When IDW announced they had the rights to do a new Rom comic book, I had my doubts. The cool-looking Spaceknight toy of the 1970s looked cool, didn’t sell particularly well, and almost two generations had passed since the toy’s quick demise. What kept it alive, of course, was Bill Mantlo’s Marvel Comic, filling in details of the toy’s backstory and tying it intricately to the Marvel Universe. How could a new comic book from IDW revive that?
In truth, for a new generation, it doesn’t matter. The plot by Christos Gage and Chris Ryall follows similar beats to that original Marvel first issue, but… what kid today is going to know that? For a variety of reasons, that’s not going to be reprinted, and I suspect it would read a lot more clunky than my memory has it.
Instead, this update is slick and fast-paced, putting Rom into not just the world of today, but a world that has been caught up in several other Hasbro conspiracies. As we saw in the Free Comic Book Day preview issue, mystical alien shapeshifters have infiltrated human society. (And I’ve always loved that it’s not enough they’re alien shapeshifters — they’re sorcerers, too.)
Having fled from the Solstar Order, a group of Space Knights determined to wipe out the scourge of the Dire Wraiths, the aliens have apparently chosen a subtler path than they took on other worlds. They’re not going to give humanity a chance to fight back; they’re just going to hide in plain sight taking us out one by one. What can one silver-skinned Space Knight do? The conspiracy goes deep into the government, and the modern twist Gage and Ryall give the story is that already the Wraiths’ presence is leaking out into public knowledge…. sort of.
Because Rom #1 is also leading right into Revolution, the big Hasbro Toys’ crossover. Before ROM can acclimatize himself to Earth and find human allies, it looks like there are all kinds of conflagrations going on. G.I. Joe, Transformers, Micronauts, M.A.S.K. , and Action Man will all be involved — how can they tell the alien menaces apart without a scorecard, or is Rom going to be key to it all with the implication of Wraithrot infecting our entire world?
Artist David Messina has done a good job updating the look of Rom, which I have to assume will translate into a toy somewhere down the line, or else why would Hasbro bother? The coolest, most disturbing touch is that Rom’s Analyzer has become a big red eye, something supernatural to detect the dark magicks of the Wraiths. His layouts show some creativity, playing with cinematic angles and making most of the Wraith reveals nicely creepy.
At Comic-Con, IDW gave away a little Revolution preview comic, the first four pages of which are in the back of Rom #1. That lays out how all these titles will cross over, and as I’m not a reader of the regular G.I. Joe books, I was pleasantly surprised to see an acknowledgment of the Adventure Team, including Bullet Man.
This event and these books are built on affectionate bedrock, done by talented creatives. For nostalgia’s sake, they’re strong. And so far, Rom, at least, stands as a book that should bring in some new readers.