The 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica stands as one of my all-time favourite space opera television to date, alongside some fine company as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Andromeda, Firefly, Stargate: Atlantis and others. It was a gritty and realistic show that was rooted in a more modern age and had a long, years-spanning story where the characters interacted in some really interesting ways, and the big reveals always came like loud hammerfalls. The old 1970s original however is not something I’m familiar with, something that I’ve been wanting to correct for a while now.
Battlestar Galactica: Death of Apollo #1 is rooted in the original show’s continuity and continues the Galactica’s long search for the 13th Colony, Earth. This debut issue of the new series deals with Viper pilots Starbuck and Apollo, close friends and even closer comrades, among the best that the Galactica has to offer, and the story woven by Dan Abnett is rather compelling in its simplicity and its straightforwardedness without coming across as an obvious cash-grab as the title would seem to suggest. And the artwork by Dietrich Smith and Fran Gamboa deserves a ton of praise as well.
When you are reading through this issue, the most striking thing will be the easy camaraderie between Starbuck and Apollo. In the 2004 reboot, Starbuck was recast as a female ace, but since this series deals with the old 1970s continuity, Starbuck is still a dude, albeit a dandy pilot. It is really interesting to see how this Starbuck differs from the Starbuck that I’m very familiar with. I like the old one just as I do the new one, and his banter with Apollo is damn good. Two super-good pilots chilling the hell out, even when they are surrounded by some momentous events indeed.
While the story is titled “Death of Apollo” anything of the sort is still in the “future”, so to speak. What Dan Abnett does in this issue is set the stage for a near-deadly mission that Apollo ad Starbuck will be a part of, and which will ultimately claim the former’s life: the search for the 13th colony. The driving force in Battlestar Galactica is the search for the lost colony that is supposed to be the last free human colony in the known space, the other twelve already having been wiped out by the robotic Cylons. How Apollo’s coming death is going to tie into this own ages-long mission is something worth sticking around for, and both Dan and Dietrich give you ample reasons to do so.
Another great thing about this issue is the representation of female characters. One of the seniormost people on the human council is a woman, albeit somewhat of a firebrand, and there is even a female pilot who is a part of Apollo’s aces aboard the Galactica. Women in space opera? Give me more! And Athena strikes me as a really interesting character, in that I want to go and see the old show to see just how she was portrayed there since I like her character, a lot.
There is a very interesting subplot at work here, something to do with psionic divination. As I haven’t read the other Battlestar Galactica Classic comics from Dynamite, I’m severely lacking in the knowledge of what exactly is being discussed here between the different characters, and what exactly Athena’s role in it is. But, at the same time, it is a nice “difference” from the 2004 reboot, and I confess that I’m intrigued as to what is going to happen next, especially given the way that Dan Abnett ends the issue, on a very freaky note that is also a very positive moment insofar as the in-universe story is concerned.
Dietrich Smith’s pencils are fairly good in this issue and they certainly evoke images of the classic show, given what I see in this issue and what I’ve seen of the old show in stills and random videos. And that’s perfect since it helps pull me into the story and I just can’t let go as a result. There can be some panels where the characters’ faces are a over-exaggerated or the dimensions are just wrong, but by and large Dietrich brings a strong vitality to this issue that is then perfectly reflected in the colours by Frank Gamboa.
A definite good start to the story proper!