ROM the Space Knight first appeared in print in December 1979 as a crossover between Marvel Comics and Parker Brothers in an attempt to build interest in a spaceman toy that Parker Brothers had designed. It’s not as strange as that sounds. Transformers, Care Bears, Sectaurs (I had them all, by the way), GI Joe, Masters Of The Universe, Pound Puppies, and My Little Pony all have similar origin stories. The toy flopped, but Marvel was able to draw the backstory into a 75 issue run that lasted until February 1986. The franchise sat largely dormant for three decades until Free Comic Book Day 2016, when IDW publishing gave us ROM #0 and announced a reboot of the series.
The first comic book I ever owned was ROM #66. I remember the day I bought it, after riding my sister’s new red ten-speed bicycle to the grocery store to get bread and milk for my grandmother. I don’t remember why I was riding my sister’s bike. I do remember smashing that bike into the back of a parked mail truck on the way home because I was reading ROM #66 while riding hands-free. I sat on the curb and finished the book while the mailman yelled and cursed at me. I don’t know what that guy’s problem was. After I finished the story, I headed home with a loaf of smashed bread, a leaking gallon of 2% milk, a potentially broken nose, and what was left of my sister’s bike. True story, although if my sister ever reads this and asks me about it, I’m sticking to the story I told that day. Something about ninjas, if I recall correctly.
ROM’s story began when an alien race of shape shifting space sorcerers known as Dire Wraiths invaded the peaceful utopian society of planet Galador. In a desperate attempt to fight the Dire Wraiths off, the Galadorian ruler called on the citizens of Galador to volunteer for the Spaceknight program, sacrificing their own humanity to become cyborg warriors. The Spaceknights’ humanity was stored on Galador until such time as the Wraith war would end and they could reclaim it. ROM was the first to volunteer and undergo the transformation.
When the Solstar Order drove the Dire Wraiths from Galador, ROM chased them back to their home planet to finish them off. The Wraiths used their best weapons, deception and black magic, to escape ROM’s wrath and scatter throughout the galaxy. ROM felt responsible for allowing the Dire Wraiths to spread throughout the galaxy and decided not to reclaim his humanity until the entire species had been found and banished to Limbo.
ROM #1 picks up right where FCBD ROM #0 left off. In case you missed that one, IDW has kindly reprinted that 11 page story here for your convenience. In his quest to rid the galaxy of the Dire Wraiths, ROM follows the Wraiths’ trail of destruction to a heavily infiltrated planet Earth. Cooper’s Mill, the first town ROM finds on Earth only has one real human living in it, a soldier suffering from PTSD named Darby. All the other inhabitants are Wraiths disguised to appear human. Oddly, even with this level of Wraith infestation, ROM finds no Wraith hives and no signs of planetary subjugation. Further analysis is needed.
There is an obvious throwback look and feel to the new series, but some tweaks have been made to update ROM’s look and technology. This may seem a little nit-picky, but classic ROM never had fingers. Not sure why they changed that detail, but it was the first thing that I noticed. The new armor also has a lot more detail and lines in it than the classic version. There was something about the old design that was very classic and clean. I know they’re trying to put their own stamp on the franchise, but it’s going to take some getting used to. On the whole, Christos Gage, Chris Ryall, and David Messina have done a slick job bringing this nostalgic title into the 21st century.
Review by Brendan Allen