Robotech- The Invid Occupation

This is part 3 of 5 dealing with the Robotech novelizations. Parts 1 and 2 are here.

Robotech #12: Symphony of LightLast week I talked about Robotech‘s second generation, the story of rebellious brat put in charge of a squadron of transforming tanks and the events that spell Earth’s imminent doom that result from her command. Okay, that’s not fair. Dana Sterling is colossal screw up, but y’know what? She’s half Zentraedi and is probably full of aggressive tendencies from that DNA. And, to be fair, there wasn’t really a good path for Earth to follow going forward. The Robotech Masters weren’t exactly nice guys, all things considered, and if what came after them was worse, well. That was their fault as well, ultimately.

The “final”  three novels of Robotech‘s “main” story cover what comes after the Second Robotech War. (If there are a lot of quotes there, it’s because there are six more novels to get a complete story and because while the TV series might be the “main” story, it’s not nearly the whole story.) The Robotech Masters, former rulers of a big chunk of the galaxy and the society that birthed Zor, creator of the Protoculture Matrix and Robotechnology, have been defeated. Unfortunately for Earth, it’s a pyrrhic victory at best. When Zor Prime destroyed the Robotech Master’s flagship, the wreckage of the SDF-1 was so damaged that the decaying Protoculture Matrix spread the seeds of the Flower of Life all over the Earth. This plant happens to be extremely important to a once peaceful race called the Invid, and the only other place the flower grew as on their ruined homeworld, Optera. So of course, the growth of the Flower of Life would eventually drawn a faction of the Invid to Earth. A few years later the Invid arrived and easily destroyed what was left of any human military might and settled into occupy their new homeworld.Usually called by the bland title “The Third Generation” or “The New Generation,” the Invid Occupation arc began life as the third of Robotech’s donor series, Genesis Climber Mospeada. (Fun fact: I just discovered that the character design is the work of the excellent Yoshitaka Amano and the music the equally excellent Joe Hisashi.) Mospeada, like Macross and Southern Cross is a transforming mech series, and was fairly heavily worked over to provide Robotech‘s third story arc.

The Invid Occupation arc opens a year or two after the Invid have set up shop on Earth. The Robotech Expeditionary Force, off on the other side of the galaxy and dealing with problems of their own, nevertheless manage to send a decent sized task force to Earth in order to liberate it from Invid Occupation. Too bad the Invid forces have been having a grand old time ruling Earth and are more than up to the task of snuffing out a small fleet. The REF’s task force is more or less obliterated, leaving only a handful of isolated and relatively inexperienced soldiers alive. Among them is a young Veritech pilot, Scott Bernard; like many of his fellow REF soldiers, he’s young, born on the far side of the galaxy, and has never seen Earth before he was sent to liberate it. Most of his friends–including his fiancee– have died in the battle, and it is now up to Scott to carry on the mission he was given: Destroy the Reflex Point, the Invid’s Fortress-Hive built on the ruins of the SDF-1, and kill the Regis, the Invid’s Queen. Fortunately for him, there are people on Earth that hate the Invid occupation enough to be willing to put their lives on the line. Unfortunately, he’s in South America, and Reflex Point is in Canada.

Carl Macek’s initial reworking of Genesis Climber Mospeada was actually a fairly well executed idea. In the original version, the “REF” are military elements from a Martian colony; changing that up to provide a link back to Macross was a really good move on his part. Weirdly, in the cartoon, a lot of the Mars comments remain intact, which is kind of jarring, since the narrator gives the impression they’re coming from somewhere quite far away. But again, the Luceno-Daley hivemind that is Jack McKinney polished a lot of that out in the novelization.

The Invid arc is pretty episodic. Not quite to the point of being a series of short stories, but without a home base to refer back to, there’s not a terrible amount of recurring characters outside of the main cast. Sets change constantly, and why wouldn’t they? Most of the series consists of the journey from Scott’s crashed Alpha Veritech to the Reflex Point. Also taking a bit of a backseat for much of it are the mystical elements. It’s odd, but the Invid and the Protoculture, which were once dreaded, mysterious shadows looming over everything, can seem kind of mundane from time to time in Invid occupation. I suppose that makes sense to some extent; your average Invid drone isn’t going to be terribly mystical.

That having been said, the characters that are recurring are all pretty good. They’re not up to Macross standards, but let’s be honest. Macross, in general, carries itself with good characters as much as it does cool mechs and good music. There’s no shame to be had in missing that particular bar. They are definitely leaps and bounds better than anyone in the Southern Cross, though, and I’d be hard pressed to think of someone that’s as irritatingly unmilitary as Dana Sterling. (For comparison, the resistance fighters include a biker babe, a cross-dressing deserter, and a teenage girl. And they’re still better soldiers than Dana. No, I don’t have an axe to grind stop looking at that grinding wheel yes I know I had an axe in my hands just now.)

What sticks with me most about the Invid arc are the mecha. They have personality in ways the Masters’ mechs never did, even without seeing them via anything but text. The REF liberation force consisted mostly of the Alpha and Beta Veritechs, a system of paired Veritech fighters. The Alpha was fast and maneuverable, the Beta essentially a flying tank, and when you have both in fighter mode, they can couple together. It’s really more of a Rule of Cool thing than anything else, but hey. It works. Supplementing the Alpha and Beta was Cyclone, a Veritech motorcycle that’s cooler than it sounds. It’s not a full-fledged mech, like the Veritech, but when paired with the REF’s battle armor, the Cyclone can transform into powered armor. Also fairly impressive are the Invid mecha, which are more alien than anything we’ve really seen up until this point.

Like I said last week, while it made sense to lead with Macross, I feel like comparisons to Macross hurts everything that comes after it. On the other hand, the Invid occupation is where we first start to see glimpses of beloved Macross characters again. Admiral Hunter’s name is bandied about, as is the SDF-3’s, and it all provides a nice sense of continuity. In fact, the Invid arc is probably strongest as an extension of Macross and The Sentinels, and as the rising action that leads to the Robotech novelization’s climax in The End of the Circle.  I had debated for a while as to where to address The Sentinels, which began life as an original creation of Harmony Gold, and eventually I decided that it would be best dealt with after the Invid occupation, as The Sentinels deals with the other Invid occupation– the one that’s ruling an entire sector of the galaxy. So that’s where we’ll pick up next week; in the following week, I’ll probably take a break from talking about books and talk a little bit about the greater world of Macross.