Terminator: Salvation Action FiguresIn lieu of the upcoming summer blockbuster Terminator: Salvation, the general public is being attacked not only by T-600’s, but also with a slew of merchandise tied with the movie.  Fans will be able to get their fill of Skynet and the human Resistance through a number of prequel stories set before the movie.  Out now are the IDW published prequel comic book of the same name, and the “From the Ashes” novel courtesy of Titan Books.  In addition, on May 19, a videogame will be hitting store shelves just in time to wet your toes for the big splash on May 21.

Take a look for my thoughts and recommendations on what you should spend your money on after the jump!

Terminator Salvation: From the Ashes, by Timothy Zahn

Terminator: Salvation: From the Ashes
Terminator: Salvation: From the Ashes

Written by Timothy Zahn, most famous for the Star Wars Heir: to the Empire Trilogy, this novel takes a crack at the Future War setting we will be seeing more of in the movie.  The book details the last stand of a community living in the ruins of an apartment complex once called Moldavia Los Angeles, and now more suitably named “Moldering Lost Ashes”.  A lot of different characters take center stage in this novel – hotshot pilot Blair Williams, former Marine Justo Orozco, a**hole Resistance soldier Barnes, young soldier-in-training Kyle Reese, and of course John Connor.  Skynet is secretly staging a large infiltration upon Moldering Lost Ashes, little to the knowledge of its inhabitants, and it’s up to John Connor and his small band of Resistance fighters to prevent it.  Connor hopes to capture T-600 units from the Skynet base, while at the same time evacuating people from the ensuing attack.

Timothy Zahn is sight to behold for the Star Wars universe, igniting interest in the franchise during a time when people thought the story was over.  He creates memorable characters, settings, and, most importantly, has an interesting story to tell.  Unfortunately, none of that really shows in From the Ashes.  You hope that this book would give you more insight about the characters’ backgrounds or at least more about how the characters got to where they are at this point.  For the exception of Justo Orozco, and a few characters of Zahn’s own creation, you learn little about the characters of Terminator: Salvation.  While this may be a restriction put upon the writer by the studio, Zahn did not fall back on a story that is particularly engaging.  The plight of Moldering Lost Ashes did not necessarily need to be told, and it certainly isn’t enough of a prequel for it to be advertised as such.

The writer presents us some of the everyday workings of the Resistance, including their recruitment methods and their tactical development.  On the civilian side, readers learn how the people of post-apocalyptic Los Angeles continue to survive, fending off against gangs, trading with nearby communities and hiding from Hunter-Killers.  In describing these aspects, Zahn is more than capable, even if the material is fairly dry.  Much to what might be many fans dismay, it is implicated that Kyle Reese gained much of his military insight through natural instincts and training from Orozco.  This seems in direct contradiction to Reese’s line in the first Terminator film where he says, “(John Connor) told us how to fight”.

If watching the movie Terminator: Salvation may leave previous film continuity a little vague, the book directly references the events of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. John reflects on how Arnie bot once told him he was going to die, and Kate Connor takes up measures to ensure that the Resistance will follow her lead in the future.   I would have found it much more interesting had Zahn told the story of how John and Kate climbed out of Crystal Peak and joined up with the Resistance (and no, the comic book miniseries “T2: Infiltrator” does not count).  Since Terminator books lack the quality of their comic book brethren, my recommendation would be to pass on this novel and purchase one of Dark Horse Omnibus titles.

My rating: 6 out of 10

The Official Movie Prequel: Terminator Salvation, courtesy of IDW Publishing

Art from IDW's Terminator Prequel Comic
Art from IDW's Terminator Prequel Comic

The comic book prequel published by IDW tells the story of the human resistance on an international level.  Rather than set the story on John Connor himself, writer Dara Naraghi decided to instead focus it on someone who met John Connor…once.  Two resistance leaders become the central figures for this tale, former police officer Elena Maric in Detroit and former uranium mining engineer Ben Aworuwa in Alrit, Niger.   After Skynet is able to listen in on an encrypted communication exchange between the two Resistance outposts, Elena and Ben must both make sacrifices to ensure that the machine’s T-600 supply network is momentarily destroyed.

The story summary is pretty much straight forward, and there isn’t much else to say about this newest comic book interpretation of Future War.  Because Skynet learns invaluable information about the Resistance’s plans, the human attack goes horribly wrong (though, resilience does pay off).  The comics lack the interesting new ideas offered by the vastly superior Dark Horse comics published ages ago, and is not even the quality of the Beckett published “Before the Rise” released prior to when Terminator 3 hit theatres.  The Dark Horse comics took the struggle of TechCom in vastly different timeline directions, and introduced many new elements to the mythos such as female terminators, new and varying Skynet missions, and multi-person time jumps.  “Before the Rise” detailed the story of a particular Resistance soldier haunted by the death of a loved one and the horrors of the war.  In great contrast, “Before the Rise” also told of a captured Arnie model T-800 during his reprogramming and rehabilitation to support humanity.  I would recommend any of these previous comic installments in the Terminator universe as they are much more informative of aspects not told in the movies themselves.

My rating: 4 out of 10

Terminator Salvation (videogame for XBOX 360, PS3, home consoles), Halcyon Games

The Terminator: Salvation video game
The Terminator: Salvation Video Game (click to enlarge)

Set in 2016, the videogame actually does focus on human resistance up-and-comer John Connor.  Players will have the chance to take on Skynet solo or through co-op, with the character of Blair Williams joining up with you to fight against the machine oppression.  Unfortunately, Christian Bale did not lend his voice or likeness to his digital John Connor counterpart.  However, Moon Bloodgood (Blair) and Common (Barnes) did.  In addition, the videogame exclusive character of Angie Salter, voiced by Rose McGowan, has also been included (and yet no value is added).  John and Blair will take on Skynet models such as the T-7-T spider like ground walker and the run of the mill T-600 seen frequently in the movie.  The videogame resembles a Gears of War third person type action, with a cover system and 360 degree type skirmish battles.  IoM will provide further details once the game has been released.
Due to the fact that movie games these days almost certainly receive massive price cuts within months of release, this is most certainly a purchase that can be held until later even for diehards.  If you need your Terminator fix now, I highly recommend T3: Redemption for the original Xbox and Playstation 2.  As the only decent Terminator game in existence, the straight forward action and Arnie’s handsome mug are good enough for the cheap price tag.  There is nothing like having your T-800 drive a truck off a cliff only to grab onto a small plane in mid-flight (while still holding onto the truck with the other hand).

Keep your eyes open for more Terminator extravaganza at IoM up until the release of Terminator: Salvation!