Voltron was a staple of my childhood, right there with He-Man, Strawberry Shortcake, and My Little Pony. And like all those things, it’s back, re-imagined and redesigned. Out of all the 80s cartoons to make an updated reappearance, Voltron Force most closely honors its history. (Well, one of the Voltron histories; this show has so many alternate versions, it’ll make your head spin.) Released to coincide with the premiere of the Voltron Force cartoon in April 2012, this comic picks up several years after the 1984 series.
If you weren’t a child of the 80s, let me try to quickly summarize Voltron: the original Voltron force was sent out to explore space in order to locate five mythical robot lions that, once combined, formed Voltron: Defender of the Universe (it’s important to say that in your most synthesized voice). The Voltron crew fought against King Zarkon and the Drule Empire, often waging battle against sizable monsters called Robeasts. These monsters typically required the lions to combine into Voltron, who would then form a blazing sword — from his hands! — to dispatch his enemies where previous attacks had failed. If you ever wondered why the Voltron force didn’t just skip ahead to this part earlier on… well, so did I.
Voltron toys came in a few flavors: lions, vehicles, and smaller robots. That’s because waaaay back in the 80s, World Events Productions (WEP) planned to create three different Voltrons using dubbed footage from three unrelated anime. They started with Beast King GoLion (catchy!), which became Voltron: Defender of the Universe. The other versions of Voltron were considerably less popular and didn’t last long, but we still have all those marvelous toys. (Kudos to you if you’ve kept the die-cast versions.) The US version of these shows cut out any scenes dealing with death, violence, sex, religion, or anything that might reveal that it was of Japanese origin, making Voltron a vastly different show from Beast King GoLion. So yes, while Voltron Force pays homage to its 1980s past, it’s honoring the US version.
The original Voltron crew — mulleted Keith, snarky Lance, techy Pidge, tough-but-tender Hunk, and Princess Allura (the girl!), are all back and ready to teach a new group of cadets how to pilot the lions and fight together as Voltron. Even Sven, the Norwegian pilot who mysteriously disappeared from the series after being bitten by a cat, makes a cameo in this new cartoon. Wait… Sven died in Beast King GoLion? That cat attack killed him? Wacky. But I’m getting off-point. The crew is back and training three cadets: Daniel, a talented but impulsive young man; Vince, a kid who’s skilled with technology and shares a connection with Voltron; and Larmina, an athletic girl and Allura’s niece.
This comic will satisfy fans looking for a Voltron-fix. There are space battles, witty banter, and a robeast that has brains for shoulders. The story stands on its own, but if you haven’t seen the new series, you’ll be wondering about references to Haggarium infections and other bits of backstory. Our new team members must learn to work together and rely on each other’s strengths in order to take down a robeast who can bring their greatest fears to life.
The artwork is bright and very reminiscent of the original series, but with an updated look. Characters are much more realistic in appearance and Jacob Chabot makes great use of lighting. While this book is recommended for all ages, some children may be frightened by the transformation of certain characters into twisted nightmare versions of themselves.
Expect a lot of action in this comic. Space battles, martial arts, explosions, and chase scenes fill the pages. Shelter from the Storm is a quick read at 96 pages and young readers will have no problem picking this up, finding the characters likable and fun. Older fans of Voltron will be happy to see him back, even if this comic is aimed at a more youthful audience.
Voltron Force, vol. 1: Shelter from the Storm
by Brian Smith
Art by Jacob Chabot
Viz Media, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages