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An Ode to a Licensed Character, Part 5 of 8 – Rom Annual #4

May 15, 2010

So it’s been a while for this series – I’m afraid that I was channeling a little to much of Kevin Smith with my tardiness on this one.  My reasons are noble, though.  I care about Rom, and since a lot of people couldn’t give a *&%$ about him, I want to be able to give the character’s swan song my full attention.

So I’m back to the Silver Spaceknight.  We’re up to Rom Annual #4, “Blows Against the Empire,” written by Bill Mantlo with pencils from Steve Ditko:

And just to catch you up, Rom has reunited with several of his Spaceknight comrades (Seeker, Scanner and Trapper) and two have been lost along the way (Raak the Breaker banished to Limbo, Unam the Unseen dead but redeemed).  He’s still on his way back to his homeworld (Galador) now that the war against the Wraiths has come to an end.

So where are we now?  The Shi’ar Empire appears in this issue in a big way.  We open with a Shi’ar Dreadnought finding a metal-clad being floating in space.  They bring it aboard, where it promptly wakes up and blasts the hell out of everything and everyone.  A Shi’ar praetor squares off with it, and both combatants are killed in the process.  A doctor on board the Dreadnought, Tyreseus, takes the metal fella back to his lab, where he discovers that the he’s a Spaceknight named Pulsar grievously wounded in battle.  Then Tyreseus makes a big decision:

Tyreseus destroys the Dreadnought and flies off.

Rom and his comrades come upon the wreckage of the Dreadnought, and soon another Shi’ar vessel arrives and beams them aboard:

If this nice two page spread looks familiar, it should.  Here’s what you might be thinking of (sorry for the crappy scan – it’s from a history of the Marvel Universe book I have):

Apparently the Shi’ar Empire has some pretty stringent protocols for where people stand when folks are beamed on board.

The Spaceknights are promptly accused of having destroyed the Dreadnought and a big old brawl ensues.  Seeker squares off against the Shi’ar equivalent of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome‘s Master Blaster:

Vola the Trapper and Scanner also hold their own, with Scanner using a stratagem that would make Moe Howard proud:

Rom tangles with Gladiator in a true battle of titans:

Everything comes to a close as quickly as it starts, though, as Scanner reveals that her heightened senses have determined that a Spaceknight did indeed destroy the Shi’ar ship, and that the Spaceknight was Pulsar.  Rom does as his honor demands and orders his friends to stand down until they can get to the bottom of this.

Gladiator throws them into the clink and is feeling pretty good about himself, right up until he gets a message from the Majestrix that another Dreadnought is under attack.  Oops.  Soon “Pulsar” turns his attention to the vessel containing our heroes and they reach an agreement with Gladiator to team up and deal with this together, as Scanner has determined that the Spaceknight armor contains someone besides the original Pulsar.

The Spaceknights and Gladiator confront the rogue and Rom uses his Neutralizer to negate his powers.  Helpless, he retreats to a nearby planet and there he meets his fate:

Apparently “mercy” isn’t in Gladiator’s vocabulary, though you can’t fault him for being a bit peeved.

With his last words, Tyreseus reveals his true identity and his reasons for doing what he did.  He came from a primitive warrior race enslaved by the Shi’ar, and when a chance to free his people presented itself, he grabbed it.  But when he took the Spaceknight armor and returned to his world to lead his people in rebellion, he found that they had grown fat and happy in the folds of the Empire.  They wanted no part of this mechanized being claiming the role of liberator.  After this rebuff, his subsequent attacks on the Shi’ar were the result of his one remaining motivation – vengeance.

And then he’s dead.

Over Tyreseus’ corpse, Rom and Gladiator debate his deeds:

I like the setup of the last three panels – they always remind me of the point in the first issue of Watchmen when Rorschach is leaving Dan Dreiberg’s basement.  Alan Moore has spoken highly of Ditko’s use of the pattern of equally spaced panels, and I can’t say I disagree with him.  They worked so well on that original run of The Amazing Spider-Man, and if they’re good enough for that, in my book they’re good enough for anything else.

Our story ends as Gladiator sees that perhaps Tyreseus wasn’t the villain that he seemed to be.  To thank Rom and his comrades for their assistance, he activates an interplanetary transporter that sends the Spaceknights all the way back to Galador.

It’s a nice little story, once again dealing with the question of just what defines concepts like courage and honor.  The Shi’ar character designs were a great match to Ditko’s fluid pencils, and I remember as a kid really liking his depiction of Tyreseus and his cat-people:

All in all, it’s a cool stand-alone issue within this wider final arc.  Next time – and hopefully next time won’t take as long to get done – we arrive on Galador, but we learn that the return home is just the start of one final challenge for our heroes.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 10, 2010 6:44 pm

    aside from the demise of yet a another member of the spaceknight squadron this was a good story indeed, it’s just too bad a different artist didn’t work on it. that comparison splash page you have demonstrates my point so well. what’s ROM doing there trying to learn how to get jiggy with it or what?

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