Writer J. Michael Straczynski goes deep into the 2029 battle and deep into the idea of the singularity in “Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle” Volume Two (July-December 2014, Dark Horse). It’s an outstanding conclusion of the “Salvation” saga, which got cut down to only one film but enjoyed a robust run of novels and comics. Along with the movie and “The Final Battle” Volume One, Volume Two (which includes Issues 7-12) is part of what I consider the core “Salvation” trilogy.
The six-issue “Enemy of My Enemy” (2014, Dark Horse Comics) is a throwback to the early days of Dark Horse’s “Terminator” comics. It’s for fans of “The Terminator” as a concept rather than the specific story of Sarah, Kyle and John. But it becomes an increasingly strong character piece from writer Dan Jolley as it goes forward, and by the end, I was ready for more stories about Farrow Greene, a discredited special agent who finds herself joining forces with a T-800.
There are “turn off your brain” “Terminator” stories – such as “Terminator/RoboCop: Kill Human” — and then there are “Terminator” stories that require full engagement of your brain, such as “Salvation: The Final Battle” Volume One (2013-14). That’s no surprise coming from writer J. Michael Straczynski of “Babylon 5” fame, who is known for his meticulous crafting of plots.
Writer Rob Williams delivers equal doses of spectacle and story in “Terminator/RoboCop: Kill Human” (2011), a four-issue series from Dynamite Comics that stands alone as a narrative even though it is the second comic-book meeting between these two icons of high-tech sci-fi. It’s primarily a character study of Murphy (a.k.a. RoboCop, as played by Peter Weller on screen) as he makes outward decisions amid his inner reflections on whether or not he’s still human. However, there’s plenty here for “Terminator” fans as well, since Murphy drops into the heart of the “T2” narrative.
Writer Zack Whedon, showcasing a lot of the witty dialog his brother Joss is known for, crafts an alternate take on the “Terminator 1” time loop in “2029-1984” (2010, Dark Horse Comics). The six-issue series illustrated by Andy MacDonald features three issues on each side of the time jump, and it branches off from the movie’s storyline by asking “What if Kyle Reese barely survived in the factory showdown and was held in captivity for decades by the government agency that would become Skynet?”
Buffy” Season 12 should ideally be longer than four issues, and I’m guessing it would’ve been 12 issues if the timing had worked out better. But Fox brought the “Buffy” license back in-house – ending Dark Horse’s 21-year run with the title and canceling this 11-year canonical continuation of the TV series – so Joss Whedon and Christos Gage had to cram their final statement into four issues.
During the time of “Buffy” Season 11, Giles is off at high school in Los Angeles in the clunky four-issue series “Girl Blue” (February-May 2018). It’s credited to Joss Whedon and Erika Alexander (also an actress, who has a role in “Get Out”), but since I get no sense whatsoever that this is a Whedon script, I’m tempted to see it as Alexander’s work.
Dark Horse’s “Angel” comic series ends its run with a surprising but appealing smaller scale. With the “Buffy” characters facing a major threat in their Season 11, Angel would have to be seriously sidetracked to not help out, and new writer Corinna Bechko (“Star Wars: Legacy Volume II”) finds a perfect way to occupy him: He’s traveling through the past. While this might seem like the most epic concept so far, “Angel” Season 11 maintains a personal scope. There are just three main characters – but only two at a time, since Illyria and Fred share a body – and the three time-travel stops reflect important moments from their pasts.
Just as “The X-Files” returned for shorter TV seasons in recent years, the “Buffy” comics take a crack at the miniseries format in Season 11, which is only 12 issues long, compared to at least 25 in the previous three seasons. On one hand, important side stories are missing within the overall arc of the US government’s smackdown of the supernatural population. On the other hand, Buffy shines this season – partly affirming superhero traits that have always been there, but also achieving milestones that would’ve been unthinkable in past seasons.
In my review of the first two installments of “Buffy: The High School Years” – “Freaks and Geeks” and “Glutton for Punishment” (both from 2016) – I noted that they seemed to be aimed at the youngest theoretical fan. The stories both center on Buffy’s school-Slaying conflict and have simple resolutions; if one wanted to be generous, they almost matched the shallowest episodes of Season 1 in depth.