Spaceknight Saturdays: Extended!

So yeah, I've decided to keep this going beyond Rom's "best before" date. Spaceknights is a five-issue mini-series that is at once a labour of love from artist Chris Batista and a labour of hate from writer-for-hire/telephone caller Jim Starlin. What does that do to a comic? Apparently, relegate it to "it never happened" status with the fans, as much as Star Trek V or Episodes 1-3 of Star Wars or even Teen Wolf 2.

But we're gonna give it a shot. It's not like every comic I've ever featured on this blog has been GOOD, right? And the creative team did have a number of challenges to overcome. One of which was doing a series that spun out of Rom without having the rights to that character. I do like their solution: Elevate Rom to sainthood and explain the backstory in tinted glass. That gives the artist all kinds of creative license!
Tinted Glass Rom has a halo and Neutralizer energy coming out of his hands...
He is a god among men.
Strong opening to the series. Now, another challenge was the whole matter of repopulating Galador. At the end of Rom Spaceknight, we were left with the impression that Rom and Brandy were going to pull off an Adam and Eve and do it all alone, but it's now some 20 years later and the planet's got a population and only two Spaceknights identified as Rom's sons. Further, as we start things off, we meet a member of the angel elite who is the only one of his subrace ever to genetically qualify for Spaceknighthood.
Pretty cool, but surprising, as the angels all seemed to have been killed by Dominor's NextGen Spaceknights. So did Rom harvest DNA from various corpses and surviving Spaceknights (cuz where are THOSE guys now?) and grow his civilization back in test tubes? Or did we only see events occurring in the capital city and there were a number of other enclaves around the planet? Since there are some old men walking around shouting advice, I guess it's probably the latter. Or are those older characters Spaceknights who have cloned their humanity back? It's not real clear, and it may just be that Starlin never read the key issues.

And what of Rom in this new world? Well, we can't really call him that, so they call him "First One" (confusing the issue of who begat what further) and "Prime Director" (that's the highest position in the land) and "Father/Dad" (his sons only) and "Artour" (his first name finally revealed? More on that later). In any case, Rom's cameo is very brief indeed. Seems like he was killed just before the series started.
So the series is really about Rom's two heirs, Balin and Tristan, both NextNextGen Spaceknights and deep in a Cain and Abel relationship. Balin is the volatile "bad" brother who has inherited Terminator's title (a nice nod to the fact that Terminator stole half Rom's humanity) and Tristan is the "good" brother all in white (he's the new Rom in all but name). It's a Marvel comic so they fight.
These new Spaceknights can apparently switch to and from armored mode. I guess Rom didn't want anyone to lose their humanity ever again. Those things are so easily mislaid, stolen or destroyed. With Rom gone, Brandy tries to take the reins of leadership, but she's not a real Galadorian, which weakens her claim to the throne.
That must suck about as much as being called Brandy Prime. She should have kept her maiden name.

So she names Prince Balin, Sir Terminator, as successor, and he must confirm that succession by pulling out Axadar, the Neutralizer recast as a sentient object that only allows itself to be yielded by someone worthy of it (and that apparently has had a big makeover).
That's a fail. If you haven't clued in yet that the series is robbing Arthurian Myth blind... We've got Rom being called Artour (Arthur), we've got the Neutralizer turned into Excalibur, we've got his sons named after knights of Earth legend, and we've got brothers sure to be pitted against one another (à la Arthur and Mordred).

Balin isn't the chosen one, but no one thinks to let Tristan try, so the darker brother inflames the crowd with his charisma and takes on the mantle of leadership anyway. Just in time, because a corrupted Spaceknight has forced the planet Trion to declare war on Galador.

Frankly, despite the dissonant transition between series and complete lack of mittens, it's not a bad start. Next: Things get worse. (Am I talking about the situation or the comic? Come back and see!)


Servo said...

Thanks for reviewing this series, Siskoid. I honestly never sat down and read this (thankfully - from the sounds of it).

On the one hand, I can only imagine the legal mess it must have been to have any writer extend the ROM storyline.

On the other, man what the hell was Starlin doing?! It really saddens me because Starlin's shown some amazing Sci-Fi work in the past. It's like the guy woke up one day, and just decided to thumb his nose at all things comic book-related.

Siskoid said...

And yet kept at it. I despise his latest DC work.

chiasaur11 said...

Yeah, stained glass ROM is nifty keen. The rest looks quite painful.

I am kinda curious what you'd have done in a similar situation, Siskoid. As bad is this looks, it can't be the easiest thing to write a sequel to a series when the main character isn't legally fully available.

Siskoid said...

I'd probably have left sleeping dogs lie.

But if the train was already out of the station... I dunno. Not the faux-Camelot stuff certainly. Dire Wraith threat right out of the gate. More Rom (in human form or in a new cyborg form and new codename). A full explanation of how Galador was repopulated.

I'm just listing things I would have liked to have seen.

Prime Director said...

Thanks reviewing all Rom-related material, 'skoid. As disappointing as the Spaceknights limited series is, I'm glad you've provided a forum to bitch about it. No slight intended towards you. Your blog is great.

But on to the bitching:

Rom and the Spaceknights of Galador were soldiers, not an insignificant fact when you consider that Jim Shooter wrote the orgin sequence in '78 or '79, only about 5 years after the end of the Vietnam War.

Sacrifice was a word that occured time and time again when Rom mentioned becoming a spaceknight (the flower of Galador's youth sacrificed their humanity to become cold warriors.) In order to wield power great enough to repel the Wraith invasion, the volunteers underwent a transformation that dehumanized them. That was always key.

When his world was confronted with an existential crisis, Rom chose to become less than human in order to defend what he loved. Peaceful Galador became a militarized society and its citizens warriors; but one day they would shed their armor and live in peace once more. When the war was over, Rom would renounce his power and reclaim his humanity.

As someone who grew up during the Cold War, I apppreciate how some of the important elements of the ideological struggle that split the world into two hostile camps can found in hieroglyph throughout the series.

The fact Starlin and Bautista write about Galadorians assuming these fantastic powers without acknowledging the effects this power has on their humanity is what is most disappointing. Its like they missed the whole f**king point. To them, as long as the right guy (Tristan) wields power without purpose, everything is fine.

How DARE Starlin call Mantlo's work stupid?

Anonymous said...

Always insightful as ever, 'koid. As a ROMite of old, I was attracted by the slick art of "Spaceknights" but underwhelmed by the lack of connectivity to the original series. A missed opportunity, sadly; Galador's finest are still around, though - the Spaceknights turn up briefly in the "Annihilation Conquest Prologue", and I hold out hope they and the Dire Wraiths will might make a return visit to Marvel's current 'cosmic' books.

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

hey Siskoid, I made a post that will test your knowledge of the ROM anthology with a trivia question based on a sketch i did tonight. I guessing either you or Eclectic Lee will figure it out.


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