January 2011

The fifth and final story in the second omnibus.

Script: Alan Grant
Art: Mel Ruby
Original publication: apparently a four part limited series in 1999.
Terminator Omnibus vol. 2 publication year: 2008
Publisher: Dark Horse

In 2030 in ruined Los Angeles, a Resistance cell is trying to survive. One of the members is Jon Norden who is an ecologist and owns a dog named Jez. The leader of the cell is Walker who doesn’t like Norden at all. Terminators attack and the cell is forced to blow out their current hideout. When they flee in the sewers towards the next safe place, the dog Jez finds a rat which has mechanical innards. Walker decides to take the mechanical rat to Connor himself. He wants to take the dog with him and so he has to take Norden as well. Together, they rescue a girl whom they take with them to Connor.

It’s 1999 and New Year’s Eve. Sarah and John Connor are in the middle of a celebrating crowd in Los Angeles. Suddenly, a Terminator appears from the future and promptly kills a cop and takes his clothing and gun. He finds Sarah and starts shooting. The Connors try to flee but the machine is relentless.

The story alternates quickly between 2030 and 1999 especially in running or fighting scenes which makes it a bit hard to follow. Often there’s only one or two pages until the scene shifts to the past or the future. There’s some character development but like most of the other Terminator comics, it’s centered on action. However, the body count isn’t as high as in the other comics and this time we even get to see John Connor in action in addition to seeing the 1999 Sarah and John Connor.

However, I was pretty surprised that the cell has only one dog which is trained to smell machines. Surely, they are so useful that there should be more of them. Also, the comic’s name seems a bit inappropriate to me and set different expectations; it cover only a few hours in both the past and the future.

The Terminator in the past is very persistent and hard to kill. He also kills other people indiscriminately in order to get the Connors. However, the Terminators in the future seem to be pretty easy to kill with either a single bomb or some gun fire. Of course, the Resistance probably has better guns.

The artist Mel Ruby has two different inkers. Ruby has a somewhat exaggerated style but it’s not a problem at first with Andrew Pepoy. However, the latter inker Christopher Ivy exaggerates it even more so that it looks comical and cartoony to my eyes. Unfortunately, this style wasn’t really compatible with the grim Terminator world and the dramatic events in the latter half of the story.

For me, this second omnibus was better because it has a wider range of stories than the first omnibus. However, I’d still recommend them only to Terminator fans.

Edited by Frances Early and Kathleen Kennedy

I was overjoyed when I found this book in my local library. The essays examine the more modern (the book was printed in 2003) warrior women in TV, and if and how they subvert the Western tradition of the just male warrior. It has three essays about Xena, another three about Buffy, and one of La Femme Nikita and one about Star Trek: Voyager’s Seven of Nine. I rather enjoy introspective thoughts about pop culture but the books themselves are pretty hard to get here in Finland so this is actually my first such book.

There are some clear similarities in the themes and plots in Buffy and Xena. Both are female warriors who fight against clearly defined evil warlords and conquerors or supernatural evil. Both shows also feature complex, prominent relationships between women. Both defend the helpless and the innocent (often women and children) against evil. Xena also often explicitly defends the home and domesticity against offenders. Even though both series have a lot of violence and and a warrior as the main character, the scripts have often an underlying message of peace and anti-violence (which is thought to be a feminine message for some reason). Therefore, both characters are thought to be an alternative to the male just warrior arc type.

Nikita is more complex case. For one thing, her world isn’t clearly black and white, and the organization she works for has a lot of gray areas. So, it can be difficult to tell who is right or wrong. The viewers can’t be sure if she’s a just warrior, after all.

Laura Ng’s Nikita essay is the only one to mention the traditional way that Western society handles any violent woman: calling her mad and out of control. Even wives defending themselves against abusive husbands are quick to be called mad because the traditional role for women is a passive nurturer. While Buffy has one episode where she’s actually an inmate in an asylum (Normal Again) that’s not because of her violence; in the episode Buffy has only imagined being the Slayer at all. Against this cultural baggage, it’s no wonder we don’t have many action heroines compared to the number of action heroes.

I had a lot more trouble with Edrie Sobstyl’s essay “We who are Borg, are we Borg?” which centers on Seven of Nine. For one thing, I don’t consider Voyager (or TNG for that matter) to be a feminist show. For another, I would think that the obvious just female warrior in the show would have been Captain Janeway. Sobstyl references writers who think that cyborgs can be subversive feminist characters and I have real trouble with that. Cyborgs, as they are often depicted in pop culture, don’t have minds of their own and therefore they are only capable of following their programming. Granted, it can be irrelevant if a cyborg is a male or a female, but I haven’t yet found much evidence of that kind of writing. Seven of Nine is written very differently from Commander Data or even the male Borg Hugh. Granted, Hugh has only appeared on two TNG episodes while Seven was a regular on Voyager for many years. Is it possible that they were written differently because their characters needed different plots and themes, rather than because of gender? If Seven had just blithely accepted her humanity in the first episode when she was freed, would she have been as complex a character? By the way, I do have several problems with the way she was handled and her options as a character were pretty much as limited on Voyager than as a Borg, so the crew were at least somewhat hypocritical when dealing with her.

All in all, I really did enjoy reading these analyses of some of my favorite shows. Can anyone point to some more?

Booking Through Thursday

What’s the largest, thickest, heaviest book you ever read? Was it because you had to? For pleasure? For school?

I’ve read chunksters for both fun and for history classes. However, I don’t have any of those big history books on hand.

For fun, there are Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy where every book is around 800 pages. But Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart is even thicker with 901 pages.

The third book in the Retrievers series.

Publication year: 2006
Page count: 416
Publisher: Luna
Format: ebook

Wren Valere is a Retriever who gets back items others have lost or misplaced. Some might call her a thief, too. She’s also a Talent; a person who can use the magical force of the Current. Her business partner is Sergei Didier who manages the financial side of things and hunts for the clients.

Ever since they became lovers, in the previous book, Wren has been restless. This story starts when she takes a client all by herself, behind Sergei’s back. The job was supposed to be easy: a rich young woman wants Wren to steal a necklace. The necklace had belonged to her deceased father and is now in the hands of her step-mother. However, in the middle of Wren’s negotiations a psi-bomb explodes in her building. So, she hastily concludes the deal. She suspects that the Mage Council sent the bomb but she has no evidence. But many of the other lonejacks, Talents who aren’t with the Council, think also that the Council is attacking them. In recent months, several powerful lonejacks have gone missing and no-one has been able to track them. That suggest that they are either dead or held in so tight a confinement that only the Council could arrange it. Despite their innate selfishness and need to do their own thing some of the lonejacks are willing to organize – against the Council. Wren doesn’t want a full out mage war on her hands and she’s trying to keep the lonejacks from violence. However, she really doesn’t want to be in any kind of leadership position.

Meanwhile, Sergei is also keeping things from Wren. He’s been contacted by Andre from Silence, the spy organization Sergei used to work for. It seems that some one inside the organization is mucking things up. Silence is Wren’s occasional employee, but the last, and the first, time she worked for them, the job turned out to be a lot more dangerous and difficult than she was led to believe. So, Wren doesn’t like them at all. However, Andre was also Sergei’s friend and mentor, and so Sergei agrees to help him behind Wren’s back.

The fatae are the non-humans of this world. Usually they and the humans coexist in uncomfortable peace. However, lately humans have started to attack the fatae. Wren has a few fatae friends and she’s trying to help them, too.

Wren and Sergei have a nice supporting cast: P.B., the demon who looks like four foot polar bear, Wren’s mother who doesn’t know about Talent and disapproves of Sergei, Andre the mysterious middle manager at Silence, and KimAnne the de-facto leader of the Council and tough as nails businesswoman. Andre has a far smaller part in this book than the previous one and KimAnn is scheming with her underlings. P.B. is still Wren’s staunch friend and he even tries to organize co-operation between the fatae and the lonejacks. It’s also revealed that he’s over a thousand years also.

There are a lot of new people in the book although most of them are only in one scene. Wren takes part in lonejack meetings and we get to see lonejack leaders from various parts of the US. We also see a few of Wren’s contacts: one of them is another Talent from Oz with whom Wren talks online, and another is a human artist. Then there’s Shig, a lizard-like fatae from Japan. He’s P.B.’s friend and he quickly becomes a part of the inner circle. He’s also a Talent although we didn’t see him using magic. I really like the cast but I like the way it’s expanding, too.

Wren is mostly her stubborn self although she’s more concerned for her friends than before. She’s also more willing to put herself on the line to protect her friends. However, she’s also moody and distracted because she’s starting to realize that she can’t be as independent as she was when she was single. That scares her.

I really like the way that Wren’s most notable magical ability, being unseen by others, worked against her. Usually, in fantasy books people don’t have much flaws at all. Here, even Wren’s talents are a flaw. When she has address a large crowd, such as a gathering of angry lonejacks, she has to use magic so that they even notice her and can pay attention to what she’s saying.

Wren is the major point-of-view character but we brief glimpses of Sergei and P.B. There are also short scenes from others, such as the supposed villains of Mage Council.

I have to admit that it weirded me out that the lonejacks are already so organized that they have “area representatives”, the local leaders, but I guess when they have a lot of magical talent, they have to be at least somewhat careful not to step on each others toes. Still, you’d think that there would be more complete lonejacks than just Wren. I also don’t really care for the rift between Wren and Sergei. I really hope that it will bring them closer instead of driving them apart (and to angsting).

The side plots are left wide open and this is a clearly a middle of the series book.

There are some references to the previous book and I recommend starting with the first one: Staying Dead.

The fourth story in the second omnibus.

Script: Alan Grant
Art: Guy Davis, Steve Pugh
Original publication: apparently a two-part limited series in 1998
Terminator Omnibus vol. 2 publication year: 2008
Publisher: Dark Horse

The story starts in 2029 when a small Resistance group ambushes a moving comm tower. However, a Terminator kills all but one of them. The survivor is interrogated and he reveals enough information that Skynet is able to send two Terminators, a man and a woman, to the past, to the Death Valley in 1998.

In 1998, a one-eyed ex-cop is on the trail of a group of Satan worshipers whose camp is in an abandoned mine in the Death Valley. The ex-cop had been hired to find a girl that the group has supposedly kidnapped. He finds the group but the girl seems the be there willingly. That point becomes moot, however, when two naked people assault the group. They ask about Sarah and John Connor and the group’s leader, called Killerman, claims to know them. The Terminators consider the rest irrelevant and start to shoot them. However, Killerman manages to blow up the mine and escape. The Terminators follow him again killing everyone who gets in their way. Later, the ex-cop (whose name we get to know much later) manages to dig himself out of the rubble. Then he starts after the Terminators.

Nearby, ecological scientist Ken Norden is trying to teach his son Jon about the nature surrounding them. Unfortunately, Jon is more interested in his GameBoy. When they get home, Ken’s wife Sara confronts him. She’s tired of the isolation and wants to get back to San Francisco. Unfortunately for Ken, his day is about to get much worse.

This is perhaps the most complex of the Terminator comics I’ve read so far. The Terminators, the Nordens, Killerman, and the ex-cop all have their own story lines even though they intersect. We also get to see Sarah Connor working as a maid in one of the Death Valley hotels. There’s also an additional storyline about a man who is working on defense robots for the military.

The male Terminator arrived a little later than the female one, and he starts show quite unTerminator like behavior, such as asking if the Terminators are live, like humans are. He also tries to stop the female from killing a wounded human.

Killerman has the most straight forward story; he’s just trying to survive. Unfortunately, he thinks that he can reason with the machines even after he saw the way that they slaughtered his followers.

The ex-cop has the most flimsy excuse for staying in the story. After he just barely survived the shooting, he really should have gone away and thanked his lucky stars. But in the middle of the fight, he accidentally shot the girl he was supposed to get away from the Satan worshipers. He blamed the Terminators and wants to make them pay. He also has horrible nightmares about being caged.

There are also secondary characters, such as the fat woman sheriff, who round out the cast in way that’s not typical to (mainstream US) comics.

One of the best ones so far.

Davis is the first artist and he’s style is somewhat sketchy but I felt that is suited the scenes at the start: the fight in the future, the interrogation, and the shoot-out with the Terminators. The machines were also naked during that time but Davis didn’t make that detailed at all, which was great. Pugh has far more detailed style.

The third story in the second omnibus.

Script: Alan Grant
Art: Frank Teran
Original publication: Dark Horse Presents issue 138.
Terminator Omnibus vol. 2 publication year: 2008
Publisher: Dark Horse

This one is short, only about ten pages, but good. It shows the desperate things humans are forced to do in order to survive.

Skynet has built a data control tower which is turning out to be very efficient in pinpointing Resistance fighters. A small group of humans have been sent to put it out of business. The closer they get to the tower, the more of the people die from various automated guns, traps, and a Terminator.

The narrator is a young girl who is carried by one of the men. She’s really scared and has earphones that play music to her so she doesn’t have the hear how men who are childhood friends are dying. The men wear gas masks so they are even more faceless than usual.

Short and poignant.

The second story in the second omnibus. It concludes the stories in the first omnibus: Tempest, Secondary objectives, and the Enemy Within.

Script: James Robinson
Art: Jackson Guice
Original publication year: 1999 as a limited series. Terminator Omnibus vol. 2 publication year: 2008
Publisher: Dark Horse

At the end of Enemy Within, Lockhurst got his greedy little paws on a disk full of Terminator data and he’s still determined to make money off it, the future be damned. Detective Sloane is trying to get Lockhurst to see reason, but doesn’t succeed. So, Sloane just shoots him. And just to be sure, Colonel Mary Randall blows up the building where the disk and the Terminator bits are. Then Sloane says that he doesn’t want to see Mary ever again and walks away.

Unfortunately, things aren’t that easy. A couple of months later, Sloane is on the trail of a serial killer called Catfish. He murders young women brutally and the police don’t have a clue. Also, Sloane is seeing a therapist because he’s haunted by what he knows about the future. The therapist doesn’t believe him, of course, but doesn’t say anything to the detective.

Meanwhile Mary is trying to survive in the modern world. It’s pretty hard because she doesn’t have papers or social security number, and apparently don’t have enough money to get fake ones. She’s starting to resent her life. Then, the Terminator/human cyborg Dudley contacts her. She’s been trying to contact him for months and it turns out that Dudley is losing his battle against the Terminator circuitry. However, Dudley knows that another Terminator has arrived from the past because he contacted Dudley’s Terminator half. Apparently, their efforts so far have change the time line but Skynet was able to send one more Terminator to kill Sarah Connor while she’s giving birth. Dudley begs Mary to help Connor. He can’t trust himself anymore. Randall agrees. She contacts Sloane and they head to the Texas hospital where Connor is supposed to be.

This story is again quite violent. The Terminator kills a lot of people first on his way to Texas and then at the hospital. There’s also a secondary storyline with the Catfish and I’m not certain what that’s supposed to do. Perhaps it mirrors human evil (or rather insanity) against computer programming? Or that maybe all humans aren’t worth saving for? It felt very weird and disconnected to me despite the ending.

Both Sloane and Randall are very much human here, with their own doubts and fears but soon enough they are caught in the middle of fighting.

The end is quite interesting. It establishes this story as an alternate time line and also manages to violate pretty much every time travel logic I’ve encountered (disclaimer: if time travel exists for real it doesn’t have to obey any puny human logic ;)).

The story ends appropriately enough with “Never the end”.

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