Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mystery Box: Rom #65

Bill Mantlo was saddled with a true bitch of a job: Produce a monthly comic based on the adventures of an action figure no one bought. Well, Bill Mantlo, he's a fucking professional. He took that bitch of a job and banged out more than seventy issues of the adventures of an action figure no one bought.

Rom had come to earth sixty-four issues prior to combat the otherworldly threat of the Dire Wraiths ("Dire" always prefaced their names. It's like if I called myself "Awesome Jon." If I did, I would modify "Awesome God" to suit my needs so as to have the best theme song ever), and this issue marked the, well, FINAL CONFLICT.

We open on Rom trapped in a mystical forcefield. Seems the Dire Wraiths have pulled their planet into orbit around the sun so as to kill the earth and take its place in the solar system. It's all very dramatic and we're treated to no less than three pages of Rom thinking to himself before we see anyone else.

The "anyone else" in question would be Forge and Henry Gyrich. In space. Together. Riding a giant gun. Forge was contracted to build the out-in-space version of an ant-murdering magnifying glass to be powered by Rom's crazy anti-Wraith pistol. Rom, being trapped in the aforementioned forcefield, obviously can't make it to Forge's big space gun. And so we have THE DRAMA.

The Wraiths show up and taunt Rom for a while, but don't, you know, kill him.

This is made more irritating by the fact that the Wraiths talk like they're at a ren faire. For example:

"Come, Wraith sisters! Come, ye Hellhounds and hissing Deathwings all! Come from every corner of this pathetic planet-- to witness the humbling and humiliation of our arch-foe, ROM-- GREATEST OF THE SPACEKNIGHTS!"

Now, I bet you only skimmed that, but Rom? Rom couldn't move. He had to listen. The Wraiths are bastards.

Anyway, just when the Wraiths have Rom right where they want him, their revelry is interrupted. Interrupted by every freaking superhero on earth (except Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. And Thor, but Beta Ray Bill's there, and he has cooler boots, so I won't complain). Don't believe me? Look:

God, Namor's in the back, there. The next four pages show us everyone whose come to Rom's aid, from the Dynamic Defenders to the Uncanny X-Men, and some unbelievably crappy groups in between.

We get Steve Ditko taking stabs at drawing Starfox, Rogue (Rogue looks like she's wearing a helmet made of hair and, boy, did her old costume suck), Wonder Man (this is during his I Am Dressed for Safari era), Nightcrawler and Wolverine (Steve Ditko cannot draw Wolverine. I know he deals in absolutes, so I'm phrasing it that way). Shamrock, Le Peregrine, and Captain Britain in his original outfit pop up. And also these guys:The Sensational Soviet Super-Soldiers! Darkstar! Some loser with a hammer and sickle! A midget with a giant head! A bear! That's why they lost the Cold War, people. We got Captain America, they got a midget with a big head. It's a wonder they never launched a nuke at Black Widow for defecting.

At any rate, the collected heroes beat the crap out of the Wraiths for a couple pages, Rom's beloved, Brandy Clark, kisses him free of his magic prison (much like Onimar Synn, Wraith magic cowers in the face of love), and the earth is saved by Rom and Forge.

And then Rom wanders the universe for ten more issues (and that annual I talked about the other day) searching for his planet (Galactus had hidden it, you see. Because Galactus is a bit of a prick) before finally having his humanity restored in issue 75. There's at least one Bill Sienkiewicz cover in there, by the way.

Also, our Jon is an awesome Jon he reigns from heaven above with wisdom and power and love our Jon is an awesome Jon.

There. I feel better.


kelvingreen said...

I love the Soviet Super Soldiers, they're so low-concept, especially the bear.

"He's called Ursa Major, yeah, after the constellation? And like, he's a major in the army, and he turns into a bear!"

It's like he wandered in from the DCU. Comics gold.

Jon said...

It really is a wonder the Doom Patrol never fought an Ursa Major. I love how amazingly not-themed the SSS are. Granted, you've got some poor schmuck with a hammer and sickle, but that's a given. Unless the midget was named, like, Tiny Bolshevik, only a quarter of the team had any kind of Soviet identifier, aside from the shaky Russia = Bear connection.

"Tiny Bolshevik" is an incredible mobster name, now that I have written it down.

kelvingreen said...

The great thing about the hammer'n'sickle guy is that they've made no attempt to tie him in with anything but the image. That image is supposed to represent the power of the working class, from the industrial side, to the agricultural side, metalworkers and farmers. So what do we get? A dubious Thor knock-off.

Obviously these guys are from the Cold War era, so a more insightful character concept may not have been appropriate at the time, but come on...

I'm actually rather surprised that one of the SSS wasn't a high-kicking Cossack in a furry hat. That screams "lame superhero concept" to me. I can imagine him now, the Crimson Cossack, folding his arms and unleashing a flurry of savage kicks to someone like Starfox or Hercules, all to the tune from Tetris...

Chuck T. said...

Awesome. I know I've read this issue at some point, but it would've been nice to have. Ditko also had a jab in an old What the?! about these crowd scenes: "Just keep pulling back!" until it's an army of stick figures pummelling each other.
Some random questions/observations: why is Beta Ray Bill subbed in for Thor in a lot of these crossovers?
"Tiny Bolshevik" was the Gremlin, and even though he was incinerated by Iron Man during Armor Wars, he's still gotten two action figures since. That's two more than Darkstar, Vanguard, or Ursa Major; and at least one more than Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man!
I think in old Captain America issues the Super-Soldiers were either replaced or absorbed into another team of Russian guys: the new Red Guardian (evil Cap, complete with shield), Vostok (evil Vision-style robot); uh, Russian Scarlet Witch...well, that's probably why you don't see them much any more.
Anyway, enough meandering, thanks for the tip!