In Review: ROM #1

The Space Knight is back and so is the action!

The cover: This book has been IDW’s Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall’s fervent dream to publish. Now that he’s got it, you know there will be a few variant covers. 22 variant covers, in this case. The Regular cover is by J.H. Williams III. ROM holds his right arm up moments before summoning his Neutralizer to dispense with all the Dire Wraiths that surround him. Good frontpiece that shows the hero clearly and enough of the monsters to show the reader what the hero will face. I also like how ROM is a very crisp looking character, while the aliens have a softer look, enhancing their otherworldly aspects. Zach Howard provides the art and Nelson Daniel the colors on the first Subscription cover. This is a powerful image of the Space Knight taking a step forward while in the middle of a hellacious firestorm. He looks great, with the angle of the character down low and looking cool, and the colors really make him stand out with the energy around him tremendous. The second Subscription cover is by Tom Whalen. This is a very stylized cover that looks like it would fit in with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It’s a bust shot of ROM looking to his right, with an orange-red energy blast emitting from his eyes. This looks really cool and would be an excellent poster print. The final Subscription cover is a photograph of the original ROM toy by Jack Rivera, that comes from the collection of Chris Ryall. I’ve seen photographs of the toy several times, but I’ve never seen one posed. The hero is walking to his left in three-quarters view with a geometric space background behind him. Very different, but very cool. The Sketch cover is exactly what it sounds like: a blank cover that contains only the upper title and publisher information. One could take this to a comic book convention and have their favorite artist create an original illustration or track down the creative team to have them sign it. The first Retailer Incentive cover is the one I’ve chosen to accompany this review. It’s by Sal Buscema with colors by Mike Cavallaro. I grew up reading ROM when it was new from Marvel Comics, so seeing Buscema do one of these variants was an obvious decision. The character stands ready for action on alien world as the Dire Wraiths emerge from the shadows behind him. Above is a vivid space background. The illustration is awesome and the coloring perfection. I MUST have this as a poster or print! Michael Golden is another obvious choice for a cover artist, as he too drew ROM at Marvel, so his work graces the second Retailer Incentive cover. This is awesome. ROM is using his Neutralizer to destroy some unseen Wraiths. He’s on his right knee as he delivers his justice and he looks so strong. The energy coming out of his weapon is great and the setting and colors make his alien environment come to life tremendously. This is a cover to seek! The final Retailer Incentive cover is also one to add to your collection. The art is by P. Craig Russell with colors by Lovern Kindzierski. ROM is in space, flying from the grasp of some tentacles that look to be covering a rocky world. Several planetoids are behind him, as is a comet that streaks downward from the upper left corner, causing the letters of the title to become jumbled. I’m a huge fan of Russell, so I’d search this down. The Convention Exclusive cover is by interior artist David Messina. It’s a bust shot of ROM, but in silver foil on the warrior and the book’s title. It’s incredibly glossy and was one I had to pick up at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. There’s also a SDCC Diamond Retailer Exclusive that’s the same as the Convention Exclusive, except the title is a bright red foil. If you liked the previous version, you’ll like this. The Rob Liefeld Creations Exclusive is also really nice. This has the knight completely shown to the reader as he hovers in the sky. A bust shot of him is in the lower right, while the rest of the image shows two planets with a huge bolt of energy dividing the piece. I’ve always liked  Rob Liefeld’s art, so I like this. The coloring is a little too soft for my tastes, as I prefer his work with bolder colors, but it’s still one I wouldn’t mind owning. The Painted Visions Comics Exclusive is a trippy cover by Lance Sawyers and John-Paul Bove. This has ROM looking just like the toy, walking forward. However, he’s striding to the reader down a green metallic hallway that has blue lines on the walls, floor, and ceiling to show it’s depth. It’s really different, but I really like this. The Starbase 1552 Comics Exclusive is limited to 800 copies and is by Dave Dorman. Dorman is a superior artist, whose Star Wars work is legendary, and he looks to be creating new legends with this ROM in action cover. His Neutralizer unleashes its fury on unseen foes as the Space Knight flies forward. Several explosions are going off below him, doing no damage to him but will probably make the futuristic skyscraper behind him crumble. The layout of the character and the background is great and the colors are terrific. There’s also a Starbase 1552 Comics Virgin Exclusive that’s exactly the same Dorman image (and is limited to 500 copies), just without any text on the piece. If you’re a Dorman fan, you’ll want to find this. The Ultimate Comics/NC Comic Con by Tommy Lee Edwards cover has ROM looking the most sinister. The hero is in partial silhouette standing in the middle of a seemingly volcanic setting. His Neutralizer is held ready as he looks to his right, his eyes and chest plate in a creepy orange rather than the traditional red. Making this look every more spacey is that a series of transparent lime green rectangles that enclose the figure, becoming askew the farther they get from the character. Creepy. The Bedrock City Comics Exclusive is by Nick Pitarra with colors by Mike Garland. His has a very underground feel to it with some heavily tentacled and heavily eyeballed pink and violet blobs that are threatening to overrun ROM. He blasts one and it explodes like a block of marble. I love the detail in the creatures and the coloring makes it truly seem like it’s set in outer space. The first Diamond Exclusive is the left side of a two cover image. A Space Knight is about to be consumed by a large alien that seems to be nothing but a toothy maw. One of his brothers flies upward in the background. The far right has half of a Knight’s bust. Before it is another Knight using his wrist blasters to shoot at an unseen foe. Cutting the image in half is an energy blast that’s shaving off several legs from a giant centipede. Lots of details on this with lots of cool, alien colors. The second Diamond Exclusive completes the image begun on the first. On the left is the other half of the Knight’s bust and a tentacled creature whose head is receiving the blast from the Knight; in fact, the blast is exiting out the back of the thing. A monstrous fish-like alien opens its mouth to swallow a Knight that was unprepared for this attack. In the foreground a Knight is using his fists to level a blast at the centipede, whose body consumes the bottom of the cover. Both of these covers are cool and both are by Pitarra and Garlan, which are limited to 3000 copies each. The Diamond Incentive is a wraparound cover that features the artwork from the Diamond Exclusives, but without Garland’s contributions. I like this, but it looks better with the colors. This edition is limited to 600 copies. The first VA Comic Con Exclusive is by Kevin Roberts and shows ROM from the left flying up at an angle. His pose echoes that of the Rocketeer, but the coloring and shine coming off of his armor shows he’s far from Earth. The background colors are vivid violets and blues. The title is in a bold red. The second VA Comic Con Exclusive is the same as the first, but with a slight change: the Space Knight and the title are in silver foil. This edition is limited to 500 copies. The final cover is the Bell Book & Comics Exclusive by Stuart Sayger. This is a wraparound cover featuring ROM holding out his left hand to the reader, while his right (found on the back cover) is holding his Neutralizer, which is emitting a brilliant crimson against an eerie lighting covered violet background. Very nice, and this would look good as a poster. Overall grades: Regular A, Subscription Howard A+, Subscription Whalen A+, Subscription Rivera A-, Sketch B, Retailer Buscema A+, Retailer Golden A+, Retailer Russell A+, Convention A, SBCC Diamond A, Rob Liefeld Creations A, Painted Visions Comics A, Starbase 1552 Comics A+, Starbase 1552 Comics Virgin A+, Ultimate Comics A, Bedrock City Comics A+, Diamond Exclusive (both pieces) A+, Diamond Incentive B, VA Comic Con (both) A- and Bell Book & Comics A

The story: The first eleven pages of the issue reprint the Free Comic Book Day ROM #0. This is necessary because of how the new portion of the book begins. On these opening pages Officer Camilla Byers and Omar Ruiz come upon a group of soldiers on Highway 101 who have seen ROM land. The Space Knight sizes up the situation and does what Space Knights do best, leaving only Byers alive. One soldier also survives the battle, and he’s the one that’s being interrogated at Vandenberg Air Force Base by other soldiers on the opening page, which starts on 13. The plot and script of both stories is by Christos Gage and Chris Ryall. There’s a good surprise on 14 that leads into ROM flying over the city of Cooper’s Mill, trying to figure out his next step in eradicating the Dire Wraiths’ existence on Earth. Using his Analyzer he finds the city overrun by Wraiths, but there are no “signs of planetary subjugation; no Wraith hives being constructed.” Further analysis is needed. The story then moves to Mantlo Park where Camilla is talking with her family about what she saw happen on the highway. Unexpected things occur, causing ROM to appear and the two becoming uneasy allies. This issue sets up the series’ premise smoothly and has plenty of action to keep the reader interested. I really enjoyed the character of Camilla Byers and I hope that she becomes his ally as Brandy Clark was in the original Marvel series. The final page is an excellent reveal and cliffhanger. The ROM universe got tremendously bigger with that last panel. Overall grade: A

The art: David Messina provides the pencils and Michele Pasta the inks on the first eleven pages. Messina does both on the remainder of the book. I’ve been a big fan of Messina’s work from his Star Trek days at IDW and I was glad to see him on this title. His characters, both human and alien, look great. The people look terrific, who communicate so much with just a glance, as shown on Pages 2, 11, 13, 17, etc. I should mention that the character that’s being questioned on 13 resembles an artist I’m familiar with and the Wraith at the bottom of 25 resembles a writer. ROM looks outstanding. He’s a little buffer than from the Marvel days, with some slight tweaking on his original toy design, but he looks heroic standing still (Page 3) or in action (4 – 5). The changes on his forearms look cool and when he changes from this Analyzer to Neutralizer it looks awesome, with Messina giving a slick sense of motion. The redesign of the Dire Wraiths is very cool, with them looking a little more alien than previous shown, and one group is capable of abilities not seen in the original series’ run. My favorite panel of the book is the top of 33 — it’s the traditional shot of a hero and a human flying off, but Messina makes it come to life fantastically, using an angle that makes the power of the moment resonate. The final panel of the issue floored me. I’m not familiar with this group’s exploits, but I knew who they were based on their images that Messina has captured perfectly. With their appearance, I’m expecting Messina to be drawing a lot of action soon. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colors of both stores are also done by David Messina, with Michele Pasta assisting on the final story. With aliens battling on Earth I’m expecting to see colors that should be lifted from the real world, but I’m also looking to see exotic colors to show off the E.T.s on Earth. The colors on the first page nicely set the story in the evening with cool blues, and are assisted by lighting effects, which include bright yellows and lens flares. ROM’s reds stand out strongly from his silver suit, especially on Pages 4 and 5. When he’s scanning for Wraiths the colors become computer-like reds, greens, and blues. The crimson on 9 is wonderfully ghastly. The lack of bright colors on 13 and 14 foreshadow the lack of life in the setting. In some panels characters are outlined with colors to make them pop and it’s a neat effect that instantly catches the reader’s eye. On every page and in every panel, the colors help to bring this story to life. Overall grade: A

The letters: Shawn Lee letters both stories, creating scene settings, dialogue, sounds, yells, whispers, the story’s title, signage, and the tease for next issue. I would have preferred to have the narration and telephone conversations be a different font from the dialogue, but it’s not Lee’s call to do so; that’s up to the writers. The scenes settings are very dynamic and energize each change of location. The sounds are excellent, with the VZZAASHASH on 28 being my favorite. Sounds were a big part of my enjoyment on the original series, so I’m hoping that Lee gets the opportunity to do many. Overall grade: A-

The final line: The Space Knight is back and so is the action! The stakes start high with the Dire Wraiths’ infiltration higher than anyone suspected. The art is beautiful and dynamic with the sleek hero battling the grotesque Wraiths. A great beginning to please fans old and new. Congratulations, IDW! You’ve done this character right. Overall grade: A 

To order the Rob Liefeld Creations Exclusive go to https://robliefeldcreations.com/shop/comic-books/rom-1-exclusive-variant/

To order the Ultimate Comics/NC Comic Con Exclusive go to http://ultimatecomics.com/shop/variants/rom-1-ultimate-comics-exclusive-tommy-lee-edwards-variant-idw-2016-pre-sale-ships-7202016/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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