The acclaimed creator of "The Walking Dead" is back with a brand new comic series.
Blossoming under the creative banner of Skybound Entertainment and a freshly-inked collaborative deal with toy and game titan Hasbro, a new sci-fi comic titled "Void Rivals" released June 14 as a stealth launch for a new shared Energon Universe encompassing the worlds of Transformers and G.I. Joe in a series of upcoming standalone series, crossovers, and miniseries.
Written by Skybound co-founder Robert Kirkman ("Invincible," "The Walking Dead") and accompanied by "Oblivion Song" artist Lorenzo De Felici ("Kroma"), with colorist Matheus Lopes ("Step By Bloody Step") and letterer Rus Wooton, "Void Rivals #1" dropped as a sneaky introduction to the Energon synthesis by inserting a surprise appearance by Transformer Jetfire into the debut issue, heralding this historic project uniting the two iconic franchises in comics form.
Here's the official synopsis:
"In 'Void Rivals,' war rages around the Sacred Ring, where the last remnants of two worlds have collapsed around a black hole in a never-ending war. However, when pilot Darak and his rival Solila both crash on a desolate planet, these two enemies must find a way to escape together. But are they alone on this strange planet? And what dark forces await that threaten the entire universe?"
Skybound Comics will later capitalize on this branded enterprise with Daniel Warren Johnson's "Transformers #1" in October, Joshua Williamson and Tom Reilly's "Duke #1" in December, and Joshua Williamson and Andrea Milana's "Cobra Commander #1" coming January of 2024.
"I loved the movie 'Enemy Mine' as a child and I purposely didn't re-watch the movie, so there's a lot of elements of Lou Gossett Jr.'s alien race that aren't present, but the concept of two pilots stranded and having to figure out a way to survive was definitely a huge inspiration," Kirkman tells Space.com.
"The main basis of 'Void Rivals' was trying to come up with a concept that could fit alongside 'Transformers' and 'G.I. Joe' because this is all part of our new shared Energon Universe. I wanted something that felt like it could have been a cartoon and a toy line in the '80s, so that's where the retro feel comes from. Also, two alien races living on the rim of a black hole and fighting over resources seemed like a very '80s kind of idea. We tried to backwards engineer something that felt classic but was also original and new was really the goal here."
"Void Rivals"' brilliant artwork has an old-fashioned quality in its retro-style imagery that enhances and amplifies Kirkman's classic sci-fi storyline.
"Lorenzo is the whole package when it comes to comics," Kirkman adds. "He's great at the storytelling. He's great at character building. He's great at panel-to-panel and transitions and page turns. But he's also a great concept artist. Anything I throw at him it always comes back better than I could have imagined, which is really the goal when working with a comic book artist. He has such a unique set of influences that have brought him to this place where he has this amazing visual sense."
Kirkman wanted the series' visuals to feel "Transformery" because it exists in that same familiar universe, and De Felici was able to wrap his head that and yet still deliver original concepts to the fold.
"The relationship between a penciller and an inker and the colorist in comics is a really special relationship. They all kind of meshed in a way that was extremely unexpected and there are certain elements to the pages of 'Void Rivals' that look like it was handled by one painter, which is remarkable and a testament to how well they work together as a team."
Jetfire's cameo inclusion in the premiere issue of "Void Rivals" is a fun surprise that kickstarts this intermingling of pop-culture universes that will resonate with fans.
"We just wanted to show that this is a larger universe," Kirkman notes. "I cover everything from a fan's perspective, so to be able to have a new concept like 'Void Rivals' with its own characters and its own universe, but this random character that has its own established fanbase that pops up in the midst of it, seemed like a really exciting and unique experience. Jetfire is a great character that has a lot of history with the Transformers.
"In his original episode he's discovered in the ice and was a scientist on Cybertron before the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. He wakes up to this world and doesn't know anything about what the status quo is. So we're using that as a jumping off point by having him wake up on this planetoid instead of on Earth."
Jetfire's awakening by Darak and Solila in the premiere is going to lead into the story existing in this fall's "Transforme'’s #1" by comics veteran Daniel Warren Johnson.
"That encounter inspires them to try a new way of getting off the planet and moves the story back to them since 'Void Rivals' is its own series with its own narrative," says Kirkman. "While it does exist in the larger Energon Universe, each title will be its own complete experience. It's a tremendous amount of fun to be able to take these characters that have been beloved to me since my birth and have a blast with them. I'm playing with the same toys that I played with as a child."
Skybound's "Void Rivals #1" is available now with special variant covers by Ethan Young, Matteo Scalera, Karen S. Darboe, Jim Cheung & Jay David Ramos and more.