Greetings from the Odinson,
You guessed it, boys and girls, it’s time once again for the Odinson’s annual shout-out to a sorely underused character with all the potential to be a great comic. Once a year I try to talk up one of my all time favorite heroes from the past in hopes that Marvel will dust him off and bring him back to the fold. I am, of course, speaking of Rom the Spaceknight, whose series ran 75 issues and 4 annuals from 1979-1987.
Rom (1979-1986) #1-75 and Rom Annual (1982-1985) #1-4 depict an epic tale of love, loss, redemption, and, of course, scary alien monsters. Deep in space two centuries ago a decisive battle between the forces of good and evil was fought. The brave Spaceknights of Galador defeated the evil sorcery and super-science of the Dire Wraiths, and scattered them to the furthest reaches of the galaxy. Now, in present day their eternal struggle has spilled over to Earth. Rom, greatest of the Spaceknights, has landed in a small West Virginia town. Frightened by the arrival of a seven-foot alien, the people of Clairton have called in the National Guard. Rom is then forced to defend himself against those he has come to save.
Now that’s the kind of set-up that sets the stage for a truly classic story.
Rom was a very important character to the early eighties Marvel Universe. For example, in Rom #32 Rogue – who at this time was still with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants - attempts to absorb Rom’s abilities. Rom’s innate nobility awakens her own goodness, thus helping her on her path to seek out the X-Men (as seen in Uncanny X-Men #171). The rest is history. Also, Richard Rider’s story did not actually end with the cancellation of his first series (Nova). It concluded in Fantastic Four (1961-1996 1st Series) #208 and Rom #24. After Rom helps Nova defend the planet Xandar from a Skrull invasion (those devious little alien villains who made a big noise in Secret Invasion), Richard Rider decides to give up his Nova powers and return to Earth. These issues bridge the gap between Nova (1976-1979 1st Series) #25 and New Warriors (1990-1996 1st Series) #1, where Nova made his triumphant return. In Incredible Hulk #296, when the citizens of a small town are mutated and begin to die from Gamma radiation poisoning, it’s Rom that swoops in and saves the day. The drama of this tale is part of what sets the Hulk on his spiraling path to his remarkable meltdown in the now classic Incredible Hulk #300.
Rom is a powerful force for good. The heart of a true hero resides in his nigh indestructible cyborg- shell. Marvel keeps teasing us with cameos by the Spaceknights in the space epics Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest, but where is Rom? Rom has stood toe-to-toe with the likes of Jack of Hearts, Terrax the Tamer, Gladiator, the Savage Sub-Mariner, and he has survived encounters with the mighty Hulk and Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds. He is definitely a force to be reckoned with. The greatest of the Spaceknights has fought side-by-side with some of Earth’s mightiest heroes – the X-Men and New Mutants, Torpedo, Power Man and Iron Fist, the Thing, Shang Chi, Doctor Strange, the Soviet Super Soldiers (now known as Winter Guard), and Alpha Flight. And talk about epic events…there is nothing more epic than the final battle between Rom and his sworn enemies, the Dire Wraiths, with the fate of mankind hanging in the balance. Rom is defeated and victory is within the grasp of the evil Dire Wraiths. However, one last thing stands in their way and total victory…all those pesky super-heroes Rom spent the first 64 issues of his series recruiting to his cause. Rom is joined by the Avengers, West Coast Avengers, X-Men, Defenders, Soviet Super-Soldiers and all of the heroes of the world in one last ultimate battle to rid the Earth of Wraithkind forever. To put it simply, it’s awesome, and it all takes place in Avengers (1963-1996 1st Series) #244-245, Uncanny X-Men #187-188, Rom Annual #3, and Rom #61-66.
I know Rom received a satisfying and well earned ending at the conclusion to his series, but with these cosmic events that keep creeping into the Marvel U (Annihilation, War of Kings, The Thanos Imperative), surely the Greatest Spaceknight can be enticed to come out of retirement to instill justice in a chaotic universe.
Rom’s original series features superb writing by Bill Mantlo and some of the best artwork from Sal Buscema’s illustrious career, plus some fantastic covers from Mike Zeck and Frank Miller, and pencils by the legendary Steve Ditko. I can’t recommend this comic enough. If you love Sci-Fi, stories of passion and bravery, cool guest appearances, and, of course, scary alien creatures, then Rom is for you.
At the very least this guy has earned the right to get either the Essential or Marvel Masterworks treatment. I know Marvel no longer possesses the rights to the character but now with the power of Disney backing them up surely they can muster the funds to pave the way for Rom’s return to the House of Ideas.
In the aftermath of the war with the Cancer-Verse, a cadre of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful galactic heroes unites to form the Annihilators (see Thanos Imperative: Devastation). The team is comprised of Gladiator, from the Shi’ar Empire, Ronan, from the Kree Empire, Quasar, the protector of the universe, Beta-Ray Bill, Thor’s brother in arms, and the Silver Surfer, Sentinel of the Spaceways. Now that line up by itself should be enough to get the reader to pick up Annihilators, but it was the wonderful surprise on the final page of Devastation that gave the Odinson goose-bumps. It seems that these galactic heroes will have their hands full, for in the wake of all the cosmic upheaval over the last few years (i.e. Annihilation, Conquest, War of Kings, and the Thanos Imperative) an old evil will rise once again to threaten the Marvel Universe. The Dire Wraiths have returned! And who better to combat this threat than the mighty Spaceknights of Galador. I, for one, can only hope that this means the triumphant return of Rom, greatest of the Spaceknights. The Spaceknights are back in the form of a cocky hero named Ikon. She’s a noble and capable warrior to be sure, but she lacks the compassion and likeability of Rom. Not only are the Dire Wraiths making trouble for our cosmic heroes but they are also popping up in other places, like the pages of FF. If these sinister shape-shifting aliens do make another play for universal domination, then the Marvel U is definitely going to need its greatest Spaceknight on the frontlines.
Well, Marvel just keeps teasing us with appearances by supporting cast members like Brandy Clark and returning villains from Rom’s past - villains like Doctor Dredd in the pages of Annihilators and Hybrid in the pages of Avengers Academy. Rom’s last appearance in comics was at Rick Jone’s wedding in Incredible Hulk #418. According to the events of Spaceknights (2000), Rom had taken the name Artour (remember his encounter with the ghosts of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in Rom #37). He is missing and presumed dead. As we all know, good heroes die hard. For instance, Rom made a cameo appearance in the instant classic 3-part South Park epic Imaginationland. What a triumphant moment that was for the Odinson to see one of his all time favorite heroes be recognized like that. Rom also made a not-so-triumphant appearance in an episode of Robot Chicken. Several times in recent months, Rom has been referred to and mentioned in all but name. STOP TEASING US, MARVEL! Please, work out the rights with Parker Brothers or whoever holds the rights to this awesome hero and return him back to the fold.
My point is that I’m obviously not the only Rom fan in the world. There are websites dedicated to Rom. This is an important character in Comics History. This is a fantastic creation and dearly needs to come back. This is my 7th Annual proclamation for Rom’s return and I’m prepared to do it every year until the end of time until the powers that be heed my call.
Marvel, hear my plea. Bring Rom back!
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell