The Dire Wraiths are a race of evil, shape-changing aliens from Dark Nebula. It was later revealed that they were a deviant race of Skrulls, transformed by practicing black magic. When the Galadorian fleet entered the Nebula 200 years ago, the Wraiths destroyed it, unprovoked and without warning. They then decided to attack Galador itself. In response, Galador created the Spaceknights who successfully defended the planet.
After the battle, Rom pursued the Dire Wraiths back to the Dark Nebula, driving them off of Wraithworld and scattering them throughout the universe. Realizing a great evil had been unleashed on many innocent, alien worlds, Rom and the other Spaceknights pledged to puruse the Wraiths and exterminate them. This was primarily done by banishing them to Limbo, another dimension where time was meaningless, not killing them. The Wraiths preferred death to banishment because in Limbo they could still view the universe, but not affect it.
When Rom first came to Earth, there was a sense of distrust between the original Dire Wraiths who had fled Wraithworld and those born on Earth. (Thus it would appear the average Wraith lifespan was much greater than 200 years.) Later, however, a greater rift reappeared. The female Wraiths prefer the use of sorcery while the males prefer science. It was the males who had campaigned to attack Galador and had been unsuccessful in all their attacks against Rom since he arrived on Earth. Therefore, the Wraith witches reasserted their dominance of the species on Earth.
In addition to their science vs. sorcery preferences, the males prefer their transitory form while the females prefer their true form. In their true forms, Dire Wraiths can use their barbed tongue to drill into the skull of another being and steal its memories while duplicating its physical form. Whether they use this memory-stealing ability or not, all Wraiths could duplicate the form of virtually any living creature.
Aside from the information above, little is known about Dire Wraith society. They are a secretive race that does not trust outsiders. In fact, they believe they are superior to most other sentient species and will gladly use them as pawns or slaves to further their own plans of conquest.
In general, Dire Wraiths weren't given names (unless it was that of another person whose form they had taken). This was mainly because they were usually killed or banished by the end of a storyline. The two primary exceptions were Doctor Dredd and Volx, the Dire Wraith queen mother, who didn't appear (by name) until well after the Rom series ended.
Below is a list of Dire Wraiths appearances outside of Rom. Please let me know if you know of any appearances of Wraiths that I'm missing.
- Avengers vol. 1, #244-245, #268
- Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme (third series) #2
- Fantastic Four vol. 1, #277
- Incredible Hulk vol. 2, #262
- Marvel Team-Up Annual #7 - cameo
- Marvel Two-in-One #99
- New Warriors vol. 1, #73 - Flashback
- Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, The vol. 1, #3
- Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, The vol. 2 (Deluxe Edition), #12 - Their origin is mentioned in the Skrulls entry.
- Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, The vol. 2 (Deluxe Edition), #15
- Power Man and Iron Fist #73
- Uncanny X-Men #185-188
- Universe X #3, #10 - This title takes place in an alternate universe.
- What If...? vol. 2, #39 - Some of the Dire Wraiths in Limbo are used as pawns by Immortus. One kills the Doctor Doom of an alternate universe.
Thanks to Jason Colgin for identifying the correct issue of Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, Scott Kaplan for pointing out the absence of Marvel Two-in-One and giving me the issue number of What If...?, Chris America for Marvel Team-Up Annual, and Kurt Busiek for mentioning the Wraith appearance in Avengers #268 in rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe.
Doctor Dredd was one of the few Wraith Warlocks (a male who uses magic). He was responsible for merging Brandy Clark with the Starshine armor. A clone of Rom killed Dredd with his bare hands when he discovered what Dredd had done.
- Rom #38-41, 43
Volx was the queen mother of the Dire Wraiths. The Dire Wraiths were referred to as her children, although it seems unlikely this is literally the case. A Wraith queen was first seen in a flashback in Rom #48 where she agreed to allow the Galador invasion, although she was not named. This was her only appearance in the Rom series. It is uncertain if this is the same individual as Volx, but given that there were still 200-plus-year-old Wraiths on Earth when Rom arrived, it seems likely. Her whereabouts from the time the Wraiths were driven from the Dark Nebula until she came to Earth and fought the New Warriors are unknown, but she was not among the Wraiths on Earth during Rom's time there.
Upon arriving on Earth, Volx found out about the Torpedo armor developed by the Wraiths there. It was then being shared by teenagers Mike Jeffries and Mickey Musashi who went by the name Turbo when in costume and who had befriended the New Warriors. Volx sought them, killing Mike and stealing the Torpedo suit. She then planned to use the suit to power the neo-neutralizer built by Forge, stripping all of Earth's super beings of their powers. The New Warriors went to stop her and she was ultimately killed by Night Thrasher.
- Nova vol. 2, #17-18
- New Warriors vol. 1, #60, 64, 73-75