Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cranky Back Issues: Battlestar Galactica #5

Today, from the 70s "junk" pile, I've pulled out a copy of Battlestar Galactica #5!


This one is cover dated for July of 1973. Unlike later issues, this is an adaption of a specific television episode... "The Lost Gods of Kobol, Part Two." Roger McKenzie, Walter Simonson and Klaus Janson are all credited together. And it's quite the interesting mix of talent.

There's a lot of story to cram into 17 pages. After the obligatory splash page, Simonson and Janson use a lot of small panels lined up in rows, alternating with short, long horizontal panels to help us get caught up on the action. Apparently, the fighter pilots (who are all male) have all succumbed to some sort of terrible disease. That's what military leave will do to you, I guess.

While the ship doctor is dealing with multiple cases of space syphilis, Commander Adama takes a moment to remind us of his obsession with 1970s ancient astronaut literature. I'm sure this is all meant to be a commentary of the nobility of one man sticking to his faith, but he comes off as a bit nutty by today's standards.

Besides not having the concept of separation of church and state, our space-faring colonials don't seem to understand equal rights for women, either. The sexy, sexy Walt Simonson women in this episode/issue have taken over for the laid up and sickly fighter pilots. Considering that very few people left on the Galactica actually have military training, it's odd that this is an issue at all. Like most popular sci-fi, the culture presented on screen actually represents the culture consuming the media.

At least the women don't get themselves easily captured by Cylons, as Starbuck does here ("OH, FRAK!"). And how cool are the Cylon ship designs? The good guys are flying obvious variations on X-Wing fighters, but the bad guys have weird flying saucers to zip around in.

And of course, the cyclopian Cylons themselves have imprinted themselves upon our perceptions of the shiny, disco 1970s. Until The Empire Strikes Back was released, these guys were probably more in our conscious than the Star Wars stormtroopers.

And so, Starbucks disappearance leads his friends to question their mortality and, dang it, get married. This is a wonderful panel; it's so rare these days for a monthly action comic to take a moment for romance. Also, Glynis Wein's coloring job is outstanding. The book has a wonderful muted palate that helps keep the story from verging into high camp.

Just as our kids are getting married, THE STAR appears. Apparently, this is different from every other star in the universe. And in orbit around this mysterious star is that planet from Stargate with all the pyramids. 

Upon exploring the surface, however, Adama doesn't find Jaye Davidson. He instead finds that great friend of humanity, Baltar. After proclaiming himself to be a victim of the Cylons rather than a betrayer, our heroes grudgingly let him tag along on the field trip.

Schhooooh! In another great Simonson/Janson panel, Adama's disco medallion picks up the light from that special star, causing a secret door to open. Behind that door is revealed THE CRYPT OF THE NINTH LORD. Baltar isn't impressed and opens up the mummy case (!) that lies within. Instant earthquake.

In actuality, the Cylons have decided to attack planet Kobol, despite their human leader being on the surface defiling tombs. They've also dropped off Starbuck among the female pilots, who are just hanging out among the pyramids. Luckily, the virus sub-plot has resolved itself and the men can ride off to the rescue, yee-haa!

Of course, the cavalry (male and female together) drives away the Cylon menace, as Baltar is buried in the mummy crypt. And so all is well. Except two wandering bad guys sneak up on the human camp and kill the newly married Serena, leaving a bunch of guilt-stricken grieving men. This is a fairly existential ending for a kid's comic book, driven home by the final, melancholy panel. 

This isn't the X-men, kids; the book will go on to supply new stories that take place in-between television episodes, but Serena will stay dead. Television never picked up on the weird need that comic book readers have for their characters to live on and get recycled, over and over again. If you were a young boy reading this in 1979, this may have been your first facing with death. Comics, kids!

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