“This thing’s armor is too strong for our weapons!”
“I think we know what we need to do.”
Last summer, June 2016, Netflix released a reboot of a much-beloved animated show from my childhood: Voltron: Legendary Defender. This reimagined reboot keeps the classic high points—there are five paladins who pilot lion mechas, and their teamwork and bond helps them form the titular Defender of the Universe, Voltron. Season one of the Netflix original series was met with joy across fandom, in large part because the showrunning/writing team of Lauren Montgomery, Joaquim Dos Santos, and Tim Hedrick (all renowned for their work on the awesome Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra), the smart writing, the gorgeous animation, and exceptional voice talent—oh yeah, not to mention the sheer awesomeness of seeing 100 meter tall mecha Voltron in all of its glory once again.
Season two of the series was released by Netflix on January 20, 2017, picking up immediately following the dramatic cliffhanger of season one’s final episode. I, like many others, glommed through the entire second season in true binge fashion. And now, the waiting game begins again—but if you, like me, are really into this show, fret not! You can get more Voltron in your life, in comic book form. Voltron: Legendary Defender is a five book comic series collecting some storylines that were tossed around by the showrunners but deemed too epic, too outlandish to be contained in 30 minute episode segments (especially with the larger, central story arc unfolding).
Intrigued? Here’s the backstory (because if you haven’t watched Voltron yet and are on the fence, you can always give the graphic novel a shot before committing—you don’t necessarily have to have watched the show to read the book): across the centuries, the Galra empire has spread across the universe, reaping death and destruction, and brutally crushing anyone who dares resist its rule. The only force strong enough to stand against the evil Emperor Zarkon is Voltron—a warrior piloted by five individual lion mechas, whose teamwork and bond help them form the Defender of the Universe. The people of Altea have long been the keepers, paladins, and protectors of Voltron, and have stood against Galra and Zarkon in war. But, when all hope seemed lost—the destruction of Altea imminent, Galra close to being able to possess Voltron—King Alfor decided on one last act of protection, to ensure that Voltron would never fall into the hands of Zarkon. He scatters the lions across galaxies and relies on his daughter, Princess Allura, to lead the next generation of paladins, whenenver they hear the call.
And hear the call, they do. Five Earthlings each are called by their lions to become paladins, and together they learn to trust themselves, trust each other, and form Voltron once more. With the guidance of Princess Allura (and her majordomo, Coran), these five young pilots will stand against the ever-growing darkness of Emperor Zarkon and the Galran Empire.
The graphic novel, written by head show writer Tim Hedrick and gorgeously illustrated by Digital Art Chefs, is like candy for a Voltron fan—the book begins with Coran taking the paladins to ancient training grounds for the original paladins in the Karthulian System, while Allura is recovering from saving the Balmera. Coran, being Coran, gets into trouble almost immediately upon visiting the local watering hole and is abducted by Kythylian Mu—on account of Coran owing him gambling debt, compounded by 10,000 years of interest. The price of Coran’s freedom is a Yalexian pearl—and in order to find it, the paladins embark on a quest that takes them to various planets around the Karthulian system, fighting abominations, rescuing an ensorcelled princess, besting riddles, and, of course, forming Voltron to fight against any other monsters in their way.
One of the things I love so much about Voltron is the wry humor and the different voices of each of the paladins, and this is reflected beautifully in the comic books as well. Hunk loves food, and is cleverly attuned to how to defeat one particular enemy by using his knowledge of food; Lance’s story is conflated with his own ridiculous sense of how awesome and desirable he is to the ladies (he’s not); Pidge fights her greatest opponent in solving an impossible riddle—herself. The book is not only true to these characters, but also shows the importance of the team working together toward a common goal—saving their friend. It’s awesome.
One last note—because I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the gorgeous illustration work in the book. Not only is the art perfectly fitting with the animated series, but it cleverly interprets action on a static page in a way that isn’t super busy or overwhelming. In particular, I love the use of color and art to show which character is talking in action scenes (something easier to do with voice actors on a show, but hard to symbolize in a static drawing).
In short: loved this book. And if you’re a Voltron fan, I’m pretty sure you will, too.
In Book Smugglerish, 8 Yalexian pearls out of 10.