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An Ode to a Licensed Character, Part 8 of 8 – Rom #75

September 7, 2010

I grew up in upstate New York, and the Adirondack winters of my youth were cold and filled with snow. To keep my little hands warm my grandmother always knitted mittens for me (I know, I’m pushing the wuss-meter here). They were nice, and I liked them because when I’d play in the snow they’d get caked with the stuff. They’d be pretty much solid white.

They’d look like Rom’s hands.

What a long strange trip it’s been in this series on Rom’s final issues. I started it right around the time I opened this blog, which wasn’t that long ago though it seems that long ago. Click on the “Rom” tag if you want to read the earlier installments.

First, some housekeeping. I neglected to mention the death of one of the Spaceknights, Seeker, in the last issue. I apologize for the oversight, but since his death happened off-screen (screen? page?) it just slipped my mind. He died buying time for his comrades, as Rom flew off to confront the evil Lord Dominor and the two lady Spaceknights, Trapper and Scanner, went to try and contact other Spaceknight good guys still out roaming the galaxy.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get going.

This issue, aptly titled “The End!” comes to us from the familiar team of scripter Bill Mantlo and penciller Steve Ditko, with inks from P. Craig Russell (whose gentle style melds quite nicely with Ditko’s). Rom and Dominor have started their dance of death and Dominor continues to demand that Rom surrender Brandy to him. I can’t help but shake the impression that the other evil Spaceknights should be snapping their fingers (if they had any) and singing “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way”:

Lord Dominor quickly displays his penchant for dirty pool:

It seems that the metallic heroes of my youth were often getting slashed in the midsection by energy blades:

While Rom is getting sliced open, Trapper is holding off the rogues while Scanner works her communications magic. This is going to end well for them, right? Right?:

More on the impact of that page in a moment.

While everyone else is dying or flirting with death, Rom’s paramour, Brandy Clark, is rummaging around Galador’s basement, perhaps looking for something to take on Antiques Roadshow. She finds the absolute last thing that she’d expect to run across:

Huh?

The real Rom(?) and Dominor are still battling it out. Dominor uses every heel tactic that he can, including some ray that makes Rom hallucinate about the human life he’ll never have again. Finally Rom has his fill, and “goes to the whip hand”:

Dominor isn’t dead, but he’s thoroughly beaten, and the rogues, disgusted, decide to blow up Galador and everyone on it, including Dominor. They offer Rom a chance to join them and live. Or will he die with his world?:

I find that to be one of my favorite Rom panels, and it seals my love for the guy. He’s exhausted, Dominor’s melted half of his armor, he still has the damn Spaghettio rings that Ego’s antibodies gave him back in issue #69 (that have disappeared and reappeared depending on the inker), but he’s honorable to the end.

The rogues form a circle, not to sing Kumbaya but to blow the world to kingdom come:

“Ring of Power” you say? Get the Tolkien estate on the phone!

In a final proof that the new Spaceknights aren’t the brightest bulbs around, they only wind up destroying the tower they’re in and themselves — Rom and Dominor survive. Apparently Dominor built a failsafe into his minions for just such an eventuality, and I think he’d be forgiven if he had this reaction to their self-destruction:

Any crowing would be short-lived, however, because Dominor promptly discovers that the hiding place for his own humanity, his throne, has also been destroyed. This sends him over the edge, and, after he overpowers Rom and seizes his Neutralizer, he pulls a Hemingway:

Soon Brandy and the Spaceknights that Scanner was able to contact show up, and they come bearing a gift — a glowing orb that contains Rom’s humanity. Whaaaaaaaa?:

I know, it’s a little too convenient. But everybody else is dead, so I guess we can have this happy ending. Rom takes the orb and… :

The good Spaceknights take the news of their own destroyed humanity incredibly well, and fly off to protect Galador while Rom and his woman, uh, get down to business:

Like rabbits, folks. Like rabbits.

And that’s all she wrote. In some ways the quick and out-of-left-field resolution to the story robs the overall arc of some of its power, but I recall as a youngster being very sad to see Trapper and Scanner die. Not to stretch the earlier Transformers comparison too thin, but their brutal killings were eerily like the deaths of so many Autobots later that summer in the animated Transformers: The Movie. You could have picked my jaw up off the floor when I saw most of my favorite robots in disguise wiped out on screen, characters that were never even slowed down by a laser blast on the TV show:

I never developed the attachment to the Spaceknights that I did to the Transformers, but I think I remember making my own paper figurines of them (crude, I’m sure), much like a young Alex Ross made figures of his favorite DC characters (as detailed in Mythology):

Mine sucked. They were flat and two-dimensional, but then again I wasn’t destined to grow up and be a superstar artist. Go easy on me. The point is, I came to love the Spaceknights, and it was especially jarring to see ladies (armor clad ladies, granted) die in such a violent fashion. It’s a kick in the groin, and it more than makes up for the “Hey Rom, I found your humanity in the back of a closet!” resolution.

My thanks to Bill Mantlo for crafting this story, to Steve Ditko for bringing it to such vivid life, and to all the inkers that embellished the master’s pencils on this arc, one of the treasures of my childhood. I’ll be carrying around memories of Rom and supporting players like Unam the Unseen and Raak the Breaker for the rest of my days.

And that, my friends, concludes my Ode to a Licensed Character.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2010 9:53 am

    I haven’t reread my Rom’s since I was a kid, but I seem to remember the series wandering a bit after the conclusion of the Wraith War. I plan to reread the entire series next year, and your reviews have whetted my appetite. Thanks!

    Cheers,
    Andrew
    ComicsBronzeAge.com

    • September 8, 2010 9:56 pm

      You’re welcome. I’ve only done a cursory read of the earlier issues — these were the only Rom comics I had back in the day. The series did meander a tad after the Wraiths went bye-bye, but things got back on track when “getting home” became the new focus of the series.

  2. September 10, 2010 3:51 am

    well isn’t this interesting? i just recently posted on my blog about the ROM “zero issue” that has a lot to do with how the series ended and my issues with it. among them the whole gypsy crystal ball that makes spaceknights into human complete with clothes and all. you might even find my very first blog interesting as well since i compare the qualities of ROM and Optimus Prime.

  3. September 10, 2010 12:19 pm

    Hello Jared

    Since art is a subjective thing i can’t say i disagree with the comments you made on my blog about Steve Dikto. suffice it to say as a young teen who had been following ROM for years seeing the Buscema to Dikto transition was quite alarming to me at the time and i guess i never really got over it : ) and by the way i neglected to mention last night that i enjoyed reading this blog entry especially your refferences to the Autobot death toll and the mid-section slashings.
    thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment i enjoy it when people interact on blogs by sharing their thoughts as opposed to just having a look and saying nothing. if you haven’t done so i’d still recommend watching the youtube video link about Sal Buscema on that posting it’s very interesting. also, there is a posting on another blog site i think you will find interesting in light of our conversation topic. plus in general this guy has an awesome blog:
    http://itsadansworld.blogspot.com/2010/03/moments-in-cool-cap-leads-heroes-of.html

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