Monkeys Fighting Robots

Within certain circles not having experienced some version of the Macross Saga is akin to saying you’ve never watch Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings. I’m one of those people. I have never seen Robotech. Even though it was before my time, the idea of a multi-generational science fiction epic featuring mecha, cocky fighter pilots, and political intrigue always peaked my interest. I understood Robotech‘s cultural significance and its role in bringing anime to mainstream audiences in the West, but it was something I never found time for. Other shows, some riding of its coattails, filled that gap in my viewing habits. However, Robotech has always remained on my list of things I really need to get around to checking out, but when was I going to find the time to watch an 85-episode show that ended 30 years ago. Enter: Titan Comics. As if the publisher behind such titles as Doctor Who, Blood Bowl and Freeway Fighter  heard my pleas, they announced a new Robotech comic helmed by writer: Brian Wood and artist: Marco Turini with Marco Lesko on colours and John Workman on letters. I finally had a way to experience Robotech with a creative team I trusted, but still, there was that fear. Would they fall into the reboot trap?

We’ve all seen examples of the reboot trap. You’ve read those comics that hope to survive on brand awareness alone. In the past, that might have proved a lucrative business model, but the market has changed. More importantly, the readership’s tolerance for such stories has been eroded by series taking that inherent trust and abusing it. Thankfully, if Robotech #1 is anything to go by, the team over at Titan Comics have heeded the lessons from comics past. The result? A comic that owes as much to Top Gun as it does to Gundam.

Woods and Turini have taken a page from IDW and Boom! Studios’ books in using two familiar trappings of a nostalgic franchise to planet the seeds for a more considered take on the material. The story still features a young fighter pilot eager to impress an older bother-figure, but the militarization of society is more pronounced than it may have been before. The classic designs and characters lull the reader into a false sense of comfort only to twist their expectations. Even a newcomer to the Robotech universe can understand the roles theses characters are meant to inhabit thanks to some helpful character profiles, but it’s clear that the creative team are hoping to use the familiar to fuel exploration of the unfamiliar. In doing so, they can truly make the property their own and a not a simple re-thread of well-trodden territory.

This is the type of courageous storytelling that allowed IDW’s Transformers to slowly turn itself into a political thriller without anyone noticing a dramatic shift in tone. The Siren’s call of retro-revivals allowed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers to present a thesis on PTSD and make that feel as natural a progression as any Megazord battle. Rather than change what made grafted these stories to our memories in the first place. Woods and Turini haven’t changed the essence of Robotech, but rather like Voltron: Legendary Defender before it, have treated the property with the reverence its fans did in their youth. Regardless of whether the show holds up or not, Titan Comics are anxious to create a version of this show that is true to your memory of Robotech.

I never watched Robotech, even if I had it wouldn’t have any bearing on whether or not the comic itself held up. In researching this article, I’ve come to understand why this series captivated its audience upon release and continues to do so. If this comic was simply aimed at existing fans, it probably wouldn’t succeed. Those types of comics rarely do anymore. Storytelling has evolved since 1985 and Robotech has evolved with it. In doing so, it keeps the fans happy while allowing a new audience to experience the Macross Saga with fresh eyes. If this inaugural issue is anything to go by, Robotech has potential to be the next great sci-fi action romp. I’m on board, are you?

Robotech #1 is available now in all good comic shops and some crap ones as well.
A review copy was kindly provided by the publisher.

Some would say that he is a mine of information, too bad most of it is useless. You can read his own comic work over on Follow him on Twitter @m_gearoid.