Robotech #10 - Review. Your Macross is in My Peanut Butter
Script: Simon Furman
Art: Marco Turini and Hendry Prasetya
Colors: Marco Lesko and John Charles
Lettering: Jim Campbell
As a kid, Robotech was one of those things that I really wanted to get into, but it seemed like anything associated with it was hella expensive. The toys. Any of the videos. The merch. I wound up staying away. But anytime I saw something labelled as "Macross" I would swoon. Of course, back then I was too mainstream (I only ever read books from the Big Two) to ever have looked in the section of my comics shop where Titan Comics were, and so I never saw whether there was a Robotech comic that I could have afforded. I picked up the last issue of this run of the series a few weeks ago, and was reasonably pleased with it. Enough to give it a second go this week.
I still don't quite have a grasp on the grand strategy level of what's going on. There are the Zentraedi. They're the bad guys. And then there are some humans from earth on a big ship called the SDF-1. They're the good guys. In this issue, the good guys have been captured by the bad guys, who are either 50 feet tall, or the humans are 50 inches tall. The humans fight in these things that are Robo's that also transform into their spaceships. And in this issue, when the bad guys question Captain Lisa Hayes, commanding officer of the SDF-1, and don't get the answers they want, they force one of her soldiers, Max Sterling, to fight to the death with one of theirs. In his Robo suit.
That fight is the thing that really, and unfortunately, defines this comic for me. One of my rules is that, for me, art either needs to make the comic something special, or it needs to stay out of the way, not be obtrusive or distracting, and not interfere with my interpretation of the story. I have a lot of problems with the art here and the story-telling, and that ultimately drove where I landed on the review score.
There is some decent panel work here, just enough of a break from the norm, with irregularly shaped panels and partial overlays thrown in to mix things up. That was good. But there is some really broken storytelling that was very distracting and interfered with my ability to follow the threads. In fact, I noted that it took me about twice as long to read this issue as it normally would have, because I had to keep flipping back and forth and often gazing at a sequence of panels trying to understand what was going on. Early on, there is a point where one of the humans is warning the others that a Zentraedi is about to attack them. The Zentraedi have just walked into the area where the humans are being held captive. Miriya, the Zentraedi who is about to attack, is in a full standing position. What she has done to telegraph that she is about to strike one of the humans at the point when his warning word bubble is voiced is lost on me. But then when she does hit one of them, which requires her to kneel down, it looks like she crouches down in a Spider-Man like pose? The one with one leg bent at the knee and the other leg out straight to the side? Why that physicality is used to articulate the dismissive backhand she gives to the human, Sterling, makes little or no sense, is distracting, and made me pause to try and figure out what was going on.
In costuming, I have no idea why the women on the SDF-1 are wearing skirts that come down to below their knee and high heels. In space. The big event that frames this entire issue is the fight to the death between the Zentraedi warrior, Miriya, and Max Sterling in his Robo suit, and the fight choreography just makes no sense. At one point I guess he kicks her from behind, but it just looks like he is still falling down from the previous panel where she slashes his back with a sword. In that panel, she is facing his back. In the next panel, when he kicks her, he is kicking her calf with her directly behind him, but she is facing away from him. There's just no logic to how the two got from the one panel to the next. And then when he lands the kick, in which you can only decrypt what happened in that panel because she gives him a backhanded compliment, the impact appears to force her to bend over backwards at the waist but maintain her balance on one leg?? She later tears his arm off by first catching a swinging punch of his with an arm cross-bar, but it's shown as her tearing it off in the opposite direction that it would seem logical for her to have gained enough leverage to impart enough torque to tear his arm off. The whole fight just doesn't make any sense, and again, it's supposed to be the center-piece of this issue. So when it doesn't work, it just pulls everything else down along with it.
There is a solid story and plot here. One that I kind of fell in love with last issue. There's a ton of intrigue, conspiracy, whodunit, and total X-Files, who can you trust, motif at play. The cast is at least 18 distinct characters now and you can kind of play your own Game of Thrones at that point. Some of the dialogue is a bit stiff in a very 1980s kid's cartoon kind of way. Some of the trappings of the original material, I reckon. Things like the Zentraedi being physically shaken when the humans show emotion towards one another like giving each other a hug. That stuff is a bit 13 year-old, intermixed with stuff targeting older readers. It's a bit off, but it doesn't destroy the narrative.
SCORE: 5.5 / 10
This was a really rough issue for me. If I had not read the previous issue, I may have put it down entirely. I may seem wrapped around the axle about fight choreography, but, yeah, it's one of those things that used to plague comics when they really were written just for children, and whole pages of panels would be laid out that made zero sense in how the combatants would have gotten from one panel to the next. I need more than that from comics in the modern age. Especially when you are doing something like humans in Pacific Rim-sized Robo suits that transform into spaceships fighting super-tall aliens. It's gotta work. That physicality has to be there, and there were also a lot of lines of script during the fight that were highly disjointed from the action. Like Miriya screaming "..to the Death!" and then after she screams that Max goes "Ready. Wha--?" It's very 1970s / 1980s word bubble work. I love some of the characters in this, especially Captain Lisa Hayes. But the script and the art really need to be better integrated and the story-telling really has to better convey what is going on.