21st Jan2020

‘ROM: Dire Wraiths #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Chris Ryall | Art by Luca Pizzari | Published by IDW Comics


So, scanning the new releases for something new to try, this book seemed to jump up into my arms (virtually of course, online comics tend to stay where they are). Those of a certain vintage like me have very fond memories of the ROM, Spaceknight series from Marvel Comics. To this day, I’ve still got about three quarters of the 75 issues run, and if you want to read a book that gives you a perfect snapshot of early 80’s Marvel, that’s the one. Rom, and his main foes the Dire Wraiths basically interacted and came across virtually every Marvel character of the day. Go check the series out, you’ll thank me. But I digress. IDW picked up the publishing rights in 2015, and started publishing a new ROM book, but one that passed me by. Well, I’m happy to take this chance to jump into IDW’s Hasbroverse, and see if I’ve been missing much.

July 1969, and three astronauts are on their way to the Moon. This being the first issue though, we need some introductions and we meet not only the astronauts themselves, but the inhabitants of a secret space station, Adventure-One, tasked to spot any inhuman threats that may come along. Very hush hush. We also meet four stranded Dire Wraiths, currently trapped on the Moon lacking the means to escape it….oh, here comes a Moon landing. I think you know where this is going. A few pages in and this all feels a little confusing. The banter between the crew of the space station makes me feel as though we should know who they are (even though it is 1969), but I don’t, and the banter between the stranded Dire Wraiths feels a little off. I know this is a soft reboot to attract in new readers but Dire Wraiths don’t ‘banter’, they just assimilate and kill.

The Wraiths of course take their chance, and attack the astronauts, as well as the visiting Adventure-One away team, who are colour coded so as to look like Power Rangers. We get to witness a Dire Wraith in action, and see why they are so dangerous. They don’t just kill you, they absorb your essence, your knowledge, your life, and are then able to impersonate you. Invasion of the Dire Wraith Body Snatchers if you will. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise how a full blown invasion of Earth by the Wraiths would be unstoppable almost. A little short back up story gives us our fix of actually seeing a spaceknight, or Solstar Knight as the Wraiths call them, which ties into the main story, and we get a nice cameo of Rom himself, though blink and you’ll miss it.

Not entirely sure how to rate this book if I’m perfectly honest. Knowing how much of a nostalgia buff Chris Ryall is, and I’m sure his love of 1980’s Marvel ROM is as great as mine, he’s really gone against his instincts and cut away from the Wraiths we saw at Marvel. Not sure if that was partly copyright, or just choice, but it doesn’t completely work for me. I didn’t really take to the more ‘human’ way of writing them, arguing, bickering etc. A warrior race like that, I’d imagine a strict hierarchy would be in place. That’s just me, though. The story was ok, little shades of sci-fi and horror blended with a superhero feel, though I never really feel any connection to the characters. Very identikit, there to serve the plot. The art and colouring was very good, and suited the feel they were going for I’d imagine. Pizzari and colourist Boswell did a good job. Nice to see an inking credit for legend Sal Buscema on the back up too.

Did I expect too much, or was I just wanting a Bronze Age time machine? Perhaps, on both counts. Happy to give this book another issue to see how it develops but, as first issues go, I was left a little underwhelmed, despite liking Ryall and the characters.

Not giving up just yet.

***½  3.5/5


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