Rom #45

Issue Date: 
August 1983
Story Title: 
Cry, the Mother Country

Bill Mantlo (Writer), Sal Buscema (Penciler), Akin & Garvey (Inkers), Janice Chiang (Letterer), Ben Sean (Colorist), Bob Harras (Assistant Editor), Ralph Macchio (Editor), Jim Shooter (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

Rom lays the body of his clone to rest in Russia and after telling his story of how his mission is to rid the world of the Wraiths, the Gremlin who has been accompanying Rom and his lover Starshine reveals he suspects that there are Wraiths in Russia. The Soviet Super Soldiers are summoned by the Commissar of State who asks them to go forth and protect the base within the Dead Zone from the Gremlin who is an enemy of the State. The heroes agree to do so, only for the people of Russia as they no longer serve the State, but what they don’t know is that the Commissar is actually a Wraith and, of course, lying to them. Rom, Gremlin and Starshine arrive at the Dead Zone moments before Darkstar and her team, and of course a battle begins. When the Gremlin sneaks away to the base, knowing he has to find a way to destroy it, Major Ursus follows him, and returns badly wounded just after peace is made between Rom and Vanguard, to inform everyone that the base has been housing Wraiths intent on destroying Russia.

Full Summary: 

Rom the Spaceknight stands above a grave in Russia, holding the body of his clone in his arms, with his companion Starshine and the Gremlin at his sides. Rom stares for some time at his clone, his red eyes flicker as he lowers the body of the man who seemed to possess all of his own heart, soul and memories. This is the second time then that Rom has had to lay some portion of his precious humanity to rest. Half of him perished on Galador destroyed along with the Spaceknight who tried to possess it by the planet devourer known as Galactus. Now a copy of Rom perished on Earth, victim of a false promise made by Quasimodo the living computer.

With the clone lowered into the grave, Rom raises a fist into the air and cries ‘Gods of Galador, is there no end to it?’ and with a powerful blast he fires at the ground, sending dirt flying everywhere. Starshine urges Gremlin back, mentioning that she has never seen Rom so agonized before. The Russian asks Starshine if Rom plans to bury them along with the clone. Rom stops and proclaims that the earth can claim he who was born on it. Turning away slightly from his beloved Starshine he admits he is weary, and that he has too little humanity left to lose any more of it.

Starshine walks up to Rom and tells him she is sorry, and that she understands how he feels. Rom realizes that Starshine must, for not too long ago, she herself was human. Calling her by her real name – Brandy – Rom asks Starshine how could she so easily give up her humanity when he would do anything to reclaim his own. Hugging the silver Spaceknight, Starshine tells Rom that she gave up being Brandy Clark to become the cyborg Spaceknight Starshine, because she loves him!

Rom puts his arms around Starshine as the golden Spaceknight tells Rom that she knew he would never love her back while she was human and he a Spaceknight. Rom realizes that since Brandy knew there was little chance of he ever becoming human again, Brandy chose to become like him. An image of their human selves shines in the sky as Starshine proclaims she would make any sacrifice and brave any danger to go through life beside Rom. Rom just whispers Brandy’s name…. While Gremlin looks on with a frown, for he has never witnessed so strong a love, and this is coming from two beings who are no long human! Cynically, he adds that for himself, love has always been unknown.

Rom swears to Starshine that they will both regain their humanity – once Earth is cleansed forever of the dreaded Dire Wraiths! Starshine boasts that whether it takes a year or an eternity, she shall not care, as long as she is with him. Gremlin interrupts the romance and asks about the creatures called the Wraithkind, and whether or not they are the ones he observed aiding Quasimodo. Rom tells Gremlin he is correct, and that there is no adjective too mild to describe the ‘shape-shifting scum of the stars’. Rom tells Gremlin that they came from the Dark Nebula, hoping to extinguish the golden flame of Galador. He reveals that the youth of Galador sacrificed their humanity to become Spaceknights so that they might drive the Wraiths from their beloved Galador, and while they succeeded in saving Galador, the Wraiths fled to other worlds, less capable of defending themselves, worlds such as Earth.

Rom reveals that he and the other Spaceknights knew the war would never truly be over and that they could never reclaim their lost humanity – until the other worlds were cleansed of Wraithkind as Galador was. Gremlin turns away from the Spaceknights, knowing now that the Wraith’s have infiltrated Earth, and are shape-shifters, and are able to take human form. Gremlin believes this explains a lot, before explaining to Rom and Brandy that in the Soviet Union, many have always been suspicious, certain that countless enemies wanted to engulf their nation. Gremlin proclaims that they have even been so paranoid at times that they execute their own people, fearing that foreign enemies have gotten to them.

Gremlin carries on, admitting that the paranoia was self-destructing, depriving them of some of their finest minds. He adds however that he was always left alone because the Soviet State feared him more than any foreign enemy! Recently, Gremlin reveals, that was changed and spies were sent to him, watching his every move and monitoring his research. Gremlin however spied upon the spies and discovered a secret so awesome and unbelievable, that unwilling to accept it, he fled with his knowledge, and for his life.

Clenching his fists, Gremlin tells the Spaceknights that what he learned fits with what they have told him, that the change he detected coming over his comrades was not a manifestation of their usual paranoia. For they were disabling machinery of the State not out of fear of some unknown enemy, but because they themselves were the enemy within! Starshine and Rom realize that it must be Wraiths, for infiltrating a society used to purging itself, and then doing the purging for it! Gremlin doesn’t understand why the Wraiths removed some people who were loyal and served the State well, but Rom informs him that it was probably done to destabilize society, so that the Wraithkind may one day take over!

Meanwhile, in Moscow, in the office of the KGB, the Commissar of State Security looks out the window as he thanks an unseen group of people for responding so promptly to his summons. He adds that the KGB is aware of their hostility to the workings of this particular agency, yet they are still Russians he reminds them. Russians with unique and powerful abilities too, he adds as the uniform-clad man tries to appeal to the unseen group of people’s natural abilities. ‘The Motherland is in grave danger’ he proclaims. Turning slightly, he informs his visitors that a squadron of super-troopers, led by the mighty Devastator met defeat in the Khystym region, also known as “the Dead Zone”, where once before he reminds his visitors, they rescued their nation from destruction.

He turns around fully now to beg to the super powered beings to use their powers to save Mother Russia again! ‘Only the Soviet Super-Soldiers can triumph over the enemy we face now!’ Now in full view, they whom the Commissar of State Security was making such a fuss about, Darkstar! Vanguard! Ursa Major! ‘Will you rush to the aid of your country?’ The always-impulsive Vanguard, sickle and hammer in hand, lunges towards the Commissar, voice raised asking if the arrogance of the State knows no bounds. Nicolai asks why the State asks for their help, when they fear their powers so much and have already tried to destroy them before.

Darkstar, always the voice of reason, tells her brother that the state fears them because it cannot control them. She grabs her brother by his arm and tells him that they have not pledged themselves to serve the State, but Russia itself. The large bear in the room speaks, backing up Laynia, Ursa Major reminds Vanguard that the Motherland is in peril and so they must respond. The Commissar applauds Mikhail Ursus’ patriotism before announcing he will brief them on their mission.

As the powerful group of mutants stands around the Commissar as he reveals that intelligence reported some sort of activity in the “Dead Zone”, and that the squadron of super-troopers sent to investigate never returned. The Commissar tells the Super Soldiers that they suspect an enemy of the State, a deformed genius who is code named “the Gremlin” has been using the Dead Zone as a base. ‘For the sake of the Motherland’ the Commissar puts the guilt trip on the mutants ‘Destroy him…’.

The Commissar leaves to let the powerful mutants consult among themselves, but as he lurches down the Ministry’s halls, a sinister smirk crosses his lips, and an alien shadow is cast upon the wall in place of a human one. The Commissar, though that is not who he truly is, calls the heroes ‘fools’ for being so patriotic, while little do they suspect that victory will not be to rescue Mother Russia, but to destroy both the country, and everyone in it!

Back in the chamber, Vanguard asks his beautiful sister if she has forgotten their oath to never again serve the Soviet State. Laynia looks away, until Nicolai reminds her that their entire lives have been twisted by the State’s lies and distortions. Calmly, Laynia tells Nicolai that she doesn’t need to be reminded of how the State has abused them, adding that from the point of view of those in power, everyone in the State exist to serve the State and be used by the State.

Laynia reminds Nicolai of how the State used their father, Sergei, by securing the services of his scientific genius by lying to him, that they – his own children – had died in childbirth along with his wife. Laynia continues, stating that they as were manifesting their mutant powers they were entrusted into the “care” of Professor Phobos, not to be trained as they thought they were to be, but to be spied on and controlled. Finally, when their real father had assumed the identity of The Presence, attempting to save the State in his own way, the Soviets misunderstood him and set his own children against him.

Mikhail reiterates that the State had involved them in treacherous activities, and then they were turned against the state by their own tutor, Professor Phobos. Darkstar proclaims that the truth has freed them, and now they only serve each other! Major Ursus adds that they serve the Russian people too, and as one of the most powerful mutants in existence unleashes the Darkforce of which she commands she proclaims that the people of Russia cannot be condemned for the crimes of the State. The Darkforce spreads around the room, for lives of the people of Russia Laynia cries, it shall carry them to Khystym, where they will confront whatever dreaded danger awaits them in the Dead Zone.

With that, the living darkness envelopes the trio of mutants and carries them away, as many miles away, a living light heralds the presence of another strange trio. Standing in the snow-covered fields of Khystym, Brandy proclaims that every time she uses Starshine’s power, she is amazed at the things she can do, despite being somewhat drained by the feat. Rom tells Brandy that she grows more and more confident in the use of Galador’s living light. Gremlin stands astonished that Brandy could transmit first his thoughts and then themselves into lightwaves and beam them all to the snow swept wastes of Northern Khystym, he proclaims that the feat is far beyond a science of Earth origin. A science, which is as alien to them as the structure in the distance, whose existence is still only known to a few, even in all of the Soviet Union.

Gremlin reminds the Starknights that it was his own discovery of Wraithkind’s infiltration that caused him to flee for his life, but it was also his discovery of that secret Wraith base that marked him for death! Starshine asks what the Wraiths have built it for, to which Gremlin replies that he doesn’t know. Powering up, Rom tells Gremlin that he now knows why he chose to graft his humanity back into his cyborg armor, for he needed power to destroy the Wraith base! Rom tries to befriend Gremlin by telling him that he is no enemy of the State, despite the innumerable wrongs that the State has inflicted upon him.

Rom calls Gremlin a ‘true son of Earth’ who is determined to cleanse his country of its enemies both indigenous and alien, adding that for that noble feat he surely has the aid of Rom the Spaceknight! Rom unleashes his neutralizer beam across the frozen tundra, aiming for the base within the Dead Zone, his beam is intercepted before striking the target by a pool of darkness that appears from nowhere. Vanguard is the first to emerge from that darkness, calling back to his sister and teammate that they have barely arrived in Khystym and are already under attack! The brash young mutant crosses his hammer and sickle, symbols of the State to which he feels he no longer owes allegiance, across his chest and turns the attack back against Rom.

Rom keels over, as he is knocked back in pain. Starshine rushes to her beloved’s side as Gremlin is amazed that Rom could be struck down by his own neutralizer beam. More so however he is concerned with the fact that the powerful Soviet Super-Soldiers stand between the stricken Spaceknight and the salvation of the Soviet Union! Darkstar professes that her Darkforce has led them to the enemy of the State and his alien allies, while Vanguard decides that they must seek to destroy that secret installation which undoubtedly stands to safeguard the Motherland. Ursa Major however suggests that perhaps the base serves some sinister purpose of the State itself.

Starshine tends to Rom while asking if the super powered beings that materialized are humans or Wraithkind. Rom suggests to Brandy that she use her lighteyes to penetrate the recesses of their opponents’ souls. Taking to the air, Starshine asks if she can detect Wraiths as Rom can with his energy analyzer. Rom calls back that that is one aspect of the living light of Galador. While her teammates comment on Starshine’s powerful glow, Laynia Petrovna takes flight, proclaiming that the light Starshine carries shall be met by her own darkness.

Darkstar calls for the Darkforce to reveal the nature of their enemies, while Starshine notices her opponents are speaking Russian, and cannot understand a word they are saying. As the two young women meet in the air, Starshine realizes that as she wields a living light, her female opponent welds a living darkness – the question being however, which of them is the better? The battle in the sky is a spectacular event as Laynia’s Darkforce reaches out to swallow Starshine’s light, while the light in turn stabs forth to pierce the darkness. The battle almost seems to take place in two planes at once, in the physical realm and in some other, far-removed dimensional realm – the realm of the Darkforce.

There, Darkforce and living light clash, energies ultimately beyond the control of the young women who command them, and both Laynia and Brandy sense that their powers are locked in a struggle of opposites which will not end until they have consumed each other. Worrying about Brandy, Rom regains his strength and goes to aid her, until Ursa Major grabs him from behind and starts to crush him. Ursus realizes that Rom speaks English and wonders why the Gremlin has allied himself with Americans. Rom informs the Major that he can speak whatever language his translator has enabled him to, adding that his true language is Galadorian and that he longs to speak it – as soon as he has cleansed the planet of the Dire Wraiths! Rom escapes Ursus’ grasp, and the bear-man wonders what Rom meant about the Dire Wraiths.

Rom is suddenly struck down by Vanguard who tells him that he understands very little of the English language, so will let his power talk for him, and lunges his sickle at Rom, who is dazed at this second strike. The Gremlin makes his move now, rushing towards the base within the Dead Zone, he wonders if the Super Soldiers defend the base out of some delusion they serve the state or if they are warriors of the Wraiths! Gremlin decides that either way, the purpose of the base needs to be discovered and the base itself destroyed before the purpose is achieved! Major Ursus sees Gremlin leaving and remembers he was the enemy they were dispatched to find, and so he follows him.

Above the battle proper, Starshine unleashed a fury of Living Light, quelling Laynia’s Darkforce. This strikes Laynia herself, and Brandy notices another form leaving Darkstar’s body. The beautiful Russian realizes that the light is dispelling her other, mutant self, but she knows that she is bound to the Darkforce and neither can survive without the other! She calls out for her brother, who upon hearing her plea hurls his hammer at Starshine, knocking her out of the sky.

As Brandy lands in the snow, Rom rushes over to her, threatening Vanguard if he has killed the woman he loves, and unleashes a blast on Nicolai, knocking him down. Darkstar comes to her brother’s aid, using the Darkforce as a shield to protect Vanguard from Rom’s powerful neutralizer weapon, which has been set to kill! Starshine asks Rom if he intends to force their opponents to surrender, or kill them, and the Starknight admits he meant to destroy them for harming her.

Realizing what he was about to do, Rom comes to his senses and replaces his neutralizer with his energy analyzer, to scan the Super Soldiers. The energy analyzer reveals more than Rom expected, firstly that they are not Wraiths like he originally thought, and secondly that Vanguard is bursting with power, while Laynia is a single consciousness symbiotically linked between two energy forms. Brandy asks if they are human, to which Rom replies that they are, but that they are mutants!

Brandy asks if they serve the Wraiths, and Rom suspects they do not, and in Russian he tells the brother and sister that there is no need for them to fight. Vanguard warns Laynia that this is some kind of trick, but Laynia informs the Starknight that her team came here to prevent an enemy of the State from destroying this strategic place. She then asks them how they can not be their enemies when they are allied with one who is. Rom tells the twins that they are misinformed because the Gremlin is not a traitor, nor was the complex built by humans, but by the Dire Wraiths, and he adds that if it is not destroyed then it may bring about the end of their nation.

Before Laynia or Nicolai can respond, someone shouts out to them, asking them to believe him. Turning, they all see Ursa Major, who is badly wounded and bleeding heavily. Ursus tells the twins and Rom and Brandy that pain was the least of the horrors he suffered when he entered the base they came to defend. Ursus loses control over his bear form and becomes human again. Naked, he falls to the snow as Laynia rushes over, asking who hurt him. Mikhail replies that it was creatures he has never seen before, bred with one purpose only – the destruction of the Soviet Union!

Darkstar, Vanguard, Rom and Starshine all see what creatures Ursus was talking about, as white wolves race forward and transform into phantom forms, of which Rom is very familiar with, albino Hellhounds, intent on staining the snow with the blood of heroes!

Characters Involved: 


Starshine / Brandy Clark

Darkstar/Laynia Petrovna, Ursa Major/Major Mikhail Ursus, Vanguard/Nicolai Krylenko (All Soviet Super Soldiers)


Wraith pretending to b Commissar of State Security

Body of Rom’s clone

Albino Hell Hounds

In Flashbacks/Illustrative Images


Human forms of Rom and Starshine

Rom’s clone




The Presence

Professor Phobos

Darkstar, Ursa Major, Vanguard (as children and adults)

Red Guardian III/Dr. Tania Belinsky

Colossus, Nightcrawler, Sprite, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)

Story Notes: 

The Soviet Super-Soldiers were sent to their deaths in the Incredible Hulk #258-259, obviously they did not die, but learnt much more about themselves and where they come from than they could have imagined.

Most of the dialogue in this issue, at least that spoken by Darkstar, Vanguard and Ursa Major, is of course spoken in Russian.

Darkstar was originally not going to be a mutant, which is something this writer, Bill Mantlo wanted to explore, however when she was stated outright as being a mutant he could no longer use his original idea. Though it seems that he used part of it by the way Darkstar is linked to the Darkforce, as she above all other users of it have control, power and the unbreakable connection. With her unfortunate death [in New X-Men #130] it seems unlikely that this will ever be explored.

Rom met the X-Men in Rom #17-18.

Issue Information: 
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