Friday, July 29, 2016


Story: Tommy Yune | Script: Jason Waltrip and John Waltrip
Art: Omar Dogan @UDON Studios | Art Assist: Jason & John Waltrip (#4-5)
Letterer: Travis Lanham | Color Assists: Ali Tavaholy (#4) & Miguel Troncoso (#5)
Assistant Editor: Kristy Quinn | Editor: Ben Abernathy

Back when it originally aired, ROBOTECH proved so popular that Harmony Gold began production of a 65-episode sequel series, ROBOTECH II: THE SENTINELS. This would have followed Admirals Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes as they embarked on an exploratory mission to Tirol, the Robotech Masters' homeworld, to pursue peace. A few episodes of THE SENTINELS were fully animated, then the series lost its main advertiser and the production was canceled. But THE SENTINELS lived on through licensed media -- a series of five novels told the story according to producer Carl Macek's original plans, and an ongoing comic book series adapted the story as well -- however the comic eventually met the same fate as the TV show, ceasing publication mid-storyline in 1996.

Ten years later, Harmony Gold released ROBOTECH: THE SHADOW CHRONICLES, a direct-to-DVD sequel movie to the original ROBOTECH animation. As a lead-in to the film, Wildstorm published PRELUDE THE SHADOW CHRONICLES, a 5-issue miniseries scripted by the original SENTINELS comic writer-artists, Jason and John Waltrip, from a story by Tommy Yune.

I have to admit that my recollection of THE SENTINELS is sparse. I know the ROBOTECH TV series very well and I have decent memories of some of the novels and comics, but SENTINELS, with it's "STAR TREK" approach to ROBOTECH, never appealed to me all that much*, so my recollections of the series, outside of some major strokes, is spotty. Unfortunately, Yune and the Waltrips provide no real recap before leaping into PRELUDE, which left me totally lost. (And I can only imagine how someone who'd never read any of the previous SENTINELS adaptations might have fared!)

The story opens en media res on Tirol as Rick and his forces attempt to arrest the traitorous Colonel T.R. Edwards (you remember, Roy's commanding officer back in FROM THE STARS). They find Minmei's cousin, Lynn Kyle, dead in Edwards' quarters, and Edwards missing. The villain escapes into space with the aid of the Invid Regent, dealing a crippling blow to the SDF-3, the expeditionary force's flagship, as he departs with Minmei as his hostage.

We then jump ahead a year. Rick dispatches a newly-christened warship under the command of Vince Grant (Claudia's brother who was somehow a member of SDF-1's crew even though he was never mentioned in the TV show) to find Edwards and the Regent. The vessel is shot down over the Invid homeworld of Optera, and Vince and crew are taken prisoner. Eventually Rick arrives with reinforcements aboard the repaired SDF-3. Edwards is beaten, the day is saved, and the Expeditionary Forces make plans to retake Earth from the Invid using technology provided by their allies, the mysterious Haydonites. But testing of the new weaponry results in disaster, damaging the fleet and setting up a cliffhanger to lead into the SHADOW CHRONICLES movie.

Put politely, this thing is a mess. As noted above, there's no recap as we jump into the action. There's also no introduction to the huge cast. Characters from the original animation appear with altered designs due to years having passed. (Rick is a huge hulk of a man bearing no resemblance to his original design -- that's him in the center of issue 1's cover!) Characters from THE SENTINELS are here as well, though the story barely acknowledges their importance (Jack Baker and Karen Penn, for example, were major components of SENTINELS, but they're more or less background characters here). Characters are even name-dropped without being seen, which is particularly glaring -- if they serve no purpose to the story, don't mention them to confuse readers further!

Major characters die as well, with no fanfare. Zentraedi warrior Breetai perishes in battle with the Invid Regent. This is something which was intended to happen in THE SENTINELS -- and did happen in the novelizations thereof -- as a major dramatic sacrifice. Here, his death is barely an afterthought. Doctor Lang and Exedore, Breetai's longtime right-hand man, are apparently killed in the story's final pages as well during the botched missile test -- but the story is so concerned with setting up the movie and introducing a ton of new characters that their fate is left extremely unclear.

Speaking of Exedore, he randomly appears in the final pages of the last issue after being absent through the entire series. "Macross Saga" stalwarts Max and Miriya Sterling are also absent through the entire story, only briefly mentioned in the final pages. And then there's Minmei, who is kidnapped by Edwards at the story's outset, rescued in the end, but is never seen in the flesh, on-page, at any point in the series!

The problem comes from the series trying to do three things at once -- wrap up the original SENTINELS storyline, conduct a "soft reboot" to meld THE SENTINELS with the newly established continuity, and move several pieces into place for THE SHADOW CHRONICLES. I appreciate continuity-heavy stories and I applaud the decision by Harmony Gold to allow the original SENTINELS writers to return a decade after their series' cancellation to finish it, but this project needed more room to breathe -- either a stand-alone SENTINELS mini-series specifically to tie up all the loose ends followed by a PRELUDE TO THE SHADOW CHRONICLES mini-series to set up the movie, or a longer series in general -- say, eight, ten, or even twelve issues to handle everything that these five fail to accomplish.

* I love STAR TREK and I love ROBOTECH, but a series about Rick Hunter and friends exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations is so opposite what I like about ROBOTECH that I can't even explain it!

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