The biggest challenge facing me while reviewing Robotech #15 was the 12 year old inside me, clinging desperately to this sacred, animated alter of my childhood. In reflecting on my resistance to Titan Comics' adaptation of the franchise, I realized that the creative team behind the book must have faced the same barriers while bringing the story to print.
How exactly do you adapt a storyline that has been in existence, both in animation and on the page, for nearly 40 years? You couldn't do a straight episode by episode transcription of the series; Comico had already done that in the 1980s, and copies of those comics have been printed and reprinted in the decades since multiple times. Besides, long-term fans of the franchise already know the story, it's part and parcel with their geek DNA at this point. Titan, in my opinion, did the right thing; they re-imagined the story, and Robotech is all the better for that.
The opening page of issue 15 had that bratty voice in my head wailing; Henry Gloval is already dead? Roy Fokker has been cloned, and that clone is murdering people on the SDF-1? Rick Hunter has been blinded by Protoculture? What the living hell, Titan? But, as I read on, things started to slide into place. Simon Furman has taken the task of tackling the burdensome Robotech mythos head-on and written a compelling adaptation of Carl Macek's original story without being shackled by it.
These creative liberties bring welcome changes to the aging franchise. With Captain Gloval killed, Lisa Hayes is elevated to commander of the SDF-1. This also elevates Lisa to a more prominent role in the story, as she was at this point of the animated series little more than a shrill romantic interest for Rick Hunter. With Lisa acting as captain of the SDF-1, there is far more dramatic tension between her and her parents when they try to have her transferred from the space battle fortress. Lisa Hayes has more agency as a result of Gloval's death, and while I loved the character as a kid, it makes sense to see him removed to push the story along.
Roy Fokker's capture and cloning adds an interesting plot twist, too. Rogue scientist Lazlo Zand has cloned Roy to act on his agenda aboard the SDF-1, subsequently murdering someone then taking the lead in the investigation of the murder. This intrigue ads a lot of depth to a character desperately lacking much; in the animated series, Roy's entire character can be summed up with "courageous leader, hot-shot pilot."
Rick Hunter also appears more certain of himself, and less prone to whining. THANK YOU. His dismissal of Minmei after she tries to boss him around is something I've been waiting to see for decades. Rick doesn't feature much in this issue, but his pages clip along nicely. His interactions with Minmei's cousin, Lynn Kyle, establish early on exactly how obnoxious a character Kyle is; it will be interesting to see how Furman is going to make such an unlikable character as Kyle even remotely compelling.
Robotech #15 also brings a lot of action into what was a fairly static episode of the show. Max Sterling, ace pilot and all around awesome guy, is attacked by Zentraedi super-pilot Miriya Parina; the combat is rendered very deftly by artists Ivan Rodriguez and Pasquale Qualano, and seeing the mecha combat in a fresh setting was a lot of fun. It's obvious that the art team are fans of the mecha designs in Robotech, and they do a lovely job of capturing them in action on the page.
Ultimately, fans of the original series will have to tamper down their devotion to the cartoon to enjoy Titan Comics' adaptation. The decisions made in telling this version of the story are bold and go a long way towards bringing this epic space opera to life for a new generation. For people new to the franchise, welcome, and please forgive the gasps from long-term fans at that last page…
SUMMARY: Writer: Simon Furman, Art: Ivan Rodriguez and Pasquale Qualano, Colorist: Marco Lesko, Letterer: Jim Campbell, Editor: Martin Eden, Publisher: Titan Comics, Release Date: December 12, 2018, Price: $3.99.