DAY ONE: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles TPB

By Tommy Yune (plot, art [two-page epilogue]), Jason & John Waltrip (script, art [chapter 4 pages 12-20, chapter 5 pages 1-7]), and Omar Dogan (art [everything else])

(10) Seriously, how long have I been asking for Wildstorm to do this? How long? I feel like I've been asking for this even longer than it's been out. And finally, five years down the road, here it is -- at full comic book trim size, no less. No rinky-dink digest size trade paperback for this puppy.

Note that the ACTUAL cover art is subtly different than what's shown at left. The Cyclone has been replaced with a ROBOTECH 25th Anniversary seal (and is it supposed to be rotated askew like that? I almost wish it was a sticker so I could peel it off and make it straight), and the corridor the Cyclone is zipping through has been replaced with the surface of Optera. Oh, and the Alpha's thruster effects have been recolored a greenish blue. Much greener cover overall. Gives it a cleaner, more uniform look.

Tommy Yune's Rick Hunter looks a lot more like a middle-aged Rick Hunter than either Dogan's or the SHADOW CHRONICLES animation design. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of his T.R. Edwards. It's not that he's not hewing to Dogan's character design. I think it's the expression. I'm not asking for a crazy gums-out Skeletor grimace (ahem, SENTINELS BK IV #12), but something a little harder, more stern would suit the character more.

(9) Flip open the cover and you see a classy repeat of the end-of-the-filmstrip motif from the opening of the SHADOW CHRONICLES feature (so subtle in the movie that most of you probably missed it; it's much harder to miss here). A few pages later is a TV series screencap-filled basic ROBOTECH timeline, from the crash of the SDF-1 on Earth to the Invid invasion, and a chart showing all the major worlds and locales of the ROBOTECH universe (Earth, the Moon, Space Station Liberty, Tirol, Fantoma, and Optera). There's also a brief rundown of several of the major characters: Rick Hunter, Vince Grant, Dr. Lang, T.R. Edwards, and the Regent.

Thing is, I'd like to conduct an experiment. I'd like to find out if, after just reading these two pages, a newcomer would be able to make heads or tails of this book. You jump in and right away Lynn Kyle is killed off and Minmei is kidnapped. Are either of these characters mentioned on these first two pages? No. (And really, the only purpose Minmei serves in this book is as a MacGuffin, a prop for Edwards to scoop up and toss in a bubbling glass tube; I suppose you don't need to know who she is to follow the story, but it would help the casual reader CARE.) You know what would actually help? Caption boxes in the actual story pages, along the same lines as the (somewhat flippant) ones writer Matt Fraction uses in his similarly character-overflowing UNCANNY X-MEN comic scripts. "LYNN MINMEI: INTERPLANETARY SINGING STAR, ADMIRAL RICK HUNTER'S EX." That sort of thing. The more useful information you provide the better, especially in something like this where the reader is dropped into the middle of the action -- action based largely on a very, very small press black & white comic book run that's been out of print for THIRTEEN AND A HALF YEARS.

(8) Speaking of Minmei, that one page in issue #1 where she was cropped out of the panel? (Dogan drew her being held by two Ghost Squadron pilots, but Tommy & Co. were hemming and hawing over what her character design circa SHADOW CHRONICLES should look like, so the panel was enlarged just enough to crop her out of the picture.) Full reverse, returned to normal size and uncropped. Not surprising given that she appears (sort of) in issue #4, at which point it was decided to just go with a variation on her original character design.

On the other hand, the next two pages after that, featuring Jack Baker saving Daryl Taylor's bacon in a battle with the Invid? Low res as all hell. Sadly pixelated. Not the word balloons or sound FX, just the artwork. Wrong file loaded? Lost the final version due to some nasty hard drive/server crash? Shame. It kind of mars the book. Wonder if there was going to be some kind of art change here given the next thing I noticed, which is --

At the end of issue #1, when Daryl Taylor turns to Jack to ask if he trusts the Sentinels, now he's got an eyepatch taped over his eye -- with the tape right where the slash should be. I always figured he got his wound during some unseen clash during the fighting in the last two issues, not that first battle. Without his helmet breached, how did he get that trendy thru-eye scar?

(7) Between chapters/issues nifty technical files are provided, complete with full color line art. Each file page features one or two ship or mecha designs used in the chapter immediately preceding it. It's a nice touch that gives the collection a good rhythm. Files are provided for the Tokugawa-class battleship, the Shimakaze-class battlecruiser, the Bioroid Interceptor, the Invid Overlord, the SDF-3, the Horizon-V Dropship, the Silverback variable jeep (which I still think should've been called the Hurricane), and the Garfish light cruiser.

(6) Issue #2. Word balloon that was pointing to Janice that should've been pointing to Lang? Fixed. Screaming word balloon that was supposed to be pointing to both Breetai and the Regent when they're getting fried by Edwards's Synchro-Cannon? Still wrong. Or rather, still sloppy. Both tails are still pointing at the Regent's right shoulder.

(5) Rereading issue #2 I'm still confused as to how, at the end of #3, Rick is stomping about on the surface of Optera when there is "almost no oxygen, but high levels of carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia, and traces of silicon and heavy elements." I guess he must be protected by an invisible shield of Dramatic License.

(4) Issue #4 has been almost COMPLETELY recolored. Lots of new lighting and shading effects throughout, and the final confrontation with Edwards now pops and glows. It looks FANTASTIC, and does the Waltrips' art a much better service than what we saw in the single issues. I remember thinking that the opening to issue #5 was leaps and bounds better than what they'd done in issue #4. It still looks a bit better; it was probably a lot less rushed, a lot of the posing looks a lot more natural, and they clearly got a lot more comfortable with the character designs -- but more than that, the coloring made it LOOK like it was leaps and bounds ahead when REALLY it was just a hop and a skip. I'd say if you've got the individual issues and you're on the fence about getting the collection -- halfway there, pondering it, looking at it on the bookstore shelf and sorta squinting at it with the twenty bucks burning a hole in your pocket -- it's ALMOST worth your while to get the collected edition just for this.

(3) Tommy Yune once told me that it was intended for Exedore's final line to be one cribbed from the end of McKinney's final SENTINELS novel, RUBICON: "Haydon has returned unto our world!" And hey, look, there it is! Though it really doesn't make much sense given THE SHADOW CHRONICLES. At least, not yet.

This, of course, assumes that SHADOW RISING will eventually come to pass (or really ANY sort of SHADOW CHRONICLES follow-up) and explain what Haydon is in the context of the modern ROBOTECH canon and what the significance of his return is. (HINT: it will probably be far less impressive than it seemed in THE END OF THE CIRCLE.)

Then we get a BRAND NEW, beautifully drawn two page epilogue by Tommy Yune, in which Marlene/Ariel (looking much more like her TV series self) awakens with a start, leaves her spot between Annie and Lunk in their tent, looks to the sky (that IS the moon she's staring at, right?), and goes, "Not again." I assume this takes place NOT at the same time as the Neutron-S accident (which is what the presentation in the book would imply), but later, after Scott has already taken off to find Admiral Hunter. It's the only thing that makes sense, given that Annie calls her "Ariel," a name she'd know only after "Symphony of Light" (and consequently the first half hour or so of THE SHADOW CHRONICLES). It doesn't add much, but like I said, very pretty. I like it.

(2) The backmatter doesn't include everything that was in the two-page articles that concluded issues #2-5 of the PRELUDE comic book series, but that's OK. The first article, concerning the many attempts to follow-up ROBOTECH between the TV series and the SHADOW CHRONICLES feature, appears completely intact, while the next three from the comics are squeezed into two pages covering the production of THE SHADOW CHRONICLES. Given that these were intended to tease along a then-unreleased film, this makes sense; better to give the last four pages over to more material covering the book you're holding rather than the movie you saw three or four years ago. In the SENTINELS comparisons, there's a whole host of SENTINELS preproduction Edwards cowl designs that I've never seen before (and are hard to make out given that they're presented as hot pink lineart on a crimson background). There's also a vintage Lazlo Zand character design, which is surprising; it matches the design used in the second issue of the SENTINELS WEDDING SPECIAL, but where was he supposed to come into the SENTINELS animation? Unless he was supposed to be talking to Edwards via Liberty's communications system, by the time Earth comes back into play he's supposed to be an oversized Flower of Life (at least, according to the McKinney novels, specifically FINAL NIGHTMARE). Hmm. (The design actually looks more to me like an early, pre-widow's peak Exedore design -- but it's not out of the realm of possibility that it was supposed to be Zand from the start. Maybe Zand was originally intended to be T.R. Edwards's "Exedore" figure to go with his Breetai-like cowl? It wouldn't be the dumbest idea they had for SENTINELS ...)

(Oh, and while Lazlo Zand's name is still spelled "Laslo" in the comic pages, it's spelled correctly in the article.)

On the two pages where the Haydonites are covered, it is stated that "Veidt was redesigned for ROBOTECH: THE SHADOW CHRONICLES, but no Haydonite character is identified by that name in the final cut of the film." However, in THE ART OF ROBOTECH: THE SHADOW CHRONICLES names are given for the Haydonite triumvirate aboard the command vessel and Veidt is one of them. It even gives a bio for each, so if you watch the movie very carefully and follow the dialog closely you can kinda sorta see which is which. Maybe. I think. Okay, honestly, I don't know, I haven't watched it in a while, maybe you can't. The point is, while what's written in the PRELUDE collection is technically true, the ART OF book states that Veidt WAS one of the Haydonites you saw in the movie.

(1) PRELUDE TO THE SHADOW CHRONICLES is still a lovely mess of a story, a series that should have been longer by at least one issue and should have had more time for character beats in order to make the reader give a care beyond leftover affection for Rick, Lisa, Minmei, Jack, Karen, and the rest. Don't get me wrong, it's great to look at, Omar Dogan does a bang-up job on the art for most of the book and Jason & John Waltrip do a fantastic job emulating his style when they step onstage for the big blow-up climax. Also, let me say this again: the recolored pages look fantastic and make me wish they'd looked that way from the start. The collection is beautifully designed from front to back, the new two-page epilogue is lovely, and the bonus background data pages even have the occasional scrap that's interesting to a ROBOTECH know-it-all like me. But it's still too plot-driven and mechanical and feels more like an outline for a longer, more fleshed out story. You know, something long and serialized, kind of like the TV series from which all this was spawned. Something with a bit of soap opera between the fighting robots and military maneuvers. Recommended for fellow ROBOTECH nerds who love the old SENTINELS gang and especially the old SENTINELS comics, for the Protoculturally-deprived, and for anyone who's been staring at copies of the PRELUDE comics on eBay with jaw agape looking at those ridiculous prices. Stare no more, the book is on Amazon right now for LESS THAN THIRTEEN BUCKS. (And no, that's not an Affiliates link. I make no money off it. It's just the cheapest, most convenient route.)

0. It's not just me, right? There IS a resemblance here, isn't there?

Seriously, that LOVE & WAR collection cover was giving me deja vu for a few seconds before I realized where I'd seen something very much like it before. I'm not saying Tommy is a copycat. I'm just saying the layout is, ah, rather reminiscent of the old Antarctic Press collection cover. (The other similarity between the two books is that I'm not looking forward to reading EITHER one again any time soon. But you can bet LOVE & WAR will be on my bookshelf come December 2010, because as you all know, I have a problem.)

(I also don't have a copy of the MEGASTORM collection. I don't want to remedy that situation, but you and I both know one of these days I will. Just ... not today.)

TOMORROW: Back to the beginning. I'll be talking about "Boobytrap." Screen captures aplenty, even though you probably know the episode backwards and forwards, inside-out and upside-down.

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  • Great stuff and welcome back!

    By Blogger J T, at 01 July, 2010 07:33  

  • On a whim I thought I'd check out your old blog, I'm happy I did :D

    Perhaps it's a futile hope but, I hope none the less that you start up this blog again. In my acknowledgment of hoping for your return to Robotech news I must also (through proxy) acknowledge my hope that HG gives you something to add news commentary to.

    ...Thanks for the blog post. :D


    By Blogger aaron@digitalcole, at 01 July, 2010 14:03  

  • A year of daily Robotech posts?!? Cool. Very ambitious. I look forward to reading them. :)

    Nice write-up. I had passed on this book (I generally don't get the collections once I've already got the individual comics), but you make it sound very tempting. The extras certainly sound good.

    Welcome back!

    By Blogger Fer, at 02 July, 2010 06:58  

  • Holy shit! CaptainJLS is back...


    By Blogger Rui, at 03 July, 2010 20:33  

  • Fer - I'm not saying run out and buy it, but if someone hands you an Amazon gift card or something, it's probably worth it, again, just for the spiffed up issue 4 coloring. Night and day, man. And the two page epilogue was a surprising treat, even if it made me stare at it for a few minutes wondering when it could be set. (Especially since Tommy drew Ariel from the TV series character model.)

    Plus, it's just a really slick package. Very handsome graphic design all around. They really put their best foot forward on this one.

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 05 July, 2010 00:07  

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