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The debut of a new ROM comic was exciting and appears successful, though it had some weak spots in a solid issue. The new issue, ROM #2, is an improvement in some key ways. It does, though, suffer from some of the same problems with art that the first issue had. This time the focus is more on ROM and Darby Mason, and that helps reveal more of ROM. The issue also introduced a simple but major problem for ROM. SPOILERS for ROM #2 to follow.
Following an attack on her hometown, war vet Darby Mason learns that her family has been murdered and replaced by shape-shifting aliens called Dire Wraiths. ROM, a Space Knight of the Solstar Order (and also an alien), rescues her. In ROM #2, Mason tries to come to terms what has happened to her family while ROM recovers and reassesses the Dire Wraith threat. The two are attacked by plant-form Dire Wraiths and must retreat to a cavern. Soon after, though, ROM senses a new threat. Once he arrives, he finds police officer Camilla Byers being attacked by Wraiths. Byers, wounded in a previous bout with the Wraiths, has developed some sort of mental connection with them. As an army team approaches, she can tell they are Wraiths while ROM’s analyzer tool does not.
ROM #2 has a few good story moments that make the issue an improvement on the first. While the first issue needed to set up a lot of story elements, the second can develop more. ROM has an extended conversation with Mason, and we learn that he was once a human of sorts on another world. When Dire Wraiths attacked, he joined the war and became a Space Knight. In the first issue, ROM appeared very cold and calculating, like a robot. In ROM #2, we see a different side of the Space Knight, more sensitive and mournful. He even seems to empathize with Mason for losing her family. These developments in ROM’s character are good and make it easier to root for him.
The other major moment in this issue is the ending, when ROM’s analyzer fails. ROM has two major tools: an analyzer, which identifies Dire Wraiths, and a neutralizer, which destroys them. When ROM’s analyzer fails, it opens up the possibility of doubt, which could be a strong avenue to pursue. More immediately, ROM was attacked by a new brand of Dire Wraiths — sorcerer Wraiths. It’s possible their use of magic is what made the analyzer fail, but if ROM cannot identify Wraiths accurately, it makes his job of destroying them much more difficulty. Luckily, Byers seems like a useful ally, considering her mental connection to the creatures.
Though there were some story and character moments in ROM #2 that were improvements, the art was still distracting at times. David Messina’s art is not bad, but his choices in the renderings of the Dire Wraiths are odd. His version of the creatures end up looking cartoonish and amateur. The inks by Michele Pasta do not help, as they are bright and slick. I think some degree of shading and darker hues could help the Wraiths look a bit more sinister. Messina is quite good with the human characters (albeit with a little over-emoting in expressions). Though I imagine Messina will be on the book for a little while, I would be interested in seeing how another artist would draw ROM and the Wraiths, as some of the variant covers by other artists have been very sharp.
I like the direction writer Christos Gage and Chris Ryall are taking the story. They managed to get out a lot of the essential set-up in the first issue and that allows them to spend more time in ROM #2 working with ROM and Mason as characters. They have also introduced a major twist that could set up compelling future stories. The Wraiths are still a little one-dimensional, though. The art continues to be inconsistent as well. It is good enough, though there are some panels that just look strange. ROM is off to a decent start, thought I think there are ways the series can improve.