The Strange History of Terminator Comics

Since 1988, we've been graced with so many comics about T-800s and overly-confusing time travel plots. Here's a look back.

The Terminator franchise is kind of an odd one. On one hand, there’s so much personality and imagination in the first two movies that you can’t help but want to see more, whether it’s in the form of sequels, Universal Studios stunt shows, a TV series, or whatever. On the other hand, especially after the release of Genesys, there’s a feeling of, “Just leave it alone!”

The first two movies feel so perfectly contained as their own story that adding more doesn’t feel right. The third movie was an exercise in trying to do more of the same at the expense of the second. The fourth movie was the natural decision to cover the rarely-shown future war that Hollywood’s technology had finally caught up with. The fifth movie is about taking a bunch of iconic concepts from the originals and mixing them around to see what comes out. And these expansions don’t end with sequel films. 

For better or worse, Terminator has lent itself to so many comic books. Not just a lot of books, but a lot of publishers. Since 1988, no less than seven different publishers have taken on the franchise with all sorts of different visions. Some worked, some didn’t, and most had to deal with obscuring a whole bunch of time travel nudity.

Seriously, there is a LOT of obscured time travel nudity in these.

Ad – content continues below

It started in ’88 with NOW Comics and their 17-issue Terminator series, originally written by a revolving door of Fred Schiller, Tony Caputo, and Jack Herman, before Ron Fortier took over as the main writer. Thomas Tenney did most of the art, though Tony Akins and Robin Ator did an issue or two. NOW’s Terminator is a complete trip to read because it came out before Terminator 2 was even a thing. That means coming up with an extension of that universe using only the concepts of the first movie, which in the grand scheme feels kind of half-realized.

Considering it takes place in 2031, it’s hard to say whether it should be called a sequel or a prequel, but it deals with the resistance’s never-ending war with the machines. Despite being incredibly violent, dark, and reveling in a body count, the tone is completely out of whack at times, and it almost feels like Terminator reimagined as a Saturday morning cartoon…with a lot of blood.

SkyNet itself is a cackling supervillain while the Terminators (who are usually wearing shades for no real reason) have way too much personality. Hell, there’s no reason for them to even have the fake skin at all, since they don’t really do much in terms of trying to fit in with the humans.

The plot has to do with Sarah’s Slammers, a resistance sect, who get some visitors from the moon. See, back in the day, scientists colonized the moon a couple years before SkyNet caused the robopocalypse. The moon people decided not to help the humans on Earth and instead kept doing science stuff. They would come by every year or so to pick up plankton and other resources for their purposes, but this group is now stranded. Another ship won’t be coming by for another year and who knows if they’ll survive long enough. A cool hook, even if it’s forgotten several issues in.

The moon folk have a guy named Konrad with them, who is an android, but not a Terminator. He’s a good-natured, heroic guy who befriends Tim Reese, a little boy soldier who stumbles upon the Slammers and joins their ranks while insisting that his older brother Kyle knows the legendary John Connor. Eventually, the moon people/Sarah’s Slammers are separated from Konrad and Tim and go in their different paths. That’s for the better, since the former party is vanilla as hell while Konrad and Tim are at least interesting enough to care about.

In a way, they’re like the prototype for the T-800 and John Connor. The big-brother good robot protecting the young boy from other robots while the boy gradually loses his innocence. And man, Tim sees some shit, you know? His younger companion gets shot by a Terminator, he sees a moon person commit suicide, and one Terminator even tears out his tongue so he can use it as a ransom message to Konrad.

Ad – content continues below

John Connor shows up late to the series and brings Konrad and Tim into his ranks. Tim, now a mute, writes a journal in one issue about his years working alongside John. This leads into the far more well-known Terminator: The Burning Earth, which has since been reprinted by Dark Horse. Still written by Ron Fortier, it’s the first major work by one Alex Ross.

Burning Earth is about the final stand against SkyNet as the machines plan to nuke what’s left of the world to make sure mankind is wiped out completely. Tim Reese, now a completely hardened soldier, is in the miniseries, but the tone is very different from the cancelled ongoing. It’s extremely dark and lacks any of that cartoony feel. For one, Konrad is completely forgotten about. The Terminators also have far less personality to them and all the deaths that take place are horrific and cruel. Despite being 25 years old at this point, Burning Earth still holds up and is a must-read for any Terminator fan.

NOW would also feature a two-parter called Terminator: All My Futures Past, written by Chuck Dixon with art by Diego Latorre and Lenin Delsol. It tells the story about Kyle Reese being sent back in time for the first movie as seen through the eyes of a teenager named Lanny, who goes on a long quest to deliver a message to John Connor. A nice-looking, albeit forgettable book that would come out right around NOW’s bankruptcy in 1990.

The property immediately went over to Dark Horse, who released Terminator: Tempest by John Arcudi and Chris Warner. This miniseries once again came out prior to Terminator 2, so it’s Arcudi’s idea of what a Terminator sequel should be. Honestly, it’s not the worst idea! He mixes the good guy Terminator concept with switching the plot around and deciding, “bigger is better.”

Time travel is done again, but this time it’s the humans in a squad led by a woman named Mary Randall. She and a handful of others go back to the 90s to kill one of the men responsible for SkyNet existing. They’re stalked by a facially-scarred Terminator named 1825.M, who follows them with a trio of T-800s. Rather than terminate, it’s up to them to protect.

Ad – content continues below

We already have a pretty good hook, especially when you add Dr. Astin, a scientist who gets tangled into this mess because he works for the humans’ target, but then things get real interesting once 1825.M, otherwise known as Dudley, turns on his team. Dudley is in fact very much like Marcus from Terminator Salvation. He isn’t just a mere machine, but a man turned into a cyborg by SkyNet to act as a spy and gather human tissue to create T-800 skin. Dudley did what he was told due to his interest in survival above all else, but seeing that mankind might actually turn the tide gives him second thoughts.

Even though Dark Horse would make Terminator comics for years after this, Marvel somehow got the rights to do the comic book adaptation of Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991. Adapted by Gregory White and Klaus Janson, it’s pretty much what you’d expect.

The only thing of note here is how they add some comic flourishes to it. Lots of thought bubbles and Claremont-esque dialogue that spells out everything going on. You know that awesome scene where the T-1000 is frozen, the T-800 shoots him, and he reforms? Yeah, we didn’t need anything more than seeing it and having Arnold say his killer catchphrase. Having him say, “Look! …The liquid nitrogen is freezing it!” doesn’t feel all that necessary.

Back at Dark Horse, they spent the next couple years cranking out more minis. Many of them were follow-ups to Tempest, which showed the further adventures of Mary, Dudley, Dr. Astin, and a hard-boiled detective named Sloane. Secondary Objectives (by James Robinson and Paul Gulacy) is about the one surviving evil Terminator C890.L deciding to move to the next phase of its programming by targeting Sarah Connor. This leads into The Enemy Within (Ian Edginton and Vince Giarrano), where Dudley is going crazy from the robotic part of his brain constantly telling him to kill, while Hollister – Mary’s initial target from Tempest – decides that he’s going to design robots anyway despite knowing what it’ll lead to. Sure, mankind will get mostly wiped out, but he’s old and he’ll spend the rest of his life rich and famous. Also, more resistance fighters from the future go back in time because why the hell not.

C890.L gets a rad redesign in this story when some bikers find his remains, put him back together, and add a little pizzazz.

Endgame (James Robinson and Jackson Guice) is the finale to this series of stories. It also fudges continuity a bit. Tempest specifically said that the characters traveled to the early 90s, making it present in regards to the time of publishing. With Endgame, everything is suddenly only months after the events of Terminator with Mary and Detective Sloane having to protect Sarah Connor from a Terminator while she’s giving birth. We get an ending that’s conclusive, but with a twist stinger that seems like it’s going to lead to something. We never do get a follow-up.

Ad – content continues below

The Mary Randall Terminator comics are a pretty good read and are available in their entirety with the Dark Horse omnibuses, but they do move a little too fast at times, rarely allowing the characters to really breathe for the most part.

There are other Dark Horse books unrelated to all that that came out around the same time. James Robinson and Matt Wagner put together Terminator: One-Shot, which is exceptional. It’s a dark, noir story about a second Terminator sent around the time of the first movie. This female Terminator goes after a fourth Sarah Connor, who is really art gallery owner Sarah Lang, who just married Michael Connor (the narration initially refers to him as John Connor by accident).

Not only is Sarah trying to escape this unstoppable killer, but there’s also a whole thing about Sarah planning to have her new husband murdered and the old police detective out to save them is actually a resistance fighter who went back in time to the 50s when he was young under orders of John Connor to keep an eye on his mother. And he has a pet monkey for no reason whatsoever.

All the Dark Horse stuff is worth checking out…except for Hunters and Killers, written by Toren Smith, Adam Warren, and Chris Warner, and drawn by Bill Jaaska. It’s a miniseries about some Russian resistance fighters and a Russian offshoot of SkyNet that is possibly a bigger threat than the original program. They’ve created some clone human/Terminator hybrids that make it easier for them to infiltrate the humans’ ranks and one soldier, Larisa, is paranoid. Not only did they just take in this suspicious old man that the Terminators hesitated to kill, but her commander/lover Sergei has been rather cold lately.

This would all be fine if the comic wasn’t so overwhelming with exposition. Up until the end, it’s all rather boring.

Then there’s the masterpiece. RoboCop vs. Terminator by Frank Miller and Walt Simonson. I’ve talked about this one at length when I discussed all the RoboCop comics, but there’s one thing that sticks out now. Something inadvertently brilliant that gets better with every passing Terminator comic series.

Ad – content continues below

It’s the ending. Which I’m about to spoil.

Something about these Terminator comics is that outside of the constant Austin Powers censored nudity (though the Comics Code is pretty okay about showing butts, I guess), the one big thing they keep doing is epilogue stingers about how the good guys didn’t win after all. They could go back in time and wipe out every single trace of SkyNet programming and the last page will show something foreboding pop up anyway. John Connor can end the war against the machines and the last page will show that SkyNet will live on somehow. It feels like it happens nine out of ten times.

Frank Miller decided to toss in one of those scenes and then go…

…nah.

In the mid-90s, Malibu Comics gets a crack at the property with two miniseries that come out at the same time. One is Terminator 2: Cybernetic Dawn by Dan Abnett and Rod Whigham, which takes place immediately after the Terminator 2 movie. The other is Terminator 2: Nuclear Twilight by Mark Paniccia and Gary Erskine, taking place during the war against the machines. The two comics tie into each other in various ways, most notably the friendship between John Connor and Danny Dyson. In Cybernetic Dawn, young Danny gets the inspiration of how to defeat SkyNet in the longrun and we see that in Nuclear Twilight, he and John are still best friends. Danny’s plan ultimately leads to the reprogramming of the second T-800.

Another major thing is that in Cybernetic Dawn, two T-800s and one T-1000 are sent back. This made me realize something really, really weird about all these tie-in comics. The T-1000 concept is very, very rarely used. I don’t know if it’s a legal thing or what, but throughout the different comics and publishers, the T-1000 is used maybe four times. And that’s counting the adaptation of the second movie.

Ad – content continues below

Does SkyNet not realize how freaking powerful the nigh-unkillable liquid metal model is? The one that can only be killed by being tossed into a vat of corroding liquid? I can understand maybe there are a lot of resources involved, but you’d think they’d make a handful of them and have them lead the T-800 armies into a more definite victory.

Anyway, the Malibu stuff is okay for what it is. At least there’s a rather interesting bit in the beginning of Cybernetic Dawn where John points out the paradoxes of their story. If they really stopped the future from happening, wouldn’t the Terminators have simply vanished all together? Wouldn’t he vanish all together from never being able to send his father back to create him?

In the late-90s, Dark Horse went back to making Terminator comics. In Dark Horse Presents #138, there’s a short story by Alan Grant and Frank Teran called “Suicide Run” that looks great, but is in no way memorable.

Alan Grant also wrote Terminator: Death Valley with Guy Davis and Steve Pugh on art. It’s easily one of the best Terminator stories. SkyNet gets wind that John Connor was brought up for a time in Death Valley, so two T-800s – a male and female – are sent back to take care of him. Due to some glitch, the male gets there about ten seconds after the female and as time goes on, we see that it’s had some kind of effect on its circuits.

Things get complicated and we have all sorts of parties getting involved. The hero is a former cop with PTSD from the first Gulf War, helped out by a goofy old man with a mule named Jezebel. There’s a gang leader named Killerman, who has become an ex-gang leader because the two Terminators killed his crew and are now after him because he taunted them by claiming he knows where Sarah and John Connor are. He kidnaps a different family with a Sarah and a son named Jon, figuring he can use them as bargaining chips to stay alive. There’s a corrupt military businessman out testing weaponry in the desert. And of course, there’s the actual John and Sarah Connor.

Throughout the story, the male Terminator questions their actions more and more while the other remains robotic and single-minded. When she’s almost destroyed, she doesn’t understand why he rescues her, nor does it compute when he suggests that they don’t continue with their mission. After all…they could fail and die.

Ad – content continues below

There’s a lesser follow-up called Terminator: The Dark Years by Alan Grant and Mel Rubi. It shows that Jon Nordon, the kid from Death Valley, is part of the resistance, but harbors a lot of ill feelings towards John Connor, blaming him for all the death and destruction that befell the previous story. We see the two of them and other survivors dealing with a traitor in the midst (and Terminator rats) while it cuts back and forth to the present day where a young John has to outsmart yet another Terminator out to kill him.

It’s nothing special and Rubi’s art degrades over time and everything gets distorted. I mean, look at John here.

Yeah.

Now it’s time for probably the strangest of all the Terminator comics. Yes, even stranger than the NOW series. Superman vs. Terminator: Death to the Future by Alan Grant and Steve Pugh. God, where do I even start?

Okay, so John accidentally alerts SkyNet’s records where he is when he and his mother visit Metropolis. A Terminator shows up and Superman fights it. He wins, but more show up and they’re increasingly powerful. Turns out Cyborg Superman – the T2 Superman himself – has been sending messages and schematics into the future so they are a bit better equipped to fight the Man of Steel. Then Superman gets sucked into the future, giving us the awkward moment of Superman flying around in only an American flag tied up like a toga because, you know, naked time travel.

It’s also established that of all the heroes to survive into the future, the only one we see remaining is Steel. Riiiiight.

Ad – content continues below

While the whole book is all over the place (featuring appearances by Luthor, Matrix Supergirl, and Superboy), this little section is kind of awesome. It’s the ultimate escapist power fantasy with Superman almost single-handedly taking out SkyNet in the future and ending the war. In all the different versions of Terminator lore, it’s the humans being completely outgunned by the more powerful, unstoppable machines. Well, now we get to see a future where we have Superman turning all of them to scrap without breaking much of a sweat.

This miniseries is also notable for giving us the first official appearance of the T-X in any media where she works alongside Cyborg Superman. Then they do the Dragon Ball Z fusion dance and it gets weird.

Another oddball crossover was 2000’s Alien vs. Predator vs. Terminator by Mark Schultz and Mel Rubi. I’m no expert on the Alien vs. Predator comics, but it appears that this is the only actual crossover between the Predators and Ellen Ripley. Taking place after Alien: Resurrection, the android Annalee Call (you know, Winona Ryder’s character) seeks out Ripley to help her crew on a mission. Things get curious when the scientist they’re after is in fact a T-800 with a plot to merge Terminators with xenomorph DNA to create unstoppable hybrids.

While the miniseries is a bit off, the Terminator aspects are used strangely well. The whole war with SkyNet happened a long, long time ago, but the government has censored that in the history books…which makes sense considering the prominent use of androids. A Terminator survived and plotted for years in hopes of bringing SkyNet back somehow, finally getting inspiration from the discovery of the xenmorphs. Meanwhile, “John Connor” explains all of this to Call in the form of a computer virus.

It’s not the best story, but I do dig how Ripley (who is respected by the Predators for being half alien and joins their siege) points out how the Terminators and phallic aliens aren’t all that different. You can’t really blame them for all the death they cause. At the end of the day, they both thrive because of the shortsightedness and constant greed of mankind. They are our punishment given sentience.

But you know what grinds my gears about all of this? There’s not a single Schwarzenegger reference in there! You’d think they could toss in some line about the original T-800 models being based on Dutch, the ultimate soldier. Nope nothing.

Ad – content continues below

Then things moved over to Beckett Comics for the Terminator 3 tie-ins. Over the course of six issues, we have three stories told in two issues each. The first story by Ivan Brandon and Goran Parlov is about the team put together to reprogram the T-800. One of them is completely torn on it, since his wife is in critical condition due to a Terminator attack and yet he has to rebuild one of the damn robots responsible. Their attempts to coerce its programming fails, but the Terminator changes its ways on its own volition, giving us one hell of a bittersweet ending.

Miles Gunter and Mike Hawthorne adapted Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, though from the point of view of the T-X. A really novel concept that makes for a fun couple issues, but man, the cheesecake is more ridiculous and blatant than usual. The opening scene is SkyNet testing the T-X by making her fight a T-800 and a T-1000 (called a T-1002 for some reason) and no pants are allowed. Just eight pages of naked brawling between robots.

SkyNet knows how to party, I guess.

The last story, written by Miles Gunter and drawn by Kieron Dwyer, is a headscratcher because while it’s pretty good, it doesn’t fit in with the series’ continuity at all. It’s about a Terminator ending up in the present, getting in a big scuffle with the authorities, then going off to find and protect John Connor (who makes it sound like it’s after the third movie despite society still existing). Then another Terminator arrives and tries to steal John away, causing the original to give chase. But amidst the chasing and brutal fighting, the reader has to question which Terminator is really the good one.

Despite not making much sense, it does get points for having the worst action pun in a comic since NFL Super Pro, where the initial Terminator uses a flaming stuffed bear as a projectile.

Off we go to Dynamite Entertainment’s set of Terminator stories in 2007. They’re all named after Terminator 2, which I’m not sure I understand. Maybe it’s a rights thing. Maybe they figured people weren’t too into the third movie and loved this one the most. Regardless, they don’t have much of anything to do with that particular film.

Ad – content continues below

First up was Terminator 2: Infinity by Simon Furman and Nigel Raynor. It had a lot of promise to it, but in the end was also a big mess. For one, Furman decides to completely wave away the events of Terminator 3 by establishing that Katherine Brewster is dead before the comic even begins. Yeah, all that future stuff explained by the T-800 in that movie is bupkis. John remains in his bunker, deciding he’s simply not going to be the heroic leader he’s pressured to be, but gives in anyway because of his conscience.

He joins the resistance and, in a rather clever twist, is bodyguarded by a Terminator named Uncle Bob. An older John had sent him back in time to watch over his younger self and teach him to be the soldier he’s meant to become. Elsewhere, there’s this guy, the T-Infinity.

The T-Infinity is ill-explained, but his mission is to go around through history and purge all the time travelers, meaning it takes out all three T-800s, the T-1000, and the T-X. This doesn’t affect anything. It’s just there to establish it as being more badass than the others.

John does resistance stuff for five issues, befriends a very young Kyle Reese, and meets tough-as-nails soldier Tara, who he’ll eventually marry.

From there, the story took a break and the series was simply renamed Terminator 2 as issues #6 and #7 mixed with issues #4 and #5 of Painkiller Jane by Jimmy Palmiotti and Nigel Raynor. If you don’t know, Painkiller Jane is essentially a former cop with Wolverine’s healing factor and a lot of sass. A female Terminator is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor and accidentally ends up in New York City, where Jane happens to do her thing. Then as fate would have it, the two cross paths like this:

For the first time in Terminator history, the victim of this trope gets to truly fight back. Keen.

Ad – content continues below

We get some scenes in the future that make it apparent that Jane’s daughter – who has her powers – is part of the resistance and is understandably a big deal. When the Terminator figures out who Jane is, she tries to take out the bloodline that way and lots of dead bodies happen.

Once that’s done with, we go back to the whole John Connor/T-Infinity story in Terminator 2: Revolution by Simon Furman and Simon Bowland. It takes place six years after Infinity and John and Tara are married. In a wrinkle, that’s really kind of gross, the two have adopted Kyle Reese as their son. Kyle calls John “dad” and everything. Think about that. John is going to one day have to be all, “Hey, son! How would you like to go have sex with your grandmother? Here, have a photo to fawn over.”

He’s the militant Phillip J. Fry.

Despite being a big mess, it does have another neat direction to it. John ends up back in time and has to protect his mother and younger self. While Sarah figures out who he is from the beginning, young John is led to believe that older John is yet another Terminator…who has serious qualms about stepping into the line of fire for some reason.

I poke fun at the cheesecake in all these books, but this one really takes the…um…cake. Playing with the established time travel plot device is one thing, but look at Sarah Connor. Seriously. Does Linda Hamilton really deserve this?

Dear Lord…

Ad – content continues below

Anyway, there’s also a giant Terminator wolf creature and a dozen identical T-800s in Killswitch Engaged t-shirts. I don’t even know. Let’s move on.

We’re off to IDW’s tie-ins for Terminator Salvation, and I have a hard time caring. John Brancato, Michael Ferris, and Jeff Mariotte put together a preview adaptation that only covers a bunch of the movie’s first act. Nothing to really talk about here. It ends once we get the introduction to Kyle Reese.

Dare Naraghi and Alan Robinson collaborated on a four-issue miniseries Terminator: Salvation Movie Prequel. It has minimal John Connor and zero Marcus, but mainly follows two sets of survivors. One is a group from Detroit and the other is in Niger. While not too exciting, it’s competent enough, giving us stories of sacrifice and people getting over their prejudices for the sake of fighting for survival. You aren’t missing anything if you skip it.

Dark Horse returned once again to give us a nice mini where the first half is called Terminator 2029 and the second half is Terminator 1984. It’s by Zack Whedon and Andy McDonald. It focuses on Ben, a soldier during the big war and best friend of Kyle Reese. Despite living in a hellhole future, Ben is okay with it because of Paige, the love of his life. He also discovers the whole thing about Kyle holding a photo of Sarah Connor and thinks it’s kind of bizarre.

The big twist is that when raiding a Cyberdyne facility, Ben comes across an old man claiming to be Kyle. Kyle never actually died at the end of the first movie! He’s been prisoner all this time! Kyle begs Ben to go back in time to save him and long story short, he does just that, which explains the sudden title change.

It’s a rather sweet story because it decides to pay respect to Kyle as a character. He’s no longer really victimized by fate as much as he is in the original film. I’m trying to stay away from spoilers here, but, screw it. He doesn’t make it out of the story alive in the end. But he lives longer. Long enough. Long enough to enjoy time with Sarah and hold baby John in his hands and that gets a smile out of me.

Ad – content continues below

Then came Dynamite’s Terminator/RoboCop: Kill Human by Rob Williams and PJ Holden. Again, I talked about it during my RoboCop article way back when, but the short of it is that it’s easily the worst Terminator story. It’s so bad.

Coincidentally, the setup shares some similarities with Terminator: Genisys (RoboCop goes back decades before the first movie and sets a bunch of plans in motion to prevent Judgment Day), but no matter how much you may have felt let down by the latest sequel, know this: it’s still head and shoulders better than this RoboCop crossover. It’s that awful.

Dark Horse released two more minis concurrently in 2014. One is a six-issue series called Terminator: Enemy of My Enemy, and it is totally badass. It’s by Dan Jolley and Jamal Igle. It’s about Farrow Greene, a hired gun and expert asskicker, scarred by her past. She’s hired to capture a scientist named Elise Fong alive, but things go awry when a T-800 tries to kill Fong (due to an invention she’ll one day create). Greene is good enough to hold her own, but is freaked out when she sees the chrome underneath the skin and tries to get to the bottom of it.

A third party kidnaps Fong. Greene and the Terminator fight to a standstill once again, but this time, things get really interesting. Greene points out that they both want Fong. They’re enemies and they’re at odds with what to do with her, but together, they can help each other out.

So you get a bounty hunter and a secretive cyborg working side-by-side, knowing that once they reach the end of their adventure, they’re going to go at it one final time. That’s so awesome you don’t even know.

Last and certainly not least is Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle, a 12-issue series by J. Michael Straczynski and Pete Woods. Shockingly, JMS actually hits his deadlines on this project and doesn’t skip out on it after three issues!

JMS makes lemonade out of Salvation’s damaged lemons by having to come up with a pleasing finale to the Terminator universe. It focuses mostly on the elements of that movie, including the return of Dr. Kogan (the cancer-ridden doctor) and the resurrection of Marcus. It includes elements of the other movies, such as how John knows that at some point he’s going to be murdered by an Arnold-looking T-800, but for some strange reason completely neglects anything to do with the T-1000 or T-X. Neither are referenced in any way.

The plot deals with Dr. Kogan, reborn as a Terminator using the same technology that made Marcus a cyborg, revealing that Marcus was simply a prototype. He wasn’t created simply to be a spy, but to lead to the cyber evolution of Thomas Parnell, a 100% insane serial killer. See, SkyNet is going to lose the war because despite being powerful, the Terminators fight via logic and order and that’s their downfall. Parnell is made into a cyborg and is tapped into controlling a bunch of the robots. Now they’re expert killers, and they slaughter everyone in their way.

Not only does this not bode well for the humans, but Parnell is growing more and more powerful by the minute, and this isn’t boding well for SkyNet. Surprisingly, JMS goes to great lengths to actually humanize SkyNet and pulls it off, giving us a final few issues that are completely batshit, but work out.

If anything, the story gives what may be my favorite Terminator comic moment. In all these stories, all the way back to the end of the first film, they talk up how hard it must be for John to send Kyle back in time to his death. They beat us over the head with it. But what about the T-800? Despite meeting the machine for the first time, John is able to say his final goodbyes and thank the confused machine for everything he’s going to do/has already done.

Damn that’s good. We’ve really come a long way from the days of Konrad doing backflips and throwing alligators around.

By my count, there are 125 issues of Terminator comics out there. After going through the RoboCop comics, I figured I’d be in for the same 1:1 ratio of good to bad. Really, though? For the most part, Terminator comics have been pretty damn good. Tons of top name writers and artists have had their go at this franchise, and they’ve shown more invention and foresight than a good chunk of the movie scriptwriters.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we shouldn’t simply leave the franchise be. Maybe we just need to wait for the right person to take the wheel and drive us home.

Gavin Jasper listened to “You Could Be Mine” many, many times while writing this. Follow him on Twitter!