ROBOTECH #1 by Brian Wood and Marco Turini
Readapting THE MACROSS SAGA for new readers, ROBOTECH #1 takes on the source material in brilliant ways. With a potent plot and highly detailed art, this issue's only failing is in its development of its supporting cast. If you are a fan of giant robot fights, this comic is definitely for you.
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Brilliant Nostalgia
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If you were born in the early nineties, you may remember a little cultural phenomenon called MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM. Through this anime series, many were introduced to the Japanese style of storytelling and the wonders of the mecha genre. I developed a deep love of giant robots and massive scale interplanetary battles through this series, and that adoration has carried into my adult life. However, those born a decade earlier recognize a different name in mecha combat. ROBOTECH was one of the first anime series to be adapted and dubbed for Western audiences. Now, thirty years later, Titan Comics is adapting the Macross Island adventures for a new audience with ROBOTECH #1.

Written by Brian Wood with art from Marco Turini, ROBOTECH #1 is an adaptation of the original animated series. Taking from both the anime and the manga series that inspired it, Wood has created a modern tale of robotic space combat. With an interesting premise and beautifully depicted machines, ROBOTECH #1 is a brilliant take on the source material. But is it swallowed by the original series, incapable of breaking free?

Rick in the Sky with Robots

Robotech #1
Image courtesy of Titan Comics

On the far away island of Macross, an alien spacecraft crash lands. This signals mankind’s first known contact with extra-planetary forces. Pilot Roy Fokker is the first man to witness the craft, and his discovery will inform his future life. As researchers flood the island, a city rises up around the ship, built on its alien technology. Fearing further invasion, the citizens of Macross Island develop new weapons called Robotech.

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These experimental machines are in the early stages of their development. However, they are needed to suppress a new alien threat. As a warship enters Earth’s atmosphere, Rick Hunter arrives at Roy’s base. Young civilian Rick sees Roy as a big brother, but after discovering the original ship, Roy has become the leader of Skull Squadron. He has devoted himself to Macross and left Rick behind. As the alien ships fall, Rick may be Macross Island’s only hope as he steals and pilots the island’s first functional Robotech plane into battle.

Waves of Nostalgia

Courtesy of Titan Comics, ROBOTECH #1 does so many things right. The story feels fast paced in the best way, never halting while still providing the necessary information to understand the plot. Marco Turini’s art is beautifully descriptive, and Wood’s script leaves room for silence, allowing the art to speak for itself. As the Super Dimension Fortress crash lands in the opening pages, there is no text or dialogue to signal its entry. There is no philosophical debate about space or life or a star. Turini’s art tells its own story, signaling years of conflict with only his pencils and inks.

As a tech story, the art needs to balance detail and subtlety. Too much detail can flood scenes, overwhelming readers. Too little can make the advanced machines feel muddy. Turini finds that balance, blending realism with anime exaggeration. This comes across in the main cast, who all wear bright colors and spiky hair. This is definitely a Western comic book, but Turini gives clear nods to the Japanese origins.

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The plot, too, needs a certain balance. Anime tends towards heavy exaggeration, saturated with an appealing silliness at its core. Wood has to call back to this jovial nature while creating a strictly serious tale. For the most part, he succeeds. Rick Hunter’s character is the best example of this balance. Rick is a young person, wholly out of his element. He simply wants to see his brother. His goals don’t include enlisting or fighting. He fumbles into the battle. While most of the cast feels very Westernized, Rick finds his roots in the source manga.

Brightly Colored Characters

Robotech #1
Image courtesy of Titan Comics

Rick receives the most character development in ROBOTECH #1. As a young character, he helps ground ROBOTECH #1 in stories like POWER RANGERS that lean into their campiness. Most importantly, he held my interest. His motivations, to speak with his brother, are simple but wholly clear. Wood grounds Rick’s struggles to the family. On the same spectrum is Lynn Minmei, a young woman who runs a restaurant on Macross. Though she isn’t a soldier, she is clearly an important character, and her motivations to protect her family’s restaurant are easily sympathetic.

The other characters, though, don’t receive the same page time. The cast for this story is relatively small. Only six characters have important speaking roles. However, four of these six lose some importance. Roy Fokker just comes off as a stock gruff soldier. He has no motivations or explanations for Rick, and he shows no emotion in this piece outside of loyalty. Likewise, Claudia Grant, Henry Gloval and Lisa Hayes, the officers of the Super Dimension Fortress, seem like place holders. They say the right technological terms to sound like competent soldiers or scientists, but no true personality comes across.

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Final Thoughts on ROBOTECH #1

ROBOTECH #1 represents one of my favorite comic book genres perfectly. Through its well-paced and interesting plot, Macross Island comes to life. Brian Wood put so much thought into building up this world, and he pays great homage to the original series. The art is likewise wonderful, given free reign to speak on its own merits.

As far as the faulty casting goes, take into account that this is a first issue. Rick and Lynn are the protagonists, and they both share clear, concise moments. Limited to only 30 pages, Wood had to reduce the page time for other characters in order to make the reader fall in love with our main heroes. While I wanted so much more from the rest of the cast, I feel all right waiting. ROBOTECH #1 succeeds in so many ways, and by giving these characters’ names, I feel confident they will find their role in future issues.

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