Review: Voltron #1 by Brandon Thomas & Ariel Padilla

Voltron #1

Written by: Brandon Thomas
Art by: Ariel Padilla
Colored by: Marcelo Pinto
Lettered by: Marshall Dillon

Published by: Dynamite
Cover Price: $3.99

Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from Comixology

I typically don’t get all that caught up in nostalgia. There are plenty of things I liked as a kid that I look back with amusement and wonder “what was I thinking?” For example, I don’t have all that much interest in watching or reading new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; I grew out of that a long time ago.

I was talking to a friend earlier this week, and he told me, “Most things I’m a huge fan of, I got into as a kid” which I found incredible. Even as much as I love Doctor Who, I’ve only been a fan for the last four years.  My tastes and interests are constantly changing and evolving.

When I was a kid, I really liked Voltron. Five lion robots who join together to form one big robot to fight giant monsters? How could I not love that? But, for the most part, Voltron hasn’t aged all that well, the writing and voice work are just painful to me when I try to watch it now.  There have been a lot of attempts to bring back Voltron over the years, including new cartoon series and comics, but none of them have done all that well.

Earlier this summer, Nick Toons launched a new Voltron Force cartoon, which I pretty much ignored even though a friend of mine told me it was worth checking out. At San Diego Comic Con, I ended up sitting through a Voltron panel (mostly because I was waiting for the Batman: Arkham City panel), and I was impressed by the footage of Voltron Force, and what the writers had to say about what they were trying to do with the series. Since then, I’ve become a huge fan of that cartoon; you can tell it’s made by Voltron fans who aren’t afraid to fix everything that was wrong with the old series.

I still find the old series just about unwatchable, but I was real excited about this comic series. I figured that as much as I liked Voltron Force, a new Voltron comic that put some new spin on the lore should be pretty good. Unfortunately, I was in for a huge disappointment.

Summary (contains spoilers): Even though the introduction tells us that King Zarkon has been getting his butt kicked all over the universe, this comic starts in the year 2124 with a Robeast bringing it’s attack to Earth. Voltron is on the scene, although we quickly realize something odd. The five Space Explorers are outside of Voltron helping to save the civilians and fight off Drule agents on foot. Voltron slices the Robeast in half, and it ends up turning in to two Robeasts, who quickly starts to pummel Voltron.

Then we get a real out of place flashback. Back to 2012. President Obama is talking to a scientist about the fact that Earth has been invaded by aliens before, and we need some kind of defense.  Something big. We find out that this scientist is named Zarkon…as in the alien king who leads the Drule forces.

Back to 2124, the Drule forces have defeated and taken Voltron. The pilots are trying to figure out what to do, until their leader, Keith, says, “Voltron told me everything.”

Review: One thing I do want to say is that this comic had great covers. The two main covers by Alex Ross were just gorgeous, and even the other covers were really well done.

Granted, I am not sure any comic needs 11 different covers, but I have never been a fan of limited edition variant covers.  But these covers are all pretty cool.

Unfortunately, that is just about the only thing I can say I really liked about this book. One of the things that I really like about Voltron Force is that it treats the space explorers and cadets as the stars of the show, not Voltron. This book gives just about no focus on the pilots. This is no exaggeration, President Obama has four pages of almost Bendis-style dialogue with Zarkon. Which is more than all five space explorers combined. I like President Obama as much as the next guy, but it was a bit ridiculous.

Really the whole comic suffers from not giving the readers much of a sense of who these characters are or why we should care about them. For example, the big surprise of this book is supposed to be that Voltron is sentient (seemingly), and that Voltron is functional without the pilots inside it….well, not that functional, Voltron did get his ass kicked. But if you come to this book having not seen Voltron in years, this all goes right over your head.

And I actually miss the cadets from Voltron Force. I really thought adding three kids to Voltron would be annoying, but Daniel, Vince, and Larmina have added lots of fun new ideas to the lore, including seeing Voltron be able to form with different lions for the head. Voltron Force adds to the Voltron story while still respecting the original. It’s also a lot of fun, which is something else this book is missing.

I did think the twist about Zarkon seemingly being responsible for building Voltron was a great idea. It definitely creates some tension and makes the reader wonder what happened in the 112 years between. Yes, this is a drastic change to the Voltron lore, but I like when adaptations take liberties like that.  Definitely curious how this changes planet Arus’s connection to Voltron.  Maybe Zarkon didn’t actually build Voltron, but stole it from Arus?

Really the biggest problem with this book was the art. It’s very cluttered, and uses these strange tight panels. Most of this comic is supposed to be a massive fight between Voltron and a Robeast, but it is very difficult to follow what’s going on.

It would have made more sense to pull the shots back and give us a scale of how epic this fight was instead of trying to keep the focus so tight and intimate where you can’t tell what’s going on. Also, the space explorers weren’t drawn all that consistent. Even Hunk seemed to have a generic body through most of the book.

This comic really could have been great. It seems to be built on some solid ideas, but the execution fell far short. I definitely won’t be picking up any other issues of this one.

Final Score: 3.5 – A bit of a train wreck. Cluttered overly busy art is not the best choice for an issue long fight scene. And you should never give more characterization to the President of the United States than the five main characters.

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