Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles (WildStorm/DC Comics)
Story by Tommy Yune
There are those who will call me a traitor ... but they won't be writing the history books.
THE LOWDOWNIn 2022, the SDF-3 Pioneer Mission went to the stars and beyond in search of the homeworld of the Robotech Masters in order to prevent a second Robotech War on Earth. Having failed that goal, they nonetheless reached a state of uneasy peace on the Masters' homeworld of Tirol after defeating a garrison left behind by the Masters' long-time foes, the Invid. Now the Robotech Expeditionary Force finds itself divided, pitted against forces under the command of the renegade General T.R. Edwards and equipped with experimental stealth technology and new weapons against which the bulk of the REF is defenseless. Making matters worse, Edwards has allied himself with the Invid Regent, who covered Edwards's escape by all but destroying the REF's flagship, the SDF-3. With the help of their own alien allies, the Sentinels, the Expeditionary Force prepares for a climactic battle that will finally put to rest demons decades old.
BACKGROUND INFOPrelude to the Shadow Chronicles is a series designed to serve many masters, but is too short to effectively do it all. First of all, it marks the return of Robotech II: The Sentinels artists Jason & John Waltrip to the franchise after nine long years. Indeed, one of the goals with this series as defined by Harmony Gold Creative Director Tommy Yune was to give them a chance to tie up the loose ends of their adaptation of Sentinels. However, as the title of the series makes obvious, there is another, more pressing master to serve -- the Shadow Chronicles animation. Consequently, Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles acts as a bridge between the two works, carrying over certain characters, elements, and plot points from the Waltrips' version of The Sentinels and guiding them into the world of the new animation. Considering the fact that the Waltrips were working in a ROBOTECH universe built along the guidelines of the Jack McKinney Sentinels novels and now found themselves transplanting their plot points into the new, modern Robotech.com timeline, the result is something of an unclear hodge-podge, picking up only the major thread of the final issue of The Sentinels -- the escape of General T.R. Edwards and his forces -- and considering the rest of the story moot. The campaign to liberate the worlds of the Sentinels is established as long over, the traitorous Invid scientist Tesla is nowhere to be found, and while the Invid Regent is still at large the Expeditionary Force seems to consider him and his forces a lesser threat, weakened and driven back to Optera.
Despite being trained artists rather than writers, the Waltrips were originally only brought in to write Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles. Omar Dogan of Udon Studios, who previously worked on the mecha art on Invasion, handled the art for most of the series, giving it a look somewhere between traditional American comic art and the ROBOTECH series's anime roots. All of the characters and uniforms were redesigned to match the style of the Shadow Chronicles film; Dogan himself redesigned Jack Baker, giving him an older look to go with his new responsibilities, and aged Long Vo's redesigned T.R. Edwards from From The Stars to bring him closer to the familiar cowled General Edwards of The Sentinels. Gone are the flare-shouldered harnesses of the Sentinels era, and in their place are more sensible, New Generation-style jumpsuits and Macross-style uniform jackets. The only real holdover is the in-jokey presence of the Haydonite armored uniforms the Waltrips designed for Sentinels Book IV during the first half of issue #1; Rick Hunter and Jean Grant are seen wearing them throughout the opening scenes, though no reason is given in-story for them.
Prelude was originally going to be released biweekly; the first two issues came out on that schedule, but the plan was for the last issue to come out right before the Shadow Chronicles DVD in December of 2005. Unfortunately, the distribution deal that was being taken into consideration when the first two issues of the series were in production fell through, meaning that the rapid schedule no longer needed to be maintained. As a consequence, issues #3-5 were released monthly. Despite this, Omar Dogan fell behind on drawing issue #4 -- I seem to recall hearing that the holidays slowed him down -- and rather than have the book be delayed, Jason & John Waltrip were recruited to draw the final act of the Edwards storyline, which included the final eight pages of issue #4 and the first seven pages of issue #5. Featured in those pages is a major cliffhanger invented by the Waltrips for their version of The Sentinels; it's a nice touch that they were given the opportunity to fully realize this sequence.
Sales of the series in the direct market were dismal; despite a year passing between ROBOTECH comic series, Prelude quickly picked up right where Invasion's falling sales figures left off. The direct market stores clearly no longer had any faith in the ROBOTECH name to sell books, and given the fact that this series in particular requires a certain amount of hardcore ROBOTECH fan knowledge to make any sense whatsoever, I almost don't blame them.
Issues #2-5 each contain two pages of material relating to the production of the Shadow Chronicles film, very much like a modern version of the animation production process walkthrough presented in Carl Macek's Robotech Art 3: The Sentinels, complete with character and mecha model sheets. Interestingly, some of which relate only to the Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles storyline as opposed to the Shadow Chronicles film, such as pre-Shadow Chronicles uniform designs and unique mecha.
PRELUDE TO THE SHADOW CHRONICLES
- Issue 1 -- Part One: The Enemy Within
- Issue 2 -- Part Two: Retribution
- Issue 3 -- Part Three: Necessary Evil
- Issue 4 -- Part Four: Ghosts of the Past
- Issue 5 -- Part Five: The Children of the Shadows