So a few years ago while rummaging through some fifty cent and quarter bins at my LCS, I came across a couple of Terminator comics from Now, an independent publisher that had the license for the movie (along with a couple of other properties at the time, namely The Real Ghostbusters and Married … With Children). Back during my early collecting days, I owned one issue of that series (which I probably had grabbed out of a fifty cent bin at Amazing Comics), but have to say didn’t remember it very fondly. Still, this being one of those oddball series from the late 1980s that didn’t last very long, I decided that I was going to try and collect the entire thing via cheap comics bins.
I’ve been marginally successful. I have six issues of the publisher’s ongoing series as well as the two miniseries that they published before the license got picked up by Dark Horse in the early 1990s. And with the exception of the Robocop vs The Terminator series (which I did own at one point but sold), I have all of the early Nineties Dark Horse Terminator stuff, which I plan on reviewing as well.
So this is the start of another long reading/reviewing project, the result of which will be a two-fold decision: 1) Do I finish collecting the Now series (which might take a lot of bin diving and a number of years)? and 2) Do I keep the Dark Horse stuff or sell it on eBay (which I could do in one lot since I’m pretty sure I have a “chronology” or “complete story”)?
I’m starting in a weird place, because this is actually the final series that Now published before Dark Horse took over. simply titled Terminator on the cover but given the full title of Terminator: All My Future’s Past, it is a prequel to both the first movie and the comics that Now had already published. And there might actually be some contradiction with the continuity that Now established in the ongoing, but I thought it would be best to read the books in chronological order on the movie’s timeline as opposed to publication order. These are probably unnecessary details and if you’re still reading, you want me to get to the plot. So that’s what I’ll do.
The two-parter is written by Chuck Dixon with painted art by Diego Latorre, and I have to say that even before I started reading I was excited because Chuck Dixon’s name was attached to it. The man can write action and is definitely one of my few remaining “signed comics bucket list” creators. What it concerns is the mission that sends Kyle Reese and the Terminator back in time prior to the opening of the film, an event that was hinted at and talked about through the movie’s dialogue but one that we don’t actually see in the movie. And while it’s not a movie I really ever need to see on the screen (I mean, I really enjoyed Rogue One, but I do wonder if the story needed to be told there), a comic book (or perhaps a novel) is a great medium for telling it.
Our narrator and protagonist is Lanny, a farm kid from an area of the west that doesn’t see much interference from the machines. It’s not entirely clear why except to say that it’s really isolated and is more or less likely off their radar. And, by the way, a tip of the hat to Dixon for not going for the cliche of “We made a deal/are in collusion with them”. The area is implied to be sparsely populated, so I can imagine that if Skynet had more pressing objectives, then they would ignore such a place. In other words, it works, and was working for Lanny and his friend Breed until a ship carrying a human pilot crash-lands in a field. The pilot dies but not before he gives Lanny and Breed a box that contains important data that needs to get to John Connor, leader of the human resistance.
The two, along with their dog and armed with a hunting rifle, set off for Los Angeles and make it to Fresno after three days where they encounter a lone Terminator. Lanny is able to kill the cyborg but not before Breed is shot and killed. He continues on alone and eventually gets to LA, a city that is the war-torn techno nightmare that we see at the beginning of the movie, and delivers the package. Connor analyzes it and discovers that the files are the machines’ time travel plans. Thus, we go right into the mission that Kyle Reese talks about–they break down the defense grid and wind up sending him back through time in pursuit of a Terminator (and to his credit, Dixon works out exactly why the Terminator and Reese came back at different moments and different locations in 1984).
This is a tight two-parter that is fun to read. Lanny is a solid “reader stand-in” protagonist who gives us a chance to observe Connor and Reese, therefore keeping the characterization of the two pretty much in line with what we see in the movie (or at least not adding much to what we see). It keeps the machines as faceless, evil destructors rather than giving them some sort of villainous personality. Moreover, Dixon knows that his job is to be straightforward and just give us what we ask for–those moments before the story opens in ’84.
I guess one of the only takeaways is the artwork. It’s fully painted and very solid when it comes to much of the first issue with Lanny and Breed going toward LA, but when we reach LA and the interior of Skynet when on the mission, things do get a little muddy in places. However, considering the amount of bad artwork I’ve seen from independent comics in the Eighties and Nineties, this is actually a cut above that.
I was lucky enough to find this on the cheap. I can’t honestly tell you if it’s of any value and the only way you’d have a problem procuring it is because maybe there aren’t that many copies of it out there, so you’ll have to just do some bin diving. But considering the one whole dollar that I paid for the entire thing, it was very much worth it.
The verdict so far …
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?