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StarCraft: Frontline Volume 4 Review

WARNING: The following review contains major spoilers for the manga in question.

Homecoming

Synopsis:

On the planet of Mar Sara, in the Diamondback wastelands, Raynor is seen making his way through a ravine on his Vulture. He dismounts and starts to move inside the ruins of his house. He then dusts off and unlocks a safe on the ground, with pictures and mementos from his past. Upon opening the safe, old memories flow through items inside the box, from his time in the Heavens Devils, as well as those of his wife, Lidya Elizabeth Raynor, whom he called Liddy.

Jim Raynor reminisces about when he and his wife were looking at their new property. They both wished for a nice and quiet life, and he remembered Liddy revealing to him that she was pregnant. Looking at his old Marshall badge, Raynor remembers observing his son with his wife, his army record cleared by the local magistrate for taking up the job as Marshall. Raynor tried to forget his old life and his old burdens as an outlaw and only wanted the best for his son. His wife made Raynor promise he will never doubt himself, and that he will always stand up for what he believes in.

Raynor then read a note from the office of Tarsonis Institute of Health and Research, which said that his son has proven through tests that he is above normal on the standardized psi-evaluations, and that he has been chosen to take part in a government program to develop his powers further. Raynor and Liddy got in a fight over the decision to send him to the program, with Raynor claiming that nothing good can come from working for the Confederacy, and Liddy wanting a better future for her son than can be had on Mar Sara. Another letter stated that their son, John, was killed in an unfortunate shuttle accident when he was transferred from the confederate test facility to his dormitory. Liddy was filled with guilt; she blamed herself for not listening to Jim and left the garden, telling him to stay away from her.

Raynor then reminds himself that it is time to put the past to rest yet again, and ignites the box with what appears to be its entire original content still inside. He then leaves and rides back to a bar. The bartender knows Raynor and proclaims him a legend; it has been five years since they last met and news about his doings has spread like fire. On the TV screen in the bar, Kate Lockwell proclaims the Dominion has started a large PR campaign to increase the local Dominion support on Mar Sara. She also talks about the planet’s fall four years ago, and how, despite this fact, many colonists returned. The bartender sympathizes with Jim in his struggle against the Dominion. Jim tells him that a promise he made a long time ago keeps him hammering away at the Dominion. The bartender asked Jim when it all will be over, to which he replies “When my ghosts lie silent.”

Review:

“Homecoming” is the direct prequel to StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. It ends in a bar on Mar Sara where StarCraft II shall begin. Raynor’s character has been expanded on by a lot in this short story. Things that were never previously touched upon were Raynor’s former past and family life, as well as his motivations behind attacking the Domnion. The thing that seems most strange about Mar Sara in this story was that it was never truly incinerated by the Protoss – with many buildings, birds and trees still living. Raynor’s house looked like it suffered a blast from a nearby bomb, but parts of the wall and ceiling were very much intact. In a previous Frontline story, an installation largely survived the purification as well. It seems that the Protoss incineration was light at best, with one energy beam creating a giant fireball explosion instead of incinerating everything, as described in StarCraft: Revelations. Perhaps Zerg also returned to the planet because they were never all destroyed and survived underground.

We also learned how Raynor got out of being hunted by the Confederacy and landed a job as Marshall; the Magistrate offered to clear his record for accepting a job as a local marshall. A marshall seems to be akin to a small-town police chief, as Raynor wasn’t required to shave his hair as is the custom for military protocol. It was also good to see the attention to the detail in Mar Sara’s StarCraft2.com planet page being put to use, with the two moons Pyramus and Thisby making appearances.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10

 

Fear the Reaper

Synopsis:

Four Terran Reapers attack a Dominion installation in order to steal Mark VII hub drives and sell them to Kimeran pirates. The Reapers, led by Colonel Nero, are named Kern, Rock, and Pfaff. Nero, a dangerous lunatic, prefers to kill people, whereas the other Reapers prefer to handle these operations cleanly, especially Kern. After killing several Marines, Kern once again questions Nero’s orders, after which Nero shoots Kern in the leg, which later has to be amputated. Nero then tells the others to blame the incident on pirates. Pfaff and Rock visit Kern in the hospital bed, claiming that the Dominion will find out about the raid. They decide to put the blame on Nero, who is then arrested. Flash forward to several years later: Kern has settled down with a wife and a small daughter on the planet Roxarra, while Nero is scheduled to be executed in Gannemuck Prison. Nero however, instead of being executed, managed to kill his guards with his handcuffs and confuse the prison staff by uttering false instructions into their transceivers. Nero then escaped the prison, blowing a chunk of it up and heading to get revenge on the three people who saw him imprisoned.

Rock is the first person to be found by Nero, who jumps up on a lamppost in his familiar Reaper suit. Nero, lamenting that he thought he could trust Rock, kills him. Next, Nero finds Pfaff, who is attempting to steal some money in an SCV with his friend Pard. Pard is destroyed by Nero, with Pfaff looking up to see Nero standing there. Pfaff attempts to save his life by pleading that it wasn’t his fault and that he would give Nero Kern’s location. Pfaff then tries to kill Nero with his SCV drill, but misses, and in a last-ditch resort to save his life tells Nero where Kern is. Nero kills him anyway and begins heading to his last target.

Meanwhile, Lassathar, a Dark Templar warrior and scholar lands on Roxarra, searching for Xel’Naga artifacts. He wanders near Kern’s homestead, and Kern’s daughter runs out to him. Lassathar is surprised that the child is capable of hope and wonder, unlike all other Terrans that he has met, who are simply “vile carriers of death and destruction”. With the child’s assistance, Lassathar finds the artifact he is looking for and walks the child back to her home. Coincidentally, Nero arrives on Roxarra at exactly the same time, and threatens to kill Kern and the rest of his family. Lassathar however, uncloaks and engages the Reaper. A fierce fight ensues, with Lassathar emerging victorious. Lassathar then notices that Kern has transformed himself from a hardened soldier to a loving family man, and leaves Roxarra with the knowledge that change is indeed possible.

Review:

“Fear the Reaper” has arguably the best story in the Frontline series. The story’s fight scenes are suspenseful, and the reader will leave with a newfound respect for the new Terran Reaper unit, a unit that is almost infringing on the Ghost’s territory. It was interesting that a Reaper could keep up with a Dark Templar who could dodge bullets. We have to assume that the Reaper was using Stims during that time.

Lassathar claims to be searching for a Xel’Naga artifact, but what’s interesting is that the artifact bears markings from the discord, the time in Protoss history when the Dark Templar were persecuted and rounded up for banishment. One of the markings shows a Dark Templar having his nerve tendrils cut off via a psionic blade, which, as we learned in the Frontline short story “Do No Harm,” is actually quite painful. Another marking shows Protoss chasing down another Protoss that appears to be casting a Psionic Storm, though the Protoss being chased does not look like a Dark Templar due to his nerve tendrils. Another curiosity is that the markings found on the crystal appear to be a type of writing, the same kind of writing as seen on a true Xel’Naga artifact in the “Voice in the Darkness” short story. What’s strange about Lassathar’s artifact as a whole is that he refers to it as a Xel’Naga artifact, and the artifact has what appears to be Xel’Naga writing, not Protoss. Yet the carvings on the artifact show a piece of Protoss history for which the Xel’Naga were not there to witness. Perhaps it would have been more apt to have called it a Protoss artifact rather than a Xel’Naga artifact? Or maybe the Protoss’ written language is similar to the Xel’Naga’s?

Story: 9/10
Art: 8/10

 

Voice in the Darkness

Synopsis:

Dr. Morrigan and other research scientists discover a Xel’Naga artifact at Moebius Foundation research site KL-2. Morrigan, being a closeted psychic, claims that the artifact spoke to her and told her a great many things; the artifact is the lock, and she is the key. Her meager spark reached out across worlds, and unleashed the contents of the artifact. Whatever is released, the "voice in the darkness" possesses them. There were about 50 people at the site, but only 25 bodies were found.

A team of Dark Templar led by Azimar travels there, sensing from half a sector away that the void itself was defiled. Azimar is accompanied by two other named characters, Jarzul and Ty'lak. Jarzul scouts, only to be spotted, despite cloaking, by the scientist Hassan, who kills him. Azimar and Ty'lak attack Hassan. They cut off his hand but Hassan injures Ty'lak's eye and "pukes" on him. When they defeat Hassan, the Voice says through Hassan that it "wears many guises".

Azimar warns the Dark Templar that only their mental training lets them resist the Voice, and that they should try not to lose themselves to the Voice by holding on to their identity. The Dark Templar attack the central facility. After killing everyone but Morrigan, the Voice communicates with Ty'lak, telling him he would give him power and "make him whole" if he would give his soul. It tells him the Xel'Naga are false gods, and wouldn't kill anything, not even the Voice, instead locking it up. The Voice-possessed Ty'lak starts kicking ass while the possessed Morrigan boasts. However, Ty'lak frees himself from possession, kills Morrigan and sacrifices himself, using an Argus crystal to "re-seal" the Voice. The explosion kills him and presumably the Voice.

As Azimar leaves, though, the Voice talks to him. In short, the Voice is Cthulhu. It is a part of the Void. It cannot maintain itself in a Terran for a long period of time, so it considers the Protoss to be superior "food". Also, by possessing living beings, it increases its own power, enabling it to break free from its prison. It considers itself the one true god.

Review:

“Voice in the Darkness” is a fun but macabre story. The Voice, a Lovecraft-inspired creation, is a malign cosmic entity that makes his possessed puppets bleed darkness out of their eyes, and has a penchant for evil. It is fun to see a brave group of Templar contend with this monstrous and horrific creature. At first glance, “Voice in the Darkness” seems to be a self-contained fringe story, until we discover that the seeming god of the void wasn’t destroyed after all. What part will this Void god play in StarCraft II and upcoming StarCraft media, especially considering that this is the last of the Frontline volumes?

We learned from this story that the Xel’Naga do not destroy anything, but imprison it instead, suggesting that they are wholly benevolent. The Voice seems to have a hatred of the Xel’Naga. Duran himself said that he knows hatred very well. It’s tempting to think that Duran was possessed by this voice, but that’s highly unlikely, since these stories take place after the Brood War, and the voice was only recently unlocked. It is possible however that Duran is a human that was possessed by a similar cosmic entity, or perhaps whoever Duran serves attained from the Voice the knowledge of how to hide in the void and control others.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10


Orientation

Synopsis:

Continuing from where the previous story left off, Corbin Phash is sent to Umojan Orbital platform UE3255 to seek protection within the Umojan Protectorate due to his political value. When he arrives is assured that he will be safe there, and his wing has been sealed off from visitors. Corbin also notices that the Umojan Protectorate has recently been forced to ship food to their colonists in pressurized crates due to Mengsk’s high tariff increases.

A Dominion Ghost is snuck onboard the orbital platform that Phash is staying in, and kills the two guards protecting Phash’s wing. While discussing efficient ways to get holo-vids broadcast in the Dominion, Phash’s room goes black. A tech appears on Phash’s screen as well and tells him that a Ghost is onboard and that he needs to run. Phash remembers the mental tricks he used on Colin to hide his thoughts from him in his childhood, and attempts to use them with the Ghost, who normally knows what someone will do before they do it.

First Corbin turns on the fire-protocols, drenching his entire wing in water. Then as the Ghost came closer he ran an electric current through the water-drenched floor, which injured the Ghost. Finally making it to the cargo bay, Phash hid himself in a pressurized crate, but tricked the Ghost into shooting the SCV, which then drilled a hole in the wall and jettisoned the contents of the cargo bay into space. The Ghost died but Corbin’s body was detected and found in a pressurized crate. Later on, Corbin is angered at the fact the Protectorate cannot strike back at the Dominion after this attack, and that his son, now in the Ghost Academy, could be sent on similar assassination missions.

Meanwhile, Colin is being introduced into the Ghost academy by Superintendent Angelini and Director Bick personally, where they attempt to indoctrinate him with ideas of Ghosts being superheroes that save Dominion lives and keep the peace. Colin is a special student even for the Ghost Academy, and is put through a series of tests. The first test for telepathy had five Marines point their guns at Colin, at which point he had to pick out the one with the loaded gun if he wanted to not get shot. He succeeded. The next test involved putting him into a chamber filled with Zerg, where he demonstrated the use of his “quiet voice,” which forces the Zerg to lose interest in him as he shifts his mental energy. In the next test, where his quiet voice ability was negated, he demonstrated the astral projection ability, which is the ability to relocate his mind. Colin’s memory was then wiped. His story will continue in StarCraft: Ghost Academy.

Review:

In “Orientation,” Benjamin and Shramek have improved upon the quality of the writing as compared to the prequels: “Weapon of War” and “War-Torn”. It’s good to see more of the Umojan Protectorate’s story fleshed out, especially that concerning their politics with the Dominion. However, it would have been nice to see the characters in this story drawn a little more distinctly. For example, superintendent Angelini and the man Corbin was initially talking to look virtually the same.

“Orientation” gives us a detailed look into the Ghost Academy. The Ghost Academy is on Ursa, which was first said in StarCraft: Ghost to be a planet, but is now a moon orbiting Korhal. The Academy has always been a building that was in public view, both on Tarsonis and on Ursa, yet that didn’t seem to impede the Zerg research and cruel and unusual training from going on in that building. All newborns must be submitted for a psionic aptitude test; the Academy is also presented as a benevolent institution that helps psychics control their power from birth. Yet Ghosts are feared throughout the sector for their abilities; Dr. Eddie Rainsinger for example didn’t even believe in telepathy. Hopefully the upcoming StarCraft manga “StarCraft: Ghost Academy” will delve further into these topics.

Story: 8/10
Art: 6/10

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StarCraft: Frontline Volume 4 Review

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Conclusion

This volume marks the last of the Frontline series. The Frontline volumes have improved with every iteration, and Metzen's own contribution to this volume is well met. The manga had a great run, and delivered some quality stories for StarCraft fans. However, the fun doesn't stop here: be on the lookout for the next StarCraft manga, Ghost Academy, by Keith R. A. DeCandido.

StarCraft: Legacy Frontline Reviews:
Volume 1 - Volume 2 - Volume 3


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