Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
In the last chapter of Robotech: Dana meets with the remaining members of her people who didn’t go with the Robotech Expeditionary Force and it was a rather bleak reunion. Some good news came with the arrival of Colonel Jonathan Wolf, hero of the wars on Tirol and experienced fighter of the Invid, along with new mecha and protoculture plus a ship that may just give the planet a fighting chance of surviving a third Robotech War over the mysterious power source known as protoculture.
That would make a nice catch-up bit for the show, but we know Colonel Wolf isn’t really that great a hero. For example that time he got drunk while on monitor duty and made out with an amnesiac victim of the Regis’ experiments because she resembled his girlfriend who was forced to go off with T.R. Edwards. It should also be noted that he had a wife and son on Earth and we don’t know how that ended. Even if that ends up not happening in McKinney’s take on The Sentinels we also know Wolf’s fate, a huge fall from honor that at least comes with redemption. What we don’t know is…do you spell his last name Wolf, Wolff, Wolfe, or Wolffe because this franchise can’t seem to find an agreement on that.
Wolff (I’ll use the novel’s internal spelling here, which clashes with the back cover) is a rather fascinating character from an external view. Originally a one-shot character in Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, making Scott a former member of the “Wolff Pack” and the celebrity Scott notes about him kind of forced Robotech II: The Sentinels to use him, even knowing how he would turn out. In other words they had to come up with something tied to his wife Katherine and their son Johnny, convince us this great commander could fall so far that he sold out soldiers to the Invid, realize how wrong he was and sacrifice himself in a fit of redemption, and make us feel sorry for him in the process. We can’t already hate Wolff if we go back to his solo episode and if they’re watching for the first time after reading the comics and novels new audiences can’t expect what he’s mixed up in. How this book handles him and his wife and son is going to be rather fascinating if only to see if James Luceno, the surviving member of the duo that makes up the pen name Jack McKinney at this time, pulls it off. With that let’s see Wolff’s arrival shakes things up.
We start at the right spot, seeing what condition Wolff and his team are in coming home. Interestingly the crew toasts their arrival with water. Apparently Wolff is prepared to clean up his act. And between this and the second segment in the chapter we learn that many of the events depicted in the comics before Academy Comics lost the license and nobody picked up their runs inherited from Eternity Comics still happened. He mentions Edwards, the situation with Minmei, all of the battles he’s been part of (nothing about drunken make-out sessions on monitor duty), and how he wants to move past all that. He wants to reconcile with his wife and son, shake off his problems, and say hello to the Robotech Masters and hopefully form a peaceful visit.
Yep, they still don’t know about the time dilation of folding space. Wolff doesn’t know it’s been years and the Robotech Masters got ahead of them. It may end up being faster to do it the old-fashioned way though at least with foldspace you don’t age. Sadly, the people back home do, so I suspect between the passage of time and the destruction of Monument City Wolff’s hopes for reconciliation are going to turn back to drinking. It’s sad to see him ready to restart his life only to find it may be too late. I could see this leading to the first (and ironically last chronologically) time we see him.
Later, Wolff is talking to a group at ALUCE base, and we get a brief description of things there. I’m not sure it matters that the scientists listen to the project heads more than the military operators. Flavor text is fine but if it doesn’t matter to the story, like explaining various attitudes we see in action and how they affect events, it feels like padding. This is where Wolff talks more about those battles and even mentions Max and Mirya’s other daughter, which I would hope Wolff would tell Dana about in private beforehand instead of hearing about it while sitting on a stage in front of an audience. We get no indication of this unfortunately. The mission is brought up to destroy the Invid Sensor Nebula, which for some reason Dana hasn’t informed the folks in charge the Zentraedi said last chapter was a waste of time because she wants to see Wolff’s reaction. Wolff is happy to volunteer his ship and crew to the mission but that’s when grandstanding comes into play. A senator who apparently doesn’t like the Southern Cross and is more than happy to use both Leonard’s added in activities as well as Edwards’ trying to take over the REF and running off to join the Invid Regent (probably while cackling like a loon if the last time I saw him was any indication) as a way to seize control.
It’s here that I really don’t understand the military structure here. Is the Army Of The Southern Cross not connected to the Robotech Defense Force? They have access to Robotechnology and Robotech mecha. And yet the senator says the REF is part of the RDF and thus under government authority and thus isn’t ready to release Wolff or the ship to the Sensor Nebula mission. I”m not sure what this Constanza guy is up to but I see this ending badly for Earth. Politics people.
So what games are coming? What is the final fate of Catherine and Johnny and how will it affect Wolff’s recovery? Be sure to be here for chapter nine, the latest chapter in this novel of Robotech. Yeah, that doesn’t translate as well, does it?