What's Past is Prelude Again: Examining the Shadow Chronicles Comic Preview (Part 1)

Today we're going to stare deeply at the four-page textless preview that DC Comics has posted of the first issue of the Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles comic book mini-series, due out in a few weeks. Primarily, what I'm going to be detailing here is how this series, based on the preview art, is probably going to tie in with what's come before in the sprawling mess of Robotech's so-called "secondary continuity" -- all the stuff Harmony Gold and its licensees threw at loyal Robotech fans between 1986 and 1998. This includes the existing Robotech II: The Sentinels animation (1986) and the Robotech II: The Sentinels comic book series (1988-1996). The reason I'm focusing on these two pieces of "secondary continuity" most closely will reveal itself very shortly.

Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles (Oct. 2005 - Jan. 2006, 5 issues) is being written primarily by Jason & John Waltrip, the twin artists who spent over seven years writing and drawing comic books based on both the aborted Robotech II: The Sentinels television series and the very loose novelizations of that storyline written by Brian Daley & James Luceno under the psuedonym Jack McKinney. Like all Robotech comic writers in this modern era, they are being assisted in their task by Harmony Gold's Robotech Creative Director Tommy Yune, who is doubtless doing everything he can to make sure that the series stays true to the upcoming Shadow Chronicles animation that it's supposed to be leading into (to be released on DVD sometime between December 2005 and the end of the first quarter 2006, by current estimates). Why are the Waltrips writing this? Because this series serves a dual purpose -- to guide us into The Shadow Chronicles, while at the same time capping off The Sentinels. This is quite problematic.

What we have here is the cover to the first issue of Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles, drawn by series artist Omar Dogan. (Click on it to make it bigger.) It features a lot of faces that are kind of familiar if you squint at them hard. As you can see, I've provided some handy visual aids, all but one screen-grabbed from the original 1986 Sentinels animation, to help you out.
  1. Rick Hunter - Hero of the First Robotech War (2009 - 2012), military leader of the SDF-3 Expeditionary Mission (2022-20??), and husband of the mysteriously absent Admiral Lisa Hayes-Hunter.

    Rick of course, has a big question mark plastered over his face because Harmony Gold thinks it's a lot of fun to leave you guessing what Rick looks like THIS time. If you've ever looked at the scripts for the Sentinels TV series, you'll see that this is something Harmony Gold likes to do whenever they're about to debut a new look for Rick -- they were planning on stringing out Rick's first appearance in Sentinels, too, leading up to this big moment where he turns to face the camera. This has always struck me as really, really silly.

  2. T.R. Edwards - Power-hungry mercenary-turned-United Earth Defense Force General. Knew Rick Hunter's mentor, Roy Fokker, before the First Robotech War. Currently has a mad-on against Hunter for reasons unknown.

    Despite some major differences to his design, T.R. Edwards stands out as one of the most recognizable figures on this cover. Naturally, Dogan has to work from his last appearance in the modern canon, From The Stars (2002), where artist Long Vo made him tan, muscular, and practically white-haired. However, once you snip that long ponytail he had and add the classic cowl (subtly redesigned by Dogan), anyone who's even remotely familiar with The Sentinels gets the idea. Notice he's wearing a Shadow Chronicles-era uniform. We'll give it a closer look once we get inside the book.

  3. SDF-3 - Flagship of the Robotech Expeditionary Force. Originally commanded by Admiral Lisa Hayes-Hunter; left in the care of Captain Raul Forsythe following her departure as a member of the Sentinels.

    The SDF-3 (shown in its finest artistic hour, the famous cover of Jack McKinney's infamous novel The End of the Circle) is already featured in its new incarnation on the Prelude #1 cover. However, I have seen interior art that confirms that the first time we see the SDF-3 in Prelude it's still the good old "Trojan Horse" psuedo-Zentraedi design. Unlike the characters, the Expeditionary Force flagship only winds up in its Shadow Chronicles form after sustaining some major damage and then undergoing serious repairwork. Everything else, though, is retconned, such as the character design for ...

  4. Jean Grant - SDF-3 Chief Medical Officer, mother of Private Bowie Grant of the 15th ATAC.

    Jean is one of two visible characters who were redesigned for The Shadow Chronicles, and thus has one of the more radical redesigns of the bunch. She foregoes her really boring paint-by-numbers "this is what a Japanese character designer thinks black people look like" Sentinels character design for a lighter skintone and a much more interesting violet hairdo. Since she's Shadow Chronicles, she also gets to be really big on the cover, even if her role here isn't so big. Mind you, she's on all four preview pages, so maybe she gets a lot more to do in Prelude than she did in Sentinels. We'll see.

  5. Jack Baker - Overconfident hotshot pilot, tempered by the continuing war with the Invid into a fine young leader. Usually seen at the side of attractive young ace pilot Karen Penn, who is as mysteriously absent as the female Admiral Hunter.

    Jack does not get to be in Shadow Chronicles, and has not appeared in anything at all since the end of the Sentinels comic book series, so he winds up tiny on the cover, though not as tiny as the guy standing next to him, who I guess is somebody we'll meet again in the Shadow Chronicles animation. Jack is inexplicably older here, but otherwise looks pretty much like the same character we've followed in The Sentinels; I guess that's a handy side-effect of being a character who nobody wanted to use before or after in the modern canon. Not like ...

  6. Vince Grant - Admiral Rick Hunter's right-hand man, former commander of the GMU (Groundbased Mobile Unit, a ground-based battlefront fortress, destroyed on the amazon planet Praxis), brother of the late Claudia Grant (bridge officer, SDF-1), father of Bowie Grant (15th ATAC).

    Thankfully, Vince no longer looks like a grown-up version of that negro child from Will Eisner's The Spirit. Obviously this has been in the cards since day one of the new charge forward; Vince appeared with a a younger version of this more handsome, less simian character design in From The Stars back in '02, which makes me wonder just how long Shadow Chronicles has actively been in production. At Robocon, as I was showing off my own collection of Robotech animation art and generally making a nusiance of myself, Tommy Yune pointed out as I was flipping past my Southern Cross cels that the main reason for the major change to Vince's character design was to make him look more like his son, The Robotech Masters' Bowie Grant. Otherwise, I figure they could have always just gone closer to the larger, more muscular and squared-off design the Waltrips went with for Vince in the Sentinels comic book series. They obviously knew a bad thing when they saw it ...

In our next installment, we'll charge right into the first page of the preview, which features a pounding gavel, a shrieking woman, a dying Macross supporting character, and a room that looks nothing like the last place we saw T.R. Edwards fleeing from way back in December of 1996.

Thoughts so far?


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