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11.16.2005

Prelude to the Shadow Chronciles #2 Annotations

page 1

The first page features a two-level reference to the Robotech novels by Jack McKinney. The issue opens with a lengthy excerpt from T.R. Edwards' personal log in the style of the epigraphs that opened each chapter of the Robotech novels. The exceprt from the personal log begins with a quote attributed to Julius Caesar:

The die is now cast. Let us go where the omens of the gods and the crimes of our enemies summon us.

Edwards tells us that Caesar spoke these words while crossing the river Rubicon, an action that set into motion the war that reshaped Roman civilization. Edwards seems to think his actions are comperable. We actually have been invited to make this comparison before -- the title of the last Sentinels novel was "Rubicon." On top of that, in their illustrated Robotech II: The Sentinels timeline, the Waltrips drew T.R. Edwards decked out in Roman garb during his (supposed) final moments. Boy, he looks pretty silly like that. I wonder if we'll get to see Omar Dogan's take on that particular fashion mistake in a month or two's time ...

Edwards' log tells us he's aboard the "experimental battlecruiser Icarus." During the summer Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles panels (at least the one during the Robocon 20 events at Anime Expo 2005), attendees were shown a clip of early rough animation, complete with dialogue, during which General Reinhardt gives Vince Grant authorization to take the Icarus to locate Admiral Hunter's SDF-3. This leads me to assume that Edwards' ship will get out of this largely unscathed, even if he doesn't.

We are also given a quote from Vince Grant's personal log, but his essentially serves to bring the reader up to speed with the events of issue #1 -- and if you're not familiar with issue #1, what in the blazes are you doing reading this?

Vince speaks to a "Commander Penn," soon revealed to be Karen Penn, Jack Baker's love interest and rival from Robotech II: The Sentinels. As I realized during my audioblogging of this issue, what the writers have done is promote Karen into Lisa Hayes' old post, effectively turning the Jack Baker/Karen Penn duo into a retread of the Rick Hunter/Lisa Hayes dynamic, except that this parallel is made hollow by the breakneck pacing of the plot that doesn't allow the two a moment to play off of each other as characters. I suppose Yune and/or the Waltrips were just looking for a recognizable character to act as Vince's first officer and Karen was available, but it's still annoying that it creates such a totally empty retreading of a familiar dynamic when these two characters' relationship previously hinged on the two being deeply competitive equals.

pages 2 & 3


Breetai is also on the bridge, micronized and wearing a redesigned, sleeker version of his Robotech II: The Sentinels bucket helmet -- or as I've long enjoyed calling it, "Breetai's Stupid Hat." His presence here invalidates pretty much the entire Zentraedi storyline from the Sentinels novels and the Robotech II: The Sentinels comic book series. In Book II #5, the Zentraedi were returned to full size to fulfill their original function, to mine monopole ore on Fantoma that would be necessary for the repairs to the SDF-3. During Breetai's resizing, the Zentraedi resizing chamber began to malfunction. Following the completion of Breetai's recloning it irreperably failed, leading to a poignant moment where Exedore -- still micronized, never returning to full size -- puts on a brave face and assures Breetai he will stand by his side again as a true Zentraedi. Obviously, Breetai remained full size for the duration of the Sentinels novels & comics. Unless someone (Rem, perhaps -- and where the heck is he, anyway?) managed to fix the resizing chamber, Breetai's scenes in this issue can't possibly work with what has gone before in Sentinels.

Not pictured above but worth noting, on severai occasions you can see Breetai's left eye through the eyehole in his helmet. Through the right you only see a green reflective surface similar to the lens on his full-size faceplate.

Breetai tells Vince of the Invid, "We have fought them alongside the Robotech Masters for many years!" Curious word he uses, "alongside." This doesn't suggest the attitude we saw in the Sentinels comics, where the Zentraedi were angsting about the Masters and how they used the Zentraedi and gave them false memories and such. Exedore, in the Robotech II: The Sentinels animation, told the Expeditionary Force that the Zentraedi served the Masters as "mercenaries." So while they were developed by Zor and the Robotech Masters -- the Masters confirm this for Dana Sterling in "Catastrophe," the final episode of the Robotech Masters segment of Robotech -- by the time the Invid were a major problem, I suppose the relationship was a little less one-sided.

One of the bridge techs on the Tokugawa reports the following back to Vince:

Reading dense cloud cover and electrical discharges. The atmosphere is highly ionized. Spectro-analysis shows almost no oxygen, but high levels of carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia, and traces of silicon and heavy elements. Looks like the ecology of the whole planet's been wiped out.


I'm curious ... in "Legend of Zor," written and drawn by the Waltrips, the defoliation of Optera was handled with giant harvesting machines, as the Robotech Masters naturally wanted as many of the Flowers of Life as they could get. Yet it sounds like the Zentraedi defoliated Optera by chemical means. Then again, could the near-total removal of the Flower of Life from the planet's ecosystem have utterly wracked their ecology to this extent? And beyond that, could this have been more or less the environment way back when, and this just be what the Invid thrive in? I think it's worth noting that all scenes on Optera in the Sentinels comics were of the Regent in his command center, never wandering around out on the planet's surface.

Someone to Breetai's left (I thought it was Vince, but he's sitting to Breetai's right) remarks, "The war between the Invid and the Robotech Masters must've taken its toll. Serves 'em right. They never should've started it." Obviously nobody has told the Expeditionary Force how this all started -- with Zor and the Robotech Masters wresting the Flower of Life from the peaceful Invid. I was especially worried when I thought it was Vince saying this, but I suppose it's just a rank & file bridge officer. In either case, the dialogue brings to mind the words of the Invid Regess in "Symphony of Light," how she went on about how the Earth fell under "the shadow of the Robotech Masters." It also brings to mind some dialogue from Cabell in the Sentinels comics, specifically issue #16 of Book I:

I hate to disagree Doctor Lang, but the Masters are not your problem. The greatest threat to your planet is the Invid. Have no sympathy for them, Doctor. They are no longer the race they once were. They are driven. They will stop at nothing to regain their precious Flower of Life.


When Lang asks what they should do, Cabell advocates destroying the Invid entirely before returning to Earth to face the Robotech Masters. Lang is astonished and tells Cabell that's genocide. "That's survival of the fittest, Doctor," Cabell says with a raised eyebrow, "someth8ing your race seems to understand. And relish." Isn't that a far cry from the doddering old fool Cabell so often comes off as? It's more in line, I think, with the Cabell who is forced to spill Rem's true origins during Sentinels Book IV, before he is shuffled off the stage along with the rest of the seemingly extraneous characters -- or at least, during both moments he's far more interesting than he is at any other point in the Sentinels media.

Something off in either the art or the dialogue ... the Invid Regent's carrier ship has docked atop a larger Invid vessel with lots of claws and Invid sensor eyes. It looks like the sort of thing the Waltrips would have come up with in the old Sentinels comics, which made me smile. A bridge tech says upon seeing this thing, "It's the Regent's carrier, sir! But what are those other things?" Someone else says, " They don't look Invid." What are they talking about? The red lights in the background? The extremely Invid-looking flagship the Regent's carrier has docked with? Or should there be some sort of mecha on sentry duty in front of it?

Something I missed last issue ... the Invid Regent's carrier ship shouldn't be operational, or even intact, as it was destroyed on Haydon IV back in Sentinels Bk. IV #8 by a giant apparition of Zor created from the rage of Prince Administrator Vowad at the death of his daughter, Sarna. Check it out:


page 4
We move back to Tirolspace, where we discover not only that the SDF-3 has been rebuilt, but that Dr. Lang has spent the past year growing a white fuzzy beard. His hair is still mostly brown, however. It is starting to get to me that Vince, who was retroactively inserted into the pre-Macross era (laughably, five years younger than Rick according to Robotech Art 3 -- so that would make him how old when he pulls Roy Fokker's bacon out of the fire in issue #5 of From the Stars?), and Dr. Lang, twenty years Rick's senior according to Robotech Art 3 (I think we can trust it in this case), now come off as a little older than this fellow we met so many years ago as a mere cocky teenage flying ace.

Onto heavier matters than our cast's appearances, Lang points out that the Haydonites were instrumental in the Expeditionary Force reverse-engineering T.R. Edwards' Shadow Technology. "Ironic as it may seem, Edwards may have unwittingly shown us the wave of the future," Lang tells Rick. "I wish Dr. Laslo Zand had survived to see this."

Let's take a look at that last sentence. As we find out a page later, Louie Nichols is at Space Station Liberty, helping with the reverse-engineering of the fleet alongside Dr. Miles Cochrane. Obviously we're not following McKinney's Southern Cross novels -- the first-written stories where Zand had a major impact, and also where he met his end -- to the letter, since Dr. Zand killed Cochrane with his bare hands in "The Final Nightmare." It is established in Love & War #6 that the 15th ATAC, the heroes of the Robotech Masters episodes of Robotech, took off for space in 2031 almost immediately following the Invid Regess' arrival at SX Point 83, a.k.a. Reflex Point, and I think it's safe to assume that it is either their ship or another during the same mission that ferried the Southern Cross scientists to Liberty. While no mention of Earth being in Invid hands is made in Prelude thus far, the conquest of Earth happens the year after the Second Robotech War ends, so it's pretty much solid that if Louie is off of Earth, then Earth has fallen to the Invid. (Kind of begs the question, "Wait, didn't the narrator say in "The Invid Invasion" that the Regess took her entire civilization to Earth?")

All of this is to get us here: Since Dana Sterling had a front-row seat to Dr. Zand's transfiguration into a giant Flower of Life in McKinney's "The Final Nightmare," it's entirely possible that it was she, having rendezvoused with the Expeditionary Force, who informed Lang of Zand's "death" as mentioned here. Yune and/or the Waltrips are probably banking on any readers familiar with the novels and the character of Dr. Laslo Zand drawing a conclusion along these lines at this point in the story.

As Lang explains Shadow Technology to Rick, he says this:

You recall how when we first arrived here and repelled the Regent's attack on Tirol, how the Invid forces always seemed to know where our forces were? Well now we know why. Edwards discovered that the Invid are able to sense Protoculture power sources. It seems they are naturally sensitive to certain reflex energy frequencies.
I really hope this is taking place before "Survival," the fourth episode of the New Generation segment of Robotech. After all, wouldn't it be sad for friggin' Rand to have figured this out before Dr. Emil Lang?

page 5
Panel 2 is where, as Tommy Yune noted at Robotech.com, a word balloon of Dr. Lang's dialogue is pointing to Janice. It's during an exchange where Lang assures Janice that he and the Haydonites are working on upgrades for her, which I presume will lead to her altered appearance in the Shadow Chronicles animation.

Cochrane is updating Rick on the progress of retrofitting the Expeditionary Force fleet with Shadow Technnology. Well, since the Jupiter Division was outfitted with a Synchro Cannon, which we soon learn is a fruit of Shadow Technology, we know this is taking place before their disasterous return to Earth as seen in episode #83, "Reflex Point." The SDF-3's new fold drive is being constructed at Liberty, and that's the project Louie is working on. Oh, and despite being spelled "Louie" everywhere from the novels to the comics to Robotech.com's episode guide itself, Louie's name is spelled "Louis" in the final panel of this page. The exchange between Dr. Cochrane and Rick has a bit of the flavor of the TV series to it at the end ...

Cochrane: I've got Dr. Louis Nichols here with me, and he's the best engineer I've got. I bet he could teach the Haydonites a thing or two!

Rick: I'm sure he could, Doctor. Thanks for the update.

Seriously, isn't that just authentically rambling, silly Robotech dialogue?

page 6
Veidt assures Rick that the Shadow Technology is nothing new:

... but what Edwards has somehow managed to uncover is not new at all, but rather a very old technology that we Haydonites had previously believed to be lost from common knowledge.

After describing again the stealth functionality of Shadow Technology, he lets drop this tidbit ...

These are simply defensive applications of the technology. But we suspect he is getting assistance from someone other than the Invid. We are not yet sure how much of this Edwards has been able to develop towards offensive weaponry.

OK, since the REF doesn't even know about applying Shadow Technology towards offensive weaponry, I'm guessing the latest this could be is, oh, late 2042 or early 2043. I think that gives them enough time to build their own Synchro Cannon and get it spirited away into a cave on Earth, don't you agree?

page 7
Karen Penn: "Shimakaze-class battlecruiser heading straight at us!"

I speculated here that this might be the designation for the class of ship Edwards is using in the adaptation of Shadow Chronicles in Japan as a Mospeada sequel, but didn't think for a moment that a class of ship named after a prototype vessel from one of the Axis powers during World War II would fly here. Guess I was wrong.

Breetai's Zentraedi warriors are all blue-skinned. They are also all at least a head taller than Jack Baker, though none is as tall as Breetai.

page 8
The bow of Edwards' ship is a Synchro Cannon. In keeping with Shadow Technology, despite the fact that it glows as it charges, the Tokugawa's sensors can't pick up the energy buildup.

page 9 & 10
In a very "Star Trek II" moment, one blast from Edwards' Synchro Cannon is enough to damage the Tokugawa to the point that, as Karen says, "Shields are gone! Main power is gone!" and as far as auxilliary power goes, "Only a few systems are responding! Navigation ... communications ... that's it!"

page 11
The only interaction Jack Baker & Karen Penn have all issue long:

Jack: Wolf Leader to control! Karen, the launch bay doors won't open

Karen: Commander Baker, we're under attack! The Tokugawa's been seriously damaged and we've just lost all auxillary power to the launch bay!

Jack: Then we'll have to make a hole!

Karen: Jack ... wait!

BOOM!

Now, based on my earlier remarks regarding the changes to Jack & Karen's relationship, read the dialogue with Tony Oliver and Melanie MacQueen's voices in your head, substituting "Skull Leader," "Rick," Lisa," etc. where necessary. Works like a charm, no?

Curious ... the Invid Regent appears in silhouette at the bottom of this page. He thinks, "This alliance may be of use to me after all." What was he getting out of their alliance to begin with? Originally in Sentinels, the alliance was forged when Edwards gave the Regent the location of the Sentinels' next stop, allowing him to sneak up and obliterate their flagship, the Farrago. But with the strong suggestion being that the Sentinels more or less drove the Invid from their homeworlds by themselves, what could Edwards possibly have had to offer?

page 12

The Invid Regent, looking no different from the last time we saw him (the best Book IV example I could find from some random browsing is provided), orders the launch of his "elite batallion of war machines." Oh sure, say what you want, Invid Regent, but we all know those are merely much more subtly designed Black Death Destroyers, the new mecha he had developed from his wife's "special children" after his defeat on Haydon IV (the one that cost him that carrier ship that he shouldn't still have). They're even the right color. By the way, look to the comparison pic of the Waltrips' original Black Death Destroyer designs to see the "eyes and claws" design aesthetic the Regent's larger flagship seems to embody at work.

The thing I love about that ship is that it also totally embodies the "big, smooth, and simple" design aesthetic that so many of the Waltrips' own designs seem to carry -- really, really big, but without any fiddly little details. Stuff like that always struck me as kind of lazy, but certainly distinctive and not too far from what you might think a very, very technologically advanced civilization -- the Haydonites, for instance -- might come up with.

page 13
We get our first looks at Dr. Laslo Zand and the mecha the Zentraedi are equipped with. There are better images of each later, though.

Breetai is informed that the Icarus is going to fire on the Tokugawa again, and formulates a plan.

page 14
A shame the Regent is about to be bumped off -- the Waltrips totally still have his voice down:

That's it, my beauties! Finish them off! Such is the fate of all who dare defile the Invid home world!

In just about the only moment that recalls the ironic humor of the Sentinels comics, one of the Regent's soldiers tells him that the Zentraedi's Bioroids have breached their defenses while one of these Bioroids is standing on-panel not a few yards away from the Regent! Take a look (topmost panel):


Honestly, it almost looks like it could be an art error rather than the Waltrips trying to inject their classic Sentinels humor into the moment. If the Invid stooges were the funny little robed Invid scientists from the Sentinels comics, I think the moment would have come off better.

The Bioroids the Zentraedi are piloting have rank insignias from Sentinels on their shoulders (see chart) and appear, true to the Invid's remarks, to be most strongly based on the Bioroid Invid Fighter (the real one, not the one from the RPG or the Matchbox & Playmates toy lines) from the end of Robotech Masters.

Oh, and the reason the Regent can't get any support is because Edwards is using the Invid Living Computer he seized on Tirol to control the Invid himself now.

page 15
The Regent's temper hasn't improved any since we saw him last ...


I love how, true to form, the soldier reporting in is zapped right at that moment. Also, in the panel from the Sentinels comics you can see one of the little robed scientists I was referring to earlier. While you can see how they wouldn't have matched the tone of the Prelude series overall, they certainly would have been a much better fit for the scene the Waltrips were trying to pull off there ...

page 16
You have to read the art very carefully to clearly see what's going on here, and the muddiness of the coloring doesn't help much. Breetai has fought his way to the bridge of the Invid ship and is putting it right in the line of fire between the Icarus and the Tokugawa. Not that Edwards cares much one way or the other ...

Check out Breetai's rank ... if the chart from the Sentinels Illustrated Handbook is correct, he outranks everybody -- heck, he's off the chart! Misprint, or is he just that badass? (I'm leaning towards the latter, but you know how I feel about Breetai ... ^_^)



page 17
The Regent arrives to confront Breetai. He is not clad in his battle armor from the Palladium Book Robotech II: The Sentinels RPG, nor is he in the mecha that appears in silhouette in the timeline in Robotech II: The Sentinels Bk. IV #0. He's actually piloting an Invid Overlord mecha, the reconfigurable Invid craft that serves as the final boss of the Robotech Invasion video game for PS2 & Xbox.


Actually, head over to the mecha's entry at Robotech.com and take a look at the Guardian mode -- doesn't that look a little like the mecha depicted by the Waltrips in Sentinels Bk. IV #0?

You can see for yourself the dialogue between the Regent and Breetai during this final confrontation. It's suitably overblown and speaks to the history between the Invid and the Masters as well as the Zentraedi's place in all this. The contrast between this and the earlier dialogue aboard the bridge of the Tokugawa seriously points to the skewed perspective the REF has towards the Invid which is later reflected in Scott Bernard's attitude throughout the New Generation episodes of Robotech and the way the freedom fighters sort of come around at the end of the series.

page 18
The Icarus' Synchro Cannon annihilates the Regent's Supercarrier. The word balloon for the Regent and Breetai screaming as they die is placed badly -- the two tails are pointing to the Regent's shoulder! Seriously, this book was rushed out the door far too fast ...

page 19


Dr. Zand's appearance here is very interesting. No longer the shriveled up little Exedore-like man who appeared in the John Waltrip-drawn second issue of the Sentinels Wedding Special, he appears to have red cyborg eyes (or are they high-tech glasses of some sort?) and is clad in roughly the same uniform, cape and all, as Louie Nichols in the Shadow Chronicles preproduction art showcased in NewType magazine back in November 2004.

I'm most interested in the fact that he's so tan, as interested in this fact as someone else was, once upon a time ...

"Where did you get a tan this time of year?" Lang asked Zand the moment he saw him.

"Sunlamps," Zand said, ignoring Lang's offer of a chair in favor of adopting a guarded position against the far wall.

The two were in Lang's office in the Robotech Research Center. With the UEG in recess and the factory projects on schedule, Lang had decided to spend a week or so in Tokyo, catching up with everyone. Zand was at the top of the list of people he wanted to meet with. Suddenly, now, the vague unease Lang had felt in recent phone conversations with Zand was blossoming into full-fledged concern.

"Sunlamps?" Lang said skeptically.

"All right, all right, if you have to know, I took some time off and went to the beach."

"What beach? There isn't a sun-drenched beach within a thousand miles."

Zand made a minor adjustment to his dark glasses. "I don't remember the name of the place. Somewhere in Thailand."

Lang sat back in his chair. "Let me be sure I have this straight: you decided you needed some time off, so you, what?--you jetted down to Thailand to a beach you can't remember the name of, and you soaked up some color."

"Exactly. You have it straight."

"You traveled alone?"

"I happen to enjoy traveling alone."

Lang stood up and walked across the room. Without announcing his intentions, he swept the sunglasses from Zand's face and looked into his eyes. It was like looking into a mirror.

Lang staggered back, supporting himself on the edge of his desk. "Good God, you've done it. You found a way to take the mind-boost."

Zand whipped the glasses out of Lang's hand and put them on. "What are you babbling about? You know as well as I that Zor's console was destroyed."

Lang stared at him, wide-eyed. "You found a way. Tell me what you did, Lazlo. Don't shut me out."

Zand hesitated, then grimaced sinisterly. "You're right, Doctor, I did find a way. You want the details? I injected myself with a mixture of Zentraedi blood and a couple of ccs of fluid from that Invid craft we found. I was unconscious for three hours. I'm sure I almost died. But believe me, Doctor, my IQ is right up there with yours now, and it's increasing--every day, every hour. And soon I'll have an understanding of the Shapings. I'll have powers you never dreamed of." (The Zentraedi Rebellion, pages 241-242

I hope moments like this still exist in the character's history as he is portrayed here. I seriously hope he's not just here because, oh, Edwards needs a science guy. His rivalry with Lang, his long sense of inferiority, and his own strain of megalomania all need to come through in the next few issues. I'd also like to seriously know if his "end" was the same as it was in McKinney's "The Final Nightmare," and if so, how he survived being turned into a giant plant. Making to Tirol from Earth isn't so hard -- I'm sure some of the Expeditionary Force vessels that took off from Earth in 2031 along with the 15th ATAC's ship made it past Liberty and all the way to Tirol. He could have just stowed aboard there. But it's before then that has me curious.

page 20
Last story page. The wounded Tokugawa has drifted too close to Optera and is being pulled by the planet's gravity to the surface. How cliffhanger-tastic.

To be continued in Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles #3, available at comic shops today ...

3 Comments:

  • A great job again. Oh yea You get a great view of Breetai's mecha in the behind the scenes look at the shadow chronicles in issue 3. Which by the way was great. I wonder if Breetai's lover is still around somewhere. I really like the idea of the son of Breetai, one day showing up in robotech.

    By Anonymous Odyn, at 16 November, 2005 19:04  

  • Yeah! I wonder if there will be a bouncing baby Breetai in S.C.
    Great work again Cap. Can't wait for your views on Ish 3.
    Mine should arrive early next week.
    Love the way you show the frames from the original Comics. I'd love to hear your comments on my "Attempting the Sentinels Timeline to Prelude" Post on my Blog. Beholder01.blogspot.com

    By Blogger Beholder01, at 17 November, 2005 09:33  

  • I was quite disappointed to see Karen reduced to bridge crew, since the understanding I got from the original Sentinels stuff had her as at least Jack's equal, probably his better as a pilot. I'm also a bit disappointed by the outrageously overblown dialogue, but hey... Good work on the annotation.

    By Anonymous Aaron Karp, at 04 December, 2005 21:14  

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