Robotech (Antarctic) #4 - Rolling Thunder Part 1 (of 4)
"Rolling Thunder - Part 1"
Story & Art - Fred Perry
Coloring - ARNie & Patrick Thornton
Editor & Lettering - Doug Dlin
Publisher - Ben Dunn
Published by Antarctic Press.
Release date - October 1, 1997
Cover date - September 1997
Estimated sales - 8,900 copies
THE STORYThe Second Robotech War is at an end, but the remaining armies of the Robotech Masters fight on, attacking sites of human survivors at random. In order to deal with one such attack, Dana Sterling and her 15th Alpha Tactical Armored Corps suit up and get their Hovertanks ready for battle.
At a location designated Site 626, Bioroid forces swarm across the city, annihilating civil defense Battloids left and right. Western Command assures the soldiers there that reinforcements are on their way, but the defenders of 626 can't hold out. Their Battloids are innevitably wiped out. With the 15th Squadron en route, their command vehicle is destroyed as well. The site is a lost cause. Still, the 15th is dropped into the warzone, and Dana orders her men to spread out. As Sean and Bowie land, Dana orders them to shift to Guardian mode and lay down some artillery fire. At that moment, though, Bowie is hit by a force of Bioroids at 4 o'clock attacking from some good cover. Dana, grumbling about how she hates air drops, tells Angelo to cover Bowie and asks Sean if he's in Guardian mode yet.
"Three more Bioroids, Dana!" Angelo calls out. "10 o'clock! And they've got even better cover!"
Indeed they do, as all one can see of them is their arms poking up and firing. However, they're soon blasted by fire from above. Louie Nichols, late in dropping in, nailed 'em from the sky. Dana thanks Louie and orders him into formation. Sean and Bowie finally get into Guardian and Dana tells them to use direct fire, full power, with no missing. They nail target after target, and with some breathing room available, Dana orders her men to charge.
Just then, orders come in from Marie Crystal at Western Command to pull out. "They've gotta be kidding!" Sean comments. "We're completely engaged here!" Dana tells Marie that there has to be a heck of a good reason for this. Marie tells her that not only have they lost contact with Site 626, but their satellite has picked up one hundred and twenty-eight rogue Bioroids inside the city ready to overrun Dana's forces. Sean soon changes his tune. "That sounded like a damn good reason to me! It's bailin' time!" While Dana wants to look for survivors, Angelo disagrees. "Dana, we're good," he says, "but against one-eighty??" Command tells them they have a mercenary transport on its way, e.t.a. forty seconds. Angelo tells Dana it's her call, and she tells her men to just keep the pressure up while she thinks. Bowie informs her that their ride has arrived, along with air support. Finally, Dana caves in and orders Sean, Louie, and Bowie to get on-board. The dropship pilot tells them to hurry up, as he's starting to take fire. Sean's tank is hit. Western Command tells the 15th that twenty more Bioroids have broken through the city limits, and Angelo tells Dana they need to get a move on. However, she tells Angelo to go ahead, and she'll cover him.
Suddenly, something comes up on infrared -- a little girl has survived. Dana takes off after her, much to Angelo's irritation.
Upon observing Dana's strength in battle the commander of the Bioroids, a Master called Khane, orders the Bioroids to leave the area so that he can test her himself. "Kill the rest of them," he orders. His customized Bioroid arrives before Dana's mecha, startling her. She is informed that the Bioroids are flooding out of the city, and as she continues in pursuit of the girl, bad news about her squad floods in -- Bowie's running low on ammo and his damage is in the red, annd Sean's in equally bad shape and has no comm. She orders Angelo and the others to the dropship immediately just as her own Hovertank takes some damage. Khane finds it odd that Dana's evading him rather than fighting, and wonders why she won't focus on the fight. Bowie tells her that they're all on-board, and she should be, too.
Khane then notices the child. "Is this what you are after?" he asks. "What you want to protect? Intolerable!" He has much disdain for the notion of sacrificing strength in the name of protecting the weak, and thus blasts the child into oblivion. This boils Dana's blood, and she begins to fight him with all the strength and skill she can muster. Sean radios Dana, demanding to know where she is and telling her they have to take off immediately. She asks for a few more minutes, but the dropship pilot decides to cut his losses -- he's got heavy damage and no weapons on-line -- and take off. "Negative, command!! Negative! Major Sterling is still out there ... !" Sean shouts, but the pilot says she's just flat out of time. Sean starts to threaten the guy, but he just doesn't care.
"You fight well, Micronian," Khane admits as his Bioroid begins to take some damage. "It is with great regret that I must turn you away ... but your fighting spirit and skill stem from the desire to protect that which is weak ... unacceptable." He tells his men he is through with her; she is to be eliminated. The Bioroids regroup and swarm over Dana, blasting her from every angle.
Aboard the dropship, Louie taps into the EDF satellite feed and tells Bowie to take a look. "Can you see Dana ... ?" he asks. Indeed he can. "Dana's getting dissected out there! " Louie says. "She's got forty or fifty Bioroids on her! They're cutting her to ribbons!!" Bowie insists they have to do something, but Angelo insists they're staying. "Think about it! What good are we gonna do out there?? Against over one hundred Bioroids? Two of our mecha are down hard already!! We'd all be killed! We have no choice! We have to run for it and leave the Major behind! But I swear ... we're gonna find those creeps again ... and we're gonna make them pay for this!"
NOTESTIMELINE - Since this story has no overt references to any dates or concepts native to the McKinney novels (i.e. Thinking Caps), it is compatible with any ROBOTECH timeline.
- Dana Sterling (last in Robotech Masters #23)
- Bowie Grant (last in Robotech Masters #23)
- Angelo Dante (last in Robotech Masters #23)
- Sean Phillips (last in Robotech Masters #23)
- Louie Nichols (last in Robotech Masters #23)
- Marie Crystal (last in Robotech Masters #23)
- Bill Tuscon (first appearance)
- Dalmeric Khane (first appearance)
Fred Perry takes the characters and mecha of Southern Cross and makes them his own without violating any of the rules in the process. All the uniforms and mecha designs among the Army of the Southern Cross forces are spot-on to the series, but colored in drab earthy greens and grays that make a lot more tactical sense than the garish, heroic schemes of the TV series. The 15th dispense with their bulky, fancy armor in favor of down-to-earth leather jackets over their drab recolored uniforms. The characters themselves have been given an angular, expressive and cartoony overhaul that feels right for the carefree 15th.
New villain Dalmeric Khane is given a cold, imposing look -- squinty-eyed and pointy all around, including big evil eyebrows -- that matches the cold, imposing words he expresses. And Fred Perry concocts a nifty new Bioroid command model, a self-propelled monstrosity (which predates the slightly similar Bioroid Interceptor from Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles by about nine years) with pointy toes and overblown tubing that arrives in a glorious, fiery moment that makes it look like it had just arrived from the mouth of hell. As big bad Antarctic Press boss mecha go, it's pretty slick.
I do have a quibble with the recolored Bioroids and Skysleds. They're pretty blah looking, and giving the Bioroids and their sleds the same fugly aqua color scheme makes it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
An argument I recall from when this story was first published was that the 15th charges in with only five members, while in the TV series they always had a few extra. However, as the next issue makes clear, the Southern Cross is running low on both men and machines. Marie probably let the 15th stay together as a unit due to their ability to get results and also as a favor to Dana, but with Dana out of action next issue the 15th is split apart to bolster other squadrons.
Also, some of the hand-drawn lettering when characters start screaming is a shade melodramatic and over the top, and doesn't really match well with the obviously typeset and sometimes lazily laid-out lettering throughout the rest of the story.
One thing I adore about this story is that it makes the logical leap that despite the lull in the fighting at the very end of "Catastrophe," that moment when everything comes to a peaceful if foreboding end, the fighting didn't just stop then. Skirmishes would certainly continue for a while, as Bioroid teams led by high-level clones regroup and find a way to keep on fighting. And who's to say that there weren't more Masters, like Khane, among the Tirolians who made the trek to Earth? Who's to say that someone couldn't take charge of the Bioroid survivors and keep the war machine running?
Though, of course, Khane himself does open up a lot of questions. Don't get me wrong, he's probably my favorite of the Antarctic Press ROBOTECH rogues' gallery, mostly because the guy's about as cold as they come. For a moment you almost think Dana's going to rescue the kid, but when he kills her merely to refocus Dana's attention, you just know this chapter can't end well. His sick yet perfectly reasoned philosophy hearkens back to the Masters of the TV series, but his execution is far less hypocritical; the Masters in the series would speak of power, but did they ever step into battle to prove their superiority? No, they would stand around on their ship and talk about how they would become the supreme power in the universe and yet let others do their fighting for them: first the Zentraedi in the pre-TV series days, then their Bioroid clones during their campaign to capture the Protoculture Factory. But as for Khane, he will seek the strongest among his foes and prove that his is the most superior power and the most superior skill.
But the problem with the guy is that it's not explained where he came from, or what his function was in the Masters' fleet. He stands alone, not with a triumvirate. Was he running one of the other ships? Was he locked away for his denial of the Triumvirate? Is he some sort of rogue Clonemaster? I have my own ideas, but the text of the storyline never really offers any explanation.
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE
- Prototype 001 'Tigercat' Part Four