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An Ode to a Licensed Character, Part 7 of 8 – Rom #74

August 9, 2010

We’re almost at the end of this series. After this issue Rom only had one more appearance before he made his exit from the Marvel Universe. Then his silver armor disappeared, never to be seen again. Where do we stand? Rom and his Spaceknight companions have returned to Galador, their homeworld, only to find that a new generation of Spaceknights has gone rogue and enslaved the human population. Brandy Clark, Rom’s Earthwoman paramour, has been transported to Galador by the Beyonder, and moments ago the bad Spaceknights destroyed the containers which housed every Spaceknight’s humanity.

Things look pretty grim for our heroes.

“The Bargain!” is scripted and pencilled by the same duo as in the other installments in this series, Bill Mantlo and Steve Ditko, while the omnipresent John Byrne takes up the guest inker duties. He and Ditko make for a pretty good combo, and this may very well be their only collaboration [Edit: I was, of course, wrong — see the Comments section for other teamings of these two talents]. Byrne adds a depth and darkness to Ditko’s art that meshes very nicely with the content of this issue — I think you’ll see some of that in the panels I’ve scanned.

We start right where the previous issue ended, and Rom is aghast at what these new Spaceknights have done. His companions are rightly pissed off, and Seeker and Trapper give these young whippersnappers battle. Trapper takes no prisoners — she’s as brutal as they come:

Finally Rom’s abhorrence of harming fellow Spaceknights is overcome and he joins the combat, along with a few surviving humans. Things get ugly, and Ditko crafts a spectacular two-page spread to depict the carnage — this is one of those instances where Byrne’s inks amplify Ditko’s efforts:

Our heroes are overcome by sheer numbers and, after the remaining humans are tragically killed, are forced to use subterfuge to make their escape. It’s a dark time for them all as they contemplate their destroyed humanity and the destruction of their world, and Rom and Brandy share a quiet and rather touching moment in the subterranean passageways where they’ve taken refuge:

The Spaceknights concoct a desperate plan. Other comrades of theirs are still in space, trying to find Galador.* Scanner thinks that if she can get to some amplification equipment she can use her communication powers to send a signal to their friends, and hopefully they’ll get the message in time to come and help them. To get to that equipment, thought, they’ll have to break into the evil Spaceknights’ stronghold.

Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.

They bust their way in, and Scanner makes for the equipment while Trapper and Seeker cover her. Rom heads off to confront the leader of the rogues, the menacingly named (and vaguely Darth Vader-ish) Lord Dominor. Dominor relays to Rom his dissatisfaction with the rash deeds of his underlings and reveals his own rather Hitlerian schemes:

Then Dominor makes an indecent proposal, and he ain’t no Robert Redford:

So Rom has to decide whether to join with Dominor, give him Brandy and in so doing preserve his species, or…

Well, I guess there’s no other choice. The other option is to fight to the end in a hopeless, nihilistic struggle. What does Rom choose?

Nobody’s touchin’ Rom’s woman! And that, my friends, is why I love the guy.

This is another great issue in this last run. I’ll say it again — Ditko and Byrne made for a good combo, especially in an issue where savage action played such a critical role. And I especially appreciate the final sequence between Rom and Dominor — the simplicity of the layouts, the cramped construction of the panels and the shadows give it a very noir-y feel.

Needless to say, the next and final installment in this series will be bittersweet. Until then…

*Galador was hidden by Galactus in an earlier issue. — Jolly Jared

9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2010 12:42 pm

    Hey, quite note to let you know I’m enjoying these Rom posts. (FYI, I’m hoping to review the whole series next year, and will make sure to link out to these when I do!) I really loved this issue when it came out; it was great seeing Byrne getting to ink one of his major influences in Ditko. Fun stuff!


    • August 9, 2010 5:51 pm

      Thanks for the comment — I’m looking forward to the series review. There was definitely some cool stuff towards the middle of the run when the title really got its bearings.

  2. August 9, 2010 5:38 pm

    Perhaps it won’t please a Rom fan like yourself, but the silver armour was seen again. “Hulk” #381, circa 1991.

    Rick Jones’ girlfriend Marlo unwittingly opens a closet in his apartment and an avalanche of silver armour crashes to the floor. A distinctly recognizable helmet (and “mitten” gloves) are seen.

    Rick comments “Oh, nuts. THAT’S where I stashed it. I was supposed to ship that back to the toy factory.”

    • August 9, 2010 6:14 pm

      I was definitely too broad in that statement. I should have said that Rom in his armor — as a proper superhero — is gone for good (so it seems). Rom himself has shown up in human form, for instance at Rick Jones’ wedding, and his armor has been seen in very (and I mean very) brief cameos. And if you look closely you can even spot him on the Imaginationland episode of South Park.

      I wasn’t aware of the particular cameo that you mentioned — thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’ll keep an eye out for it. I like it when folks throw a quick Rom reference into a story. His day may be over, but it’s gratifying to know that people remeber him.

  3. Edo Bosnar permalink
    August 10, 2010 7:19 am

    I’m enjoying your Rom posts as well, and I also agree with you that Ditko and Byrne make a surprisingly good team of artists. By the way, this is not, in fact, their only collaboration. They also worked together in the outstanding Avengers Annual 13.

    • August 10, 2010 9:22 am

      I was wondering about that, but I was too damn lazy to look into it. Thanks for the info.

      I like to picture Byrne and Ditko arguing about, well, anything. It’s entirely possible that they never once met face to face, but they’re definitely two guys with strong opinions about things.

  4. Scott Rowland permalink
    August 13, 2010 5:47 pm

    A very young and inexperienced John Byrne also inked Ditko’s pencils for the unpublished Captain Atom 90 that was reptrinted in the magazine-sized Charlton Bullseye. That was reprinted in the Action Heroes Archives that DC put out a while back.

    Sadly, I don’t think we ever saw an experienced Byrne inking full Ditko pencils. From what I understand, Ditko was doing very sparse layouts for hiss tenure on Rom and in the Avengers Annual. But even so, it made a nice combination. Which is kind of strange, because I’m not that fond of Byrne’s inks on his own pencils . . . .

    • August 14, 2010 9:35 am

      Thanks for the addition. I’m not sure how sparse Ditko’s pencils were on Rom — sometimes an artist’s style can disappear entirely when they simply do layouts. I don’t find that to be the case with Ditko’s Rom run.

      An interesting (or maybe not) aside — Ditko was actually the first artist whose art I could recognize as theirs. I remember when I was little (I’m thinking 7 or 8 or 9) realizing that they guy who drew the Spider-Man stories reprinted in Marvel Tales was they same guy that drew the Silver Spaceknight. That was probably the first time I ever looked at the story credits, that time so I could get confirmation of what my eyes were telling me.

  5. September 10, 2010 7:01 pm

    74 like 73 were an improvement art wise since Dikto had some assistance. it’s that wasn’t the case in the saga conclusion 75. but even in issues like 73 and 74 one of the things that drove me nuts was still an ongoing thing, ROM’s fu@#$% eyes! i hated how Dikto always just drew them as these two goofy looking red dots. the flashy “star burst” style they had traditionally been drawn in for years was so much more poignant. it made ROM look both majestic and intense at the same time.
    and what happened to the last few panels of this issue anyways? it’s like were never fully inked or something. i’m sorry to be going off on such a tirade on your blog Jared. but your ode to ROM posts are giving me such a wonderful opportunity to unload on over 25 years of repressed anger and disapointment. really i appreciate you visiting my blog and indulging my rants on yours.

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