Welcome back to 1990. A long-ago time where people apparently didn't understand the concept of "Backup Power Generators".
TERMINATOR: THE BURNING EARTH
Right out of the gate, let's get this out of the way. . .this is NOT the Alex Ross we all know and love. This is Alexander Ross's first comic work.
It's not bad at all, it's pretty damn good, really. . .but it's not superstar Alex Ross as we have come to know hm. It's dark and pretty muddy in some spots. It's a lot rougher than his work to come. The lines aren't sharp and defined in his more well-known hyper-realistic style. This book looks like he drew it with colored pencils. That said, like I said above, that doesn't make it bad at all. You can see flashes of brilliance to come here and there, but there are also some pretty rough spots.
The story is as dark and grim as the art. It's 40 years after the first Terminator movie (this book came out before T2, so it has nothing to do with the timeline established in later films. It's based on the first movie only) and John Connor is a grizzled, grey-haired warrior tired of fighting to the point that one scene shows him with a gun in his mouth wishing he could sleep for more than an hour at a time. Pretty brutal. No "Hasta La Vista Baybee" quips in this book.
I have to say I liked this first issue a lot. If you read it, you just have to come into it with the viewpoint that ONLY the first movie existed at this time. I have high hopes for the rest of the series.
If there's one thing I really have to complain about. . .and really it's more of a questionable thing. . .it's that Ross doesn't draw the Terminators like they were in the movie, with the skull-like heads and skeletal metal frames, but more like. . .Cylons? They have red-lit slits for eyes and helmet-like heads. WTF?
This issue has the best cover of the series. . .except for one thing. I actually mistook the white highlights in her hair for fingerprints (I bought these at a flea market so I wasn't surprised), but when I looked closer I saw they were intentional.
Those rough spots on the otherwise fantastic cover carry over into the issue itself. The art veers from awesome to crap from page to page and even sometimes from panel to panel. There's only two humans who are distinguishable. . .Connor and DeVerona. Connor because of his gray beard and long hair and DeVerona for his eye patch. I'm going to have a hard time caring for the inevitable deaths to come if I can't even tell the characters apart.
The story itself switches perspective to that of Skynet when it decides that allowing 3.7% of humanity to survive means that its programming is flawed and decides it's time to repair that flaw with some close range nuclear bombing.
I'm still liking this a lot. Second issue not as strong as the first, though. . .and the subplot of Skynet creating sexy woman terminators (like the one on the cover) just seems like an excuse for Ross to draw some awesome D-Cups because "Aurora" is actually the most detailed art in the issue.
The quality of the art takes a serious dip in this issue, with hardly any flashes of the brilliant artist to come to be found. The entire issue is extremely dark and muddy. At first, I was like "It's raining and at night. Okay." But then one of the humans yells out "Sun's going down. We don't want to be out here after dark!" And I was like, "This is supposed to be during the DAY? WTF Alexander Ross? WTF?"
And then there's still the Cylon Terminators. I'm wondering if Ross watched the movie before coming on this project. Maybe he should have. . .
Still, all things considered, despite the rough art, this was a pretty good issue. The weakest of the bunch so far, but not BAD. . .just not great.
The art improves a good deal in this issue over the last. Unfortunately, the writing takes a turn for the worse as the humans assault the Skynet CPU and its power station in separate teams. Once again, I find it hard to care for any of these characters, as they are hardly distinguished between in either the art or the story. There is a decent sense of urgency, but there is also a bit of ex machina as Skynet's nuclear bombs are so powerful they cause seismic disturbances that weaken it. Skynet is located in a NORAD base modeled after Cheyanne Mountain. A base created specifically to stand strong if a nuclear bomb is dropped directly on top of it. "Thunder Mountain" is in Nevada. Earthquakes from the bombing of Phoenix, Arizona shouldn't even bother it.
Then there's the idea that "Thunder Mountain" is powered by an outside power station and has no internal backup power. Ridiculous.
Still, despite having to suspend disbelief twice in 32 short pages, it's not BAD. . .it's just sort of lazy and not well thought out.
And here we are at the big finish!
Unfortunately, this series ends with a whimper after it started with a bang. A damn shame.
Where Ross's art slumped a bit, then quickly improved, Fortier's writing went on a steady decline after a great setup.
I'm not sure if the blame can be placed on 1990 and that the internet didn't really exist at the time the way we know it now, but to base the climax of a story where the villain is basically a supercomputer gone mad on "If we just turn off the power, the computer is defeated" just seems so ridiculous that it pretty much ruined the ending for me as the human forces did exactly that. . .turned off the power by blowing up a power station. And there wasn't a backup power source in "Thunder Mountain". They just. . .switched off Skynet and won the day.
Didn't they have backup generators in 1990? I realize the writer may not have understood the concept of "Internet" or "Cloud Storage" as we do today, but one has to wonder if Fortier understood the concept of "generator".
Then there's the whole "Aurora Model Terminator" that was introduced in issue 2. I think I called it right as an excuse for Ross to draw some D-Cups because after the big introduction, she was forgotten until this last issue, where she caught a grenade and was unceremoniously blown up. But hey, at least she looked great!
Well. . .at least we got a superstar artist out of this.
And there you have it. Terminator: The Burning Earth. All in all, it was. . ,.okay. The suspension of disbelief in the last two issues pretty much ruined the ending for me. I'd still suggest this mini, if just to see how far Alex Ross has progressed. The story itself isn't bad, it's just not great, and can't really be considered part of "Terminator Canon" because about everything in it was gone with the release of T2 a few years later.
Coming next. . .
I wondered what happened to those great anthology titles when I reviewed "Astonishing Tales", so let's take a look at one of DC's earlier efforts to revisit them. . .
Vertigo's 1997 5 issue "Weird War Tales". Be there or be square!
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Issue # 1