In 1985, another Terminator emerges from a time flare, this one in the Canadian tundra. How many times can this happen? And how many times are we going to see both Skynet and the human resistance go into the past and not see any consequences for the future? Well, without spoiling too much, we get an answer to that at the very end of this series.
I’ll get to that ending in a second (and will do my best to keep it spoiler-free) and instead will talk about this final series published by Dark Horse before they lost the license (although they would get it again in the late Nineties). James Robinson is back to write here and Jackson Guice (who was also working on Superman at DC and would do a few issues of Aliens/Predator: Deadliest of the Species at Dark Horse about a year later) is on art. It is, quite possibly the best creative team we’ve had on these books at this point, and that’s saying a lot because two of the series featured really great artwork from Paul Gulacy and Vince Giarrano, who would do some really solid Batman work later in the decade.
The story features Mary, who is the only person left after her team (and the other team from the future) were wiped out in the previous series, Dr. Astin double-crossed them but died (as did Hollister), and Dudley has gone underground. But it also focuses on detective Mark Sloan, who is also investigating a serial killer named Catfish, who is not only an old adversary of his but also knows about Judgment Day and wants to do what he can to make that happen.
Sloane, however, isn’t going to do that and at the very beginning of the first issue kills an associate in the FBI who has confiscated the Terminator parts and data that Dr. Astin had retrieved from Dudley in the prior series, then blows up his office. It’s a way to wipe the slate of that maguffin so Dark Horse can wrap things up and turn the focus once again on the search for Sarah Connor (although in a bit of history, this taking place in 1984/85 is a retcon because the story originally was going to be in 1990 … so they did this slight change and then had her get saved from Terminators without even knowing it). Last we heard, she was in Mexico, but has had to cross back over the border because there are complications in her pregnancy.
This takes everyone to Odessa, Texas, where, in the final episode, they all wind up fighting in the hospital where Sarah is giving birth. But before we get there, we see Sloane pursuing Catfish, the Terminator showing up in Canada and heading for Sarah Connor, and Mary tracking down Dudley in San Diego.
That particular confrontation is the focus of the beginning of issue #2 because Dudley appears to have been completely taken over by his Terminator side and attempts to kill Mary. He doesn’t succeed and she manages to destroy that override and bring the real Dudley back. He’s pretty useless as a fighter at this point, but because he still has his Terminator circuitry, he tells Mary that he did receive a transmission from the machine in Canada and the big news is that when they communicated and he saw what had been happening in the future, he saw a future where humanity was clearly winning the war. This meant that what they had been doing in the past was slowly changing things for the better. Yes, Judgment Day was still set to happen, but they weren’t going to be so desperate when they started sending people back in time in the 2020s. His mission done, Dudley blows himself up as Mary heads for Odessa, Texas and Sarah Connor.
The Catfish part of this storyline comes to a head in Odessa as well. Mary has contacted Sloane and let him know about the hospital. Catfish follows him there and basically most of issue #3 is a firefight between the Terminator, our heroes, and the many innocent bystanders who get in the Terminator’s way. This is intercut with various panels depicting Sarah Connor in labor (although we don’t see her whole face or whole body). It’s beautifully illustrated by Jackson Guice and John Beatty, who give us some dynamic action and brutal killing. They (and Robinson, through his script), don’t give the Terminator much dialogue–he mows people down and stays on his objective.
And honestly, that’s the strength of this entire series and most of the run. There’s only one time when the machines show emotion, and that’s during Hunters and Killers when MIR expresses resentment toward Skynet and plots a doublecross. While it’s not as moustache twirling as what we saw in the Now Comics stuff, it still doesn’t work. Here, the humans are still the villains with emotion while the Terminators are all cold. And it’s just so awesome.
In the end, Robinson ends on a note that wraps everything up pretty nicely and fixes the various paradoxes that were created through all of the time travel in a way that actually works. An alternative timeline gets created as a result of the actions of all the series … and maybe it’s just me, but what we find out at the very end works for me because I find the ideas of permutation and alternate timelines in a book like this very plausible. Think about it–you introduce one more Terminator into the past and this timeline can exist alongside the film and in a way that doesn’t give you too much of a headache to think about.
This entire Dark Horse run is some great comics and ranks up with their early Aliens work as an outstanding piece of licensed comic book fiction. I may sell all of these at some point, but I want to hold onto all of them for now at least because I’m going to want a reread in the future.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?