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Graphic Novel Review: Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles by Jason and John Waltrip and Omar Dogan

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The cover to Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles (Wildstorm) contains a logo indicating that it’s been 25 years for the anime-inspired comic series, which, combined with the “Prelude” in its title, tells you two things: 1.) this is a prequel to a storyline that'll be familiar to fan-addicts and 2.) after a quarter century of ‘teching, you know there’s gonna be a load of back story.

To a reader (like me) with only a rudimentary knowledge of either the anime or comic book Robotech saga, the story and script of Prelude (credited to Tommy Yune and Jason and John Waltrip, respectively) takes some effort parsing. To aid newbies and more casual readers, the collection opens with a two-page Timeline spanning 1999-2038 plus an Introduction to the Robotech Universe, though it wasn't all that helpful to this reader.

Prelude appears to take place about two-thirds of the way into the series’ timeline as Commander Rick Hunter, hero of the Robotech Wars, pursues crazed former General T.R. Edwards. The general has negotiated with aliens for the technology that will allow him to retake planet Earth from its occupying forces; you think this would make him the good guy, but it doesn’t since Edwards is a xenophobic creep. As a sign of just how malevolent the guy’s actions are, they lead to one of the secondary players (perhaps Hunter’s wife, though we’re not specifically told that in this volume) losing her unborn child.

Prelude’s five-part story, which originally appeared in floppy format through DC’s Wildstorm line, primarily focuses on space fights ‘tween Hunter’s side and the glowing-eyed Edwards. Occasionally, we’re provided a few small glimpses of characters, but the only one to stand out in the book’s case of secondaries is a pink-haired android named Janice. Even with a heartbreaking tragedy in his past, stalwart Rick Hunter pretty much comes across as a stiff.

The art, predominately handled by Omar Dogan until the fourth and fifth chapters where the Waltrips take over the big battle finale, has a slickly plastic look suited to the sci-fi dog-fighting — but wholly blows it during the book’s few emotional scenes. I know: big battles are what the core audience has come to see, but if you’re gonna have a serious moment of self-sacrifice like the one that android Janice commits to save the day, why not make it feel like something? Still, the space explosions and the villainous Edwards’ transformation into a grotesque monster were nicely handled, so I’m betting most of the hard-core Robotechies will be satisfied — even if the rest of us aren't.

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.