more, this change doesn’t come on its own; the diminutive Groot is also restored his fully-grown, adult size, effectively bringing him back to a status he last held more than a decade ago.
Groot made his Marvel Comics debut in 1960 in Tales To Astonish #13, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. His design would change over the years, but with every updated look, he could always talk fluently. It was only in the 2008 Annihilation: Conquest event series and its Guardians of the Galaxy offshoot title — both spearheaded by writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning — that Groot’s ability to speak was reduced to “I am Groot,” exclusively, something that would serve as inspiration for his characterization in Gunn’s Guardians movies.
Eventually, in order to tie into the release of 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Marvel’s All-New Guardians of the Galaxy by Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder debuted Groot in his baby form. Since then, Baby Groot has been featured alongside Rocket and the rest of the Guardians in Marvel’s comics. That is, until now.
In Infinity Countdown #1, the Guardians (sans Drax) are busy dealing with an universal outbreak of living tree-like creatures that look an awful lot like Groot used to. While these trees have been attacking for some time, this issue finally has the Guardians learn what is at the root of this attack: the Gardener, a crazy Elder of the Universe who can create all manner of plant life, including Groot. The fighting only stops once Baby Groot faces his creator and uses his power to reach inside the Gardener in order to heal him. As it turns out, the Elder was acting irrationally thanks to a poison that had been administered by the Asgardian God of Mischief (and Infinity Countdown main player) Loki.
Free from Loki’s control, the Gardener wishes to return the favor. Using his cosmic powers, the Elder of the Universe restores Groot to his full size and with his original ability to speak. “Like you once were… at the beginning of your tale,” the Gardener says. Now, Groot has returned to his original state — a powerful, giant, sentient tree, with a wide range of vocabulary with which to converse. The Guardians are appropriately shell-shocked, especially considering some of them, like Ant-Man and Gamora, have never seen (or heard) Groot like this before.
After more than a decade, Groot has finally regained the ability to speak, something which is bound to change the dynamic of the team. Does it foreshadow a similar development taking place in James Gunn’s third Guardians film? We’ll just have to wait and see.
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