Review: Terminator 2029 #2

Needle-Nose Ninja

Script: Zack Whedon
Art: Andy MacDonald
Colors: Dan Jackson
Lettering: Nate Piekos
Cover: Massimo Carnevale

When we talked to Zack Whedon last month about Terminator 2029 #1, he was coy about some details that were obviously going to play a part as the three-issue miniseries unfolded. This was to be expected, of course– but, having read issue #2, I have to chuckle to myself at just how much he was holding back, and how amused he was at what was coming up. He’s certainly earned it; this issue has elevated the series up a notch from “good” to “great.”

Terminator 2029 is technically centered on Kyle Reese, but Kyle’s lieutenant Ben gets all the love this time around. Ben and Paige’s arc in this issue comprises the B-plot, but they completely steal the show. I try my best not to spoil big scenes in these reviews, but I have to make an exception in this case, so steel yourself for the next paragraph.

How cool is Ben? He takes out a 800-series Terminator… with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Everyone else’s tech-geek cred just went down a few points by comparison, fictional character or not. Stand aside, Gordon Freeman, Ben’s on the scene.

When he’s not being a Leatherman ninja, Ben’s romantic subplot advances satisfyingly as well, intercut with scenes from Kyle’s bombastic A-plot. Kyle remains a strong character for Whedon to play with, but the main plot in this issue is a bit weak and formulaic. A band of renegades, ex-soldiers unsatisfied with what they consider to be the Resistance’s timid pace, bail Kyle’s refugees out of last issue’s cliffhanger… and that’s the problem.

In the immortal words of Bad Religion, these guys are “a pack of wild desperadoes scornful of living,” and Kyle’s stuck dealing with their issues. He’s essentially ego-goaded into helping the band’s leader make a raid on a strange new Skynet compound nearby. What follows is a workmanlike A-to-B progression– spot the base, go to the base, break into the base. It’s fun, but the Paige and Ben arc is so well done that it overshadows this de rigueur action.

Of course, that might be what Whedon intended all along. The ending ties both plots together in a surprise that will leave you smacking your forehead in why-didn’t-I-think-of-it delight. It’s not an M. Night Shyamalan-style twist, leaping on the unsuspecting reader out of nowhere, either– it’s actually neatly concealed inside the things we readers already know about the Terminator mythos. Or, well, if it’s not, it should be, anyway. Depending on how Zack decides to write himself out of the corner he’s just placed himself into, we’ll see what holds up through issue 3.

Also worth noting in this issue is Andy MacDonald’s steadily-improving art. #2 is a much tighter affair on all sides, and Andy’s really hit his stride. Dan Jackson’s use of a two separate color palettes, emphasizing the differences between the cold of the snow and Skynet and the tenuous warmth of the Yankee Company compound, is spot on. Massimo Carnevale’s cover art for this issue is poster-worthy, even as biased to Ben as we might be at the Department.

I was a big fan of Dark Horse’s movie properties in the early 90’s. Aliens, Predator, and Terminator mini-series were regular pulls for me when they were first running. This is the first time in a long time I’ve been this excited about one of them.