DAY ELEVEN: The Legend of Zor #2 - The Changing (1992)
By Jason Waltrip & John Waltrip (Words & Art)
(10) I had this issue long before I had any of the others. Somehow I suspect that this one lingered on store shelves and in longboxes because of that weird cover. One of the long-standing ideas regarding the discovery of Protoculture is that Zor somehow seduced the Regess to coax the secrets of the Flower of Life out of her; the Regent says words to that effect in the SENTINELS animation. The cover to this issue takes this idea to its logical end, though the scene in the comic seems to occur on a kind of psychic dreamscape -- at least, that's what the staging suggests, though with the Invid you never know.
Of course, since the Waltrips have painted Zor as a young absent-minded professor sort of idealist, an intentional seduction just isn't in him. No, instead there's a case of mistaken identity (which doesn't make any sense), and he just decides to roll with it. More on that in a bit.
I didn't mention it last issue, but yes, as advertised on the cover there are "FREE! ROBOTECH TRADING CARDS INSIDE!" Twenty-six cards in all, two per issue, uncut and stapled to the inside of the book -- yeah, if you wanted them as trading cards, you'd have to cut them out yourself. They didn't even put in perforated lines so you could PUNCH them out. A checklist is provided in the special edition of issue #1, telling us that there are twenty-six cards in all. To collect them all, you'd need to buy thirteen LEGEND OF ZOR comic books -- out of a six issue series (seven if you're a completist and want the special edition of #1). Needless to say, this is the one time in the 1990's where the ROBOTECH line succumbed to the foul tricks of the early 1990's comic book industry and its money-grubbing collector mentality.
Twice in two pages enthusiastic, excited, grinning Zor is replaced with profound, dramatically-standing Zor, who says things like, "Out among you somewhere are the wonders I'm destined to discover by Valivarre's will," (again with the old religion/superstition) and, "You are from this day forward, changed." It clashes with the way the character acts when talking to his peers, and again, it's twice in two pages. Also, I swear I've seen the latter quote before, which leads me to think it probably comes from the novels, which would explain the clash in tone.
Just like the previous issue, there's a lot of dialog where characters have conversations they have to have had time and time again by now; this time, Zor complains to Vard about bringing down a military presence. This is, by what Vard says, the thirteenth planet they've visited. Has Zor said this a dozen times already? Vard's right, he SHOULD know it's standard procedure by now. But again, got to rub in the whole idealistic pacifistic thing.
While Vard pooh-poohs the discovery of the Invid, Zor is excited by everything he sees. He's interested in everything, curious about all the universe has to offer, including the possibility that the Invid are an intelligent species with their own simple slug society.
I think in the corner of the last page of this scene I see one of Zor's colleagues petting an Invid like a puppy, or perhaps scratching it behind its tentacles.
Arla's appearance in this first scene is odd. She's surrounded by angry citizens, all of whom appear to be male. They're all yelling, while she's looking pensive. Is she not as outraged as they are? Can she see Zol from that distance? Is he supposed to be the recipient of this sad, perhaps disappointed look? Or is this just a case of making the girl look weaker than the men just because she's a girl? Okay, sure, she's a member of the aristocracy and she's probably had years of upbringing that prevents her from being as loud and outspoken as the common folks surrounding her, and besides, this is going to change as of next issue, when the transition from Republic to Empire is complete.
That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't any exceptional scenes in this issue. The sequence where Zor leaves the dropship in the middle of the night to meet the Regess is well done; I'm not sure how intentional it was, but it first recalls Zor Prime's neurosensor-induced tremors in the night in "A New Recruit." Then, as he enters the Invid colony, things get kind of psychedelic, bringing to mind the crazy lights of Reflex Point in "Dark Finale." It's a well paced, visually interesting sequence, and it's also the one point in the whole issue where the colors -- by Katy Llewellyn -- really shine. I can't help but think, though, that last issue's team of John Waltrip and Joseph Allen would've done a more visually interesting job on the rest of the book; you know that theory going around about blues and oranges on movie posters and color grading in film these days? LEGEND OF ZOR #1 was full of that, and I must say, it did make the book pop. This issue doesn't pop so much, except for again, the bit where Zor meets the Regess.
When we meet the Regess, she has already taken a humanoid appearance, contrary to the evolutionary quest of the New Generation animation/MOSPEADA, but consistent with the way she appears in SENTINELS -- though she hasn't quite reached that particular form yet. Right now she looks like an unfinished mannequin, the sort you'll see in shops that don't have details on the faces. Those of you in the back who've read enough SENTINELS comics or the full series of ROBOTECH novels will know that she did this to emulate the being she incorrectly assumes Zor is, the godlike alien being Haydon, whose voyages Zor would later retrace and who sleeps beneath the surface of the artificial planet Haydon IV. According to the ROBOTECH novels, it was he who transplanted the Flower of Life from Earth to Optera in the first place, which is why the Regess speaks of a "gift." The "gift" is the Flower of Life.
One thing that's weird about the Regess's appearance is that in close up she has legs, but in long shots the lower half of her body turns into a mermaid tail that then extends into the ground and becomes one with the walls around them. I get that her form is, at this stage, infinitely malleable, given that they seem to be operating on some sort of bizarre psychic plane, but it just comes off like very strange staging, like Jason Waltrip is going all Rob Liefeld on us and doesn't want to draw her feet. Notice, too, that there's a rippling wave of energy suggesting curly, vertical Marge Simpson or Bride of Frankenstein hair coming off the Regess's head.
Also weird, she seems to be the one trying to seduce HIM, and like I said, Zor's just rolling with it, trying to turn this to satisfy his infinite curiosity.
I suppose she's still an innocent, and as hungry for knowledge as he is -- hungry enough to overlook the fact that, in as deep a psychic bond as the Waltrips describe here, she'd certainly realize that Zor has never been here before, and that he's not testing her, he honestly doesn't know the answers to the questions he's asking. That would make sense. Except ...
Except that when Zor returns to Optera, it is the Regent who has to say outright to the Regess, "You know, it doesn't make any sense that the same guy would come here, give us the Flowers of Life, then come and ask what they are and take some back with him. He can't be the same guy. It just doesn't make any sense." She still doesn't know THEN, not until he brings with him the Zentraedi and their giant harvester machines. You would think that in the merging of minds it would be obvious, but I guess you would be wrong in this particular case.
One might wonder where the Regent is in all this. When Zor returns to Optera, he is by the Regess's side, only the knowledge she has shared with her people and her obsession with Zor and his form has driven them apart. But if they are as one, as the narration later tells us they are at THIS point, where is he? Is he here among the energy around them, watching as his wife bonds with an alien stranger? Is he napping in the next orb-cave over?
The "B" story, on the other hand, goes from spear-wielding guards enforcing martial law on citizens armed with signs and what appears to be tomatoes to more of Zol and Nimuul talking at each other. And at Nimuul's word, all the other senators are arrested, including Zol, he somehow winds up appointed as an Elder, and the Republic becomes an Empire.
As I said, this would all have been better served as simply a big reveal next issue, as it is ultimately revealed to Zor and Vard -- Cabell does a better job filling him in than the six pages that cover these events do here. These pages fail the simple test of how comics are supposed to work: SHOW, not TELL. We never see how Nimuul consolidates power, we never see how he becomes an Elder, we never see how he convinces those around him that certain steps are necessary. It's all staged like a cheap TV drama, two men talking about it, minimal cast.
All in all, a major letdown from the first issue. The material with Zor and the Invid is interesting, but flawed, and the drama on Tirol is poorly executed. It's a weak link in the chain. Things do get better from here, though; now that the pieces are in place, weakly put though they might have been, the real game can begin.
The story is followed up by a four-page CAPTAIN HARLOCK strip by Robert W. Gibson and Ben "Ninja High School" Dunn in which nothing happens. Likewise, around the same time the ROBOTECH story "Firewalkers" (a "missing chapter" of Spangler & Eldred's INVID WAR series) was being serialized in the back of the CAPTAIN HARLOCK mini-series FALL OF THE EMPIRE.
TOMORROW: We return to the TV series for the work week ahead, so let me put on my narrator guy sportscaster voice and leave you with ...
"Be sure to be with us for 'Miss Macross,' the next thrilling chapter of ROBOTECH!"