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Manga Review: Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles

Hardcore Robotech fans finally have that pesky "What happened to Rick Hunter?" question answered.


The anime world can weave some tangled webs from time to time, but perhaps none is more tangled than that of the hit 80s series Robotech. Conceived by a partnership between Harmony Gold and Tatsunoko Productions, then produced by early anime pioneer Carl Macek, the show broadcast to American audiences in 1985 was actually the amalgamation of three separate Japanese series: Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. For a dizzying number of reasons that space won't allow me to expound upon the series was cancelled with, well, a few loose ends. Namely, the main characters all but dropped off the face of the universe without any hint of what might have happened to them. 
 
Macek and his supporters tried to revive the series several times, but it wasn't until 2007 with the release of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles that the show's original storyline returned. However, fans were quick to point out the many grievous and glaring continuity errors contained in the 88 minute movie, thus necessitating the creation of a plot hole-plugging one-off comic by writer Tommy Yune and DC's Wildstorm arm. This is that comic. 
 
 Rick Hunter staves off a mid-life crisis by ordering troops into battle.
 Rick Hunter staves off a mid-life crisis by ordering troops into battle.

The Good  

Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles
 is nothing if not an effective bridge between the Sentinels II ending that never was and The Shadow Chronicles. Fans can finally see just what it was that happened to Rick Hunter and his crew aboard the SDF-03 during their struggles against the Invid at Tirol and Optera. The full-color artwork is mostly visually appealing and printed in the larger, American standard dimensions (17x26cm) that allow for a richer reading experience.
 
If you're an info junkie like me, you'll really dig the technical info that comes at the end of each chapter. These asides aren't strictly necessary, but there's an awful lot of hardware being introduced in rapid staccato as time gets stretched and each side of the conflict fields some new gimmicky hotness against the other for use on land or in space. It helps to keep track. 
 

The Bad  

The artwork that I praised above may be technically competent, however, it's just not exciting. Particularly during action scenes, there is just nothing to latch onto and animate with one's imagination, little tension, and I actually found my eyes just skimming over these panels to their quick conclusions. Speaking of panels, a lot of that lack of compelling momentum probably has to do with the prosaic panel layouts the artists used, which consists largely of dull square and rectangular scenes. Since Robotech borrowed so much from anime I wish this comic could have taken a cue from manga and improved these aspects. 
 
To cap off the negative aspects, the copy of Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles that I received contains a handful of pages that belie its digital roots by being heavily pixelated. Would it have made any difference if these pages didn't contain this printing malfunction? Not a chance. 
 

The Verdict: 2/5  

Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles
 completes the basic task its creators needed it to do, but that's about it. This is not a comic anybody walking into a comic store off the streets could pick up and enjoy; they need to be invested in the Robotech universe and want to have the burning question of "What happened to Rick Hunter?" finally put to rest. 
 
Ultimately, how many people is that, really? I was five when Robotech assaulted my young mind with its revolutionary concept of space operas for kids that actually have continuity (fancy that!). I credit the show with introducing me to anime, but now, twenty-five years on, I'm more interested in its constituent series than the cobbled-together patchwork monstrosity that is Robotech. While I'll always have fond memories of Veritechs, Cyclones and ridiculous fleet-to-fleet battles the series has sat dormant for too long and become nigh irrelevant in the modern anime landscape. If Warner Brothers, who owns the live-action movie rights, ever decides to move on their option then the series may see a renaissance and this comic might prove a more practical buy. Until then, it's a hardcore fan read only.
Bigheart711on June 1, 2010 at 1:26 p.m.

Well, i'm out of this one, since I haven't seen or read the saga much.
Ryokanon June 2, 2010 at 2:44 a.m.

Rick Hunter staves off a mid-life crisis by ordering troops into battle.

LOL !!! 
 
I've heard abot the silliness of this anime, but you convinced me to never give it a chance !   
Boddingtonon June 2, 2010 at 2:34 p.m.
@Ryokan: And with that line I guess I've sealed my fate at the hands of Harmony Gold's ruthless jackbooted thugs.

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