ROBOBLOG III Archives

8.07.2010

DAY THIRTY-EIGHT: Return to Macross #22 - Storming the Gates (1995)

Written September 14, 2010


By Bill Spangler (writer) & Wes Abbott (artist)


(10) Yep, we're taking a few steps back today to root around in the back issue bins and turn back the clock in the ROBOTECH chronology as well -- back to the days before the Zentraedi invasion, when Robotechnology was all shiny and new to the people of Earth, and Roy Fokker was running around Macross Island shoving his nose into places where it didn't belong and occasionally punching terrorists in the face. As I said some time ago, I'm setting aside a few slots on the calendar to talk about "War of the Believers," Wes Abbott's four-issue swan song on RETURN TO MACROSS, which Academy Comics later collected in a skinny little hundred-some-odd-page graphic novel.

(9) This first installment opens with Nina Lang, lead singer of of Absolute Zero and the sister of Dr. Emil Lang, doing an anti-Robotechnology commercial for the Faithful, the religious group that believes the SDF-1 was placed on Earth as a new Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She's been rattled by the fortress ever since the incident where the mentally unstable RDF would-be instructor Shane Gleason had a nasty flashback in the middle of the night and stole a Destroid to try and "escape" his "captors." Gloval remarked back in the first issue that the stress of living around the battle fortress had driven some people off  the deep end, but Gleason's experiences during the Global Civil War had pushed him WAY over and endangered the lives of everyone on the island. The Faithful discovered her misgivings and, given that Robotechnology's chief expert, he of the mysterious all-black eyes, is her brother, gave her a platform to offer those misgivings up to the world.

That, I think, is a shrewd little bit of plotting. Spangler worked this out nicely; he added a singer to the cast, important for anything with "Macross" in the title, and at the same time added the character as a relative to an existing character in a way that made good sense for the plot.

Dr. Lang's response to the situation is to offer to debate his sister on the topic live on MBS -- a debate he would, of course, win hands down, being the world's foremost expert on Robotechnology. Good for his job and the advancement of science, bad for his relationship with his sister.

(8) Enter our villains, chief among them future Southern Cross Supreme Commander Anatole Leonard. Spangler wrote a few stories with Leonard as one of the "villains" -- THE MALCONTENT UPRISINGS, CYBERPIRATES, and MECHANGEL among them. His appearance here tracks from points Luceno made in THE ZENTRAEDI REBELLION (itself based on Spangler's MALCONTENT UPRISINGS), and even before that the characterization he and Brian Daley offered up in the three novels based on the Robotech Masters episodes of ROBOTECH -- Leonard as anti-alien religious zealot. Here he's presented as a former member of the Faithful pushing his own extremist agenda, associating with thugs and mercenaries to further his cause. I always feel bad enjoying this, MALCONTENTS and its novel counterpart, and the Masters novels because I truly dislike their take on Leonard, but there's more than enough good in all these stories that I can't hate them -- and I especially find it difficult to blame the writers since I found the root of that all the way back in ROBOTECH ART 1 (again, the very first line in his bio in what was touted at the time as "The Official Guide to the Robotech Universe:" "Supreme Commander Leonard is a pathetic bigot.").

Anyway, Leonard's plan in this first installment of "War of the Believers" is to disrupt the testing of the latest Destroid model, the Spartan (today referred to by its original MACROSS name, the Phalanx). In order to succeed, he enlists the help of one Reynaldo DaSilva, a scruffy thug in a wife beater who becomes a more major villain during the final stretch of RETURN TO MACROSS, when it was drawn by the then-not-ready-for-prime-time Dusty Griffin. More on all that later, if I wind up especially hard up for material sometime next year.

(7) Despite the fact that the test of the Spartan was supposed to be top secret, Leonard's cohorts manage to assemble a crowd of around a hundred and fifty people to protest the event. It's guarded by armored GMP officers, which despite how well drawn they are always look a little odd mixed up with Macross characters and settings.

It looks a little funny seeing Anatole Leonard, clad in his nice suit, personally setting the bomb that will cause the explosion that distracts the GMP and disrupts the test. Doesn't he have any trusted lackeys? Or wait, I think that sort of becomes a plot point in the next couple of issues.

(6) When the explosion goes off and his right hand girl Jessie leads the crowd onto the testing field, one of the characters who runs onto the field is obviously FATAL FURY/KING OF FIGHTERS's Terry Bogard, complete with ball cap, ponytail, and sleeveless jacket with "NEO GEO" written on the back. He even says, as he's running onto the field, "Come on, come on!" which is what Terry says at the start of each match in most of the KOF games.

(5) While the GMP prepares to gas the protestors, Roy notices DaSilva taking snapshots of the Destroid. Again, seeds for later storylines; also, today it wouldn't be anywhere near as obvious, given digital photography, cameras in every cell phone, or even in cases like this more discrete methods of shooting pictures for folks with the right connections, as DaSilva would have. Roy, being Roy, shoves past the GMP officers to take DaSilva down, but while he gets a good uppercut in, his efforts are undercut by the GMP's blanket gassing of the area.

(4) The issue ends with Roy expressing his doubts that this is the Faithful and a mysterious figure halfway across the world deciding it's time to return to Macross Island. That mysterious figure turns out to be the long-absent Charles Conrad Wilbur, the founder of the Faithful who couldn't bring himself to destroy Roy's VF-1J prototype back in issue #4 using that bomb supplied by T.R. Edwards and planted by mechanic Rob Leeds -- in one of Spangler's less successful, more eye-rolling relationship ties, the brother of future SDF-1 bridge tech Vanessa Leeds. Wilbur is planning on returning to the island to denounce the violent protests. This, as you can imagine, won't end well for him.

(3) As you can see, it's a very brief opening story; it's paced with big, wide open panels that would actually translate well to manga size. Some of the emptier panels would probably look better at the smaller size, to boot. There's one panel in particular that just has a couple of GMP armors with no background that looks especially unfinished and empty. Interesting that, because the next issue has a lot more action and detail, and Abbott uses a lot of screentones there as well. I get the feeling he probably paced production to give more attention to the busier story.

(2) Emptiness of panels and brevity of story aside, it's another lovely issue from Abbott. As the Destroid walks out, it looks appropriately massive. I love the way Nina, as she's standing on the shoreline of Macross Island in the commercial, has the wind blowing her hair in her face; it's a really nice touch. His characters are always so full of character; when DaSilva comes into Leonard's apartment, he leaps over the back of the couch to get on it, and Jessie shies away and steps out for a smoke. So many nice little touches.

And seriously, the guy can draw a mean GMP combat armor. It might look out of place, but regardless it looks really, really great.

(1) I know I've got a problem when it comes to ROBOTECH; it's that too often I see the good idea at the core of something and sort of shrug when the execution is off. For crying out loud, I played ROBOTECH: INVASION all the way through twice, maybe three times. (And I used to make fun of people who still bought SPAWN games ...) But I'm pretty sure I'm not totally high on this one; while it's not as good as the issues yet to come, this is some pretty solid action-adventure comics work, if a bit slight, and "War of the Believers" gets better from here on out. I got to the end of this, started flipping forward (I was reading the trade paperback, which resides at present on my ROBOTECH bookshelf -- much easier to get to than my ROBOTECH comic book boxes), and then sighed because Wes Abbott isn't drawing any comics these days -- at least, not that I know of, not since the end of the second DOGBY book back in 2008.


So, more Spangler & Abbott in a few. Next up, just a little art commission that recently found its way into my hands courtesy of my now-ex-roommate and former Emissaries editor/publisher, then back to the TV series write-ups for the first on-screen appearance of the Robotech Masters!

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1 Comments:

  • there's some good panels in here... and also vaguely distracting sort of annoying ones.

    a couple times i thought 'i wish this page's establishing shot bled into the gutters and had more detail' unsure why i thought that. maybe cause manga does that? and this does seem very manga like. i'd have to check.

    he sorta does that in the nina lang beach page.. unfortuneatly the sea looks like a misshapen black vague thing and the top panel crowds the effect out.. bah he shoulda switched them around

    also there was this macross 2 comic that had kanzaki and that valkyrie pilot woman running around with guns in macross city.. it was probably good for what it was but i expected epic scale robot action and had trouble buying flying ace snooping around the base with a handgun intrigue (although this happens a lot when you play the RPG). maybe cause they're.. using roy fokker when they shouldnt.. but they have to ? well its a theory

    By Blogger James, at 26 September, 2010 12:02  

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