Saturday, May 5, 2012

Terminator: 2029-1984 (comics)

Writer: Zack Whedon
Artist: Andy MacDonald
Collects: Terminator 2029 #1-3, Terminator 1984 #1-3

I may have mentioned before that Dark Horse are pretty much the kings of the licensed comic. Well, here's more proof. Dancing in the raindrops of the films - hell, the second half takes place directly after the first one - we get another winner from a company that knows what's up with this kind of thing. Other entertainment mediums may struggle with the licensed product, but Dark Horse makes it look simple.

What we get here is a two part story spanning the advertised time periods. We follow Ben, a new character to the franchise, as he struggles to survive in the hellish future alongside the woman he loves and Kyle Reese. Things get wonky when they rescue an old man who claims he is also Kyle Reese; only thing is, he claims to be Kyle after he'd been sent back in time. But that couldn't be true; Kyle died in the first film, didn't he? Sure, Ben wouldn't know that, but we would. Things turn out to be more complicated than we thought and it isn't long before Ben himself travels to the past to save Kyle, Sarah Conner and the future.

The best compliment I can give is that Zack Whedon immediately sets about making us care about Ben - a character we have no pre-existing attachment to like we do Reese or the Connors - and succeeds quite handily. It's easy to buy into Bens life and struggles, not to mention his ultimate reason for going back in time. By the end of the book, I'm ready to continue on with whatever awaits him in the future, which is, of course, a win, I'd say.

The cherry on top is that the first half of the book allows us to stay in the future for a while. One thing I always wanted from the franchise is more of the future we only glimpsed in the first two films; Salvation, of course, doesn't count because that movie was a colossal failure. Only on occasion would we get a real glimpse into the lives of the resistance; one of the few times I can recall offhand happened in another winner from Dark Horse, Robocop vs Terminator*.

The book admittedly plays fast and loose with the aspects of time travel, which I imagine will be a turn-off for some. By the end of the book, we seem to have steered clear of the road that would take us into the events of T2. But to be fair, the franchise has always played along these lines; "no fate but what we make" and all that. Hell, most of Robocop vs Terminator was about the guy with top billing changing the future. If you don't think about it a great deal, it works fine. But if you're a stickler for it "making sense", well... you probably should just stick with the first film, but regardless, this probably won't work for you.

If there's a downside to this book, it's that I don't really understand the thought process behind a move late in the book. This comic spends a fair amount of time putting a particular toy back into play, only to shove it right back in the toybox by the end. I suppose it's possible Whedon is merely moving the pieces into place in case he doesn't want to contradict the second film, but I'd rather he just gone full bore with it, or at least kept this piece in play for now.

Other than that, the only thing particularly wrong with this book is that there's no more available right now and no word on a continuation.

The Score: 8.5 out of 10

I really enjoyed this one. Easily the best Terminator comic I've read thus far that wasn't a crossover. I hope more Terminator from Whedon is in our future, but for now this is a rock solid entry in the franchise. Well worth owning if you're a Terminator fan; if you're not, then yeah, don't buy it, but in that case what are you doing reading a Terminator review in the first place?

* I don't really get what is stopping a trade paperback of the original Robocop vs Terminator miniseries from happening. It seems Dark Horse has the rights to both again. Hell, they just did a new RvsT crossover which has its own trade coming. I'm pretty sure a collection of a Robocop and Terminator crossover by Frank Miller and Walt Simonson would sell more than enough to make the endeavor worth it. Am I missing something here?


  1. This sounds awesome! Honestly, I had no idea this even existed. Looks like my library has it too, so I'll definitely be reading this in the near future.

    Also, Dark Horse is apparently hinting that a collection of the original Robocop vs. Terminator miniseries could be coming out in 2013. I've never read it, but it sounds like a sure thing, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

  2. It's well worth the read. I thought it was pretty engaging. Plus, we get to see some things out of the book that I never really thought we would. A battle with Terminators in a snowy battlefield for example. Hope we get a follow-up at some point. By the end of the book I wanted more.

    I hope Dark Horse is serious about a Robocop vs Terminator trade for 2013. I'd really like to own a copy of it. I read it a long time ago and loved the hell out of it. Which is why it was always such a surprise to me that it never saw a trade release. But then, I guess the Terminator rights went around a bit? I don't know. Either way, they have them back again.

  3. Correction: apparently Dynamite is the one with the reprint rights to Robocop vs. Terminator, and they're the ones who are planning to release it in 2013. An easy mix-u, given how many hands these properties have passed through.

    Terminator is an even more confusing matter than Robocop, though. Apparently there are several companies who have the ability to make Terminator comics right now -- the rights to make comics based on Terminator 2, Terminator Salvation, and the Terminator franchise more generally seem to belong to different people. What a mess!

  4. Wait, how did... why would... Is there some point to splitting the rights up like that I'm missing? That seems like an absolute mess to figure out. What constitutes something based on 2? Or Salvation? Or generally? So if some comic is with one that doesn't have rights to 2, but references events from it, could they get in trouble? Even if the answer is no, why in the hell would you split the licenses of your franchise up in the first place?

    For that matter, how did the rights to Robocop vs Terminator - a Dark Horse crossover - end up in Dynamites hands...? Are crossover rights there or something? I'm... confused.

  5. I'm right there with seems pretty nuts. At the moment, it looks like Dynamite has the rights to Terminator 2, while IDW has the rights to anything Salvation-related. I guess Robocop vs. Terminator must qualify as being somehow related to Terminator 2, if they're going to be reprinting it.

  6. We can probably count IDW out on any future Terminator comics then. I don't think anyone is keen to revisit Salvation. Hell, the people who made it probably disown it.

    I kind of wish I knew what led to that whole situation. It must be fascinating. Just the thought process leading to it. It certainly doesn't make a lot of business sense. I mean, how do you know exactly what is in your purview? Salvation was pretty clear cut, I imagine - prequel and sequel stuff only, which IDW does for some films - but the other stuff is beyond me.

    I'm thinking crossovers must be a separate part. It can't be ties to T2; Robocop vs Terminator has none. The best I can think of is that crossovers with the Terminator came as a package deal when Dynamite acquired the Robocop rights or something.

    Long as I get my RvT trade out of the deal, then eh. Still, you'd think they'd try to get the whole comic license back under one roof.

  7. The plot thickens: I did some research on the Terminator franchise itself, and apparently it's changed hands more times than the comic book license has. My new theory is that each of those companies made separate licensing deals for comic books, in which case it starts to make more sense that different companies have the right to do comics based on different movies.

    It still doesn't entirely explain the crossover situation though. But I'm no legal expert, so that's probably about as far as I can wrap my head around this thing...maybe we should get Matches in here! :)

  8. That theory actually makes some measure of sense. I didn't realize the franchise as a whole changed hands that much. But then, I imagine the last decade has been pretty crazy for it.

    Matches might know, yeah. Depends though. Licensing issues might not be his specialty. Plus I'm not sure I want to bother him every time I have a legal question of some sort. I have a distinct fear of coming off like a pain in the ass.