Review: Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle Vol. 1

Written by Guest Contributor: Jason DiGioia My fellow Comic Bastard James Anders II (@jamesrandersii) has been reviewing Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle since issue #1 and loving every page. If you want to read good reviews that I agree with for the most part, go hit up the search. In this review of the collected issues 1-6, I’ll try to diverge a bit from what James covered, but I have a feeling I’ll end up coming back to a consensus: this series is awesome, which means this trade is awesome. Terminator fans should be very, very happy.

Like James, I was transported in time (get it?) while reading this collection, back to the simple VHS days, sitting in my parents’ house, eating pizza, a tower of smoky-translucent plastic VHS cases sitting near the TV, wondering if my VCR would become self-aware some day.  I remember hearing for the first time Arnold’s T-800 say, “Come with me if you want to live” to a terrified Sarah Connor in T2. I still get shivers when I watch that scene.

Terminator Salvation TPB Vol. 1 11.12.14Michael Straczynski makes plenty of connections to those classic storylines, but they definitely aren’t forced. That’s because he’s a great writer. Not once did I feel like I was receiving fan service, which is always a concern when reading something that’s part of a beloved movie or TV franchise. My favorite throwback line? When John Connor says “Easy money” in issue #5. It brought a smile to my face, and really, this line not just a cheap throwback to T2. Straczynski is sewing together the past and present with dialogue and giving us fans a little treat besides. That’s smart writing.

Straczynski’s tight pacing and dialogue is complemented exceptionally well by artist Pete Woods. The guy knows how to draw intense, bloody battles, cold, metallic Skynet interiors, and everything inbetween. Not once did I read a panel and feel that the art was lazy or chaotic. His face work, especially with Parnell, is straight up gravy. Woods’ work with Matthew Wilson on covers and chapter breaks is a delight as well. This collection also offers some bonus sketches and insight into creative decisions, which I love to see in trades.

If you want a whiz-bang nutshell version of this six issue collection (count on spoilers), here you go. In the year 2029, the final battle between John Connor’s resistance and Skynet has begun. Skynet realizes that it can’t win unless it can think like a human. In a strategic move, Skynet sends three Terminators back to 2003 to time-wrangle prison-escapee serial killer Thomas Parnell, the perfect twisted brain for Skynet’s plan. One of John Connor’s right-hand-men, Simon Taylor, is sent to 2003 to prevent Parnell from becoming one with Skynet. Simon isn’t successful, and eventually we see a lunatic serial killer controlling an army of terminators in 2029. None of this would have been possible without the incredibly selfish Dr. Serena Kogan, a complex and critical piece to the story. Her hope to save herself from terminal cancer in 2003 and Skynet’s promise to save her if she helps, starts a chain of events that will give John Connor serious heartburn by the end of this collection. Oh, and the final page of the trade leaves us with a satisfying cliffhanger that will definitely have me reading issues 7-12.

For the most part, my complaints are minor. For starters, I did some eye rolls at the female terminator, who I thought was just silly.  Using really long hair as a weapon? Chemical weaponry dispersed from the mouth? I think I dated her. My next criticism is a little bigger, and it’s one that @jamesrandersii might disagree with: I’m not digging Skynet choosing a serial killer as their trump card. Yes, Parnell makes for interesting story and some hellacious battle scenes, but I kept wondering why Skynet wouldn’t choose someone more versed in military tactics. I guess it’s safe to assume Skynet has the military strategy down, but turning everything over to a psycho who will most definitely lose control just doesn’t jive with otherwise logical plotlines.

TS:TFB Vol. 1 has just about everything a storyline of this magnitude should have, and I really think you’ll have fun reading it. Straczynski and Woods are one hell of a team, and this is one hell of a collection. In fact, this is pre order material. Go pre order this book right now.

Score: 5/5

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Artist: Pete Woods Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price:  $19.99 Release Date: 11/26/14 Format: TPB; Print/DIgital