Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rom vs. the Thing: Who Wins?

This is a story that happened before Rom went off on his European vacation.

For Ben Grimm, it occurs just before Marvel Two-in-One is turned into The Thing.

For me, it only happened when it was handed to me by my good friend Bauble.

Likely, this is the issue that will never be reprinted in the Essential series.

This is Marvel Two-in-One #99 by Bill Mantlo, Bob Hall and Kevin Dzuban: Rom versus the Thing.

So Rom lands the first blow, sacking Grimm in a surprise "falling from the sky, boiling hot" maneuver.
No, no, it's all a big Marvel-like mistake. In reality, Rom came to ask for the Fantastic Four's help after discovering a coven of Dire Wraiths raising the Firefall armor from the dead.
Zombie armor. But this is well before Marvel knew zombies were such a hot property. Speaking of hot:
The reanimated armor of Firefall heats Rom up to dangerous levels, and the Spaceknight only just manages to control his fall onto the Baxter Building. The Thing agrees to help and off they go to Central Park for more zombie action. Rom quickly realizes that Grimm isn't all that good at fighting flaming ghosts, despite his considerable Human Torch experience.
While the Thing was useless on defense, Rom is great on offense.
The Thing goes down into the bowels of Central Park (for what is a park without bowels), and finds the Wraiths. They use their magical powers to take control of him (which might be why Firefall took a dive like that, they are notoriously bad multi-taskers) which sets up the championship bout. DING DING DING!

First blow goes to the Thing, sending Rom reeling in what the Queensbury Rules call an undignified position.
But the fight is over before it can really begin when Rom applies his Neutralizer to his opponent, sapping the cosmic energy right out of his DNA and turning him once again into Ben Grimm (temporarily).
This breaks the spell and the bout comes to a rather abrupt end. Except - and this is my favorite part - the human, fleshy version of Ben Grimm is a DIRE WRAITH KILLING MACHINE!!!!
They have no chance.
And while Rom does lend considerable support with his Limbo Special Delivery Service...
...Ben Grimm's fists turn Dire Wraiths into DUST!!!
My friends, while we bask in the glory that is a Rom story by Bill Mantlo, let me give you, in the fine Bob Haneysque tradition of The Brave and the Bold, the two heroes' Friendly Farewell(TM).
Look, the fact that Rom never did call only solidifies his reputation as a stud.

Star Trek 844: Double Blind, Part One

844. Double Blind, Part One

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #24, DC Comics, March 1986

CREATORS: Diane Duane (writer), Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists)

STARDATE: Unknown (follows the last issue)

PLOT: When Excelsior is told to surrender by a low-powered ship of the Ajir Empire, Kirk does! It's a ploy, of course, but his instincts tell him there's nothing to worry about. Put in the brig by the awkward bug-like aliens, the bridge crew is released when the alternate crew, including a Horta lieutenant with a passing resemblance to both Brainiac and Castle Grayskull......stage a show of their own incompetence running the ship. The senior officers are instructed to show each Ajir how to work the ship and they make it seem extra complicated and start to collect information. Just hen they realize the Ajir are naive simpletons with little taste violence or technical knowledge, the Ajir ship is destroyed by the Grond...

CONTINUITY: The Horta are from Devil in the Dark, but "one of the first Hortas in Starfleet", Naraht, is from Duane's TOS novels, from My Enemy, My Ally onward. Janice Kerasus and Carver are also crewmen she's used in her novels, though the latter also appears in the TAS episode The Lorelei Signal. Kirk invokes the Great Bird of the Galaxy, a reference to Gene Roddenberry.

DIVERGENCES: Looking at the TNG era, it's hard to believe there were ever multiple Hortas in Starfleet.

PANEL OF THE DAY - What it would actually be like to serve on a starship
REVIEW: Diane Duane, better known for her Trek novels, writes a pretty fun comedy here. She brings in her own characters, which helps solidify the overall non-canon Trek continuity, but doesn't forget to include the comic series' original characters (Konom gets a scene, for example). I don't really like how the Horta is drawn, but My Enemy, My Ally was one of the first Trek novels I ever read, and I marveled at the diverse alien population on the Enterprise it depicted. Fun to see it in pictures regardless. Maybe the danger will be ramped up in the second part of the story, but for now, Double Blind stands out as one of the better uses of humor in the comics.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rom Bonus Fortnight: Face the Music!

Yeah, I've decided to keep plugging away at Rom Spaceknight this week too. You start doing research, you make discoveries, five days just can't contain them. And so, more Rom. Everybody wins.

Today, just a quick look at some songs that reference Rom. The most famous, of course, is the Wu-Tang Clan's "Impossible". The reference occurs at 1:15.

That's:
A Spaceknight like Rom, consumes planets like Unicron,
Blasting photon bombs from the arm like Galvatron

Nice, but what's with the segue into Transformers territory? Rom's not a robot! Nor can he transform into a pay loader! Sorry RZA, but the metaphor doesn't pass inspection. You really needed to mention Limbo and/or the Wraiths in that verse. Like:
A Spaceknight like Rom, beats Wraiths with one blow
Blasting them with a Neutralizer back to Limbo

Or something.

Now this next one by HB3 is actually called Rom Spaceknight. Check it out!
Rom Spaceknight
Now that's nerd music like I love it! More HB3 at MySpaceMusic.

Star Trek 843: Wolf at the Door

843. Wolf at the Door

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #23, DC Comics, February 1986

CREATORS: Tony Isabella (writer), Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists)

STARDATE: 8878.4 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: Kirk's landing party barely makes it off Enoch IV alive (with Chekov in critical condition) and Redjac follows them to attack the ship. Excelsior eventually creates a wormhole and traps Redjac inside it.

CONTINUITY: Redjac (Wolf in the Fold). McCoy uses Fabrini drugs to put Chekov in suspended animation (For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky). The ship creates a wormhole using the accident in The Motion Picture. Kirk mentions his command of the USS Saladin (Star Trek Annual #1, which I haven't yet discussed in these reviews).

DIVERGENCES: None.

PANEL OF THE DAY - This startled even me.
REVIEW: A rather exciting second part that uses Trek continuity nimbly to both put an end to Redjac and leave things open for his return. There's a beautiful panel of an anguished Nancy Bryce standing over the corpses of the crewmen she slew while possessed, though this action piece has fewer interesting transitions than part 1. I'd have liked Isabella to write a longer run after this two-parter. He's really good and brought out the best in the Sutton-Villagran team. Sure, the Redjac monster sometimes looks like a cardboard Halloween mask, but also manages to be effective in a few places.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

This Week in Geek (23-29/03/09)

Buys

None. This week, I keep my money.

"Accomplishments"

Books: Finally finished Tales of Riverworld which I started - gasp! - in early November. I usually slow down in the winter because I can't read while walking AND avoid deadly ice patches, slushy potholes and windchill, but it didn't help that I took on some middling short stories. I like Philip José Farmer's Riverworld on which these are based, but while everyone that's ever lived can become a character, it still feels like the world's limits make the stories kind of the same anyway. Still, there are some interesting ones in here, like Allen Steele's Graceland - in which the King and other great rockers build a island of godless rock'n'roll music that might be taken down by Jim Morrison - and Philip C. Jennings' Blandings on Riverworld - which Bully should really check out since it features P.G. Wodehouse. A few smiles along the way, but let's say I'm not in a hurry to start on the other volume, Quest for Riverworld.

Of course, I read the second Star Trek S.C.E. eBook this morning. You already know about that.

Trades: Also finished Fables vol.11 - War and Pieces, a very acceptable final chapter to the series, except that it won't be. I'll have to see if Willingham really does have more worthwhile stories to tell, or if he'll overstay his welcome. After all, he's also got Jack of Fables. Anyway, War and Pieces has some good bits with Cinderella the super-spy, a huge climax, and better action art than most superhero comics. (And I should say I'm mystified to learn of Willingham's right-wing politics when the evil empire in Fables is so obviously Bush's America. But that's all I'm gonna say on the subject.)


Games: For our annual campus games, I designed and executed (with the help of a few volunteers) an Amazing Race. Did the same last year, but this time doubled the number of challenges and trebled the difficulty. The Engineering School won (as usual, might I say) though they laughably had trouble finding the Library, but Education gave them a run for their money, both teams landing on the mat within seconds of each other (never underestimate an engineering student's control over elevators). It's our Law School I really want to snicker at, however, whose team broke down and cried at the "eat something gross" challenge and quit one challenge from the end after practically two hours of breakneck racing. But kudos to my friend Bébert who said he'd help out only if he could be put on the cruelest station. (I gotta wrap this post up, the actual Amazing Race starts in a few minutes.)

New Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG cards: 15, all from Four to Doomsday, which I'm struggling to finish because of overtime at work. Sorry kids!

Someone Else's Post of the Week
Bonus Rom Fortnight continues here at SBG with Eclectic Lee's feature on the Dire Wraiths' comeback in Secret Invasion/Dark Reign. I hate both crossover events, so it's a good thing Lee caught those references, because I wouldn't have.

Star Trek 842: Fatal Error

842. Fatal Error

PUBLICATION: Starfleet Corps of Engineers #2, Pocket eBooks, September 2000 (collected into print with first 4 S.C.E. ebooks as Have Tech, Will Travel in January 2002)

CREATORS: Keith R.A. DeCandido

STARDATE: Unknown (follows last book in the series)

PLOT: Ganitriul is a massive sentient computer overseeing Eerlikka society. When it malfunctions, it sends a distress call to Starfleet and the da Vinci races to help. There, while the Bynar 110 must deal with the loss of his bondmate, the crew beams to the computer housed on Eerlik's moon, even as a dissident faction bears down on it. Their goal: To return their people to a more natural way of life by any means necessary. Both the away team and the ship get into fire fights, but manage to use computer expertise to win the day. With the help of Ganitriul itself, the S.C.E. (110 in particular) fix the malfunctions caused by a virus, and get the good will of the Eerlikka. But will 110 now refuse to return to Bynaus for a new bonding?

CONTINUITY: Gomez still gets teased about the hot chocolate spilled on Picard incident. Geordi LaForge is still aboard.

DIVERGENCES: None.

CASTING PHOTOS OF THE WEEK - Charlie Lang as Kieran Duffy, Bari Hochwald as Elizabeth Lense, and Jay Baker as Fabian Stevens
REVIEW: Though the basic plot has a lot in common with S.C.E. #1 (running around a dangerous facility, getting access to its interior and being chased by aliens), it's a much more pleasant affair. DeCandido manages to draw a clear picture of Eerlik society and creates a rare "good guy" sentient computer. He keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace by cutting from one character to another and not showing us every single scene, allowing for surprises. Geordi doesn't take over the book this time, which also helps. Mostly, I think the success of Fatal Error is 110 the Bynar who is obviously being groomed to play the Spock/Data/Odo/EMH/Seven/Worf role, i.e. a combination of the outsider exiled from his own home and the observer of humanity. Like Ganitriul, he's experiencing a "fatal error" with the loss of his mate, and quite endearingly, doesn't want to dishonor her by bonding again, even if that is what's expected of him. This romantic streak in a highly computerized species is interesting, and I can't wait to see how his development towards individuality contrasts with Seven of Nine's. Not high literature, but a quick, fun romp.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spaceknight Saturdays: Like, 200 Annuals Ago

Rom Annual #2 takes us back a couple centuries, before Rom left for Earth, before even the Dire Wraiths left Wraithworld. The Spaceknights were at their apex, and Rom was the greatest and most famous of them all.

Still is. I'm just saying it wasn't a long, hard climb for him.

As for the Wraiths, this story proves the female Wraith Witches, with their funky hands and drill tongues, were there all along. So this was a time before sorcery was apparently gave way to more technological means of fighting the Knights, a pendulum that might just be swinging back.

Let's join the story already in progress, all those years ago, as Rom bears down on a Wraith armada.
See? Ships were co-ed in those days. After he blows up a few ships or starts sending their pilots to Limbo, the witches send those huge Deathwings to eat him up. But this is Rom in his prime, baby!
That's three in one shot! Cutting their losses the Wraiths run back to Wraithworld.
Wow, cesspool. Corrosive atmosphere, disturbingly-shaped mountains, a black sun... Rom follows the last ship to the Wraith capital and makes it crash into their fortress.
From there, it's a simple task to banish the entire civilian population to Limbo.
EVIL civilians, of course. And since it's Limbo, you can't call it genocide. Well, you can, but Rom won't let you.

He gets into something sticky however when Wraith witches confuse him with the illusion of Wraith masses (or I guess you could call them wraith Wraiths), and abandon their homeworld while he fights phantoms in perpetuity. It'll be up to the Spaceknight Squadron to rescue him.
Who are these guys? They were apparently conceived and created by artist Richard Konkle who will supply a pin-up in Rom #50. He's responsible for other minor creations Bill Mantlo used in his Marvel Comics work. The Squadron includes:

Tarm the Seeker!
He turns into a biooootiful butterfly and needs his fellow Spaceknights to regularly pull his metal bacon out of the frying pan.

Raak the Breaker!
Though he's pretty tough and serves as a mobile microwave, his main characteristic is that he thinks he's better than Rom. Like, why is this comic not called Raak Annual #2?!? Where's HIS toy? Dude, hate to tell you this, but it's your silly cat-ears.

Skera the Seeker!
Her senses are so acute, she can't STAND it! Buscema, Akin & Garvey are indeed intense.

The unfortunately named Plor the Pulsar!
The darling of the female Starknights, this golden cyborg throws these circles around. Pretty flashy.

Unam the Unseen!
He can turn himself as invisible as he feels in the eyes of...

Vola the Trapper!
There's a reason all the boys want to get with her. She takes down the two last elementals guarding the deserted Wraith fortress, giving them access to the crazed Rom who sees Dire Wraiths simply everywhere.
Obviously, Raak starts shooting at Rom like he's a popcorn bag. Maybe get his name on the cover or something. Unam grows a spine just then...
...and talks Rom down. No microwaves, no punching, no powers. Just reasoned talk between well-spoken cod Shakespearean Spaceknights.

There's a lesson in that. Next week: Punching!

And while you wait, more Bonus Rom Content!

Star Trek 841: Wolf on the Prowl

841. Wolf on the Prowl

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #22, DC Comics, January 1986

CREATORS: Tony Isabella (writer), Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists)

STARDATE: 8878.1 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: The Excelsior is lured to the planet Enoch, where an evil god is worshiped... Redjac! But Redjac has already started killing officers aboard the ship, leaving taunts on the walls, written in blood. After Konom is severely injured (though likely the vessel for a couple murders), he is in Sickbay to witness Redjac's murder of the medical staff. Kirk beams down to Enoch with a landing party that includes Redjac's newest vessel, Nancy Bryce...

CONTINUITY: Redjac is from Wolf in the Fold (a story retold in flashback).

DIVERGENCES: Saavik calls Uhura "Uhuru", a classic mistake that rears its head again.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Redjac? Or how Scotty REALLY feels?
REVIEW: Tony "Black Lightning" Isabella brings real grit and cinematic pacing to his Star Trek story arc by juxtaposing horrific scenes of violent murder with talking scenes between characters. This cross-cutting amps the suspense and gives meaning to the deaths of crew members we know nothing about. Throw in an old and well-remembered enemy, Kirk actually affected by redshirts' deaths, and good use of the Konom-Bryce romance and Konom-Bearclaw rivalry, and you've got a pretty solid comic book. I also like how Isabella makes Redjac move around subtly, without explanation. If a character acts strangely here, or has an odd thought there (as in the above panel), it might be Redjac! Creepy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rom: The Spaceknight Role-Playing Game

As part of my Rom Bonus Material (which I think will continue into next week as well), here are Rom's Marvel Super-Heroes RPG stats from the Gamer's Handbook, volume 3. In case you're following the saga along with Spaceknight Saturdays, I've excised any spoilers.Click to read more clearly. And here's the last paragraph.
The Handbook uses short-hand for the stats, so here they are without abbreviation:
Fighting: INCREDIBLE(40)
Agility: EXCELLENT(20)
Strength: INCREDIBLE(40)
Endurance: MONSTROUS(75)
Reason: EXCELLENT(20)
Intuition: EXCELLENT(20)
Psyche: GOOD(10)
Health: 175
Karma: 50
Resources: AMAZING (50)
Popularity: 20

Everything in MSH is ranked on a scale of Feeble to Unearthly, and the points there help you figure out that Amazing is better than Incredible (sorry Hulk, Spider-Man wins!).

Rom wouldn't be Rom without some Dire Wraiths to fight, so here are their stats, copied from TSR's Dragon Magazine #112 (1986).

Dire Wraiths
Fighting: GOOD(10)
Agility: POOR(4)
Strength: REMARKABLE(30)
Endurance: REMARKABLE(30)
Reason: REMARKABLE(30)
Intuition: TYPICAL(6)
Psyche: GOOD(10)
Health: 74
Karma: 46
Resources: AMAZING (50)

Known Powers:
*Shape-Shifting - Change form for combat, often a Deathwing:
F A S E R I P
Go Ex Ty Re Re Ty Go
Health: 66
Karma: 46
Fly at Typical speed and breathe fire once per turn for Incredible damage with Typical range.
*Special Attack - Barbed tongue with acid could instantly penetrate human skull. Excellent damage to armor each turn. Monstrous or better material could not be penetrated. Range of one area. Must completely surprise victim or grapple with hold result. Referee should allow dodge or escape roll since hit means instant death. Right after hit, victim turns to dust and Wraith can become perfect duplicate of victim, including memories and voice. Physical abilities become those of new form and lose all abilities except shape-shifting. If more damage taken than new form can take, revert to original form and retain damage.
*Heat Resistance - Half damage from fire- and heat-based attacks. Double damage from cold-based.
*Magic -Females have Monstrous Psyches and Good Reason and can cast spells.

That article also has Hellhounds, Rocketeers, Starshine, a way to create your own random Starknights and 1986 spoilers. It can be found in pdf format at MarvelRPG.net. Happy GameMastering!

And Spaceknights... don't forget to emote. You've got a robot-like armor to get through.

Star Trek 840: Dreamworld

840. Dreamworld

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #21, DC Comics, December 1985

CREATORS: Bob Rozakis (writer), Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists)

STARDATE: 8293.6 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: Spock and the USS Sarek come upon the unexplored planet Proto. When Spock beams down with a couple of his
crew beam down, he experiences fantastic dream-like events. He awakens himself a couple times, but remains in the dream until he finally uses logic to convince himself it's not real. He awakens for real aboard the Surak, beamed up sleeping from the planet. He must use a mindmeld to get his crew - the bird-like Dr. Chu-Sa and the prejudiced Commander Brinks - out of their dreams. Fighting off a monstrous version of himself in Brinks' dream, he has a stern talk with her about her behavior.

CONTINUITY: None.

DIVERGENCES: Despite being sent to study the Genesis Wave aftermath, Spock and the Surak are investigating unexplored space.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Spock has Bugs Bunny in his subconscious.
REVIEW: A colossal waste of time. While we do meet a few members of Surak's crew, spending the entire book in a surreal dreamscape just doesn't do anything for me. We don't find out how the planet ticks. The prejudice against Vulcans story has been done to death (even at the time). And Bob Rozakis doesn't respect continuity from only a few issues ago. How about the Surak has a real adventure that can adequately lead into ST IV?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What If a Dire Wraith Friggin' Put Dr. Doom's Eye Out?

There was never a Rom What If, sadly, but the Dire Wraiths did make an appearance in What If? vol.2 #39 in Part 5 of Time-Quake, a sort of war between parallel Earths.So what WOULD happen if a Dire Wraith fought an alternate universe version of Dr. Doom?
It would get bitten by Vampire Wolverine.

Of course!

Star Trek 839: Giri

839. Giri

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #20, DC Comics, November 1985

CREATORS: Wenonah Woods (writer, usually credited as Laurie S. Sutton), Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists)

STARDATE: 8298.7 (follows #18)

PLOT: Sulu's R&R comes when he visits his mother's side of the family for a wedding between two warring clans who have turned an ancient feud into a business rivalry. The business: Building giant cyber-suits to help build Starfleet's ships. The bride: Sulu's cousin and former lover. The groom: A guy from the other family, ending the feud for honor but not love. The father-in-law: Trying to kill the father of the bride with industrial accidents, poisoned potables and katanas. Sulu stops every attempt, of course, which culminates in a huge mecha battle in space. Despite one man's thirst for revenge, the wedding does occur and Sulu leaves heartbroken.

CONTINUITY: None.

DIVERGENCES: Mech-like cyber-suits isn't a very Trek-like idea.

PANEL OF THE DAY - You've heard of Japanese miniaturization.
REVIEW: Dude, that's your COUSIN! Otherwise... While this is an exciting issue, with lots of fighting with imaginative weapons and in interesting locations, it is filled with clichés about Japan. Sulu visits a space station that takes its cues from feudal Japan (right down to entire temples inside it), except that they manufacture mechs. The wedding banquet has poison sake and bad sushi. They shout "Banzai!" Sulu uses martial arts, a katana, even chopsticks to drop the bad guy. And everybody dresses like they came out of a Kurosawa film. I was half expecting Godzilla to make an appearance. Sorry to come down on an ish with so many nice visuals and whizzbang action for my favorite TOS character, but while using Japan this way might have been exotic back in 1985, we know far too much about the country now for it to seem like anything but a stereotype checklist. Now I feel bad for dissing a comic that features Sulu kicking ass with mecha. I might reverse this entire review in an hour or two.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rom's Aliens

I love the Alien Races appendix in Marvel Universe Deluxe. All those aliens in black trunks... hehehe. Of course, Rom's species, the Galadorians, look just like humans.The Dire Wraiths, however, really don't.
One of the few aliens represented by a female. And a nude one at that!

Shame about forgetting to include the Galadorians' type of government... Prime Directorship?