Issue(s): ROM #10, ROM #11, ROM #12
The lettering in the above panel is a little messed up because Marvel's production manager Dan Crespi was sick, so this issue was lettered by "Friends of Danny Crespi".
Since ROM detects that Brandy and Steve are being held against their will, he busts them out of jail. The appearance of a robot alien at the prison at least convinces the police that Brandy and Steve weren't lying, but of course now they are fugitives. ROM then finds out from Brandy where the "Washington" that he's heard his Neutralizer has been taken is located, and he leaves Brandy in Steve's care. As ROM leaves, we see a suspicious grin from Steve.
Later, we'll see that the real Steve is still in prison. ROM should have turned his Analyzer sideways in the scene above.
On ROM's way over we also see undertaker Silas Lane talking with A.C. "Ace" O'Connor, a reporter.
The art in the above sequence is some of Sal Buscema's worst. It's almost got a Carmine Infantino vibe to it, but surely not intentionally. It's just very sloppy looking.
We're still early enough in the series that i guess it's ok that the only action in issue #10 is ROM fighting some US airforce planes on his way to Washington.
When it comes to ROM and the action sequences, Sal's art is definitely better.
ROM is captured by a tractor beam and brought to Project Safeguard in Washington, which has been infiltrated by Dire Wraiths, including Sister Sweet and Doctor Deadalus. They also already have Firefall, with Archie Stryker still inside, and the debate is whether to just kill ROM or try to analyze the Spaceknight armor for the Wraith's own benefit.
The Most High One's decision is to simply kill ROM.
The Most High's reasoning in part is due to the betrayal of Firefall. It's said that Dire Wraiths are not adaptable to Spaceknight technology, but humans, who are "remarkably" similar to Galadorians, can be grafted into the armor. Unfortunately Wraiths are unable to then effectively control the humans.
A similar debate comes up regarding ROM's Neutralizer, which Sister Sweet suggests could be used to free all of the Wraiths that have been banished to Limbo. The Most High One now makes an interesting comment about the conflict among Dire Wraiths when it comes to science vs. sorcery. He says that Wraiths use whatever "best advances our evil" but the "Elders" still prefer sorcery, and that even he obeys the "Council of the First-Born".
Parts of this dichotomy will survive later into the series, but it will presented as the male Dire Wraiths that use science while the females use sorcery. The idea of "First-Born" Wraiths doesn't really survive, as far as i remember. It's also worth noting again that the Most High One himself will eventually be forgotten; i think we're already seeing that he hasn't been completely thought out since he's the Most High but he reports to a Council. To jump ahead a little bit, when the Spaceknights begin to escape, we also hear that Doctor Deadalus is a First-Born.
I guess we can't assume the genders of the Wraiths based on the human forms they take, but the fact that he's clearly in the science faction while being First-Born shows that the division isn't quite so clear cut.
Once the Spaceknights are free, ROM says that Galadorian science could make Firefall human again. Later, we'll learn that in order to do that they need access to the "humanity" portion of the Spaceknight that was taken out to make them a cyborg; maybe ROM thinks he can get access to that while at Project Safeguard.
But we'll never find out, because this is Firefall's final arc, where he gets to redeem himself. ROM's Neutralizer is stuck behind a forcefield that Sister Sweet says will require all of ROM's armor's energy to break through. And meanwhile she's on the intercom making it seem like she (as far as everyone else knows, a human) is being attacked by an evil cyborg.
So ROM has his hands full fighting the project's security forces. But Firefall sacrifices himself to get ROM's Neutralizer.
And ROM turns it on Sister Sweet, banishing her (the Most High One had already left before the Spaceknights got free).
But of course to everyone else it looks ROM has just killed her.
This news gets back to Jack of Hearts' butler, Martins. We knew "Martins", Jack's butler, was assigned to Jack by SHIELD, but he's apparently a Major and has responsibilities beyond training the fledgling superhero.
When Jack hears the news, he heads directly to confront ROM. We also learn that Jack of Hearts is dying of radiation poisoning. That's presented as something we should already know.
Jack is pretty obsessed about handing out his "calling cards".
This series has seen elements of the Marvel universe before, but it's probably no surprise that the first character Bill Mantlo actually has ROM interact with is Jack of Hearts. ROM is unaware that Earth has super-heroes, so he initially assumes that Jack is a Dire Wraith agent. He turns the Neutralizer on him.
But since the Neutralizer doesn't banish Jack to Limbo, ROM realizes that he must be human. We've been told that if ROM were to use his Neutralizer on humans, it would kill them, but Jack is powerful enough to survive. ROM uses his Analyzer and sees that Jack is human but his body is "composed of pure, incredibly explosive energy".
ROM tries to end the fight but Jack of Hearts is persistent. This is what, his third? fourth? misunderstanding fight?
Meanwhile, hearing Jack of Hearts shout his resume of past fights (exclusively other heroes he's blundered into), ROM wonders if he made a mistake coming to Earth, because it sounds like this planet has its own heroes that can protect it.
That could probably be read at a meta-level too; the argument against fully integrating ROM into the Marvel universe. But i think ROM's ability to detect the Wraiths differentiates him enough, and ultimately the way the Wraith War features so many other characters and weaves its way into other books at Marvel is its greatest strength.
ROM's armor has been absorbing energy from Jack during the entire fight, and soon he will have to release the energy or he'll shut down (as he did after the fight with the Hellhounds). ROM heads into space to discharge the energy without hurting anyone. Jack of Hearts follows.
ROM pushes Jack away before exploding. Jack briefly wonders if ROM was helping him, but quickly abandons that line of thinking.
ROM is thought destroyed from the explosion, but we see him landing in the ocean.
Reporter Ace O'Connor has been covering the entire fight.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This arc begins with ROM using his analyzer to track down Brandy and Steve, who are being held in prison. I'm allowing some space between the end of last arc and this one (if Marvel ever release a continuity insert featuring ROM, we'll just have to remember that he doesn't have his Neutralizer between last arc and this one). This arc ends with ROM landing in the ocean. He'll wash up on shore before the beginning of the next issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (8): showAce O'Connor, Doctor Deadalus (Dire Wraith), Firefall (Archie Stryker), Jack of Hearts, Major Martins, Most High One, ROM, Silas Lane, Sister Sweet (Dire Wraith), Starshine II, Steve Jackson
A high point of ROM's tale, and of Marvel in general.
While it was a pretty standard misunderstanding fight, it was superbly prenounced and told.
Sal Buscema, too, was at his peak here.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 6, 2013 10:45 PM
Linkara recently did a ROM retrospective; I think he reasoned it that there is a generational difference between science and magic with the Dire Wraiths, but that the gender dichotomy probably would work with the females going along with the older generation preferring the ancient ways of magic vs. the more "modern" males who end up using more science. I think its a reasonable explanation regarding how Wraith philosophies can go both generational and gender; with maybe some females choosing the "new ways" but not lasting as long as those who chose the older ways that show up later on.
Posted by: Ataru320 | March 1, 2015 8:55 PM
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