Robotech (WildStorm) #0 (of 6)
Story - Tommy Yune
Script - Jay Faerber
Art - Jim Lee, Ale Garza, Carlos D'Anda, Lee Bermejo, Trevor Scott, Richard Friend, and Sandra Hope
Colors - Udon Studios
Letterer - John E. Workman
Editor - Ben Abernathy
Published by WildStorm Productions, an imprint of DC Comics.
Release date - December 4, 2002
Cover date - February 2003
Diamond order number - OCT020800
Estimated sales - 47,880 copies
"At the dawn of the new millenium, the human race discovered they were not alone in the universe when an abandoned alien vessel crashed into the Earth. The bounty of advanced technology within would alter the course of human history. This alien technology was known as Robotech. A powerful alien race, the Zentraedi, would bring an age-old war to Earth. However, aided by the miracle of Robotechnology, the human spirit would prevail ..."
It is the year 2015. Veritech Wolf Squadron is in pursuit of a team of full-sized Zentraedi rebels who have stolen a cache of GU-11 gun pods. Wolf Leader Jack Archer radios headquarters and assures them that his team will intercept the rebels and recover the goods. As he tells his wing that they don't have authorization to use deadly force the Veritechs transform to Battloid mode and follow the rebels into what appears to be a drained resevoir. Suddenly, one of the rebels lets loose with a surprisingly loaded gun pod and the Battloids take cover. One pilot notices some approaching Monster Destroids. "Oh," he says, "looks like reinforcements. Guess base didn't think we could handle these stragglers on our--"
One of the Monsters fires -- and not at the Zentraedi. The blast takes the head off of a VF-1A Battloid. "Those are Zentraedi markings!" another pilot shouts. Indeed they are -- shoddily-painted blue Zentraedi insignias adorn the "noses" of the squat Destroid mecha. The Veritech team has been led into an ambush. The Destroids let loose on the Veritechs, firing everything they've got at the team. "Wolf Leader to base! Wolf Leader to base! We're taking heavy fire! We need back-up now! I repeat, we --"
"I heard you the first time, Wolf Leader ..."
A sleek new model of fighter plane with familiar yellow and black trim and skull & crossbone fin flash flies into the oncoming fire. "This is Skull Leader. Hold on, I'll have you out of there in no time!"
In the cockpit of his shiny new YF-4 Veritech Fighter, Rick Hunter pulls down on a familiar control lever marked "G." The jet begins to respond to the command, but it registers a malfunction. Instead of swooping down in Guardian mode, Rick is forced to lock onto the two Monsters with his missiles and knock 'em out the quick & dirty way. He fires and dives between them as the Monsters' weapons systems explode. "The Destroid Monsters have been neutralized," Rick tells Wolf Squadron. "We've deployed a full assault team to assist you in containment and clean-up." Wolf Squad thanks him as they take the full-sized Zentraedi rebels into custody.
Rick returns to Macross City with the YF-4 prototype, flying by the mounds that will stand as a monument to the fallen SDF-1 and cover over the rubble of that ship, Khyron's battlecruiser, and other remains from the Battle of New Macross City. As the Veritech touches down and screeches along the runway, Doctor Emil Lang runs up to demand a word with Hunter.
"Hello, Dr. Lang!" Rick says cheerily as he removes his flight helmet. "We're going to need a complete rundown of the YF-4's new transformation system ..." Lang demands to know what he was thinking, taking the prototype into battle.
"Had you been shot down, all of our research would have been lost ..." Lang says. Rick goes on about the transformation system, pointing out that the configuration actuators appear to seize up during a hard dive. "... and the Veritech advancement program would have suffered an enormous setback!" Lang finishes. He asks Rick to take the matter more seriously, but Rick counters that he takes this all very seriously; after all, if it hadn't been for the YF-4, some men's lives would have been lost. "Spoken like a true fighter pilot, I must say," Lang notes. "I wonder who taught you your priorities. Surely, it wasn't ..."
Rick is no longer listening; he's noticed that the VF-1S Skull One is in the hangar in Battloid mode. He asks what it's doing here. "Now that we're phasing out the first Veritech series," Lang explains, "we're preparing to disassemble Skull-One to perform a structural analysis of stress and fatigue. The data vould be invaluable since it is the oldest surviving VF-1 in our inventory." Rick says he must have missed it on the schedule. He apologizes for risking the prototype, and asks if they can continue at another time. Lang agrees, then adds that Admiral Hayes wanted him to remind Rick about his appointment tonight. Rick thanks him., then runs his hand along the mecha's canopy. "Well, old girl, Roy told me once that he thought you'd outlive him. But knowing Roy ... I thought he was just being dramatic."
Rick flashes back sixteen years ... it is the year 1999, six months prior to the arrival of the SDF-1. At a small air circus in the southwest, it's pouring rain outside, and the announcer is telling the audience that the it doesn't seem to be letting up so they're going to have to close up early. "Hey, waitasecond ..." he says as a small yellow biplane soars through the dark clouds towards a bolt of lightning, "maybe the show ain't over yet! Look, folks -- that's death-defyin' Roy Fokker up there! Looks like he's gonna make sure you get your money's worth, rain or shine!"
After the show, Fokker climbs out of his plane. Two people are waiting for him: a young boy of around nine and his father, a square-jawed old-timer in a bomber jacket. The man is one "Pop" Hunter, the owner of the air circus. As Roy boasts about his flying, Hunter chides him. "Part of being a good pilot is knowing when to take intelligently calculated risks. But flying stunts in a thunderstorm is plain stupid even for someone with your raw talent." Roy assures Pop that he can take care of himself, but Pop already knows that. "But one of these days ... you're gonna get someone else killed."
A day or so passes. Young Rick Hunter races across the field to the front office of the air circus in search of Roy. Roy and Pop are watching the news, and Rick asks Roy if he's really going to go fight in the war. "'Fraid so, little brother," Roy says. "Can't put it off any longer." He turns to Pop. "I know you're anti-war, and I"m not exactly eager to kill anyone myself, but I'm a damn good pilot, and my country needs me." Pop puts his hand on Roy's shoulder. "I can respect that," he says. "Every man's gotta make his own way in this world." Roy thanks him, then takes Rick outside to talk.
Rick asks if he can come with him, but Roy tells Rick that war's no place for little guys like him. "When I get older, then?" Rick asks. Roy assures Rick that when he's old enough to be a fighter pilot, this war is going to be a distant memory. "Then will you come back and fly for the circus again?" Rick asks. "You bet," Roy replies, "and I'll be back for good."
"Yeah, I promise."
NOTESTIMELINE - Modern Robotech.com timeline.
- Rick Hunter (last in The Macross Saga #36, next in Robotech (WildStorm) #6)
- Jack Archer (first and final appearance)
- Dr. Emil Lang (last in The Macross Saga #6, next in Robotech II: The Malcontent Uprisings #7)
- Roy Fokker (first chronological appearance)
- Mitchell "Pops" Hunter (first chronological appearance, next in Robotech: The Graphic Novel)
- Rick Hunter (first chronological appearance)
This was the first all-new published story set in Harmony Gold's revised ROBOTECH timeline, which throws all of the old, previously published material out and starts fresh with the original 1985 TV series as its only basis.
I have to agree with a friend of mine when he says that the opening narration is missing a little something, namely, "In the year 1999 ..." The date does come up later, but honestly, it should have been in the narration, if only for nostalgia reasons. Besides, the "at the dawn of a new millenium" stuff (which became the standard opening for all the WildStorm ROBOTECH comic series) gives me nasty flashbacks to the Robotech 3000 trailer. *shudder*
Note the use of the ROBOTECH: Battlecry video game's VF-1R Veritech Fighter (three-lasered head) as Wolf Leader's craft. The Battlecry storyline was, at this point, the only other all-new story material in the revised ROBOTECH timeline. Wolf Leader Jack Archer's cameo here would not be the only cameo by a ROBOTECH video game character in the comics; Dr. Osmund from ROBOTECH: Invasion would appear in the last two issues of the comic series of the same name. However, Osmund gets to be referred to by name, while Archer is not.
Bear in mind, Wolf Squadron was referred to in the first episode of ROBOTECH and reappears in Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles, setting up its appearance in the Shadow Chronicles animation. It's been set up in the new material as the other premiere Veritech squadron, alongside the Skull.
Despite the reboot, traces from other earlier "secondary canon" works do shine through; notice that one of the primary established characters in this story is Doctor Emil Lang, who first grew to prominence in ROBOTECH II: The Sentinels and works designed to set the stage for that aborted television project (i.e. the original Comico Graphic Novel). If you'll recall, originally he only appeared in episodes 5 and 6 of the TV series. The scenes with Roy and Rick's father also seem to draw heavily from the portrayal of "Pop" Hunter in the aforementioned Graphic Novel, though "Pop," while clad in a very similar outfit, is much younger-looking here than his Graphic Novel counterpart.
Rick's craft in this issue is the YF-4/VF-X-4. He played with a model of it in the opening scenes to episode 36, "To The Stars". There was some chatter about whether or not Harmony Gold could legally use that design prior to this issue's release. Since it does appear in the show, at least in model form, I would assume they do. However, I assume that the mecha was unable to transform in this story for legal reasons; Harmony Gold does not own the rights to the design of the Guardian or Battloid modes for this mecha since it only appeared in Fighter mode in the material they have the rights to. In fact, no such forms were designed by mecha designer (and Macross co-creator) Shoji Kawamori for this particular revision of the design. A refined version of the mecha called the VF-4 Lightning was later developed for the 1987 combination music video/epilogue Flashback 2012 and further refined for the Bandai video game Macross VF-X, only the latter of which actually featured a GERWALK (Guardian) and Battroid (Battloid) mode for the craft. I suspect a Battloid and Guardian mode would have to be designed for this mecha in-house at Harmony Gold before it could be used again in ROBOTECH for any period of time.
The two-page spread on pages 7 & 8 depicts the construction of the three mounds that appear in the Masters episodes of the ROBOTECH TV series (a.k.a. SX Point 83). Easily seen behind the unfinished framework of the one in the forefront are the remains of the SDF-1; in another, Khyron's downed battlecruiser. The third one is almost complete and thus we don't get a look inside. Harmony Gold has been awfully noncommittal about what exactly is in that third mound. Series story editor & producer Carl Macek has long claimed that he intended for the SDF-2 to be standing back-to-back with the SDF-1 in the final episode of the Macross portion of ROBOTECH, "To The Stars," so that its remains could be the contents of the third mound. However, since no SDF-2 actually appears in the footage, some have argued that the references to the SDF-2 in "To The Stars" had to be referring to events at another location and thus it cannot be what is inside that third mound. Since the Daedalus arm of the SDF-1 was sheared off in Khyron's final suicide attack, I suppose that could be the contents of the third mound. (In the trade paperback collection that contains this story, From The Stars, a reference drawing of the under-construction mounds appears and does identify the third mound as the SDF-2. However, that's merely preproduction material, and the finished art remains noncommittal.)
Speaking of that location, it appears that New Macross City is relatively intact below the mounds. Since the passage of time between Rick's thoughts about that fateful day in New Macross and his final approach for landing is indeterminite, it's not clear if he's landing at New Macross or at nearby Monument City, but if he is landing at the former locale, this flatly contradicts all earlier licensed material, which swears up and down that New Macross is so terribly irradiated by the destruction of the SDF-1 and Khyron's battlecruiser (and possibly the SDF-2) that nobody should ever go there ever again ... or at least until an insubordinate Dana Sterling decides to ride out there in 2029.
I have a qualm with Lang's accented dialogue (not reproduced in the quotes above, for clarity's sake), written out like, "vhat is dis?" which strikes me as a trend that should have been given up by comics writers years ago. Nobody had ever written Lang's dialogue that way before, at least not in any published officially licensed story, despite the fact that he spoke in a German accent in the show. While I could hear Lang's voice the way I remember it from the series a shade more easily with the accented dialogue, I still think it reads like a bad stereotype in an obnoxious kind of way.
Notice that Rick is still "Captain Hunter;" he has apparently not recieved a promotion since the end of the Macross episodes of ROBOTECH, wheras Lisa is referred to as "Admiral Hayes." This is another aspect that flies in the face of previous licensed works, which brought Rick up to just under Lisa's rank after the destruction of the SDF-1 and -2 (hence references in the novels from "The Zentraedi Rebellion" onward to "the Admirals Hunter"), but makes good sense. After all, Lisa's last words to Minmei concerning Rick before she and he took off to fend off Khyron's final attack were, "He's a pilot! That's his life!" This very point is made by Rick early in "The Zentraedi Rebellion," and the fact that Yune and Faerber didn't go down that route in this story proves that they were paying better attention to that line than Lisa was in that particular story.
The appointment that Rick has with "Admiral Hayes" appears at the end of issue #6.
The twelve story pages of this issue were handled by seven different artists. It's not clear who did what, or who served in what capacity; only a person familiar with each artist's style and what each person tends to do (as in "pencils or inks?") would be able to tell, and I'm not that familiar with most of these names. Oh sure, I know Jim Lee, WildStorm's founder and Editorial Director, but the rest of the names aren't totally clicking. I think Lee did the first page or two; and even then I'm not totally sure, since it's possible that different artists may have worked on the same pages.
The mecha art appears to be strongly based on the Toynami Super-Poseable Veritech action figures. The hands on the Veritechs are more mechanical-looking than those in the show, and the neck and leg joints are more detailed and mechanical-looking as well. The large kneecaps are definitely taken from the Super-Poseable toy design; Veritechs' knees are generally NOT that pronounced. The shoulders, though, are very much those of a transforming Veritech design; they're more boxy and less pointy than those on the Toynami Super-Poseables. Very, very slight but noticeable liberties were also made with the VF-1A's head; it's not as rounded as it used to be. Despite the numerous nitpicks, though, the mecha art looks excellent -- much better than most of Antarctic Press's hand-drawn mecha art -- but it does have certain hallmarks which reek of revisionism rather than nostalgia. Then again, revisionism seemed to be quite the order of the day during the 80's nostalgia boom.
The character art is another matter. Dr. Lang is the spitting image of his anime counterpart, despite some weirdness on his lumpily-drawn jowels. Rick, on the other hand, is barely recognizable. He bears a much closer resemblence to the toned-down and kind of hideous Matchbox action figure from the 1980's than his big-haired anime counterpart. He actually somewhat resembles the early test drawings for the character done by Macross character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto during the two years of lead time prior to the beginning of production on the TV series. Between the story and the pin-up art in the back of the book, I swear that I've seen more Rick Hunters that don't actually look like Rick Hunter in this book than anywhere else ever. Usually artists at least try to replicate his big and weirdly-pointed hair; the artists on this book didn't even seem to try.
And the noses look kind of weird, too.
Somehow, though, Roy manages to look sorta like Roy. Perhaps it's that his hair is more generically anime-styled and his face shape more specific than Rick's. Looking at it now, the final shot of Roy actually bears a striking resemblence to the He-Man character design from the 2002 relaunch of that property, with a longer chin. Maybe it's just that I've seen so many weird-looking versions of Roy (due to the revolving door of artists on Return to Macross) I'm much more tolerant of weird Roys than I am with weird Ricks.
Speaking of He-Man, Rick's dad looks a lot like Man-At-Arms from the '02 relaunch as well. Same age lines, same moustache, same face shape, same predeliction for wearing protective headgear ...
In "Boobytrap," Rick says, "You promised my dad you'd return to the air circus when the war was over ..." The only person he promises here, however, is Rick. I assume Roy made that promise before he made his promise to Rick; otherwise the line from "Boobytrap" either doesn't make sense or, feasibly, you could claim Rick decided to bring up his father in "Boobytrap" just to stick a nice, sharp emotional knife in his "big brother" -- after all, it does come right after Rick calls Roy a "killer."
The pin-ups in the back are something of a mixed bag. For the record, they are:
- Rick Hunter and Lynn Minmei with a VF-1S Super Veritech behind them, by Adam Warren (Gen 13, Dirty Pair, Empowered) on character art and Joe Wight (Twilight X) on mecha. Please note that this is the most correct-looking Rick Hunter in the ENTIRE BOOK. Also note that Wight was a regular cover artist on the Antarctic Press ROBOTECH anthology title in the late '90s.
- Exedore, Breetai, and Khyron along with a small fleet of Zentraedi ships and a few Zentraedi mecha, by Troy Nixey (Grendel: Black, White, & Red, Jenny Finn) and Jeromy Cox.
- Claudia Grant, Lisa Hayes, and Lynn Minmei having a picnic with an extremely Super-Poseable Figure-looking VF-1S Skull One giving a "V" hand-sign in the background, by Randy Green (Witchblade, Tomb Raider, New X-Men: Academy X), Rick Ketcham, and Omar Dogan.
- Max and Miriya's video game battle with a CG rendered showdown between their REAL mecha in the background, by Kaare Andrews (Spider-Man: Reign) on characters and Tipatat Chennavasin on mecha renders. Scratch my comment above, the Rick Hunter in the background HERE is the most correct-looking Hunter in the whole book. Also note that Chennavasin also was responsible for at least one render that appeared in Antarctic Press's Vermilion mini-series and the cover art for the third issue of the Antarctic ROBOTECH anthology title from the late '90s.
- A "poster art" style piece with Rick Hunter, Lynn Minmei, Zentraedi Battlepods, and the VF-1S Skull One in Guardian mode, by Dustin Nguyen (Wildcats 3.0, Manifest Eternity).
- A decidedly non-anime piece featuring a horrifyingly well-endowed Rick Hunter carrying a spherical flight helmet, Lynn Minmei, and two Skull-marked and sleeker-than-usual VF-1 Veritech Fighters, by Keron Grant (Son of Vulcan), Rob Stull, and Udon.
- An all-out mecha battle with proper anime-style VF-1's (yay, no Super-Poseable knees!) of various sizes in front of the SDF-1, by Long Vo and Saka.
This also appears to have been otherwise hand-lettered, one of the very few hand-lettered books put out by a major publisher that I've seen in so many years. Kinda nice, though the lettering is not as clean as the lettering I recall from the days when all books were hand-lettered. Does lend it more of a nostalgic feel, though.