In its last (for now) “Terminator” entry, Dark Horse goes full circle with a gritty four-issue series that calls to mind its earliest work. “Sector War” (August 2018-May 2019) is especially in the vein of “One Shot” in that it’s about another woman targeted by Skynet at the exact same time as Sarah Connor in the 1984 events of “Terminator.”
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.
Even fairly serious “Terminator” fans might not know about this oddity: There was a prequel movie to “Salvation” – sort of. “Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series” (2009) is a six-episode web series with video-game animation that functions as a 75-minute movie. Thankfully, it’s not like watching someone play a video game. It’s driven by Resistance pilot Blair Williams (voiced by Moon Bloodgood) and hacker Laz Howard, a.k.a. Ghost (voiced by Cam Clarke), who can disrupt communications signals with a secret code.
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?”
The “Terminator” franchise isn’t owned by Disney (yet), but “Terminator: Dark Fate” (2019) – if you take away Sarah Connor’s potty mouth — is what a Disney “Terminator” would be like. The filmmaking is slick and the action is impressive, and we get callbacks to the classic installments (notably Linda Hamilton returning for the first time since 1991’s “T2”). But the story/screenplay by six writers offers nothing new.
These are the movies and TV shows I’m looking forward to in the new year: