Come with JMS if you want to live.
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From the time many of us first encountered J. Michael Straczynski via his excellent and underrated Babylon 5, it’s been patently obvious that this dude is a workaholic. He doesn’t just like to keep multiple irons in the fire; he likes to keep multiple fires, each at full-iron capacity. Over the years fans of JMS have followed him through multiple TV series, high-profile comic runs, and a half-dozen different movies, including work on this summer’s surprise hit World War Z and the Academy Award-nominated Changeling. He’s shown no sign of slowing down these days, and now he’s added another new project to his slate: a comic series set during the future war of the Terminator franchise.
Dark Horse Comics — which has been pumping out Terminator comics for years now — today announced that Straczynski will be teaming with artist Pete Woods for a 12-issue series called Terminator: The Final Battle. JMS is no stranger to playing in other people’s creative sandboxes, having written for iconic comic characters such as Spider-Man and Superman. He also has a proven knack for spinning epic science fiction tales, so it should be great fun seeing his angle on James Cameron’s Terminator universe…especially since he’ll be exploring a corner of it you might not expect.
The Final Battle will be set in the aftermath of the mediocre Terminator: Salvation, with an adult John Connor continuing to lead the human resistance against the forces of Skynet. Connor’s future war is an element explored to varying degrees by the four Terminator films and the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV spinoff, but there’s still plenty of potential to explore for a talented writer like JMS. In an interview with ComicBookResources, Straczynski says:
The story that I’ve always wanted to see visualized, and that I think other fans of the movies have eagerly anticipated, is the battle that set all of the movies into motion: the assault on Skynet, the Terminators going through and what happens afterward on both sides of the timeline. So the events weave in and out of the tapestry of the Terminator, showing what we know or what we think we know, then turning the camera around to show us that what we thought we knew may not be exactly what happens. The only timeline in which you could set that story would be after Salvation.
JMS also says that The Final Battle will explore Skynet as more than just a synthetic boogieman, but rather as a constantly evolving intelligence. After all, that evolution is at the very core of the franchise, with Skynet and Connor’s armies locked in a perpetual back-and-forth of escalating conflict. They send back a T-800, but Sarah Connor kills it. They send the more advanced T-1000 back, but Sarah, John, and a repurposed T-800 kill it. And so on. So Straczynski poses a question: where does Skynet’s evolution lead? Straczynski continues:
In that way, the story becomes about Skynet, but also about who and what we are as a species. Which is what always set this series of movies apart from the imitators: it’s not just about machines, it’s about what those machines have to say about us.
The new Terminator series won’t be the first time JMS’s career path has crossed with James Cameron. Several years back Straczynski worked with Cameron on a surprisingly good Forbidden Planet prequel script, something that sounds like a terrible idea at first, but which in execution managed to honor the classic film while also giving it an unexpected twist. (You can check out GFR head honcho Josh Tyler’s script review right here.) In discussing Terminator: The Final Battle, Straczynski cites something he and Cameron discussed at the time:
Before Terminator, [Cameron] said that he thought that science fiction was about familiar characters in unfamiliar setting. It took him years afterward, he said, to realize that he was wrong: that it’s about familiar relationships in unfamiliar settings (so T2 is a father/son relationship, even though it’s not; Aliens is a mother/daughter relationship, even though it’s not.) That being the case, what I want to explore here is the Skynet/Connor relationship, to see what sort of metaphor awaits us there.
It’s also interesting to see the original Terminator timeline getting more time in the limelight, since it was recently announced that the next Terminator film will be a reboot of sorts. Presumably the original Terminator universe will be allowed to co-exist with the new take, much like Star Trek expanded universe material still coming out regularly, even though the film side of the franchise has moved on to J.J. Abrams‘ version.
You can read the full interview with JMS at CBR, and see more of Pete Woods’ art for the series. If you’re going to Comic-Con in San Diego this week, JMS will be signing at the Dark Horse booth tomorrow at 1pm.