Thursday, September 30, 2010

Terminator 1984: #1 Review (SPOILERS)

The Preamble: I remember watching Terminator for the first time in Tommy Jung's parents' basement when I was a little kid.  I was way too young for that movie and, god damn, did it scare the Spiderman underoos right off of me.  A scary movie can have a profound, lasting impact on a little kid.  It stains the psyche like Ecto Cooler used to stain my shirts.  I'm not the only grown man who still remembers being terrified of the relentlessness of the scarily symmetrical, Austrian, robot of death and, as such, the Terminator franchise is in a perpetual state of "you got big shoes to fill, son".  Sometimes it lives up to the hype (Terminator 2, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and sometimes it doesn't (basically everything else).  Bless Zack Whedon and Andy MacDonald for landing themselves very firmly in the former category.

The Overview: Terminator: 1984 comes hot off the hells of Terminator: 2029.  What you need to know is that there is now another man, Ben, who has suffered immeasurable loss at the hands of Skynet and has followed Kyle Reese back in time because he already knows that Kyle is doomed to fail in his mission.  Speaking of Kyle, we open with video of him singing that old, familiar, country tune "Robots done rose up and blew humanity all to hell and my dog died, too" while mysterious sciency businessmen types questions how he knows so much about Skynet, something that is so top secret that even the people working on it are in the dark.  Meanwhile, Ben is soaking up the ecstasy that is the 80's and is reminded just what it is that he's been fighting for all this time.  He waits for the events of the movie to unfold.  This is where things start to change.  After the Terminator is crushed, we discover that Kyle Reese is not actually dead, merely stolen away by the people responsible for that whole end of the world thing.  Ben hunts down Sarah Connor and enlists her in an attempt to find Kyle and save the future.

The Review: I was really nervous going in (as was Zack Whedon, as it turns out) that the comic would toy too much with established history.  Instead, we get these beautifully recaptured scenes from the first movie as drawn by the magnificent Andy MacDonald whose style fits the genre perfectly.  The mixture of excitement and dread that the franchise can provide is all there.  A little love must go out to Sierra Hahn whose deft editing makes this book sing.  Ben makes for an excellent protagonist because, even though he and Kyle share a goal, they are not the same.  Ben is less certain but more pragmatic.  He's more thoughtful, patient but just as passionate.  We also get the murky waters that is a humanity you're not quite sure is worth saving.  I suspect that is one of the dilemmas Ben will face.  In this issue, his resolve is clear, he sees what humanity can have but, in time, he may discover how humanity can squander it's resources.  We already have a moment where Ben devours hot food that was thrown away, all the while questioning why anyone would be so wasteful.  I hope we'll get more of that.  In the meantime, there's a good mystery afoot and Sarah Connor has just joined the fold.  Whedon has successfully grounded his story in the mythos, now he just needs to let it fly.

Bottom Line: If you're still hurting from the Sarah Connor Chronicles being canceled, this book is your salvation.  Zack Whedon is one of those fans who knows how to continue a story he loves and do it in a way that respects what came before while still keeping you surprised.  Go get it.

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