DAY TWENTY-FOUR: The Legend of Zor #5 - The Harvesting (1992)
(10) You tell me the Tirolian Civil War depicted here was long, and I just don't believe you. It was the Zentraedi versus, like, fifteen guys with a cache of stolen guns. If there's one thing that's long plagued the Waltrips' ROBOTECH work, up to and including the last decade's PRELUDE TO THE SHADOW CHRONICLES, it's been a problem of scale. And I think this is a trickle-down problem from Daley & Luceno, and even to some extent from the TV series. The difference is that aside from the First Robotech War, which really was basically a war between one ship and millions, throughout the rest of the televised ROBOTECH saga there was a sense that there were things happening elsewhere, stuff we just never saw because it was outside the scope of the narrative -- potentially other fronts in the war against the Robotech Masters, other bands of freedom fighters clashing with the planet's Invid overlords. The previous issue of this series really failed to give a sense that maybe someone else was resisting the Elders as well, or that the rebels we saw were part of a network. It looked for all the world like the guys in that one room were the entire rebellion. Even if they weren't, what did that war look like? What weapons did they have? We just see Zentraedi soldiers standing triumphant. No mecha or other vehicles, not even as scrap in the streets. And Zor wonders about Arla, only furthering the sense that this is, like, hours later instead of years.
This is the last odd-numbered issue, and consequently John Waltrip is back on art, with his finer line and greater attention to detail. I love the look of the Elders' throne room, looking even more like something out of SOUTHERN CROSS, with its mix of Greco-Roman architecture and twisting, almost organic-looking technology. You can even see, in the background of the shot where Nimuul shows Zor the current state of the Invid, the Robotech Masters of the TV series huddled around a Protoculture Cap.
The sight of Zor genuflecting before the Masters and saying "What is thy bidding, my Masters," is a frustrating one. It's an obvious callback to STAR WARS, especially in a scene concerning the end of a rebellion against an empire. Was it absolutely necessary? Especially with that precise dialog? Ugh.
I guess that's why Nimuul figures he's still got him; Zor has no clue that Nimuul no longer possesses the one card he had against him.
What in the hell does Zor mean by, "What better way to fight them than to feed those monstrous egos?"
This actually is used somewhat as a plot point; the Regent's forces are supposed to be more of an emulation of the Robotech Masters, while the Regess follows her own path towards reclaiming what was once theirs.
But the end result of the conventionalizing of the Invid is what we see here, the comical robed slugs of the Waltrips' comics. What was at least visually interesting in the SENTINELS animation was played for laughs under Mason & Ulm's keyboards and the Waltrips' artwork, and evolved -- how appropriate, given who we're talking about -- into what we see here. Look at the funny slug people trying to create culture!
I had never noticed that the central hive on Optera, which appears throughout the SENTINELS comics, is shaped in an emulation of the Tiresian Royal Hall: large narrowing structure with a smaller central command structure on top. Huh.
I actually really like the way the two are described, the Regent seeking to "evolve" through acquisition, through the accumulation of more and more material things, while the Regess seeks to evolve towards that which she desires. They're both depicted as blind towards what their industrious children are up to below the central hive, both obsessing over their own personal goals -- their racial hive-mind link between one another severed in their emulation of the more individual Tirolians, perhaps?
I think it was the RPG that floated the idea that the Regess and Regent were one and the same entity before Zor set foot on Optera, which would go a ways towards explaining exactly where the Regent was back in issue #2. It's said outright here, that these two WERE one. Only, the form Zor encountered was undoubtably feminine, and was already halfway towards Zor's own form in an emulation of Haydon, he whom she mistook Zor for. It's a problematic little plot hole I discussed in further detail back in my write-up of issue #2.
Zor orders the Zentraedi not to harm the inhabitants, but doesn't he remember exactly what he told the Elders long ago, that the Invid and their Flowers live in symbiosis? Without the Flowers, what does he expect the Invid to do? Or is this the big plan, to do essentially what he does -- leave them alive to stew and become wretched, corrupt, and dangerous to the Empire that has done essentially the same to him?
What is the point of the Zentraedi soldiers on the ground, beyond the visuals of giant soldiers stomping the artifacts of the Invid's emulation of Tirolian culture?
It's interesting that the Regent refers to the other Invid as his kindred, while the Regess refers to them as her children. Again, a sign that the Regent is a more recent manifestation, perhaps not even as old as an individual entity as some of the smaller Invid surrounding him in the shelter.
It occurs to me, seeing Zor aboard a Nupetiet-Vergnitzs flagship, that we've gone through five out of six issues and there is as of yet no SDF-1. It's only introduced in the next -- final -- issue. That strikes me as an odd decision given all that Zor has yet to do, but one that's par for the course with the strange push-and-pull pacing of this series. I suppose that's the price one pays for the more deliberately paced, dramatically designed odd-numbered issues. It's true, this REALLY needed to be a longer series -- at least twice as long to fully explore even Zor's own story, if not the story of Tirol's transformation from spacefaring republic, to interstellar empire, to ruin.
Of course, the narrative reason to keep the Zentraedi weaker would be to make the Invid on equal footing. If the Zentraedi don't pack the punch we know they can from the TV series, they can't return to Optera and raze the planet after the Invid start making a nuisance of themselves.
(1) If the Regess knows nothing of betrayal before this moment, I wonder, what of the Regess's proclamation at the end of the TV series that TWICE in their history they've been forced from their homeworld, forced to flee to another galaxy. (One of these times is when the Regess takes her Invid from Optera to Earth to seize its supply of the Flowers of Life.) Oh wait, that's one of those little hiccups in continuity that everyone conveniently forgot while they took Daley & Luceno's words as law. That was lost under the same circumstances as the Disciples of Zor were lost, the "wars with the Micronians" were lost, the Zentraedi Civil War hinted at in "Khyron's Revenge" was lost.
If you actually trace everything that's said in the TV series, you could probably craft a whole cycle of books, a whole other eighty-five or more TV episodes, from all the snippets of history hinted at there. Instead we got six comic books derived from the most streamlined version of the history, already warped to match a rewrite of history designed to support the unfinished SENTINELS animation project, streamlined even further and pock-marked with sci-fi cliches. It doesn't even get the Robotech Masters' culture right at the end; it never evolves into a standing culture like that seen in the TV series. I'd love to see someone take another crack at this story someday. I'm sure an interesting yarn could be spun from the materials the Waltrips were unaware of and the materials they neglected.
NEXT: The SDF-1 begins its mission, and the Invid begin theirs in the final chapter of THE LEGEND OF ZOR - "The Avenging."