Robotech II: The Sentinels Book One #1

"A New Threat"

Writers - Tom Mason & Chris Ulm
Artwork - Jason Waltrip
Letters - Clem Robins
Cover Illustration - Jason Waltrip
Cover Colors - Scott Bieser
Editor in Chief - Chris Ulm
Creative Director - Tom Mason

Published by Eternity Comics, a division of Malibu Graphics, Inc.

Cover date - November 1988


On the broken world of Tirol, third moon of the planet Fantoma, a woman runs through the streets, cradling her child in her arms and crying for help. As an unseen creature backs her into a corner, she insists that she has done nothing, but her pursuer does not listen. A blast of searing energy washes over her and her infant, turning them and the walls behind them into dust. Her pursuer is revealed to be an Invid Shock Trooper, who pauses to examine its fallen prey. The Invid have found their old foes, the Robotech Masters, to be a far weaker opponent than they had anticipated. With this knowledge, they are now ready to begin their full-scale invasion of Tirol.

Far, far away, on the planet Earth, in the planet's unofficial capital city of Monument, a voyage nine years in the making is getting underway. Lisa Hayes races down a corridor as a voice behind her calls her name. The voice belongs to Dr. Emil Lang, who tells her he was sure she'd already be in the control room. She replies that she just had some last-minute wedding details to attend to. Lang asks if she's nervous, but Lisa says that between the launch and the final wedding plans she's far too busy to be nervous. He then asks about Rick, who seems unusually edgy to him. "Rick's put nine years of work into rebuilding the SDF-3. If he's not nervous now, he'll never be." However, as Lang starts to walk ahead of her, Lisa wonders if it's the wedding that Rick's worried about.

The shuttle lifts off, and in a conference room, the key players in the SDF-3's mission to Tirol go over some last minute concerns. Rick Hunter, staring out the window into the darkness of space, tells the others to keep their fingers crossed, as they'll soon find out whether nine years of work has been enough. Colonel Jonathan Wolff tells Rick he hopes that Exedore is right, as he's always found the strategy of turning the SDF-3 into a "Trojan Horse" a trifle odd. "By disguising the ship and loading it down with the most powerful mecha in our arsenal, I hope we haven't undermined the diplomatic thrust of the mission." Exedore still believes that, after studying Earth's military history, this particular strategy seems to be the most appropriate in dealing with the Robotech Masters. He asks Rick if he agrees, but Rick says he hasn't given it much thought lately. "I wish you would, Rick," Dr. Lang says as he enters the room with Lisa. "As commander of the Robotech Expeditionary Force, you might agree it's well worth your time. There is always the potential for war with the Robotech Masters. I hope we can settle our differences peacefully, but we need a plan if diplomacy fails." Wolff points out that given the fact that the ship is loaded with the latest and most powerful mecha the RDF has developed, they should be ready for anything should things get heated. Besides that, he points out that the SDF-3 looks more like a Zentraedi vessel now than it did when it was found on Macross twenty years ago. Lang only hopes the Masters will be fooled. "It's irrelevant, gentlemen," Rick notes. "First we've got to get to their homeworld. We don't know if the SDF-3 can even fold into hyperspace yet. And if it does, there's no guarantee that we'll come out where we want to. We are about to embark on a trip to the unknown, a trip to meet our destiny head on ... to face a new threat. I just hope we're prepared." At that moment, they are informed that they've got a visual on the Factory Satellite. Most of the group stands to take a look at the giant Zentraedi factory, but Vince Grant calls Dr. Lang aside to talk about Rick. "He's been acting strange lately. Jean, my wife, said he didn't say a word during his medical examination." Lang tells Vince that it's an important day for Rick, the culmination of years of work on the SDF-3, and not only that but he has a lot to think about before marrying a fellow RDF admiral. "I know," Vince says, "and I wish Claudia and Roy had lived to see this." Lang tells him they can't live in the past, though they all miss Claudia, and Roy was just like a brother to Rick. Max Sterling comes up behind Rick and Lisa and asks if they're forgetting something. Lisa asks what that would be. "We've got to give our pal the best bachelor party in the history of the RDF!" he exclaims, much to Lisa's frustration and Rick's amusement. Wolff asks if that's allowed, as he thought there wasn't any civilian life on-board the repair station. "There didn't used to be," Max tells him, "but things have changed since Commander Reno was overthrown."

As the shuttle begins docking procedures, General T.R. Edwards asks his aide Benson what he knows of Rick Hunter. "Well, sir, I know he was the leader of the Skull Squadron during the war, that he was commander of the RDF after the destruction of the first Super Dimensional Fortress ... and that he's about to marry Admiral Lisa Hayes ..." Edwards says he can stop there, and that he admires a man with a good memory. "It won't be long before we see exactly what the famous Rick Hunter is made of. If he's anything like his pal Fokker, it shouldn't be too difficult to put our plan into action." Benson asks how he figures that, and Edwards tells him he's waited quite a while for the right moment to seize control of the military, and has studied every variable. Still, Benson tells him the Masters could become a problem. Edwards assures him that he'll be able to deal with them, or any other alien force, when the time is right. "But Rick Hunter could ruin everything. If I had my way, he'd still be on Earth and I'd be in charge of this mission. That's why he's got to be taken care of first. That's where you come in." Edwards tells Benson that he is to first read Hunter's file, then stick close to him, figure out all he can about the way Hunter thinks, how he responds to situations. "Many people have tried to get the best of Hunter, sir, and most ..." Benson starts. "And most have failed!" Edwards finishes for him. "I've been a soldier longer than Hunter's been alive! And I'll still be a soldier long after he's dead! Is that clear?" Frightened, Benson nods, telling Edwards he can count on him.

Back over Tirol, the second wave of Invid forces arrive. Clam-shaped Mollusk carriers release hordes of Invid Armored Scouts, which descend to the planet's surface and storm the capital city of Tiresia. The city begins to crumble under the might of the Invid war machine. However, in one part of the city, two residents seem to be going about their business as though nothing is going on. Young Rem and his mentor Cabell are experimenting with Protoculture, trying to retrace the steps of the first Robotech Master, Zor. Rem complains to Cabell that every time he experiments with active Protoculture, the pollinators they keep in the lab begin acting like they're possessed. "If their behavior continues, I'll have to move them to another part of the lab or we'll never discover the secret of Protoculture." He picks one up and wonders aloud why Zor was so attached to them, and wonders if they could speak whether they'd be able to help solve the riddle of Protoculture. Cabell notes that the only way to learn the secret is to retrace Zor's steps scientifically, not to muse about pollinator speech. Still, Rem thinks he's on to something, pointing out that every time he sends the current through the pods, the pollinators react. "It seems my young assistant puts much credence in his own imagination and in your scientific value," Cabell says to one of the little creatures. Suddenly an alarm light goes off, warning them that the city's defenses are weakening. Rem can't believe the Invid penetrated the perimeter so soon, and Cabell tells him to bring his equipment and the pollinators quickly. "We must go into hiding!" he assures the young Master.

Outside, the Masters' Bioroids are outclassed, outgunned, and outnumbered by the merciless Invid swarm. They continue to stream down from the skies, destroying ancient cultural monuments with the wave of an armored claw or a single shot from their energy cannons. Centuries of development and growth are reduced to rubble in merely a few hours.

Below the city, Cabell assures Rem that they'll be safe once they reach the catacombs. There they'll have enough provisions for a week, though Rem believes the Invid are here to stay. "They have destroyed our world! We're doomed!" Cabell tells him to calm down and have patience, for he's sure they'll be rescued. "That's easy for you to say," Rem tells Cabell. "You're old. You've lived your life. If the Invid find us, it is of little concern to you. But I am young. I should have my whole life ahead of me." Cabell says that's why he should never succumb to the Invid. He must have courage if they are to defeat the Invid. As the hatch leading to the catacombs slides away, Rem asks Cabell if he's sure the Invid won't find them down there. "Not unless they've learned to see through lead walls," Cabell tells him.

In orbit, aboard the flagship of the Invid Regent, the Regent realizes his folly. "There is no Protoculture factory on this world," he grumbles to his subordinates. "This raid is a waste of time. The most we can hope for are isolated storehouses of Protoculture matrix. And if we are very lucky, information that will lead us to our precious Flowers of Life. A field report comes in from a scout, informing him that the resistance from the Masters has been weak and uncoordinated. "I fear we may be too late to reap any harvest expected from this obscure moon," the Scout tells him. The Regent orders the Scout to keep him posted, when the Regis enters. She tells him she has been monitoring the field reports, and came down to congratulate him on yet another display of his stupidity and poor judgement. "Do not try to conceal your failures from me. You forget we are both built from the same mold," she says as he tries to talk his way out of the situation. The Regis reminds him that she said the attack would be pointless, that the Masters are too clever to hide something as valuable as the protoculture Factory at home. The Regent points out that if anything they have at least conquered another planet, but the Regis points out that the operation may have cost them the very information they seek. "Do not be so quick to parcel blame." the Regent counters. "Was it not you who said that contact with alien races might give us a cue to our evolutionary direction? Did you not recieve the scientist Zor? And was it not you who let him steal our precious Flower of Life to leave us with nothing?" He reminds her that if not for his Shock Troopers' intervention, their entire race might have been destroyed. The Regis counters that it was a long time ago, and since then she has become just as ruthless as he. "Stirring up the past does nothing but push me farther away from you." She tells him that his talk of power and purpose makes her laugh, and that he is nothing more than a symbol of death and destruction for the Invid people. The Regent is furious. "How dare you! My troops have kept our civilization alive while we mounted the crusade to recapture our stolen treasure. It is our life's blood! Our future!" The Regis tires of this discussion and retires to her chamber to meditate. She tells him that she does not wish to be disturbed for any reason. However, the Regent demands that she return. "I am the Regent of all the Invid, and no one speaks to me in this way, not even my wife! Do you hear me?" He proclaims that she has insulted him for the last time, and orders his barge to be prepared for his immediate depature to the surface of Tirol.


TIMELINE - Designed with original TV series in mind (see remarks below).

  • Rick Hunter (last seen in Crystal Dreams #1)
  • Lisa Hayes (last seen in Invasion #5 "Mars Base One Part 5")
  • Max Sterling (last seen in Crystal Dreams #1)
  • Dr. Emil Lang (last seen in The Malcontent Uprisings #7)
  • Jonathan Wolff (last seen in The Malcontent Uprisings #12)
  • Vince Grant (first published appearance; last seen in Love & War #4)
  • Exedore Formo (last seen in Crystal Dreams #1)
  • T.R. Edwards (last seen in Return to Macross #12, next in Sentinels Book 1 #3)
  • Benson (first published & chronological appearance)
  • Rem (first published & chronological appearance)
  • T.R. Edwards (last seen in Return to Macross #12, next in Sentinels Book 1 #3)
  • Cabell (first published appearance; last seen in Genesis: The Legend of Zor #4)
  • The Regis (last seen in Genesis: The Legend of Zor #5, next in Sentinels Book 1 #4)
  • The Regent (first published appearance; last seen in Genesis: The Legend of Zor #5)
PUBLICATION NOTE: This issue was reprinted due to high demand. The second printing has a blue Robotech II: The Sentinels logo on the cover but is otherwise identical.

This first issue of Eternity's adaptation of Robotech II: The Sentinels closely resembles the original television scripts for the series, and as such fits far better within the context of the original ROBOTECH TV series than with the novels by Jack McKinney. For instance, the figure of nine years since work began on the mission to Tirol doesn't jive with McKinney's figures (his timeline wraps Macross up in December 2014, then add nine and you get a departure date of 2023, when the first Sentinels novel says that the story begins in 2020). In addition, there are little things here and there which lean towards the wording and tone of the TV series over the novels, such as the way the Regent clarifies the difference between the Protoculture Factory and Protoculture Matrix. McKinney muddled that big time--"Protoculture Matrix" is, in the context of the TV series dialogue, a single isolated unit containing Protoculture, such as the unit Khyron stole in episode #35 "Season's Greetings" and the pods the Masters were so protective of in episode #60 "Catastrophe"; the "Protoculture Factory" is the device lodged in the SDF-1's reflex furnaces that the Zentraedi and the Robotech Masters were after, which Bowie and Musica discovered the remains of in episode #59 "Final Nightmare." In later issues, when Mason and Ulm (and later the Waltrips) start working from the McKinney novels rather than the original TV scripts, the terminology reverts to McKinney's take.

As I look over this issue again, I realize that I'm rather fond of Jason Waltrip's early ROBOTECH art style as opposed to what it evolved into circa Book Two. Sure, the landscapes aren't as detailed, and some shots are kind of rough-looking, but the overall character design more closely resembles art from mid-80s anime than it does in later issues of the series. Plus, Rick's chin isn't horribly out of whack with the rest of his face yet, and Edwards isn't overacting yet.

Indeed, the only character I'm not happy with in this issue is the Invid Regis, who doesn't look quite on-model enough. I think it does work better for the character, making her look more alien than she does in the Sentinels video footage, but it still feels off.

Carl Macek once stated that the opening scene with the woman and child getting fried was actually animated for the Sentinels TV series despite the fact that it does not appear in the animated video release. It wasn't omitted because of the strikingly harsh content, but rather because Macek thought the animation was of unacceptably low quality.

Notice that everyone keeps on talking about "rebuilding" the SDF-3. Believe it or not, all these references come straight from the original Robotech II: The Sentinels TV series scripts. It's one hell of a story flub, but it's one on Carl Macek and and his team's part, not Mason & Ulm's. Bear in mind that the Protoculture Factory--the item both the Zentraedi and Masters were after (and according to this issue, the Invid Regent as well)--is locked away in the SDF-1's reflex furnaces. Now, if the SDF-3 is the rebuilt SDF-1 (note Wolff's statement about the ship looking "more like a Zentraedi ship now than it did when we first found it on the island 20 years ago", implying that the SDF-3 is in fact the SDF-1), then the entire climax of the Second Robotech War and the subsequent Invid Invasion is negated, since the Protoculture Factory would be off in the star system of the Southern Cross and would be unable to get crushed in Zor Prime's final suicidal act to spew forth Flowers of Life that would spread across planet Earth. So really, all these implications that the SDF-3 is the SDF-1 in an ugly-colored Zentraedi suit have to be utter nonsense, unless you feel like utterly negating episodes #59-85 of the TV series.

In the same scene, it looks like Wolff changes his tune in mid-conversation. First he remarks that the "Trojan horse" strategy is an odd one to take with the SDF-3 and that the disguise and the overarming of the ship might undermine the diplomatic thrust of the mission. Then, when Lang enters the room, he tells Lang that since they've got the ship loaded down with all these weapons they should be ready to face any new threat, and besides that it looks more like a Zentraedi ship than ... well, see above. In any case, the next thing he tells Lang is the big flub: "It's the perfect plan," he says. Whoa, wait a sec, didn't he just say it was an odd plan and that he had some misgivings about it given that this is supposed to be a diplomatic mission? Indeed he did. As to whose fault this flaw is, I'm not sure.

One comforting change from the original version of Sentinels is the inclusion of civilian life on-board the Zentraedi Factory Satellite. In the coming issues, it adds something of a classic Macross City feel to the story, even if it only lasts until the depature of the SDF-3.

I find it interesting that Edwards tells Benson, "I've waited a long time for just the right moment to seize control of the military." As I reread that line, I keep thinking back to the plans for the original Macross-era cut of Robotech The Movie: The Untold Story where the villain who seizes control of the government is Edwards rather than a Masters-controlled clone of someone else. Something tells me that line survived several drafts of the original Sentinels TV scripts to find its way into this comic book.

One discrepancy that's always struck me as a little odd is the fact that the Regent's toadies are all wearing robes while in the animation they wore tunics and pants. I've always wondered why the Waltrips changed that. It's almost the only thing that's totally different visually between the original Sentinels animation designs and the comic adaptation.

A lot is said in narration about how the Invid live for combat, and how merciless and relentless they are, when in fact they're only hungry for revenge against those who stole their Flower of Life. It strikes me as the same sort of inaccurate but imposing writing one would find in an early episode of The Macross Saga or The New Generation. So on the one hand, it works because it gives more of a ROBOTECH TV series feel to the sequences, but on the other hand it doesn't because it's blatantly inaccurate.

At one point an Invid Scout is depicted talking to the Regent. Recall from the New Generation episodes of ROBOTECH that there's a strict delineation between Invid that can talk and Invid that can't -- Invid in crustacean mecha don't talk. Invid toadies in robes talk, Invid in Enforcer armor talk, but Invid in crab-shaped mecha just don't talk.

This is more a gripe with the Sentinels story overall than with the comic book in particular, but anybody else ever feel like the Regent and Regis's dysfunctional relationship kind of weakened the grandeur with which the Regis is treated in The New Generation? I like the Regent as a concept and also as a villain, but when he starts acting like a cranky and bumbling husband he really drags both himself and the Regis down a few notches on the grandeur scale. But at the same time, I do like the speeches they throw back and forth, both because they shed some light on the ROBOTECH backstory (in this issue there are even some odd clues which never pop up anywhere else and are contradicted in later works), and because some of them just sound majestic and cool, even though it is just a marital spat.

The back of this issue is filled up with a two-page parody comic/advertisement by Ben Dunn called "Ninja-Tech," involving tiny Invid encountering the cast of Dunn's long-running Ninja High School comic series; four pages of letters from worried and eager ROBOTECH fans; and then ads, including a one-page subscription ad and a one-page ad for Protoculture Addicts from back in the days when it was still a ROBOTECH fanzine.