For a very long time, Battlestar Galactica did not appear in comics. Finally, in July of 1995, Maximum Press (a Rob Liefeld imprint) published a miniseries that continued the Galactica mythos, and ignored the storyline from Galactica 1980. It had a distinct advantage in that it was the first new Galactica comic in 14 years (The horrible Marvel series ended in 1981) and thus at the outset seemed like a breath of fresh air. Perhaps to try to prevent burnout, MP published a number of 3 to 4-issue limited series rather than a single ongoing comic.
The artwork was usually good, yet wrong because the writers decided to change all the ship designs, giving us the explanation that the Colonials and Cylons have upgraded their technology over the 20 odd years since the final episode of the series. (Was this done to help promote the new Galactica toyline that was being trotted out at the time?) While it might be plausible for the vipers to have been upgraded, it is very difficult to believe that the Galactica could have been completely revamped given the scarce limit of resources within a rag-tag fleet. Even the Pegasus (which eventually shows up) looks different and has a super cannon. Considering that Cain had a virtual skeleton crew when he disappeared, this is an even harder thing to accept. None of the new ship designs can compare with the classic originals.
Like the Marvel series, MP was not legally able to use the actors' likenesses. Apollo suffers the most because not only is his face different, but he is given a different haircut. Starbuck, Athena, and Cassiopea are adequate, and Baltar actually looks pretty cool. Lucifer and the Cylons look awful, however.
Major spoilers alert from here on out. The first series, War of Eden, is fairly good. Strangely, the Galactica discovers Earth almost immediately (You would think they would put this off until much later down the line). Unfortunately for the Colonials, they find more questions than answers. Earth turns out to be deserted except for a single temple with two humans who turn out to be Adam and Eve. It is revealed that the humans of Earth have left the planet and scattered among the stars. This resolution of the Earth premise is a bit of a disappointment, although understandable because if the Galactica's journey ended here, there would be no story left to tell.
Apollo and Sheba are married now and have a son named Cain. The Colonials have evaded the Cylons for all these years due to a warp system given to them by the Seraphs (an invented name for the beings on the Ship of Lights). But Count Iblis teams up with Baltar to lead the Cylons to Earth, and Baltar winds up killing Adama. Just as the Colonials are about to be destroyed, the Seraphs show up and provide some razzle-dazzle wizardry, causing the Battlestar Pegasus to warp to the battle and save the day.
Unfortunately, this raises all kinds of questions. If the Seraphs can warp ships around at will, why haven't they directly interfered in the Colonials behalf before, especially during the peace armistice? Why didn't they warp the Colonial fleet to Earth years ago? It also hurts the credibility of the Cylons as a threat. It seems like the writers are taking the easy way out rather than trying to answer any of these questions.
There is one part of the story that helps make up for all this. In issue #3, Count Iblis takes Sheba to the old wrecked ship on the red planet from the War Of The Gods episode and has her look inside. (Apollo had prevented her from doing so before). When she looks inside, she sees the dead body of her father, Commander Cain! It all is a trick, of course, to turn her against Apollo, but it is clever for the writers to play off the popular Galactica myth that the crashed ship is the Pegasus and that Apollo prevented Sheba from looking inside because he had found Cain's body.
In issue #4, in what is probably the highlight of the entire series, Apollo recalls what he saw inside the ship: a cloven hoof belonging to a demon (as described in the original script of the episode). And we are given a great visual image of the demon!
The next 3-issue series was The Enemy Within. Baltar has a saboteur (a Cylon disguised as a human) manipulate his way aboard the Galactica to try to destroy the warship from the inside. Ironically, Maximum Press was the one of the first to give us a human Cylon, beating Ron Moore to the punch by 8 years! The Cylon, named Ares, has a love affair with Athena and actually sleeps with her. The story works adequately, but with an interesting twist. Starbuck and the Cylon are jettisoned in a pod which is believed destroyed. Later, it would be revealed that the pod crashed on a desert planet and Starbuck survived. By having Starbuck marooned on a desert planet with a dead Cylon, the writers appear to be playing off the classic Galactica 1980 episode The Return of Starbuck in which the same thing happens.
There is another 3-issue series called Starbuck which, after a promising start, quickly disappoints. The story takes place during the events of the original TV series (There should have been more stories in this timeframe). The Galactica is attacked by a fleet of Eastern Alliance destroyers. This is a great idea and something the original series probably would have done if it had had the time and money needed to shoot such an elaborate battle. Unfortunately, the comic cuts away in the middle of the battle (just as the Galactica takes a direct hit from a destroyer, no less!) as Starbuck's viper is damaged. Then once again we are subjected to the yawner plot of "Starbuck crashes on a planet." Didn't we see enough of this on the TV series? Sadly, we never see the rest of the battle. The rest of the Starbuck series is pretty much forgettable.
The next 3-issue series is Apollo's Journey. Written by Richard Hatch himself, it is the best of all the MP series. Hatch shows the other writers how it's done as Apollo once again faces Count Iblis. Definitely worth picking up.
The last of the MP series that I've read is the four-issue Journey's End. I'm going to go into great detail about it because I have stronger feelings about this series than any other that MP has done. Here is a great example of what happens so often in sci-fi/fantasy stories: a legitimately gripping, intense story is completely undercut by an unnecessary injection of fantasy elements (in this case, time travel). The first issue is easily the best comic from Maximum Press to date. All kinds of powerful dynamics are at work: The looming imminent Cylon threat; Apollo's battle with Cain and the Council; and then the overwhelming Cylon attack force destroys the Pegasus and the entire fleet except for the Galactica.
The writers are taking a lot of risks here, which makes for exciting story-telling, but not always successful story-telling. That's the downside to creating something as originally fresh as the opening: the challenge of maintaining it for the entire duration of the story.
Unfortunately, all the exciting themes are completely undercut by issue #2. The Galactica is once again saved by the Seraphs. To have the Seraphs simply warp the Galactica away feels like cheating (Again, why didn't they warp the Colonial warfleet away during the peace talks?). Even worse, the Seraphs use time-travel to take the Colonials years into the future where they discover the Eastern Alliance is the ultimate power in the universe and has conquered the Cylons! The resolution of this futuristic plot isn't believable at all. The Colonials are somehow able to reprogram all of the captive Cylons in the entire Eastern Alliance to make them revolt. And when Apollo asks the Seraphs why their lives were put in jeopardy, their response is they were simply trying to teach him a lesson! They would put the Colonials' lives in danger just to teach them a lesson? Some allies!
Issue #3 has the Seraphs warp the Galactica into the past just before the destruction of the Colonies, so Apollo is given an opportunity to stop the Holocaust from happening. A potentially great plot is handled horrendously. Rather than simply ambushing the Cylon fleet as it heads towards the fleet, Apollo and Cain go to the Atlantia and actually try to convince President Adar and the Council of Twelve that they are from the future! (Yeah, right.)
Of course, they fail, and the result is that the Colonial warfleet is destroyed by the Cylons as it was before. However, because the Apollo and Zac of that time period pick up the futuristic Galactica on their scanners, they go to investigate and avoid being ambushed by Cylons - thus preventing Zac's death.
Now try and grasp this finish:
The Colonials are able to use a futuristic Cylon they captured to order all the attacking Cylon fighters to return to base, thus granting the Colonies a temporary reprieve from destruction. This allows more people to escape from the Colonies and thus the Colonial fleet turns out to be much larger than it was before.
The Colonials from the future give Adama the coordinates to Earth before warping back to their own time, but they arrive just before discovering Earth. So the fleet still survives because now the disastrous battle from issue #1 never happened. The Pegasus also survives, but it is back where it was when the events of the MP comics first started. Starbuck is somehow still stranded on the remote planet (even though the events that put him there will never happen). Zac is alive on the Galactica from the past, yet he's nowhere to be found on the present Galactica. Apollo's mother, Ila, also survives, and she decided to come aboard the present Galactica instead of the past Galactica for some odd reason. Apollo decides to send the fleet to settle Earth, but the Galactica will head out among the stars to try to find what happened to the Thirteenth Tribe. He believes that Iblis will leave the Colonials on Earth alone and focus on the Galactica.
Confused? So am I, and I'm the one explaining it!!!
Unfortunately, this happens all the time in fiction, television, and movies - a potentially great story self-destructs halfway through (although in this case it happens one-fourth way through). What is particularly insulting is that all the events of the earlier MP comics are erased; they never happened. To spend so much time and effort on a bunch of "never-mind" stories is a waste (and a slap in the face to fans that spent their hard-earned dollars on those comics). When you think about it, since Adama now has the coordinates to Earth from the beginning of the Galactica's journey, he certainly took the fleet on a different heading, thus all the events of the television series are erased as well! Does this also mean that Apollo and Sheba never meet, and thus never marry?
If this all sounds screwed up, it is. None of the plot twists and resolutions are believable. Trying to make sense of the implications is like trying to grab jello, although it's almost typical for time-travel stories (which rarely make much sense anyway). This kind of story manipulation is what largely killed off the Spider-man comics (it was revealed that Spider-man had been a clone for the past 25 years and that the real Spider-man had been off somewhere with amnesia!) It's probably a moot point, but the artwork in #3 and #4 is atrocious.
As it turns out, there wasn't much more to come. After the publishing of a compendium volume in early 1997, Maximum announced it would cease publishing comics based on Battlestar Galactica.
Despite their many flaws, the comics actually seemed good compared to what Marvel gave us. But overall the Maximum Press Galactica comics get a major thumbs down, just like the Marvel comics.