Review: Voltron #1

Dynamite brings the Defender of the Universe to a new kind of life, leaving the cheese behind.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Voltron #1

Ah, Voltron: Defender of the Universe.  How we kids of the 1980s enjoyed your crazy robot fighting action and the fact that there were five robot lions that merged into one big robot guy with lions for hands and feet who fought monsters and cut them in half… every week… the same way… with little or no rising tension at all… rinse and repeat.  Some of us even noticed that as kids.  But at least Pidge wasn't as annoying as that Toad kid from Tranzor Z

These days, the same tricks won't work – at least not in comic books.  That's why Dynamite's Voltron #1 needed to figure out how to add some complexity to the proceedings, and so far, writer Brandon Thomas seems to be doing that.  First things first, it's no longer five people driving the lions and puppeteering Voltron to fight the monsters – he's a separate entity with a voice of his own, which is a great choice.  Voltron is cool-looking and all, but as nothing more than a vehicle, he loses his luster pretty quickly.  Now, we get to learn about Voltron as a character for once, and the "super force of space explorers" is more fun as a separate unit.  True, the introduction of Allura has the obligatory "modern day badass" tone to it, but come on – that's pretty much mandated to counteract the pink suit and frou-frou whininess of the old cartoon.

It's the year 2124, and Voltron is fighting a Robeast in New York City and causing massive amounts of property damage, while Keith, Lance, Pidge, Hunk and Princess Allura are scrambling around on the ground trying to get people to safety and hold off the invading forces of King Zarkon's evil demon-goon empire of doom.  Zarkon's forces are said to be in their death throes, as the Galaxy Alliance and Voltron have nearly crushed them once and for all, but something's about to go down that will likely change all of that.

The big secret (HE SAID, INDICATING SPOILERS) is that apparently, the big blue demon lord Zarkon was once a human on Planet Earth back in 2012 – or, potentially, descended from this doctor and family man who was entrusted by the United States government to try and help protect humanity from an alien invasion.  On one hand, that's interesting and already developing more backstory and intrigue than we ever had before.  On the other hand, there's that Earth-centric thing that can get annoying.  Why CAN'T he just be a blue alien warlord?  Obviously, though, there's a big epic story going on here, and there's more than meets the eye.  Er, wait, wrong tagline. 

The art from Ariel Padilla is pretty solid.  Voltron himself looks great and enormous, and the huge-scale destruction really looks catastrophic.  His human faces are good and expressive as well, and thankfully, each member of the team is actually wearing the proper colors associated with their respective lions.  What exactly is the bond with the lions if Voltron doesn't need them as pilots?  We don't know yet.  Voltron might actually need them after all, since in this first issue, he not only gets beaten down by the replicating Robeast, but he's even captured… off-panel, for some weird reason, but it's more traction than Zarkon usually gets, and that makes for a compelling reason to check into the next issue.