In 1984 James Cameron brought to the big screen a film that is considered one of science fiction’s classics. Spawning three film sequels, a plethora of video games and a TV series which was blighted by the curse of Summer Glau, The Terminator is known by pretty much everyone.
Over the course of the last (almost) 30 years since its inception, The Terminator has also received comic book treatments too with several publishers (most notably Dark Horse and Dynamite)and now under the writing of J. Michael Straczynski the war between Skynet and the Human Resistance may be finally coming to an end.
All of the Terminator films - to one degree or another - have an element where the story straddles two separate timelines. This comic tackles three points of temporal reference instead, featuring the recent past, the near future and finally the distant future just over 15 years ahead of now. Although this isn’t completely explored in this issue, there is a complimentary multitude of story lines to follow. The human rebel in the past (much akin to Michael Biehn in the original), three individual Terminators also in the past searching for a serial killer, and a terminally ill doctor whose cancer is overcome to ensure that both her and the aforementioned killer are key to Skynet's future. Slightly confused by it all? Well don’t be, once in the comic it’s not overly hard to follow, with clear division of story between elements and even time distribution for the characters.
One plot element that I did consider is how the preceding films fit with this future - including why doesn’t a sentient machine know about the past - but Straczynski tackles this early on using simple computer logic.
A lovely little twist too is that the readers preconceived ideas of what Terminators do, which is reinforced by the small homage to Arnie’s entry into the present day of T2, is shaken by them searching to protect Dr Kogan.
The artwork by Pete Woods, isn’t what I normally personally associate with Dark Horse but when you look at his credentials it’s understandable why. Woods has worked for both Marvel and DC including Paul Cornell's under-appreciated run on Action Comics.
I can’t say that I find the artwork here bad, but then again it’s not setting my world on fire. It has plenty of character but without fine detail. That said the faces are all unique and defined so that they are easily recognisable. One thing that Woods has managed to do is skilfully draw emotionless faces without them looking unreasonably blank when it comes to the three Terminators searching for Kogan. On the other end of the scale is the overabundance of emotion that makes the serial killer look grounded in a crazy way too. That in itself is no easy feat, so kudos to him for that.
As a first issue I didn’t find myself overwhelmed by what I had been presented with. I know the Terminator mythology fairly well, so can appreciate how this comfortably sits with my understanding and thus I didn’t find myself questioning it, but the one thing I felt it lacked was the franchise's inherent tension. I’m sure there is going to be more to it in the coming issues, but with so many individual threads in such a small space of time there isn’t enough to give me a compelling hook. Maybe staggering the introduction of characters in some way could have aided this more.
Matt Puddy has no major problem with Summer Glau, but let's be honest, everything she's in gets cancelled. Doesn't bode well for Arrow...