For anyone that’s never read a ROM comic before, you’re in for a treat. Imagine if you will (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), a cyborg, leaving his home planet to pursue an ancient, malevolent race, that is bent on conquest at any cost. These “Dire Wraiths” are a vicious lot, and not only kill without provocation, they can assume the form of anyone. In this specific issue, we learn that they mimicked the Fantastic Four previously, and also we’ve seen in the past that they’ve replicated many humans, including politicians, and police!
ROM has recently learned that (allegedly) the Wraiths have destroyed much of Galador (ROM’s home planet), and ROM feels he must return to see if this is true and to help rebuild. Along the way, he meets up with two Good Samaritans (Power Man and Iron Fist) that agree to help him get to the Baxter Building to seek the help of the FF in getting him back to his home. There’s only one problem…the media has created an absolute frenzy by reporting that an alien is running amok in the city, so, the National Guard was brought in to contain the matter. And when I say the media, I mean J. Jonah Jameson! It’s up to Luke and Danny to get ROM to the Baxter building, and the only thing standing in their way is a concrete jungle full of police, military, and other assorted crackpots! There’s also a brief cameo by the new superhero on the block, The Torpedo!
Written by “Boisterous” Bill Mantlo, art by “Our Pal” Sal Buscema (pencils) and “Joltin” Joe Sinnott (inks), with colors by Ben Sean, and letters by Rosen and Zalme! The cover is by “Amiable” Al Milgrom!
Some titles never seem to get their due in the mainstream for one reason or another. ROM (Spaceknight) is one of those titles for sure. ROM is a man from another planet that volunteered to become a cyborg (along with others) to fend off an alien attack by the Dire Wraiths. The battle spilled over into other parts of the galaxy, including Earth.
In this issue, ROM is buzzing around the skies, and a young, blind woman can see him in her mind (clairvoyant?) She wonders if he might be able to help her find her parents that supposedly abandoned her years ago. We also see ROM’s old friends, Steve Jackson and Brandy Clark. They notice ROM whipping around the city, and speak of his awesomeness. ROM then gets some readings from his Analyzer, then swoops in to Cliff House, where the blind woman resides. He informs her that she’s among killers, and then the creepiness jumps into overdrive.
As most comic book fans know, this series was written entirely by Bill Mantlo. He basically took a toy (yes, ROM was a toy with no background, whatsoever), and created a universe for this character. Not even speaking about co-creating Rocket Raccoon (along with Keith Giffen), and Cloak and Dagger (along with Ed Hannigan), the man is a legend for this (and The Micronauts). The artwork is by long time Marvel artists, Sal Buscema (pencils), and Joe Sinnott (inks). Both men have long, stories careers that are the definition of professional. Ben Sean is the colorist, Rick Parker on letters, and Ann Nocenti editor! And lets us not forget the eerie cover by Al Milgrom!
One of the most underrated books of the 1980’s, is certainly ROM! The title was created from a deal between Marvel Comics and Parker Brothers, in 1979. It was just a toy, but was elevated to cult status in the comic book industry. Why? Because of stories like this one. Fuse together ROM and Arthurian Myth, and you have one new, hot commodity, and another that is steeped in centuries worth of mystery and folklore. The tagline of the issue is…”A Tale of Magic and Mysticism in the Mighty Marvel Manner!” This is no understatement, and you also get the great action scenes of ROM wasting some Dire Wraiths, as well!
Not nearly enough credit is ever given to Bill Mantlo (writer). The guy wrote the entire series (all 75 issues), the Micronauts (another toy turned comic book title, and he had many runs on different titles, like Spectacular Spider-Man, Strange Tales (1987), Marvel Team-Up, and more! He is without a doubt the most under-appreciated guy from this era. This title was also fortunate enough to typically have the talents of the great pencils of Sal Buscema, and along with Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, the art was great! The letters were by Jim Novak, colors by Ben Sean (two more staples from this era), and the editor was Ann Nocenti. Great cover as well, and the duo of Ed Hannigan and Al Milgrom knocked this one out of the park!
Unbeknownst to me until recently, the incomparable Steve Ditko had a nice run on ROM! His rendering of the shiny superhero from Galador is quite awesome, and with other artists the caliber of Bob Layton, Jackson Guice, P. Craig Russell, and Tom Palmer inking his pencils, you were privileged to see a great comic book! In the mid-1980’s, Marvel was in high gear, but also competing with DC, who was churning out epic stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Legends. Marvel had Secret Wars, but also had some little gems like I’m about to show you now! So, without further delay, let’s get right to the visual show!
The few issues I own of this title are enough to make me want to hunt down the rest, for sure. Not only that, but also hunt down any other offerings from Bill Mantlo. This guy is so underrated, it’s comical. Just dig into his works, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Look at this awesome cover by Frank Miller and Josef Rubinstein! The interiors by Sal Buscema are quite impressive as well, so don’t think this is just a cool cover and fluff on the inside! Merry Christmas! Enjoy!