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Voltron, Defender of the Universe: Revelations

When the new ongoing series of G.I. Joe was announced, I remember having a distinct feeling of dread that can only be described as that deep nauseating fear that hits just before a dentist puts a diamond tipped drill to one of your teeth. In other words: nothing good will come of this situation. And boy, was I right.

The 80's nostalgia craze in comics is only now starting to slow down in its race toward mediocrity. Thanks to the success of G.I. Joe and Transformers, the comic market has had to endure Thundercats, three or four Thundercats miniseries (including a crossover with Superman for no apparent reason), He-Man and numerous comic tie-ins thereof, not to mention the re-emergence of late 80's-early-90's phenom Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It's proof that bad ideas never die; they just linger until everyone feels "retro."

All of these comics just aren't very good, as they usually sacrifice story element because, hey, they really don't need an engaging narrative when the book is selling on artwork and the memories founded long ago on badly crafted cartoons imported from Japan. Damn your remarkable ability to draw mecha, Pat Lee. Damn you!

There was one book from this revival that I was looking forward, apprehensively forward, to reading, and that was Voltron. I'm not sure why this cartoon stuck in my head when Jayce and the Wheel Warriors or Bravestar failed to really capture my fancy. Maybe it was the brightly colored costumes and team aspect of five young people piloting giant lion robots to battle evil blue-skinned space aliens. Maybe it was Princess Allura's funky pink sweat suits. Who knows? Suffice it to say, when I saw that the Voltron series had been collected, I had to know.

And it was about as mediocre as I expected.

For those unaware, Voltron is the story of a future where Earth is in something of a skirmish war with the Drule Empire, the blue skinned aliens mentioned previously. Earth wants any advantage it can get against the Empire, and is willing to investigate any source, no matter how mythical, to obtain said advantage. Hence, a mission is drawn up for five pilots, each of which has no ties to Earth and no one to care if they die in service, to go in search of the legendary "metal knight" Voltron. Keith, Hunk, Pidge, Sven, and Lance set off to the planet Arus in search of this lost battle technology and are shot down upon arrival, crashing into the monarchy's burial site. An angry villager or two later, the Princess Allura greets them, and upon the discovery of four keys, the adventurers start to find the five robot lions that Voltron has been split into. Now they must protect Arus from incursions by the Drule Empire.

There are a lot of interesting twists that writer Dan Jolley added to the story that I remember. The bringing together of the five pilots as a Black Ops outfit was interesting, but it's never really explained what their placement in the armed forces is. Keith is appointed leader but we never really know why other than the military brass saying so and it's questionable why they require two pilots (Lance and Sven). If the military brass knew they would need people to pilot the lion ships, why aren't the other three team members accomplished pilots?

Jolley's overly brief introductions to each of the characters did provide some hints as to the personality of each, but not much. Pidge and Hunk are pretty much stereotypical "experts": their characters are defined by their abilities, that of computer technician and mechanical genius respectively. Lance is the quintessential hothead, a thrill seeking pilot who gets the Voltron assignment straight of out of the brig.

While this is more detail then the show ever provided, at least from what I can remember, this still isn't much in way of character development. Giving Pidge, Hunk, and Lance these qualities make them stock characters that aren't interesting or important to the script. Keith gets more in way of background, though it's briefly given by the military recruiters and not really demonstrated. The character of Sven is the most interesting, though we're told very little: he's written as if he spent his military career doing the more unseemly jobs, using threats of physical violence and showing a marked ability to shoot down hovering jets with only a hand pistol. Jolley could actually go places with the character, which would bring a bit more depth to the script.

Some other interesting points in the script involve the mechanics of Voltron and they're welcome. When the team is linked in the robot form of Voltron, they're mind-linked, allowing them easy communication, as well as being telepathically linked to their individual lion ships, allowing them to call up the various weapons in the lion arsenals. It was something I always wondered about in the show and I'm glad they added these technical aspects.

The artwork is average, but it gets better after the first ten pages or so. There were three pencilers on the book: Mike Norton, Mark Brooks, and Clint Hillinski. Pages aren't assigned so I really have no idea who drew what, but the first few pages o art are badly put together: Hunk looks like he's the world's best bodybuilder except he's supposed to be pudgy, which he is when the artists suddenly change, and all the characters eyes tend to bulge out of their sockets. The artist even manages to make Voltron look too muscular, not a small feat for a robot. When the artwork changes, facial features become more defined and details show up. Keith and Hunk actually look Asian, but not overly, and the bulging-eyed nerdiness of Pidge is played down. The battle scenes are not put together well and the flow is never exciting.

It's a valiant effort by the boys at Devil's Due Publishing to update more 80's material, but it ultimately fails. It annoys me because the concept of Voltron is a good one and could have been far more interesting if handled better. It's definitely not worth the $11.95 they're charging.

Voltron Volume 1: Revelations

Robert Sparling

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