Prelude to the Shadow Chronciles #4 Annotations
Edwards glared at him and ripped away his faceplate, revealing a dead eye at the apex of two hideous diagonal scars. "This is why!" he screamed, gesturing to his face. "This is why I hate the two of you."
Rick and Lisa exchanged baffled looks.
"No, of course you don't understand," Edwards continued. "But maybe if I told you how this happened you'd begin to get the picture. You see, I was there that day, Hunter. I was at Alaska Base."
Lisa inhaled sharply. "But ... but that's impossible."
Another flash of energy escaped the Pit, but Edwards ignored it. "Oh, no," he assured her. "Not impossible. You remember where you were?"
Lisa did. She had been ordered to see about a glitch in a shielded commo relay substation. There were sights and smells she didn't want to recall ... amber light ... barely enough fallback power to keep her console functioning. Then her screen had come alive momentarily: multicolored lines of static and an image of her father's face, broken by interference. And she could see he was still in the command center, a few figures moving behind him in the gloom, lit by occasional flashes of static or electrical shorts--
"I was there," Edwards was saying. "I was there when you and your father said your last good-byes.
Lisa looked terrified by the revelation. "But I thought ... I saw the screen go dark. I was sure--"
"But you never bothered to check!" Edwards seethed. "Neither of you!"
Rick, too, was recalling that day. He remembered maneuvering his Skull Veritech through a confining space of exploding power ducts and ruptured energy mains; using the Guardian's phased-array laser to burn a circular hatch through a thick shield door; Lisa rushing into his arms from the end of a short interconnecting passageway.
"Edwards," Rick said quietly. "I--"
"You what, Hunter? I saw the two of you leave ... She was on your lap, wasn't she? Such a cute pair. Meant for each other." Edwards' face contorted as the headband drove something unseen into his mind. He wedged his fingers underneath it, as though to keep it from constricting his scalp. The Pit belched a mad torrent of flames.
"I called out to you, Hunter ... I crawled across that molten glass terrain on my belly praying for you to hear me." Edwards tore the sensor band from his head and collapsed to his knees in pain. He turned to glance at the Pit and motioned to it with the Badger. "You left me in hell up there, and I'm going to do the same for you. Now move, both of you."
"Don't do this, Edwards," Rick said. "I'm the one who left you behind. Let Lisa go."
Edwards laughed in spite of the pain that was radiating through him. "The hero right to the end, huh? Well save it. The only thing that kept me alive was thinking about how I was going to pay you back. There's nothing you can say now that'll change that." (McKinney, Rubicon pages 177-178)
If you've been reading the Prelude notes so far, you may already be familiar with this passage from Rubicon, the fifth of Jack McKinney's Sentinels novels. Refamiliarize yourself with it, because parts of it will be relevant later as well. For now, notice that the first page of Prelude #4 confirms that the reference to Alaska Base that Rick makes to Lisa back in issue #3 was done because Yune & the Waltrips are going with the notion that Edwards was present and seriously wounded there, and it's because Hunter didn't notice Edwards as he escaped with Lisa in tow that Edwards has this overplayed irrational hatred of Rick Hunter. Remember, the "transferring his hatred from Fokker to Hunter" thing isn't in play thanks to the changes made to Edwards & Fokker's relationship in the first WildStorm series, "From The Stars," which leaves us to rely totally on the Alaska Base thing to explain why Edwards hates Hunter so much ... *sigh*
Notice the addition of the red-haired woman in a Robotech Defense Force female enlisted tech's uniform dying in Edwards' arms as the scene plays out in Prelude #4. As she dies, she calls him by his first name, "Thomas" -- obviously it's someone he knows personally. A girlfriend? Certainly his present tense remark in the caption -- "But what is the point of surviving, only to lose that which you hold dear?" -- suggests this is the case. Personally, I've got a theory we'll get to in a bit.
Consider the captions that follow. "Does civilization become meaningless if we abandon civility to defend it? Then what is the value of civility when we are faced with extinction? How far should we go? And how far ... is too far?" Is he questioning the tactics he has employed? Is he having second thoughts about this entire gambit in the wake of the Expeditionary Force's counterattack? Kind of late for that, don't you think? And yet, it's another sign of him being portrayed much more sympathetically, as a person who truly believes in defending humanity and its homeworld, even if his methods make him the villain.
You'll notice the range of similar parts between the Cyclone and the vehicle Admiral Rick Hunter is riding in, which Kenneth Olson at Robotech Research appears to have dubbed the M-310 "Battle Buggy". These similarities led many to wonder whether this vehicle is transformable. In practical terms, this seems unfeasable due to its two-man, side-by-side crew compliment. Plus, we never see it happen -- Rick dismounts as he charges into the Hive. Combine the fans' desire to see a new transformable Robotech mecha with their desire to see Rick Hunter charge into battle one more time in a Battloid, and, well, who could blame people for such wishful thinking?
A cute nod to the old Sentinels comics -- now it's Jack who's the ranking officer enforcing the chain of command. (I believe in the audioblog I said it was Sentinels Bk. II #3, but I'd forgotten the operation doesn't actually go forward until issue #4.)
Jack Baker is shot down; originally his wingman Daryl Taylor, who takes over Jack's Wolf Squadron and continues to lead the squadron in the Shadow Chronicles feature, was supposed to get shot down, in order to explain the "kewl" scar through his eye, but this worked better for setting up Jack's sequence of events for the rest of Prelude.
"New boss, same as the old boss," the Regent's Invid forces realize. This would have been even more true if it was classic Sentinels Edwards; he and the Regent were like two sides of the same coin, which makes what happens to Edwards later in this issue terribly amusing.
Finally, Dogan's visuals get around to suggesting that these are the same somewhat comical Invid forces that the Waltrips drew and later wrote throughout their Sentinels run. Speaking of which, at this late point I do wonder why we never saw any of the smaller slug-like humanoid Invid, shown above fleeing from their Regent, throughout Prelude; instead, Invid Soldier/Enforcer units, such as those Edwards barks at here, serve in their stead. The smaller slug-like humanoids can be handled with a greater level of seriousness than was seen in the Sentinels comics, as the Sentinels video shows us during the scenes between the Regent and Tesla. In the animation they are even garbled less comically, in jackets and pants instead of flowing robes. On top of their absence in Prelude, I still find it kind of weird that we didn't see any Hellcats or Odeons, given that they're the two models of Inorganic given any serious amount of screen time in the Sentinels animation. (The highly unpleasant Crann appears briefly, but only lined up against the wall -- never actually doing anything.)
As the Invid march away to defend the hive, Vince tells Edwards that the game is up. Edwards retorts with, "I have not yet begun to fight!" He is quoting American Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones (1747-1792), who defiantly shouted these words at his British opponent as his own ship was burning and sinking. The key difference between Edwards and Jones is that Jones won his battle -- he wound up in command of the British ship that sank his own vessel when its crew surrendered after three more hours of fighting.
Vince tells Edwards that this conflict is going to cost him everything he was going to use against the Regess on Earth, and Edwards says something very telling: "We are but pawns in what has already been foreseen." (Emphasis mine.) In issue #2, Dr. Zand sat Edwards down in a chair that was hooked up to the Invid Brain that Edwards seized from the Tiresian Royal Hall all those years ago and, at a precise point in the battle between Vince's Tokugawa and the Regent's forces, flipped a switch that jacked Edwards into the living Invid computer. (I believe I erroniously attributed the connection to a headband during the audioblog of these notes; that was Edwards's connection point in the McKinney novels, as you can see in the passage from Rubicon above.) Based on this precise language, I think this had to have connected Edwards into some shared Protocultural/Robotechnological mindspace. He then says, "Our spirit of self-determination is really the key to our survival." I read this as Edwards fighting on in defiance of fate, one he's already seen through his connection with the Brain. Certainly the Brain could have just calculated his odds and thus he knows he's doomed to failure, but the thing that tips me over into the "Protocultural mindspace" concept is that word choice: "what has already been foreseen." You'll see why later.
The self-determination angle also nicely dovetails from his confrontation with Lang back in Sentinels Book IV #11, where Lang tells him, "You will be punished in time. The Shapings will see to that." Yeah, yeah, totally different Edwards, but this rejection of fate reads so nicely if you have the Edwards Vs. Lang and his Shapings angle from the Sentinels works.
And then Vince has to go and mention Rick's name. I really like how this sequence rolls, with the "mental flash" panel featuring the side of Skull One's nosecone to the left of Edwards as his artificial eye illuminates and a flash of red rage reflects off his cowl. Unfortunately, when he tells Vince, "There's only one thing I'm going to explain to Hunter ... just ... before ... he dies," (and oh, I can so hear the proper delivery of that line in my head that goes with that fantastic expression he's got at the end of the page) the confrontation he refers to doesn't live up to the hype. He suggests the sequence you read at top from Rubicon wheras we get ... well, you'll see.
Here's a panel from Sentinels Book II #10, drawn by John Waltrip. Notice the Skull Squadron fin flash, wing insignias, and markings just below the canopy. Jason Waltrip first started adding these way back in Sentinels Book I #3, and they remained part of the mecha of the Sentinels comic until the end of Book II, when most of the Sentinels' mecha was destroyed along with their flagship, the Farrago, over Praxis.
I point these elements out to you because I think if we had some sort of visual aid like this, the colorist wouldn't have had to use the tricks seen on this page to differentiate the Wolf and Ghost Squadron Shadow Fighters -- different colors of flame coming out of their thrusters, and very oddly, red glowing cockpits for Ghost Squadron and blue glowing cockpits for Wolf Squadron. Even that's inconsistent on this page, as just before Daryl Taylor switches to Guardian to blow the Ghost Squadron fighters away, their cockpits glow blue.
I get that squad fin flash and the like wouldn't fit with the whole streamlined shape/muted hue thing the Shadow Fighters have going on, but then the unique color schemes of Macross weren't exactly realistic either -- they were for the viewer's benefit, just as unique markings would have really helped both the reader and the poor colorist, who already seemed confused by this point in the book -- after all, Daryl Taylor appears here with red eyebrows and sideburns, meaning the colorist thought this was Jack. Never mind that Lt. Taylor and Cmdr. Baker actually have distinctly different faces.
A female Cyclone rider pulls up to give Jack a lift. Classic Sentinels rules would have this be Karen, but she's still uselessly being held with Vince Grant in the Genesis Pit chamber by Edwards. Noting this girl's purple hair, you might also be excused for assuming this to be Maia, the purple-haired Veritech pilot from the Shadow Chronicles feature who appears prominently on the cover of the next issue of Prelude. However, as one can gleam from later pages -- most notably the issue's big finale -- it's actually Janice. This would be a lot clearer if she, say, flipped up her helmet visor in the panel where her face appears, since her proper skin hue, hair color, and eye color would be big tip-offs to her identity. (Her nose is drawn kind of weird here and there's something slightly odd about her lips too, which doesn't help.)
With Rick on the ground leading the troops into the main hive, Lisa gets her chair back for one final stint as captain of the SDF-3 Pioneer.
Rick refers to "strange objects we found in orbit." As Edwards helpfully explains in a bit, those are Neutron S missile warheads orbiting Optera.
As the Battle Buggy and its Cyclone escorts roll through the Invid hive, Rick is surprised to see Dr. Zand. Rick mangles a paraphrasing of the famous Mark Twain quote -- "So Dr. Zand, the rumors of your untimely demise were not very accurate!" he says, winning the award for clumsiest dialogue of the entire issue -- and demands to know where Edwards and Minmei are. This is the last time Zand appears, meaning the whole issue of his mysterious resurrection following being transformed into a Flower of Life by his backfiring Protocultural destiny essence draining machine (or a more conventional death that's simply left totally in the air) remains unexplained. One more mystery for the pile, I guess.
One contingent of the Cyclone riders in Rick's team, including Janice and Jack, breaks off to follow the coordinates Zand gave them to find Minmei. The room is filled with empty test capsules just the right size to hold a human being, some of them jacked into devices overhead featuring the classic Invid sensor eye motif. One Cyclone rider notices a capsule that isn't empty and points it out to Jack and Janice. We see a naked female silhouette that appears to have red hair, like Edwards's dead girlfriend and the redesigned Janice human form. Jack looks up at her and goes, "Oh my God." Janice is also stunned; her mouth is gaping open in shock or horror.
Obviously something is wrong. It can't just be shock from seeing Minmei suspended in an Invid device. Which leads to this theory I have:
The "Unified Red-Haired Girl Theory": Dr. Lang and Edwards, both stationed at Macross Island in the years prior to the launch of the SDF-1, both fall in love with a red-haired girl named Janice. She winds up posted at Alaska Base along with Edwards before the SDF-1's launch, and she dies there in 2012. When Lang finds out, in his grief he names the android he's developing for her. Years later, in the run-up to the confrontation with Edwards over Optera, Lang finds that he can finally give the Janice android its proper human guise during its Haydonite-assisted upgrade. Meanwhile, while his men are stationed at Optera, with his attempts to woo Lynn Minmei totally shot to hell, Edwards comes up with this crazy idea for further revenge against Rick Hunter -- with the help of Dr. Zand, he will transform Lynn Minmei, "body and soul," into Janice, essentially turning Hunter's first love into his own true love.
Alternatively, it could be that this is Zand's idea, since some pages later Edwards doesn't bat an eye when Minmei turns up looking like her right and proper self. Rather, it could be Zand seeking to one-up Lang (his usual M.O.) by creating a biological duplicate of Janice from Minmei.
In any case, this is probably the Waltrips, guided by Tommy Yune, trying to help explain away a new Minmei character design coming down the pipe in the animation following the Shadow Chronicles feature -- a sci-fi flavored variation on what happens to Rick during the course of this series, what with his hair turning white at the end of issue #1 and him getting a trendy facial scar a few pages from now. Unlike what happens to Rick, though, it feels like they pull back from the changes to Minmei next issue ...
It's also worth pointing out that Edwards's desire for Minmei is a far more driving issue throughout Rubicon; I figure it isn't so much in Prelude due to both a lack of time to adequately deal with the issue and the fact that a Shadow Chronicles-era character design couldn't be settled on by the deadline (remember how her face, vaguely sketched as it was, was cropped out of that panel in issue #1?).
Rick and his men charge into the Genesis Pit chamber. Rick threatens to have the SDF-3 shoot down the Neutron S warheads, and Edwards kindly explains why they're named so: "The warheads use neutron star matter as an explosive core. You could annihilate the entire surface of a planet such as this ..." While this does point towards the intention of General Reinhardt at the end of The New Generation, this line might also point backwards, if you tie a few references later on down the line together ...
With a thought, Edwards's Genesis Pit freakshow makes its debut a bit later than it did in Rubicon; indeed, they were the frontline in his defense of Optera in McKinney's work, albeit with a far more unpleasant appearance:
"What's going on out there?" Rick heard Lisa ask from the chair. He turned his back to the main screen, leaning in for a look at the threat board. The troopships had disgorged several hundred Pincer ships into the arena; but instead of launching into their usual random attack maneuvers, the battle mecha were forming up in huge squares behind individual group leaders.
Rick called for a closeup of one of the lead mecha.
And was sorry when he got it.
It was difficult to tell whether it was a ship, a living creature, or some unholy mating of the two. Bilaterally symmetrical, the thing was about the same size as a Shock Trooper; but in place of integument and alloy armor was waht looked like actual flesh and bone. This one happened to be female--a naked one at that--with plasma cannons where breasts would be, and the face and hair of Lisa Hunter.
Rick's reaction was typical: he grunted a disgusted sound, let go the first curse that came to mind, and averted his eyes from the screen.
"Destroy that thing!" Lisa was screaming.
Edwards taunted her. "I wasn't sure I got the measurements right, Admiral. Are the proportions correct?"
Rick had the scanners close on another group leader--an equally obscene caricature of himself this time, grinning madly like some horrific piece of Aztec art. And the rest of the REF command were out there as well: Vince and Jean Grant, Max Sterling and Miriya Sterling, Dr. Lang and Minmei.
"You're insane, Edwards!" Rick screamed.
"And loving you for it," Edwards replied, laughing. (McKinney, Rubicon, 135)
Somehow I doubt even a straight and proper Waltrip-crafted comic adaptation of Rubicon would have maintained this element, though in Book III the series wasn't shying away from nudity.
I should also note that the Genesis Pit-spawn in the passage from Rubicon were of the Invid stock referred to in the McKinney novels as the "Special Children," the stock that were transmuted into the Black Death Destroyers in Sentinels Book IV #8. However, in Prelude it's hinted in issue #3 that these more straightforward monstrosities that Edwards has conjured began life as REF personnel. If only Edwards would mention this to Hunter here, it might sting a little for him when Rick lets off a shot and blows the top of the head off the creature that has attacked him, knocking away his helmet and giving him his trendy scar that finally settles him into his Shadow Chronicles animation character design.
As Rick bleeds and retreats into the ranks of the Cyclone-armored soldiers under his command, Edwards draws a line between Rick's facial gash and the scars he took away from Alaska Base, weakly dropping the bombshell on him not in a ranting fit like he did in Rubicon, but in a cold comparison. Rick's retort is even weaker and colder: "Get over it! The entire Earth was under attack! We were all caught in the fog of war!" Not only does Rick already seem to know why Edwards hates him so, but he he presents a lame, weak defense of his actions. Rewatching "Force of Arms," Rick doesn't seem to be caught up in any "fog of war"; if anything, it's a fog of jubilation. Murky as the art is, you might not be able to make out that the scene on the first page takes place in the corridors of Alaska Base, when Rick is zipping through fast as can be; if we can take the two depictions together, we can guess that this is him exiting the base with Lisa in tow, fearing for their lives as conduits explode around them. Not stopping for Edwards might elicit a snide remark like, "Some hero you are, Rick." Coming up with a total crap excuse like this "fog of war" nonsense he offers when confronted with Edwards's remarks drags him down even further.
I don't know what it says about Rick, though, that I can totally hear Tony Oliver delivering the line. Maybe that he is just that bad a hero.
Rick was about to give it another shot when a voice behind him said: "Maybe there's something I can say, T.R." He and Lisa turned around to find Minmei standing there. She was bruised and battered, more naked than dressed.
"Let them go, T.R.," she said, walking toward the rim of the Pit. "You've lost everything you worked for. But you can still have me if you let them live. I'll do whatever you ask."
"Minmei, no!" Lisa screamed.
Edwards roared a laugh. "Oh, what a day for heroism! And what a sweet thing is revenge!" He extended his right arm to her. "Come to me, my pet."
Minmei nuzzled into his open arm and wrapped her own arms around his waist. "You'll let them go, then?"
Edwards looked down at her and smiled. "Sorry, love, but you know how it is: I have to do what I have to do."
Minmei smiled back and said, "And so do I, T.R."
Edwards blanched and tried to pull away from her, catching sight of something in her eyes more evil than in his own. Then he let out a long, agonized groan of pain and terror as Minmei tightened her hold on him.
Rick and Lisa were too stunned to utter a sound. (McKinney, Rubicon, 179)
It was Janice they saw now, Janice in android guise, lifting Edwards off his feet and carrying him toward the crater. He was howling loud enough to be heard over the Pit's fiery welcome, the chords of his neck stretched like cables, his face as red as the world awaiting him.
Janice's steps were measured and precise along the gentle incline. At the top she turned to look back at Rick and Lisa, and readjusted her load so that Edwards sat in her arms like a bride about to be carried over the threshold. Then she commenced her walk into the fire, Edwards's screams accompanying them down.
Lisa had her face buried in her hands.
Rick watched the flames lick at Edwards's blond hair and Janice's artificial flesh. Soon the fire and smoke engulfed them and the Pit let out a wailing deathsound of its own. The hive seemed to shut down around them, as though Optera itself had died, blinded by light and staked through its very heart. (McKinney, Rubicon, 179-180)
It's a very similar end awaiting Edwards through pages 17 & 18 of Prelude #4, though while Rubicon has a seperate operation taking care of the Invid Brain, the Waltrips have to clumsily stick it in the same room as the Genesis Pit and have Janice draw attention to it -- "He's controlling the creatures with the Invid Brain! Fire on the Brain!" -- so that it can get shot up and collapse on Janice and Edwards, knocking them into the Genesis Pit. It's all staged in a rather dull fashion, and honestly the art should have depicted the moment of the Brain colliding with Edwards and Janice rather than the two-panel "before and after" we're given, the latter of which shows their legs ignobly sticking out of the Genesis Pit along with the cracked Invid Brain dome as all three sink into the bubbling muck.
Obviously as you can see from the art above the Waltrips had a more straightforward adaptation of the scene from Rubicon planned if they'd been left to their own devices. Except for one detail ...
The biggest surprise we were planning was having General Edwards survive the Genesis Pit, if only briefly. Just as Rick and Lisa think he is gone forever, Edwards would rise up out of the Genesis Pit transformed into a giant, hideous monster. (Jason Waltrip, Emissaries Vol. 1 #3, "The Brothers Waltrip: An Interview")
Notice the Invid Brain has fused itself to the right hemisphere of Edwards's head. Also notice the eyes scattered throughout it, a design element he inherits from the Invid Regent. In fact, take a good look at the tube-like design going down his right arm; that and the way his head hangs down now suggest to me that he is evolving into a sort of New Regent birthed from Optera itself as the planet's last gasp.
To be continued ...
The red tint on Minmei was confirmed to merely be a lighting effect, though from Jack Baker and Janice's reactions you'd expect there to be some ill effect of Minmei's treatment, especially given that the writers themselves drew that particular page.
By the same token, the girl Edwards is holding in the opening of this issue is someone that both Edwards and Lang had great affection for, but not in the way I assumed -- it's Dr. Lang's sister, Janice Lang. Shades of Bill Spangler (Return to Macross)'s Nina Lang, though she does die far too early to be Scott Bernard's mother, as she is in the Return to Macross comics and is implied to be in the McKinney novels (though nothing says Dr. Lang can't have two sisters).