Rom The Spaceknight was a Marvel comics series based on a Parker Brothers toy that vaguely resembled Marvin from the 70s Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. However, unlike Marvin, Rom is in fact a cyborg – part machine, part Galadorian, converted to this form in order to fight alien shapeshifters, the Dire Wraiths.
The series lasted 75 issues, from 1979 to 1986. Being issue 70, this comic takes place at the end of the run…
Our story starts with Rom and his two Tekkaman-looking companions, Scanner and Seeker, on their way home to Galador after fighting in the Wraith War. They pick up a signal from another Spaceknight on some swamp planet, and they check it out.
Immediately, the three come under attack by a reptilian beast. Being an older comic, there is a lot of cheesy dialogue, with characters speaking their thoughts and being Captain Obvious.
I was amused that Rom spouted off a bunch of expository dialogue about how Scanner and Seeker are siblings in the middle of fighting the beast! I shouldn’t complain, though. This is my first time reading Rom, so the dialogue, while clunky, is very beneficial for new readers such as myself, as is its intention.
Speaking of dialogue, I’m really digging the Spaceknights’ manner of speaking: “Though I am loathe to intrude upon this comradely rapprochement, I feel I must remind you both of our mission!”
Anyway, back to the beast fight – Seeker ends up taking out the beast with a pair of Hunter-Seeker missiles. Rom chastises him for killing, but the beast turns out to be a-okay. Seeker just used sedative missiles.
As the three knights continue their travels, they come across a group of Dire Wraiths working on building a citadel. Rom confers with one of them, who explains that a hidden god living in a nearby temple has enslaved them. An unseen force quickly kills this helpful informant, along with a group of nearby Dire Wraiths as well.
The unseen force, the “hidden god” reveals itself to be Unam the Unseen – the Spaceknight Rom and the others were looking for. As his name suggests, Unam has the ability to make himself invisible. Though for some reason, he believes invisibility to be a totally useless power and seems to have developed a complex of sorts – due to incessant bullying at Spaceknight school, no doubt.
Unam, the Hidden God
Unam explains how he followed a group of Dire Wraiths to the swamp planet. Initially afraid to confront them, Unam became braver when he discovered the Dire Wraiths’ dark magic and shapeshifting abilities had been neutralized. With his foes powerless, Unam made them his slaves.
All the Dire Wraiths gather around the four Spaceknights and ask Rom for release from their suffering at Unam’s hands. Rom offers them two options – death or containment in Limbo (another dimension, like Superman’s Phantom Zone). Though, since killing is forbidden unless in self-defense, limbo is the only option. Rom takes out his Neutralizer device and zaps all the Dire Wraiths, sending them straight to Limbo.
With his slaves gone, Unam is defeated. But instead of trapping him in Limbo, Rom and the others leave him on the planet to rot. “Some of us were made warriors – becoming stronger and harder – in the heat of battle!” Rom says, “Others, like Unam…were broken in body and in soul!”
It was okay, just a bit predictable. The Heart of Darkness homage was pretty easy to spot: looking for a lost Spaceknight on a planet that has a god being worshipped – of course they’re one in the same!
The art was good, particularly on the swamp planet’s diverse wildlife; there’s a nice, two-page spread of the world, showing all the various creatures. Many of them look prehistoric, similar to dinosaurs, yet still dissimilar and alien. My favorite is what looks like a tiger mixed with a deer, mixed with a unicorn. There’s also a snake with the head of a bird, keeping its hungry eyes on a bird that looks like a bird. Watch out, bird!
I do find the heroes to be fairly bland, though. All interchangeable, with high morals; there was a nice glimmer of conflict when Rom thought Seeker murdered the swamp creature, but of course it turned out to still be alive.
I find the whole Rom series interesting, since it’s about non-human characters – a risky move since there’s no one for a typical audience member to relate to. Add on to that, the fact that the series is based on a toy that, in childrens’ eyes, was probably not as cool as some of the other stuff at the time (like the recently introduced Transformers).
Overall this issue was okay, but as part of the overall Rom series, probably nothing special. What really hurts this issue is its predictability, bland characterization, and slow pace at the beginning (the battle with the creature, which seemed to take forever).
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