Voltron: Legendary Defender Vol. 3 #1
Mitch Iverson (writer), Beni Lobel (colorist), Rubine (artist)
July 11th, 2018
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Another day, another Voltron #1. This is actually the third volume of Voltron: Legendary Defender comics that Lion Forge has published since 2016, but they start each of their five-issue volumes at #1 again. I rather like the statement this makes about how self-contained the story arcs are. I read Volume 1, skipped Volume 2 and now I’m stepping back in effortlessly for Volume 3.
The plot of Volume 3 involves infiltrating a Galra installation called SPRAWL, which is a key group of slave planets that the empire relies on for raw materials to build their fleet. The idea is that a strike on SPRAWL will be two-fold: not only would it be a heavy blow to the resources of the Galra empire, but freeing all those people would surely inspire hope in the hearts of millions.
While the premise of the arc is pretty strong, the first issue is rather weak. It jumps directly into a giant space battle and a reveal about the coalition for a mission that I don’t totally understand. (It takes place between seasons 4 and 5 of the show, but that’s only explained as a footnote below the art and writing credits so I spent my first readthrough trying to figure out when it was happening.) The new Voltron continuity really thrives more on character-driven story than it does on giant space battles, which is a shame because they really appear to want to push giant space battles onto us: the paladins spend the entire issue inside their lions. (That said, using a full page illustration in a 24-page comic to show that they’ve formed Voltron is exactly the comics version of the thirty-second animation they always use in the show and it made me laugh.)
Allura and Coran’s storyline is a little more interesting, as they try to reason with an eccentric diplomat who essentially wants to cast them as the bad guys in his space reality show. But while I don’t mind having two concurrent plotlines happening, it switches between them so rapidly that it’s off-putting—one page of the paladin’s fight, one page of Allura’s frustration, and back and forth again. Plus, they don’t even get to the plot hook about SPRAWL until the very end of the issue, making everything that happened before it feel kind of irrelevant.
The art, at least, is light years better than it was in the first volume—in fact, that was the first thing I noticed when I opened this issue. The vivid expressions, in particular, do a lot of work: they’re fun, they’re reminiscent of the show, and they provide a little bit of that focus on characters that I was getting at earlier. It really does a lot towards making the characters in the comic feel like the characters I already know and love.
Even while being a bit bored by this issue in particular, there were aspects that made me feel like there’s hope for the rest of the arc. I could see the themes that the comic was trying to get at and they were surprisingly political. A leader who relies on fear or their own ego doesn’t speak for all of their people. A good leader inspires people by touching their hearts with hope, and sometimes hope can embolden people to do unexpected, wonderful things. It’s a good message, relevant and encouraging.
As a Voltron fan, I’ve found the comics to be cute but underwhelming in comparison to the show. The self-contained nature of them is nice from the standpoint of being able to pick them up without being overwhelmed, but it also means they lack the grand stage that the show really thrives on. The comics will do best if used as an opportunity for focused character development, particularly for characters who are underutilized in the show. Issues 2 and 3 are slated to focus on Hunk and Pidge respectively, so I’m hopeful for the rest of Voltron: Legendary Defender!