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ROM #3

Review by Paul Bowler

ROM the Space Knight’s war with the shape-shifting alien Dire Wraiths continues in ROM #3, having rescued the military soldier Darby Mason and neutralised the Dire Wraith infestation that had taken over her Californian hometown, ROM must now face a new threat after rushing to save Police officer Camilla Byers from the hideous Wrath Stalkers. But the failure of ROM’s analyser and a surprise attack by a Wrath from the Sorcerer Cast has left the Space Knight reeling, and hunted by both the Dire Wraiths and the military…

With the big Revolution event from IDW Publishing kicking off this month, ROM #3 finds our lone Knight of the Solstar Order overpowered and trapped by the dark sorceries of the fearsome Dire Wraith known as D’rge. The exciting plot and script by Chris Ryall and Christos Gage ensures Earthfall Part 3 successful builds on their innovative new take on the popular Space Knight, ROM, based on the original Parker Brothers electronic ROM toy and the fondly remembered Marvel comic book series by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema.

ROM’s captor delights in tormenting the fabled Space Knight, despite the protestations of the Dire Wraiths minions disguised as human soldiers. D’rgre’s words also give us a further insight into the Dire Wraiths and even the Space Knights themselves. The Police officer Camilla Byers, wounded and infected by a Wraith during ROMs first battle on Earth against his shape-shifting foes, is also D’rge’s prisoner, and her tainted blood now allows her see through the Dire Wraiths disguises in much the same way as ROM’s analyser.

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Chris Ryall and Christos Gage fuel the suspense effortlessly as D’rge’s attention fixates on Camilla, and this momentary distraction gives ROM the opportunity he’s been looking for to find a way to fight back. However, it is in the quieter moments where this issue really shines as Ryall and Gage begin to flesh out the characters more. The Wrathmark that now blights Camilla inadvertently leads to ROM revealing some startlingly gruesome facts about the Dire Wraiths abilities, and her infection could also give them a crucial advantage. We also catch up with Darby Mason after being rescued from the cave by the military. However, with everything she’s been though, trust is now a precious commodity, and the realization of how Darby’s family must’ve succumbed to the Dire Wraiths is a simultaneously chilling and heartbreaking moment for her.

ROM #3 is another great looking issue. David Messina’s bold pencils and colors are ably enriched by Michele Pasta’s stylish ink work, as big splash pages and concisely structured page layouts stylishly convey the fast-paced action. The redesign of ROM’s armor continues to impress, it just looks so good from every angle. The human characters are also well defined and realized, especially Camilla and Darby, who each get to run a gauntlet of emotions as their lives converge with ROM‘s mission. D’rge is an especially creepy looking Dire Wraith, he’s one of the strongest Wraith Sorcerers, and his scenes are brilliantly menacing.

David Messina’s colors and the color assists by Alessandra Alexakis really come into their own this issue: especially as ROM writhes in D’rge’s mystical Eldritch Energies, the monochrome tinged flashback the Sorcerer Wraith forces Camilla to experience of the Dire Wraiths arrival on Earth and their insidious infiltration is also hauntingly portrayed, and the scenes in the lighthouse are awash with a gloriously macabre fusion of tone and shadow.

The lettering by Chris Mowry’s is also of particular note this issue. This issue is pretty intense dialogue wise, Mowry’s clear, concise, and intricate work on ROM #3 is second to none. I especially liked the way D’rge’s dialogue – like all Wraiths – and thoughts are represented with spiky letting and a distinct positive, negative color scheme. It makes this alien character seem even more sinister, and the scene where this lettering is juxtaposed with ghostly precision by Chris Mowry during D’rge’s ethereal communiqué with his “brother” is absolutely exquisite.

Amidst the drama and seamlessly interlaced exposition, ROM #3 certainly has its full quota of action too, and its not long before the crimson rays of ROM’s Neutraliser are cutting swathe though his enemies. We are teased with several tantalizing future plot threads, especially those concerning Earth’s significance to the Wraiths, and the reason for ROM’s solitary voyage. This issue gives us a greater sense of the world that Chris Ryall and Christos Gage are building for ROM as the Space Knight moves towards becoming a major part of the wider IDW universe in this months REVOLUTION #1, REVOLUTION #2, and ROM: Revolution #1.

This issue finally really steps things up a gear, D’rge’s evil machinations help drive the narrative in new directions, and circumstances also see ROM, Darby, and Camilla united at last. With a fun nod to a certain Sci-Fi film, ROM #3 instigates a dangerous plan which will enable ROM and his allies attempt to uncover the full extent of the Wraiths infiltration. This new ROM series continues to reach new heights with each successive issue, the creative team are doing a fantastic job, and ROM #3 is one of their most exciting issues so far!

Publisher: IDW Publishing

Plot and script: Chris Ryall and Christos Gage

Pencils and colors: David Messina / Inks: Michele Pasta

Color Assists by: Alessandra Alexakis / Letters by: Chris Mowry