Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Like Unto a Thing of Iron, Part Three: ROM #23

"The Thing From Outer Space"

 Continuing an unreprintable two-part gem from POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #73, we find ROM on the run in New York City with the Heroes for Hire, Power Man and Iron Fist. It's hard to believe that this issue is just about thirty-six years old.....I still remember reading it in the spare bedroom of my grandma and grandpa's Bronx apartment. My mom used to work with a young comic-book fan named Andre, who would take my order for that week's books, and give them to my mother when they worked together on Saturdays. Andre was my gateway into the world of direct-market books, such as MARVEL FANFARE, MOON KNIGHT, KA-ZAR, THE MICRONAUTS, and the MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL series. Wherever you are right now, Andre, I thank you for all of the great reading you exposed the eleven-year-old me to, as well as all the great comic-book talks whenever I visited mom at work, and hope you are well.

 ROM #23 is written by Bill Mantlo and illustrated by Sal Buscema and Joe Sinnott. I can go on and on about how much I love the team of Buscema and Sinnott, and I have in many old reviews, so I'll spare you any more gushing. My feelings for Bill Mantlo have been more mixed...Mantlo was known as the go-to guy at Marvel when you had a tight deadline, so a lot of his work seemed, rightfully so, rather rushed. You could always tell when Mantlo cared about the book he was writing, and ROM was one of those books. Mantlo is probably best known these days as the creator of Rocket Racoon, and it's a shame that his best-remembered work, on ROM and THE MICRONAUTS, cannot be reprinted due to rights issues. Mantlo was involved in a serious hit-and-run accident decades ago, and has needed around-the-clock care ever since, due to his serious brain injuries. (If you've ever been a fan of the man or his massive body of work, please consider supporting the Kickstarter campaign to bring his SWORDS OF THE SWASHBUCKLERS title back into print; Bill Mantlo will receive a portion of the money raised. Act fast...it ends in two days.)

 Mantlo keeps things moving briskly in this issue, as Cage & Fist attempt to get ROM through the streets of Manhattan, under martial law thanks to reports of a "Rampaging Robot", to The Baxter Building, where they hope The Fantastic Four can assist ROM's return to his home planet of Galador. Seeing the trio trying to get through the FF's insane security was a hoot, as were the many cameos peppered throughout the issue. (In addition to The FF, there are appearances by J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Moon Knight, and Captain America.) Reading this issue makes me wish that Marvel, Hasbro, and IDW could somehow come to some kind of agreement about reprinting the series in it's entirety. It seems like a pipe dream, but we were lucky enough to get the MASTER OF KUNG-FU reprints, which seemed like a hard "Never gonna happen!", so....you never know. It'd be great to get the series in an omnibus format, fully restored, with Mantlo getting a hunk of the proceeds. Here's hoping.....

 ROM #23 was a blast from the past, and earns eight out of ten Spaceknights: