Voltron is a giant robot composed of five smaller lion robots that join together to create the most powerful force for good in the universe. Piloted by five brave warriors known as the Voltron Force, they are constantly battling the evil schemes of King Lotor, the Drule King, and his scientist henchman Maahox. Into this battle step three new recruits ready and eager, maybe a little too eager, to prove themselves worthy to pilot the Voltron lions.
If you’re a child of 80s, like me, then you remember running home from school so you could watch Voltron. Originally a Japanese anime, the show was given a new script and found a new life in the US. It was filled with action, adventure, and characters that were very different from most afternoon shows. Now, the show is back with a new cartoon series, Voltron Force, that features all new and different stories, and this series of books is based on it. They follow the next generation of pilots, Daniel, Larmina and Vince as they learn to work together as a team and appreciate their own special skills that they bring to the team.
There are no introductions to the characters other than short descriptions on the first few pages. The stories assume the reader already knows the characters and plot, since they are inspired by a cartoon series, but they are straightforward enough that anyone can pick up a volume and start reading with little trouble. The three kid pilots, much like the original pilots, are rather stereotypical and have a lot of traits in common with their mentors but differ just enough to be believable. Daniel is hot-headed and impulsive, often diving into dangerous situations without thinking of the consequences. He has some leadership qualities, but his over-confidence can cause problems with his teammates. Vince is the techie, good with computers and a lot less confident in his skills or his usefulness to the team. Larmina is a princess who doesn’t want to be a princess but a warrior, dismissing “girly” things to be more like one of the boys. Her need to prove herself can also get the team into trouble.
The stories from these two volumes put the kids not just at odds with their mentors, the original Voltron pilots Keith, Allura, Lance, Hunk and Pidge, but also with each other. In Shelter from the Storm, their inability to work together gets them trapped by one of King Lotor’s Robeasts, where they have to face their darkest fears. Once they are freed by the Lance and Hunk, they realize the value of listening to each other and working together to defeat the Robeast. In Tournament of Lions, the Voltron Force is tricked into going to a planet where warriors from all over the galaxy have come to compete for the right to be a pilot. Voltron is a defender of the “universe” and aas such its pilots should represented by more than humans. The kids must compete, using skills they thought would be needed as pilots to win the competition.
Like most titles based on properties for kids, these volumes have lessons woven into the story, but they work well in context. The kids are believable as kids, doing things like showing off to impress their mentors and and disobeying them to go off on their own. There are also times when they get on your nerves, for their “know-it-all” attitude. I know Daniel got to me several times. Lotor, as the villain, is played as very cartoony. He is always shouting and banging his fists on computer consoles, often contributing more to his defeats than the Voltron Force. Tournament of Lions also sets up another group of villains for the Voltron Force to face, the Elder Council, who now have a grudge against them since the Voltron Force foiled their plans.
For the most part, I found these volumes enjoyable. They feel very much like the cartoon, and fans will love having more of the universe to explore. The art varies as the artists change from book to book. I found Chabot’s to be most similar to the cartoon, but both are well done. The only thing I didn’t like was the “tomboy-ification” of Larmina. The thing I really liked about the original Voltron, was that Allura could be a pilot and a princess, pink gown and all. I can’t fault the books for this, since it is based on the cartoon, but it would be nice if Larmina could be loosed up a little on the objection to being a girl.
Kids will enjoy Voltron Force more than older readers, but older fans of the original series might enjoy some of the callbacks to the original series, such as the name of the evil energy Lotor uses to power up himself and his robeasts, “Haggarium.” Fans of the cartoon series, or of action and robots in general, should check out this fun and entertaining series.