The Terminator (Dark Horse) #1-4

Now, when my LCS changed owners and then locations last year to a much larger store, they had an overflowing back issue inventory that was wholly unorganized and in places overwhelming. Over the course of the next few months, they worked to get that all organized and while doing so, had a table full of “last chance books”. These were a quarter a piece, and there were discounts for buying huge quantities. Whatever didn’t get bought went to the recycling bin. So I found a number of Starslayer books as well as a few other random selections that have made their way into this blog, including all of the Dark Horse-published Terminator comics from their first issue in 1990 to their last issue in 1992. Now, the company would get the license back in 1998, but these are more or less considered the first “era” of Terminator books from Dark Horse.

As far as I know, the continuity of these books are their own and are only connected to the films instead of being a continuation of what Now Comics had previously published. Granted, Now wrapped up its continuity with Terminator: The Burning Earth, but even if they hadn’t, I’m sure Dark Horse would have wanted to start anew like they would a couple of years later with Star Wars (though for the record, I don’t know if the Dark Horse Star Wars shares a continuity with the original Marvel series beyond the three movies). It’s a good idea; while those books were probably Now’s most famous titles, I don’t think that they were beloved or had a strong following the way something like, say, Robotech did when it left Comico for other companies.

So, starting fresh, Dark Horse decided to take the same approach it had been taking to both the Aliens and Predator properties, which was to publish several connecting miniseries instead of an ongoing. This allowed for some time between stories, and a rotation of creative teams where possible. It also made for more concise storytelling, and writers couldn’t drag everything out for the better part of a decade. However, just like Aliens, they did run into a problem–in the midst of publishing all of these books, another movie came out that messed with the continuity. They would re-publish the Aliens books by renaming the characters and messing with some scripting so that they fit into the Alien 3 story (a dumb move if you ask me); however, The Terminator gave them a bit of an out upon Terminator 2: Judgment Day‘s release because it is a story involving time travel, so perhaps this could be its own timeline/continuity because of the way that messing with the past messes with the future.

This, by the way, isn’t fully explored until the very last issue of the very last series. But I liked how they didn’t try to shorehorn in T2.

This series was written by John Arcudi with art by Chris Warner and Paul Guinan and upon even the very first few pages, it’s better than what Now Comics had been putting out. We start with the war in the future and a resistance team setting out to destroy a Time Displacement Portal similar to what the machines had used in the original movie to send Arnold back to 1984. It’s explained pretty quickly that there’s more than one of them and that while they were able to destroy the one from the movie, Skynet can clearly use the others to send people back.

But so can the humans. And at this point, it’s a human mission with the Terminators in pursuit. They are headed back to 1984/1985 to kill Dr. Hollister, the Cyberdine scientist who is in charge of the project that will eventually become Skynet (again, this predates T2 by about a year and they decide not to shoehorn in Miles Dyson at any point). Three Terminators torture the guy the team left behind who was going to blow up the time portal after they went through to find out where they went. They even find a creative way to smuggle a futuristic weapon into the past, which is by hiding it inside that soldier’s stomach and then tearing it out of him when they arrive.

The series itself is a huge chase scene. The Terminators and resistance go after one another, go after Hollister, as does Hollister’s assistant Dr. Astin (whom Hollister treats terribly). He helps the resistance team swipe all of the proto-Skynet data, and when the series is over–after the typical “Terminator reduced to an endoskeleton” battle–we have a team in the past that consists of Dr. Astin, a female soldier named Mary, and a half-person/half-Terminator named Dudley who are in the past and whom are now set up to be the insurance the resistance needs in the future.

If Dark Horse wanted to make a splash when it debuted its Terminator line, they definitely did. The writing is fast-paced and the art is dynamic, and not trying to add too much to the movie’s story or mythology is a solid strategy. Furthermore, where as Kyle Reese was constantly on the run from the T-800 in the first movie, making them the hunters was a good idea. We get to see the soldiers have some downtime and get adjusted to living in our present day. Plus, because there’s a continuity being established and we know the story will continue after the series ends, we also know we will be able to see these characters develop and grow. It’s a great start and reminds you of just how good Dark Horse was at adapting licensed properties back in the early Nineties.

I’m going to keep my verdict on this and the other series until I’ve read through all of them, so come back next time for the one-shot prestige format special by James Robinson and Matt Wagner.

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