Review by Paul Bowler
Earth has been invaded, and it’s up to ROM the Space Knight to save the world! Yes, we’ve seen the prelude to his return earlier this year in FCBD’s ROM #0, now the Wrathslayer’s adventures begin in earnest in ROM #1 from IDW Publishing. Get ready, as Rom’s ongoing war with the Dire Wraths descends from the stars in Earthfall, Part 1, as the space faring hero’s long awaited return and new ongoing series begins!
IDW Publishing and Hasbro Entertainment are onto a sure fire winner with ROM #1, with its plot and script by Chris Ryall and Christos Gage, together with art and colors by David Messina, with color assists by Michele Pasta, and letters by Shawn Lee, this reimagined ROM series stylishly mixes the old with the new to create a pleasing blend of exciting action, fast paced adventure, and nostalgia to kick off this new series.
The events of ROM #0 start off this debut issue – it was included here as many international fans found the FCBD prelude issue was almost impossible to find – as we witness, along with Police officers Camilla Byers and Omar Ruz, the Space Knight’s sudden arrival on Earth and his first contact with the military which then quickly spiralled into hostilities when they were revealed to be disguised Dire Wraiths by Rom‘s Analyser. ROM #1 quickly builds on these events and expands the scope of the new series’ premise.
While a secret debriefing at an Air Force Base in California provides a disturbing insight into some of the Earth Defence Command personnel, its clear ROM’s arrival certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. Meanwhile, ROM’s search for Dire Wraith’s leads him to a more densely populated area, but relying on his analysers and translator might not be enough this time. ROM is going to need human assistance to help him understand this strange new world, and that person could well be Darby, the nearby soldier who is taking some downtime from the military to visit her family as she copes with PTSD, but not everything is quite what it seems in this town…
Rom #1 Earthfall Part 1 succinctly establishes this new take on the character with this special extra-length issue. The plot and script by Chris Ryall and Christos Gage is tautly structured, the exposition is minimal, but concisely delivered, and everything is included to quickly bring us up to speed with ROM, his home world, the war against the Dire Wraiths, and how insidiously they’ve established themselves on Earth. The entire creative team on this book are big a fans of ROM, their devotion and respect for the character shines though in every scene, there are plenty of nods to the past, as well as a subtle updating of some aspects for a new generation of fans, and if this first issue is anything to go by, then the long journey to finally bring ROM the Space Knight back in his own series with IDW and Hasbro has certainly been well worth the wait.
ROM The Space Knight originally debuted as an electronic robot toy in 1979 from Parker Brothers, although the toy itself wasn‘t well received, it went on to inspire and gain unprecedented success in comic form in the 1980’s when Marvel produced their ROM comic book series. ROM #1 (December 1979) by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, which began the cyborgs adventures and battles against the evil Dire Wraiths, it ran for 75 issues, earning a dedicated fan base, and remains one of the most beloved and fondly remembered comic book series of the 80’s. Rights issues have sadly condemned ROM to limbo ever since, until now of course. First, there was Transformers, then IDW brought back the Micronauts, another big fan favourite series based on a popular toy line, now the long absent Space Knight, ROM, is back with a new ongoing series, and IDW have marked the event with a month-long variant cover programme across their range to celebrate the return of ROM!
The art, inks, and colors by David Messina, and color assists by Michele Pasta on ROM #1 bring a fluid sense of action to the page, with clean and concise page layouts heightening the sense of urgency and drama as each scene rapidly spills into the next. The spooky opening on the Air Force Base is quite unsettling, ROM’s search, and Darby’s terrifying encounter with the Dire Wraiths all effortlessly builds the suspense. The big highlight of the issue though is when ROM clashes with the Dire Wraiths in the park. It is here that the art team really get to show ROM at his best, in action and vanquishing his enemies, but it seems the Dire Wraiths abilities have evolved in surprising ways during their time on Earth – and the ensuing results on the enchanted flora and fauna in the vicinity leads to some of the issues most spectacular action sequences!
The characters redesign of ROM is also subtle, yet effective, the armor is more streamlined and flexible, but the most notable change is the old flipper hands, which have now become articulated fingers. There are new boots as well, technological devices such as the energy analyser and neutralizer are all inbuilt now and part of the armor, but don’t worry, ROM’s distinctive look and iconic toaster-like-head and glowing red eyes remain unchanged.
Although the circumstances in this issue that bring ROM and Darby together are not that unexpected, it’s still a skilfully handled reimagining the classic ROM origin / set up, albeit done with a decidedly modern twist. By the end of the issue ROM and Darby grow to understand each other better, the Dire Wraiths prove a dab hand at using the media to their advantage to discredit ROM, we also catch up with officer Camilla Byers, and it seems the EDC has some rather ominous sounding countermeasures prepared for ROM…
ROM #1 is a slick, high-tech mix of cosmic intrigue, magic, and suspense. Whether it can live up to fans expectations remains to be seen. Like many, I’m a big fan of the original ROM series, so this new series had a lot to live up to for me. For the most part it succeeds in my opinion, even though Chris Ryal’s and Christos Gage’s new spin on the character of ROM is very different in certain ways, its still entirely faithful to the original in every respect, and the end result comes across as being both surprisingly fresh and inspiring. It also becomes clear – with the mention in ROM #1 of events in Monument Valley happening over in Transformers #54 & #55 – that ROM will soon become an integral part of the IDW universe, especially with IDW’s forthcoming Revolution event that will bring Rom together with the Transformers, G.I. Joe, the Micronauts, and M.A.S.K.
I enjoyed ROM #1 and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. ROM #1 is a confident start to the series, its full of fan pleasing moments, everything is balanced by the compelling storyline and strong characterization, and the issue also boasts some highly impressive artwork as well – and if all that wasn’t enough you there’s also a wealth of eye catching variant covers to choose from. There’s a lots of potential here, Chris Ryall, Christos Gage, and David Messina have done sterling work with this first issue of ROM, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how this new ROM series from IDW Publishing develops in the months ahead.
Plot and script: Chris Ryall and Christos Gage
Art, Inks, and colors: David Messina
Color Assists by: Michele Pasta / Letters by: Shame Lee