Review – Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2
Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 hit the bookstores recently on August 3, 2010. The former author Keith R.A. DeCandido is no longer aboard as writer of the manga. He’s busy with Boom! Studios comic books; and for some months he was knee deep working with the U.S. Census 2010 — so at least we know he’s all good. We’ll miss him. He’s earned it.
Tokyopop’s David Gerrold (aka Jerrold David Friedman) took over the Starcraft: Ghost Academy mantle, and as you will soon find out, he’s quickly sync into the Nova universe. No surprise here. David Gerrold has written a Starcraft story before, which means he’s read the Starcraft Bible 101 and been in contact with Chris Metzen and the Blizzard Creative Team.
David Gerrold wrote the story titled “Fear the Reaper” in Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 4. He’s written several Star Trek novels and manga. He’s a celebrity among Trekkies as a matter of fact — don’t believe me? Guess who wrote the televised story of “The Trouble with the Tribbles” (Star Trek: The Original Series, TV) which aired on December 29, 1967. The original script was titled “A Fuzzy Thing Happened To Me…”
The artist Fernando Heinz Furukawa did a kick ass job through each page of the manga, specially the zerg scenes, but overall academy scenes were great. We’ll see more of him in Starcraft and Warcraft manga no doubt.
Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 explores the ongoing happenings within the Ghost Academy under Mengsk’s close watch. The ghost academy was formerly a Confederate program, and as such, Mengsk needs to protect his image before the people; and to make sure the academy is run by the book to avoid inhuman treatment scandals. (more below)
For those fans who love to keep track of the Starcraft timeline, at the end of Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2, Emperor Mengsk is weeks away from celebrating the first anniversary of the Terran Dominion.
Mengsk controls every single word that airs on the UNN network, but there are pirated broadcasts sent by people working for Michael Liberty — and those do bite a dent into Mengsk’s reputation.
The manga starts with a UNN TV show titled “The Dominion and You” by reporter E.B. James [suspiciously sounding like EB Games]. He interviews the Ghost Academy director Kevin Bick in relation to the recent expulsion of Aal Cistler from the ghost academy. This took place at the end of volume 1.
It’s kinda funny to have two non-heroes take centerfold in the story. Kevin Bick runs the academy with unscrupulous drug experiments to research how ghosts’ abilities can be affected or increased. Some students are panbrained, brainwashed, and tortured in secrecy.
Aal Cistler by the other hand is a young playboy with wits who thinks his every whim comes into reality by paying the right price. He might not be too far from being right though — he’s the son of Emperor Mengsk’s finance minister — ouch. Not an enemy you would want to cross with in your path.
Aal isn’t a telepath, but he loves challenges. He came to the ghost academy to train, but was caught selling drugs to Lio Travski (a technopath, student). While the Ghost Academy knew about the drug addiction of Lio and that Aal was providing it, they allowed it to happen to study Lio’s performance under heavy addiction. When the ghost academy grew tired of Aal, they expulsed him from the academy and provided the UNN with camera recordings of Aal’s drug selling activities.
Aal, however, goes to the UNN to denounce he was framed, and the unusual training practices held at the ghost academy. The reporter E.B. James crucified director Kevin Bick in the show. The director got the message … Emperor Mengsk disapproves.
Mengsk controls everything the UNN says, so this was a direct on-your-face slap message to Kevin Bick to immediately detox Lio, and to stop underground experimentation with students. Most of this is in the Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 preview scans.
From what we have learned in Starcraft: Frontline, Mengsk is turning around the old-ways of the Confederate who used cruel brainwashing and aggression inhibitors to control the Ghosts, who were likely former criminals.
Mengsk is now using Wranglers [psi-sensitive agents with a PI 3.5] to hunt for kids and teens with latent telepathic abilities to train them as teams in the ghost academy under the excuse they are too dangerous to themselves and to the populace if not trained properly — because untrained ghosts attract the Zerg.
In reality, that’s a lie. Mengsk has used psi-emitters before to control the zerg, and he continues to do so underground without the knowledge of the public. Such was the case of the Colin Pash story in Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 1-4 — where wranglers are authorized to use lobotomized zerglings with a neural gadget to control them to hunt for the telepath kid.
The same can be proved with Starcraft: Ghost Academy when we see an unidentified terran vessel launching a drop-pod on planet Shi [of the Baker's Dozen] which contained a … zerg drone. Mengsk has much more under his sleeve than we originally taught — as you can see in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty [Piercing the Shroud mission].
Why should you read this manga? It brings a fresh view into the ghost academy with at least four cliffhangers. Don’t you love cliffhangers? I do. They keep the plot in suspense. Sometimes you can foresee things, but sometimes the writer surprises you with a twist. That’s what keeps you coming back for the next volume.
Nova Anabelle Terra, Gabriel Tosh, Lio Travski, Kath Toom and Delta Emblock of Team Blue continue their ghost training with high stake life-threatening missions within the academy where they must learn to use their abilities in a teamwork environment.
When you see an older Gabriel Tosh in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, and see this younger Gabriel Tosh in the Ghost Academy and compare both — you can already see where the story is heading to. Tosh used to be an idealist teen who idolized and believed in Mengsk as a humble leader who works for the people and for the benefit of humanity.
What the Ghost Academy does is to train the best telepaths to service humanity and to unite it under the flag of Mengsk, who fights for freedom — Or so used to think Gabriel Tosh in his early days at the Ghost Academy.
Considering we will see more of Gabriel Tosh in Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm — now that Jim Raynor sided with him to free New Folsom’s Spectre prisoners — it would be nice to keep in touch with this character’s past and backstory, and how his loyalty to Mengsk shattered. We will learn more of that in Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 — and hopefully in the upcoming novel Starcraft: Ghost Spectres by Nate Kenyon (on sale November 1, 2010).
In this volume, we learn the two most important ghost trainees in observation by Superintendent Angelini are Nova and … Lio the technopath. No one else matters. Just those two. Thus … we should keep an eye on what plans Blizzard might have for Lio, if any. Will he be an ally when we next see him in future games, or will he be a dangerous enemy (knowing his special power set)?
Lio can telepathically control technology, he created an android that resembled his girlfriend, and he seems to be a powerful telekinetic — [in a scene he telekinetically floats some PDAs into the air and sorts them out to his teammates, and he also blocks incoming projectiles with a TK shield]. Now that he’s not under the influence of hab (a drug), he seems to have better control of his powers.
We get to see the influence that Team Red’s jealousy and rivalry has on Team Blue. Things get more complicated when Aal Cistler makes his triumphant return to the Ghost Academy and this time around he joins Team Red to make Nova and her team’s lives more pleasant … not.
With how Lio has been manipulated by director Bick and superintendent Angelini, one has to wonder … how such a powerful telepath as Nova and her teammates never detect the psi-screams of Lio when he gets panbrained? Why are all these odd things going on backstage without other telepaths knowing about them?
The answer is too complex to guess in its entirety, but the author gives you enough hints to figure out some of it … Colin Phash.
The Ghost Academy is using this boy’s ability to project his astral form away from his body as a surveillance system. Nova has been able to see his astral projection, but never manages to talk to him. However, there must be something else shielding other telepaths from the atrocious acts of the Academy’s leaders. Maybe a mysterious figure from the past? Likely someone we have heard of in Starcraft: Ghost Nova [Looks at the odd humanoid in Chapter 2: Shadows Before Them].
There was one male telepath as high-level a telepath as Nova and Sarah Kerrigan who is mentioned in DeCandido’s StarCraft: Ghost Nova book to be dead, but you never know. Maybe his body and brain were kept alive to serve as an instrument of the Confederates? Those cables coming out of the skull with no pupils on his eyes made me remember that deceased character. Matter of fact, that figure is never shown in Vol. 2, so we might learn who exactly this guy behind Angelini is. Maybe a half-cybernetic-enhanced Old Family slave of the Dominion? I might be seeing too much into it.
Like in the first volume, the fate of Colin Pash continues to be unfold in short scenes that let you figure out how the Ghost Academy tutors do what they do with the students, and why the telepaths aren’t aware of what’s going on.
Colin Pash is the telepath child son of ex-Dominion Senator Corbin Pash. Colin was captured by the Dominion in the Starcraft: Frontline series. His father Corbin Phash now resides as a guest of the Umojan Protectorate, plotting to take revenge against Mengsk and to recover his son back. The story of Colin Phash is told throughout Starcraft: Frontline Vol. 1-4, and continues in Starcraft: Ghost Academy.
THE OLD FAMILIES
Another plot hanging in the manga is the fate of the offsprings of the Old Families. Ever wonder if any of the Old Families survived the Zerg invasion to Tarsonis? Let’s remind you a bit of old-school Starcraft lore … The invasion was caused by the Psi-emitter Arcturus Mengsk ordered Kerrigan to activate. Ya’ know, that Starcraft mission where Mengsk abandons Kerrigan to her fate before the Zerg.
As the invasion of the Zerg hit Tarsonis, the Old Families sent their offsprings to safety to planet Shi — the fourth planet in the Baker’s Dozen system: a collection of 13 mining planets owned by Arturro Calabas [one of the Old Families].
This story runs parallel with the main plot without interacting with each other; using the narrative technique of going back and forth in the timeline.
Every now and then, the narration about the fate of the offsprings of the Old Families takes you to a year before the present time [ghost academy Vol. 2's time which is nigh a year after Brood War]. Then to the present.
When least you know, you are taken to 8 months before the present, seven months, six months … so and so until we reach the point of a month before the present.
I love those interludes in stories to be honest. All that apparent, unrelatedness with the main plot comes to an end when the next ghost academy mission is scheduled to take place in the fifth planet of the … Baker’s Dozen. That’s a cliffhanger alright. That takes us straight into collision course with Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 3 [in stores March 1, 2011].
The aweful part of this manga is the long wait for the next one. Can’t you guys clone your staff to pump these babies monthly? I want more!!!
Special thanks to Troy Lewter (Tokyopop Editor) and Hope Donovan (Tokyopop Editor).
You can view the Starcraft: Ghost Academy Vol. 2 preview here.