Usually when I do a Today’s Comic it’s in the same format as “Yesterday’s” Comic since the latter is a spinoff of the former. I haven’t done a lot of new comic reviews since I haven’t been able to get a new comic outside of a gift in years. I went for a job interview today and we’ll see how it goes and how that will affect BW operations if I get it, but I still have no money coming in. This was donated by my friend Sean because we were both big fans of the show.
I’m also doing an extended review because this is a new take on the classic series, although this first issue is a modified adaptation of “Boobytrap“, the first episode of the original Robotech show. Originally it was simply going to be an English dub of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross but they were too many episodes short of a full weekday season at the time. So Carl Macek grabbed two other shows, Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospedia, and weaved them together through Robotechnology and its power source called “protoculture”. If you never saw the original shows this comes off as three long tales of three different wars over protoculture and the various sciences that can be created from it.
While previous licensed Robotech comics (except for the two-issue special from DC, which came before the show and was based on the Macross model kids Revel brought over under the name Robotech) built off of the TV show or directly adapted episodes, Titan Comics decided to create a “bold new vision for the Robotech saga” and you guys all know how badly this has gone in the past. The first issue recently came out and today we’re going to take a look at it. There will be spoilers since I want to talk about the changes.
Titan Comics (August, 2017)
WRITER: Brian Wood
ARTIST: Marco Turini
COLORIST: Marco Lesko
SELECTED COVER ART: Blair Shedd (who has been to BW before and may get mad at me for saying this, but I was hoping for the Waltrip Brothers cover since they’re my favorite Robotech comic team, but Sean said they sold out fast. It was either this or a cover featuring a photo of a cosplayer, so I went with my toy collector instinct. It does look good, Blair, if that helps. A good likeness of the Matchbox action figure packaging, if they made a Rick Hunter variant in his air circus flight suit.)
LETTERER: John Workman
For the most part the story is similar to “Boobytrap”, which is the same name in both versions of the show, as that was already scripted prior to the switch to Robotech. (There’s even a VHS release for the original translation of this episode if you can stumble on it, since there were mailaway ads for it in the Comico adaptation. I imagine it would go for quite a bit.) A space fortress crash-lands on Macross Island, leading to the end of a current global conflict. The ship is studied and rebuilt while a city springs up on the island. On launch day there is a big celebration as air circus pilot Rick Hunter comes to visit his “big brother” Roy Fokker. The festivities are interrupted when aliens arrive on Earth, with the main guns of the fortress firing automatically without the crew having anything to do with it. Rick finds himself in one of the Veritech fighters as the aliens enter the city, rescuing a waitress named Lynn Minmei in the process.
It’s in the details that you find the changes. Some of which I like, and some I preferred with the original show. For accuracy I watched the episode on Crackle.com, although they use the recent re-edit by Harmony Gold that restores the violence and nudity from the original anime as well as separating the three wars into three series complete with new openings also re-edited from the original anime but keeps the US dialog and music, including the classic theme song by Ulpio Minucci . No, I don’t understand that either, since there are already subbed releases of the original anime. Still, it should tell me the differences between episode one and issue one.
First let’s discuss the changes I like. The art style doesn’t try to imitate the look of the animes, instead taking on a more Western style. That bugged me for comics based on the original show because I liked that look, but as a remake rather than the usual continuation I don’t mind it as much. While the original Macross characters were Japanese Robotech was produced for an American audience and Japan’s usual style of larger eyes worked fine with American kids who barely knew what Japan was, since the anime explosion wouldn’t happen for some time yet. Minmei and Kim Young look more like their intended races. (Minmei’s Chinese but I’m not sure if Kim is supposed to be Japanese, Korean, or something else.) Roy seems less likely to flirt with other women than his animated counterpart.
The Zentraedi are unnamed, making them more of a mysterious threat to newcomers, which I kind of like. They just appear (I’m assuming they still have hyperspace folding in this version but we don’t see evidence of it) and launch an attack. We also don’t get to see the fighters in their robot mode as Rick goes right to “Guardian” here, which seems unnecessary given we know they have robot modes and having an in-between seems more of a given, but I appreciate the effort even if it doesn’t work as well as the Zentraedi mystery.
So what didn’t work for me? We don’t get nearly the characterization that we did in Boobytrap. We get no sense of Admiral Gloval, or more importantly Sammie, my favorite of the bridge crew trio. Kim does still show off her boy crazy side but that’s it for most of the cast. None of the banter that happened in the show, which really gave us a hint to their characters, have a counterpart here, and not just among the bridge crew. In the show Rick came via an invitation from Roy to see the launch of the SDF-1, probably because he wouldn’t get to see his “little brother” (they aren’t related in the show , Roy being more of a surrogate brother to Rick, but we’ll see what they’ll do here) and Rick decided to show up the RDF fighter pilots because he’s a bit cocky but likeable. Here he’s not as likable, but not completely a jerk either. He wasn’t invited and Roy seems unhappy to see him, even having Rick arrested although that could be because he was upset for his pilots being shown up and Rick doing something he shouldn’t have. He does ask a soldier to check on him, although Rick escapes.
During the battle Rick’s plane is destroyed and he actually steals a Veritech to escape, making me question the “not a jerk” defense from earlier. In the show Roy was showing Rick the inside of the fighter (surrogate brothers and fellow pilots after all) when he was called away, not knowing he was being called to his plane to fight. Rick is mistaken for a fighter pilot and forced into the battlezone, which I think worked better. It made sense during the chaos at the time and Rick looks better as a result. Then there’s his meeting with Minmei. Originally Rick crashed the plane after transforming to Battloid (the full robot mode, Guardian being an in-between mode) and switched to Guardian to get his bearings, forced to fly off with Minmei, who went back for something important. Important to her, but being on the equivalent of Star Search (the America’s Got Talent of the 80s) seems to be a bad reason. Actually, they don’t meet until the next episode, but the writer sped that along here. And Minmei isn’t that dumb here. Oh, she’s still dumb, possibly dumber. She thinks this is all a training exercise, yells at Rick about crashing into a building near her restaurant, and threatens to sue the RDF. So she’s still annoying but we’ll see if she grows out of it better than her TV counterpart.
The art itself is okay, although the facial expressions are not the best. It’s not quite uncanny valley but it’s along those lines, if you understand me. There isn’t a lot of life to them, or variation. I don’t think they used the Greg Land tracing technique because they don’t look the same between panels, but it put me off a bit. Otherwise I do like the art. The plane and spaceship designs line up well and still look good. It’s just the faces I didn’t care for.
Overall, it was fair. It’s better than the last nostalgia series we looked at, IDW’s take on MASK, and I’m curious to see where this is going and how well it will stand up to the original. Hopefully at some point we’ll see more of the characters’ personalities and the ones we’ve seen will improve but otherwise I’m rather neutral on the new comic. In some ways it’s good and has the spirit of the original while being its own thing, while in others I thought the show did it better. If I get to see more issues I can give you a better analysis but right now I can only say give it a look and see if you like it. It isn’t bad and I’m getting some nostalgia out of it, but it’s not perfect.