I didn't read "The Terminator: 2029," the 3-issue mini-series that "The Terminator: 1984" acts as a direct sequel toward. (Tricked by a #1, I know.) In many ways, this is really just #4 of a longer series. But with that in mind, kudos to Zach Whedon and Dark Horse, because I didn't feel lost at all. There's a small blurb explaining the events of the previous mini-series, but even then, it's almost entirely unnecessary.
"The Terminator: 1984" mixes some of the events of the original film with Whedon's new character, Ben, as Cyberdyne discovers the existence of Kyle Reese and the Terminators. It's a smart addition to the mythos; if SkyNet had been in development by that point, having a man show up insisting that a top-secret, undisclosed project was going to destroy the future, they'd certainly sit up and take notice. A lot of this issue is set-up for the remaining issues of the mini-series, tracing Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese through the end of the film while also bringing Ben into the present day of 1984 and following his path.
It's Ben that is the real star of "The Terminator: 1984," in part because he's a new character, but also due to how Whedon writes him. His marveling at the differences between the wasteland of 2029 and the prosperity of 1984 is handled well, coming across realistic without getting overdone or in your face. More importantly, despite not having read the previous three comics that featured Ben, I already felt like I had a handle on the character by the time "The Terminator: 1984" #1 was over. And, now that the story has moved beyond the end of "The Terminator" film, especially with the surprise revelation toward the end of this issue, it makes the remaining two chapters look that much more enticing.
Andy MacDonald has been steadily improving as an artist over the years, and this is the nicest set of pages I've seen from him to date. His slightly blocky art reminds me in some ways of Dave Johnson's interior comics work, especially when he draws the Terminator advancing on Sarah Connor, or the busy streets of Los Angeles. Even something as simple as a board room meeting is drawn with skill, using body language to help bring Whedon's script to life and having the characters feel like real, living people. It's a nice style and it makes me happy to know he's on board for the remaining issues.
"The Terminator: 1984" #1 may really be #4 of an ongoing "Terminator" series, but Whedon and MacDonald did a good job of bringing me up to speed and making me feel welcome. For a comic based on a film that came out over a quarter of a century ago, Whedon and MacDonald are making "The Terminator" feel fresh and fun and new. I can't ask for much more than that.