The Energon Universe erupts into glorious potential with this new issue from Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici.
In my imagination, there's a particular actor who lives in a dark corner, or maybe it's a cave. He only comes out when I'm watching a specific type of movie or reading a specific type of comic book. When I turned from page nine to ten while reading Void Rivals 3, he leapt forth. His name is Michael Keaton, and he always screams, "You wanna get nuts, let's get nuts."
You should know the movie the quote is from, but it doesn't matter if you don't. What's important is that the line and the actor have lived in my head since childhood, and they've come to represent catastrophic points of no return. Or, let's jump to another metaphor: page ten in Void Rivals 3 is a gauntlet dropped by Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici. The issue firmly establishes what Skybound is calling "The Energon Universe," and it involves much more than just Transformers and GI Joes.
Yes, the cat is out of the bag for Void Rivals regarding its relationship to our favorite 80s-era Hasbro toys. Secrets were kept until the first issue dropped, and I'm so proud of those who kept mum and were able to make this 2023's greatest franchise surprise. In that spirit, I do not want to venture too deep into the third issue and reveal the moment that unleashed my inner Michael Keaton.
I'm not even sure I could explain the exact significance of the moment anyway. My details surrounding the Transformers and GI Joe cartoons are fuzzy. Obviously, I remember the key characters and concepts, but it's been decades since I revisited the Gen 1 shows. The Void Rivals 3 reveal on page ten sparked a memory I would have thought lost long ago, and its return stirs nostalgic joy and present-day curiosity.
Is it time to watch the 'toons of my youth? Do I even have that time available? Maybe I do; maybe I don't. The good news is that the comic doesn't care what I do. Void Rivals gives you everything you need to keep going, suggesting a massive universe beyond its panels while maintaining your engagement with the two central characters.
Void Rivals 3 opens immediately after the last issue. Reluctant partners Darak and Solila are dodging blaster fire from the Skuxxoid bounty hunter. As they flee, retreating deeper into his spacecraft, the pig-nosed brute mutters, "Jokes on you, anyway. I'm not the most dangerous thing on the ship."
It's a tantalizing tease that pays off almost immediately before revealing something even more menacing on my favorite page, ten. Void Rivals continues to eke out background on Darak and Solila, showcasing one's superior fighting skills and allowing Lorenzo De Felici to flaunt his superior action sequentialing. De Felici is such a clean storyteller; it's easy to speed past his masterful acting, made all the more impressive by the characters' minimalistic helmet designs.
Robert Kirkman clearly delights in playing within the Hasbro toy box, but Void Rivals is not a comic surfing on references. Issue three's cliffhanger seemingly has nothing to do with either Transformers or GI Joes; it's a violent character moment, delivering a gut punch to the reader because we've already bonded with our two leads.
Bonus points, Void Rivals 3 contains three preview pages from Daniel Warren Johnson's upcoming Transformers #1. It's not a lot, but it's enough to make your eyes misty. We're three months into the Energon Universe, and already it's the most exciting comic book universe on the market. Some characters occupy ancient spaces in our memory, but Void Rivals proves they're not dusty in any way and are shiny with possibility.
Quickie Review: Void Rivals 3 ups the ante on what the previous two issues already achieved. Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici deliver an exhilarating action comic that is still hefty with character. It weaponizes childhood nostalgia, distracting you with reveals while ultimately unloading ultramodern human (sorry, sentient) emotion. This single issue leaves you aching for more, making the next month a torturous waiting exercise.
Void Rivals 3
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Lorenzo De Felici
Colorist: Matheus Lopes
Letterer: Rus Wooten
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale: NOW
Synopsis: ROBERT KIRKMAN & LORENZO DE FELICI’s newshared universe debuts a monstrous new villain!Fighting for their lives to return to the Sacred Ring,Darak and Solila face a new threat—capture! Andthey’re not the only prisoners on this ship…