Writer: Culen Bunn:
Artists: David Baldeon; Fico Ossio; Max Dunbar; Jack Lawrence; David Baldeon
The twin properties of Micronauts and ROM present an interesting challenge for IDW. Although both are licensed properties, there’s a twofold challenge in launching new series with these characters. One, both properties haven’t been used in decades, with Micronauts at least having a brief revival at Image and Devil’s Due in the early 2000s. The related problem is that both series launched at Marvel Comics and were heavily intertwined in Marvel’s continuity. This wasn’t simply a Star Wars situation where Marvel published the books independently from their main line. Rather, Marvel actually had ROM and the Micronauts directly interact with their characters and crossed over with them on a regular basis.
We’ll see how ROM fares at IDW next month when they relaunch the character on Free Comic Book Day. In the meantime, they’re kicking off their revitalized Micronauts this week. But here’s the thing: readers expecting this series to directly continue where it last left off at Marvel may be disappointed. Marvel’s Micronauts run included a number of original characters of which Marvel itself retained ownership. New readers may not have to worry about the old Marvel continuity, but older ones looking to step back into the Microverse risk finding that it’s no longer familiar.
This is not to pick on the creative team–it’s simply a creative limitation. Old favorites like Arcturus Rann, Marionette, and Bug aren’t coming along for the ride. But the characters specifically owned by Hasbro are still here, including Pharoid, Acroyear, Biotron, and of course, the villain Baron Karza. So it’s not a total loss from the old Marvel series, and hopefully readers still find it to their liking.
That said, new readers may walk into this a bit confused. The central premise of Micronauts has always been, in a sense, Star Wars if it were in tiny universes inside the molecules around us. We’re not really granted that backstory in this opening issue, so if Cullen Bunn’s story has any flaw, it’s that we just sort of fall into the story without the benefit of the introductory handshake that was Star Wars’ opening crawl. If Micronauts is still set in tiny universes, that revelation is either coming later or we’re expected to know it. Still, there’s ambition here, as the opening scenes treat us to the death of an entire planet at the hands of some unexplained sentient force which is obviously going to occupy the Micronauts later. It’s thinking big even when it’s thinking small.
The comic gives off a bit of a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe in a way that the current Guardians book doesn’t: a small band of reckless heroes looking to score a buck. (I do think Cullen Bunn would make a good successor to Bendis on the Guardians comic someday.) The interplanetary destruction aside, the main story concerns Pharoid, Acroyear, Space Glider, and Larissa as they attempt to steal some medical supplies for systems which badly need them during a Civil War, with Pharoid serving as a the reckless moneymaker anxious to make a buck (again reminiscent of Guardians‘ Star-Lord). The surprise twist of the mission at the issue’s climax links back to the crisis at the beginning of the issue, giving us hints that this “small” band of heroes are going to get sucked into something much larger.
It’s surprising that David Baldeon’s art required four different finishing artists (including himself), but thankfully, the art doesn’t look noticeably inconsistent in the issue. Otherwise, Baldeon manages to pack a lot of action into the page, working in a lot of detail to scenes of mass planetary destruction and sprawling cityscapes while still finding space to work in close-ups of our heroes. He’s a good fit for the issue.
Micronauts may never be what it was in the 1980s, but it is a nice space epic that may serve as a diversion for sci-fi readers who want a break from Star Wars and other similar prominent properties. I’m not sure if readers of the original series will get what they want here, but what they are getting is commendable.
Rating: Three and a half stars out of five.