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Western Publishing Years: Volume One, The (2013)
Fiction Review by The Gravedigger

Western Publishing Years: Volume One, The (2013) This volume collects the six issues of the comic that were a tie-in to both the movie and the television series. However, it seems that everything was written based on the first screenplay alone and before the series even aired. For example, in the movie adaptation (the first three issues) its a very different rocket Buck is frozen in, not a shuttle-and we never see the Draconian mother ship that Princess Ardalla commands. When we go to Earth there's no New Chicago but a domed city that's surrounded by a ruined city and lots of mutants. Also, the depictions of the characters look nothing like the actors. With the fourth issue we're treated to a new tale which focuses on Dr. Huer. He realizes that the equipment that gives the domed city its atmosphere is no longer working because they've run out of the element "Arzone-12". According to his research there may be some of that element stored in an old University-but it's located in old Chicago, "Anarchia", where the mutants live. So he dons a radiation suit and goes out into the wild, where he encounters mutants. Fortunately Twiki shows up and shoots stun beams from his eyes (something he never did in the series).

Meanwhile, Buck and Wilma are in their fighter craft and go to Titan, one of the moons of Jupiter, to find that element as well. It's there they encounter elf-like aliens who also need that element to help grow their protein wheat food or their civilization will perish. The humans and aliens work out a deal-the aliens get their Arzone, which they can now create thanks to Huer, and the humans can get a source of food from the aliens.

In the next tale there's a routine patrol outside the giant domed city that's attacked by mutants. It's here we learn that Wilma Deering has a brother, Yardley, who was banished for stealing, but he was framed. But before he was ostracized she had supplied him with a radiation suit so he wouldn't die. Wilma wants to help him when she finds out he's in danger and we're introduced to a group of criminals that live deep beneath the ruins.

In the next issue, "The Trial", she wants to prove her brother's innocence but needs the testimony of the person who framed him-and that's Killer Kane. Rather than being a Draconian, he's an earth traitor who is working for them. Since the destruction of their ship in the first issues Ardala and Kane have been traveling in their escape pod, getting supplies from various planets. She's worried about what her father will do to her for failing to conquer Earth. When Draco finds out about them he's upset-and wants to capture them so he can punish them. At the end of the issue he does get them. Back on Earth Yardley's trial is about to begin-but if he's found guilty again so will Wilma, since she disobeyed the city's laws to help her brother. And Buck is still missing, having gone looking for Ardala and Kane.

I picked up this book because I had just finished rewatching the first season of BUCK ROGERS (1979) and reading Andrew E.C. Gaska's excellent follow-up novel, LO, THE RINGS OF SATURN. But my reaction to these comics was not good-the artwork is poor and the stories and situations don't fit into the series-or even the "feel" of the series at all. It's much more like an alternate reality tale. Not recommended, even if you love the TV show.

aka Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: The Western Publishing Years: Volume One

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