RoboCop vs Terminator is that rare kind of crossover—or “mash up” if you’re under thirty—where the two properties fit together perfectly. Oftentimes Batman will meet Spider-man because it’s a good sales opportunity, and the feeble plot device that brings them together is shoehorned in without concern for whether it’s a good fit or not. RoboCop vs Terminator finds a way to make RoboCop relevant in the Terminator universe by making RoboCop the very thing that creates it. Frank Miller brilliantly takes Alex Murphy’s mind—the perfect blend of human emotion and cold calculating software—and makes it the catalyst for Skynet to achieve sentience. This works so well it doesn’t even violate the continuity of the Terminator films, as James Cameron never delved into exactly how Skynet became self aware, just the apocalypse that occurred once it did.
It’s in the future imperfect that Cameron created that RoboCop vs Terminator begins. The machines, derogatorily referred to by the surviving humans as “Junk”, have just about won. A handful of humans remain alive, but not for long. The last remaining soldier has decided to transport herself back through time to murder RoboCop, thus preventing Skynet from ever creating the Terminators in the first place.
The time travel angle is, of course, a Terminator staple, but Miller shakes it up a bit. First, by having the humans be the would be assassins this time, and second, by playing with the time mechanics more thoroughly then is ever done in the Terminator films.
Upon arriving back in RoboCop’s time period, the soldier wastes no time in constructing a crude plasma rifle from 20th century parts, tracking down Murphy and…blasting him to kingdom come.
Given that this occurs on page 32 of 130 page story, the reader obviously knows that there is more to the book than RoboCop’s abrupt death would make it appear; however, it’s still a jolt to see Murphy die so quickly.
Murphy’s death sends ripples through the time stream, and instead of changing the future instantly, slowly starts to disrupt it. A forest springs up, destroying the machines in its way, and previously dead human resistance soldiers start returning to life. The machines, reacting quickly, send three Terminators back just in time to shoot the soldier before she can do the same to RoboCop. The crisis averted, we are treated to the Terminators in the future finally exterminating the last human—a child of around ten or so—and achieving their ultimate victory. If you’ve ever wondered what the Terminators would do once they killed all humans, the answer, according to Frank Miller, is take to the cosmos and search for more organic life to extinguish.
Meanwhile, in Murphy’s time, we find that the soldier’s wounds weren’t quite fatal and that she has explained to RoboCop his inevitable role in the destruction of mankind. Realizing that the longer he lives the more likely Armageddon will become, Murphy commits suicide.
Once again we are shown images of the Terminators’ future being disrupted by RoboCop’s actions, and once again they send Terminators back to prevent RoboCop from dying. This time the Terminators succeed in annihilating RoboCop’s body while preserving his head, and manage to fulfill their destiny themselves by jacking Murphy’s helpless cranium into Skynet. It’s a furious give and take between the humans and the machines, as each side struggles with self preservation, but ultimately which side will emerge victorious comes down to the give and take within Murphy’s head.
After being jacked into Skynet, RoboCop manages to reconstruct his human consciousness, that of Alex Murphy, and hide it within Skynet’s network. Biding his time for decades, Murphy waits for the perfect opportunity to slip through Skynet unnoticed and take over a factory where the Terminators are manufactured. Once he accomplishes this, RoboCop sets out to wage an all out war against the machines, using terminators created in his image.
Frank Miller manages to spin an epic sci-fi yarn that is true to both franchises. The human soldier sent back to kill RoboCop is an obvious stand in for Kyle Reese from the first Terminator. The Terminators come in various shapes and sizes, but most have the T-800’s skull, with its familiar glowing red eyes and gritted teeth. RoboCop continues to struggle with his humanity despite being 90% mechanical, much like he does in the movies, and ED-209 is still dumb as a post and good for a bit of comic relief.
Walt Simonson’s art is competent but his style, especially when drawing, is very reminiscent of Frank Miller’s own art style. One can’t help but wonder how the book would have looked if Miller handled both art and writing duties, as he did on The Dark Knight Returns.
RoboCop vs Terminator is must read for fans of both series, especially now that Dark Horse has handily collected it into this new Hard Cover book. Between this and BOOM’s new RoboCop series, fans of the original RoboCop can finally cleanse their palates of the recent RoboCop remake.
As for Terminator fans…..maybe you should buy the hard cover and save it to read after Terminator Genesis comes out. You may need it.