Review: Terminator Salvation: the Final Battle #1
The movie side of the Terminator franchise maybe stuck in development hell right now, but the comic side of the franchise continues to churn out titles. Unfortunately I wish this title, Terminator Salvation: the Final Battle, had something better to offer.
J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), whose Amazing Spider-Man run got me into comics, pens an awkward script. It’s equal retreading of old plot points and trying to do something new. JMS sends Terminators back in time to kill someone who is going to be instrumental in the upcoming battle. Sound familiar? The first chunk of the issue is spent trying to do new things with old ingredients. With a franchise like Terminator, we need fresh ideas. The first two movies used this plot device so well that anyone involved needs to move onto something new. Considering this has “Final Battle” in its title, I assumed there would be some sense of urgency to the proceedings. Instead, it just feels like another Terminator story. Robots have found a way to wipe the humans out forever and blah blah blah. I grew bored about halfway through the issue, and then sad because no one seems to be able to do anything good with the Terminator franchise besides James Cameron. Some of these problems also stem from what seems to be editorial reasons. JMS clearly had some ideas for this issue, but where this is a multimillion-dollar franchise (well, not so much anymore), he seems to have been forced to make the story fit the archetype of what has come before.
There are a few moments of enjoyment peppered through Terminator Salvation: the Final Battle. JMS humor leaks through on a few panels. The female Terminator’s crack about the shoes gave me a chuckle. The serial killer and his conversation with the TV was slightly chilling. The writing of the humans is already better in this issue than it was in the entire Terminator Salvation movie. They seem likable, and I’m not rooting for the robots to win by the end of it. The twist that a human seems to be working for the robots is an interesting one, but it’s not as fleshed out as it could be. By the end, it’s clear that Dr. Kogan is a highly advanced Terminator, in the veins of a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica. The lack of nudity or real blood keeps this issue from having any teeth. Again, is this an editorial thing or JMS himself, we will never know. But this may have worked better if JMS could have stretched the violence more. It would have made the Terminators seem more threatening instead of just chasing the protagonist for a bit then dying.
Peter Woods’ pencils fit the Terminator world well. They’re gritty and realistic, even when the big metal menaces come into play. While JMS’ story is a little light on the adult subject, Woods’ startles the line enough to please fans of the violent franchise. The panel progression is quick and brutal, showing how effective these models of Terminators are. Woods also sells the few bits of humor well. The stagnant panel sequence on page 20 was great to read. When done correctly, these sequences can be a pleasure to read. The smugness on Parnell’s face as the page goes perfectly sells the craziness that JMS writes while showing how sane he can be.
Terminator Salvation: the Final Battle isn’t exactly what the franchise needed. While a creative mind like JMS and getting an A-list penciler like Peter Woods are steps in the right directions, bigger steps need to be taken to ensure the survival of this franchise.
Terminator Salvation: the Final Battle #1 gets 2/5.