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CSBG Archive

Into the back issue box #15

Today’s entry fulfills almost all the requirements that are needed to hook a new reader.  Or maybe I’m just prejudiced because I liked it.  We shall see!

The ground rules for these posts are here.  But you should know them already!

The Terminator: The Enemy Within #1 (of 4) by Ian Edginton and Vince Giarrano.  Published by Dark Horse, November 1991.

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A new comic book reader might be encouraged to pick this up.  It’s a first issue, so one could be reasonably sure that it doesn’t jump into a story in the middle.  It’s the Terminator, which might be a draw, even though this was before the second movie came out, which really turned the character into a cultural icon.  And since it’s the first of four, a new comic book reader might think that they don’t have to make too much of a commitment to see if they like it.  It’s a win-win!

On the inside front cover appears a long text piece.  With a bit of a sinking feeling a new comic book reader would realize that this is, in fact, a continuation of a previous mini-series.  What?  Why is it a new #1, then?  The good news is that the text piece provides everything we need to know: the first two paragraphs summarize the movie, and then it moves on, as we learn soldiers from the future came to kill the man who developed Skynet, while terminators came to protect him (which kind of defeats the purpose of their name, but whatever).  One of the terminators – 1825.M., who is also called “Dudley” – is half-human and half-machine, and he goes over to the other side.  He and Mary, the only survivor of the squad of future soldiers, battle two terminators, partially destroying both.  They are joined by Ed Astin, the former assistant of Dr. Hollister, the man who will develop Skynet, and when they can’t find Sarah Connor, they head to Pasadena to stop Dr. Hollister.  One of the terminators, C890.L, has salvaged parts from the other to rebuild itself.  And so we’re set.

This way of doing things isn’t all that bad, but it’s still a bit annoying.  It’s nice that Dark Horse brings us up to date, but there’s still that lingering feeling that we’re coming into the middle of a story.  Despite the job that Edginton does to establish all the characters, we feel that we interrupted a conversation, and it’s a bit disconcerting.  But for now, we’re ready to dive into the latest Terminator mini-series!

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Dudley is dreaming of the future.  He dreams of the machines killing humans, and he flees.  He comes across a terminator and a human woman, significantly flanking a crucifix (he’s hiding in a church).  The terminator tells him he must kill the woman.  He says he’s free of the machines’ control, but the terminator mocks him.  The woman mocks him, too, challenging him to keep his humanity.  He wakes up in his bed, and Mary (the woman in his dreams, naturally) comes in to see if he’s okay.  Astin comes in and cracks a joke, and Mary tells him to leave, which pisses him off.  This can’t go anywhere good, can it?  Dudley tells Mary that the computer part of his brain is trying to take over, and he asks Mary to hold him.  In an interesting panel, we read both Mary’s and Dudley’s thoughts – Mary is fighting the fact that he’s part terminator and that she has been trained to kill him, while Dudley is trying to overcome his programming.  It’s a nice scene.  Astin watches grumpily from the hallway.

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It’s a good time for a scene change, and we move to the police station in Los Angeles,  where Lieutenant Mark Sloane is watching two beat cops bringing in a suspect ranting about “aliens” hunting people down.  Ha-ha – he must be crazy!  As he gets to his office, Sloane gets a phone call from someone named Miles, who works in Washington (we know this because his weirdly shaped office has a view of the Washington Monument).  Miles knows Sloane from way back, and he asks him about the “John Doe” they found at the Hollister house.  This, we surmise, is a reference to the earlier mini-series, which presumably featured Sloane, as this is his first day “back on the job” and he has some bandages on his face.  Was he involved in the situation at the Hollister house?  Anyway, Miles might work for the FBI, because he mentions that they know everything about what Sloane’s working on.  We’ll notice that he never actually says he works for the FBI, but he knows what they do.  He tells Sloane that the dead guy had no record that he even existed.  He also had combat scars, but he was too young to have been in Vietnam and all the government agencies don’t know him.  He also has an “anti-radiation drug” in his system that no one has ever seen and is thirty years from being practical.  Sloane wants to know why Miles is calling him, and Miles tells him that Hollister was working for a company that works for the government – Cyberdyne Systems.  Therefore, it’s become a matter of national security, and Sloane needs to play ball with the Feds.  Before he hangs up, he tells Sloane that the call never happened, and Sloane wonders why he made it on an unsecured line.  He wonders if the phone is bugged, so he takes it apart but doesn’t find anything.  However, a panel shows that it’s made by Cyberdyne.  Could that be why Miles wasn’t worried about a bug?

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We head back to Dudley, who is telling Astin that he has to operate on his brain and remove the computer.  He thinks the computer is stimulating endorphin activity in his brain in order to addict him to it, and then it can seize control of him.  Mary is worried that he could die, but he says it’s better than losing control of himself.  Astin looks a little too pleased that Dudley needs him, if you ask me.  Mary protests that it’s not sterile, and Dudley says they will scrub down a room with antiseptic, and he’s written a schematic for Astin to follow.  He gives Astin a list of things to purchase a few items.  As Astin drives away, he read his thoughts: he thinks Mary having a soft spot for Dudley is gross, and he had hoped they would hook up (of course).  He is keen to look inside Dudley’s head, and we get the impression he’s wondering if he’s going to allow his rival to live or not.  Dudley is half-machine, so maybe he can’t see something like this coming.  But Mary is human.  They’re a threesome, with two men and one woman.  Of course something like this is going to happen!  Doesn’t Mary know anything about human beings?

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We switch to a biker bar (someone should write a dissertation on the importance of bars, and biker bars in particular, in the Terminator milieu), as a bunch of stereotypical chopper-riders go in to find a buddy of theirs and find him and his woman dead.  Suddenly a terminator – C890.L, fully recharged – springs up and starts blasting.  Why on earth it has long horns attached to its skull is unexplained.  That would make it hard to blend in, don’t we think?  It slaughters the gang in short order, and then accesses its mission logs.  Of course its next objective is to kill our three protagonists.  It hops in an eighteen-wheeler and drives off to do some more killing.  Dramatic exeunt!

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For the first issue of a mini-series, Edginton does a decent job setting up the story.  We have the problem of Dudley losing his grip on humanity, his nascent relationship with Mary, Astin’s jealousy, Dudley being placed into Astin’s power, Sloane and his investigation having an impact on national security, and the new terminator threat.  If you were a new comic book reader, you might be a bit disappointed that this single issue does not tell a complete story and therefore you would have to buy more issues to get that complete story, but Edginton does a good job making you want to return for the rest of the series.  It’s dependent, of course, on whether you like the whole Terminator idea, but if you enjoy that, this does a good job of building on what the movie gave us but still moving past it.  It’s not the most action-packed issue, which might work against it, but it is tense, and that’s a good way to draw the reader in.  We’re waiting for the action to start, and when C890.L slaughters the bikers at the end, it’s not exactly what we’re looking for (we’d rather the good guys destroy the terminator, after all), but it’s a nice release for this issue.  Then, on the last page, Edginton builds the suspense once more – it’s not a cliffhanger, but it does leave us worrying about our three characters, even though Astin is kind of a tool.

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Giarrano’s art isn’t great, but it’s not bad, either.  The dream sequence at the beginning is spooky, and the slaughter at the end is nicely done without being drenched in gore.  His terminator is nice, too – very robotic looking.  The middle scenes, with a lot of talking heads, are fine.  We can tell the characters apart, which is sometimes harder to do than it looks.  Giarrano has done better work, but there’s nothing wrong with it here.

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This is a nice comic book.  It could easily bring in new readers who enjoyed the movie, and it doesn’t do anything to drive them away and might even hook them to at least buy the mini-series.  Interestingly enough, Simon Bisley’s dark cover might be an impediment, even though it’s a neat drawing.  It is, however, very murky, and doesn’t really sell the book.  But if a new reader can get past that and deal with the text piece at the beginning, which does a good job getting us up to speed, this is a fine introduction to the medium.  Anyone know how it ends?

7 Comments

No idea how this ends, but Edgington is a damn good writer more at home in alternative history stories than stuff like this. I’d heartily recommend checking out Leviathan or The Red Seas if you’re able to get a hold of them.

Funny, I just wrote about this yesterday, but covers like that might really turn on someone who knows the score, but they would never draw in a new reader. Covers are not art, they are advertising. Or they used to be, anyway. Now that everything is direct market and pre-sold, maybe that doesn’t matter anymore. We’ve got to get comics back on the news-stands, people!

Bars are an important part of Fiction in general, not just the Terminator universe.

I remember buying this as it came out- I was 12 years old, and i bought it ‘cos I thought the cover was really cool. Make of that what you will, and it’s about the only thing I can really remember about the series, apart from that I liked it, but that I felt the mini-series which came after (“endgame” I think…?) really let it down.

I’m really surprised to find out that it was written by Edgington, who is one of the best writers working at 2000ad right now (which, considering he’s competing with the likes of John Wagner, Pat Mills and Dan Abnett, is saying something*).

*it feels really wierd to type those three names in the same sentence

Persone los pioneros non rabata. Great.

I appreciated the earlier comics, two sets if I recall correctly that kicked off the story of Dudley the half human terminator. The first one was the best, I’m still not sure what it was called and was the best drawn comic, though maybe a little too cartoonish while the second one fleshed out the relationship between Dudley and Mary. The second one had the best ending that was reminiscent of the original ending to The Terminator film and Mary takes the role of a Sarah Conner character. The Enemy Within concluded these earlier comics on a more depressing note, almost like an Alien 3 chapter and eventually would kill off some of the characters from the previous comics. Mary was essentially Sarah, Dudley was the terminator that turned sides almost like a combination of both films and Astin was a kind of Miles Dyson that had worked for Hollister until he became aware of what would happen in the future. In The Enemy Within he turns back and betrays both Mary and Dudley too try and weasel his way into Hollister’s clutches again. The Terminator in the final version is only reeking havoc and is ultimately destroyed in the Terminator fashion which has to do with factories as usual.

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