Around the same time that the novel line provided a "Terminator Salvation" prequel with "From the Ashes," IDW – the seventh (and, as of now, final) comic company to hold a "Terminator" license -- launched its line with a four-issue prequel story called "Sand in the Gears" (February-April 2009). Unlike the book, it doesn't introduce any film characters, but it works as a stage-setter.
The main purpose of the four-issue story by Dara Naraghi is to show that the Resistance's fight against Skynet is worldwide. On Operation Sand in the Gears, the Detroit group aims to wipe out a Skynet Terminator factory (formerly an auto plant), and the Niger group aims to blow up a mine where Skynet gets raw materials (It's never particularly clear why the operations have to be simultaneous). People of different backgrounds come together.
It's a familiar, shallow comic-book story, but by showing us the state of the world heading into the fourth movie, it's serviceable at whetting a fan's appetite for bigger adventures with the main characters.
John Connor: He appears in some of Elena's L.A. flashbacks and we see his inspiring radio transmissions to the Resistance around the world. Summing up the almost magical pull John has on the troops, Elena whispers as her dying words: "I believe you'll be the one to lead us to victory, John Connor. And I would do anything for you" (Issue 4). As with "From the Ashes," we don't see how John gains his leadership and strategic skills in the "T3"/"T4" movie timeline.
Kate Connor: Also appears in Elena's flashbacks.
The Detroit Resistance cell: Elena is the leader. She knows John Connor from a brief meeting in 2016 in L.A. and still keeps in touch with him (1). William is the communications expert. Jackson is a former member of a group of sewer-dwelling holdouts who reluctantly joins the Resistance when his family is killed. William, a young black man, and Jackson, a redneck, clash.
The Niger Resistance cell: Bem is the leader. Lysette is the doctor. Yusuf is the tech expert. The Nigerian Bem knows Elena from their radio communications and hopes to meet her in person someday. Lysette, a Frenchwoman who had a cushy corporate job before J-Day, and Yusuf, a poor Syrian who was working the Nigerian mines, clash. Bem speaks both French and Arabic, but the other two aren't bilingual, and the language gap is part of why they can't relate to each other.
Generals Ashdown and Losenko: Mentioned offhandedly by John (2), we'll meet these Resistance generals in "Salvation."
T-600s (with and without rubbery Infiltrator skin): John notes that they are "slow and heavy" and that usually you can at least run away, but as with "From the Ashes," they are difficult to destroy. One fighter sees a T-600 with rubber skin and says it is "one of them new models supposed to look like us."
Sidewinders: Essentially aboveground electric eel Terminators, they can electrocute humans and mess up electronics (1). A teaser to "Salvation."
CONTINUITY AND CONTRADICTIONS
Continuing on the "T3"/"T4" movie timeline, "Sand in the Gears" is set in 2018, before the events of the movie "T4: Salvation," which takes place later that year. It's not crystal clear if this comic takes place before or after "From the Ashes." The Terminator Wiki says "Sand in the Gears" takes place first.
It's interesting to note that – as we can see from the dissemination of his 2004 broadcast and his work with Elena in 2016 -- John is a worldwide inspiration to Resistance cells BEFORE he is formally brought into the Resistance command structure at the end of "From the Ashes." This isn't necessarily a continuity glitch, but it is an odd choice by the storytellers.
Destruction from J-Day is shown in Los Angeles, Washington, Beijing, India, Moscow, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Saudi Arabia and Paris, and we see that John's radio message of hope from the end of "T3" had been transmitted worldwide (1).
In his introduction to the trade paperback, "Sarah Connor Chronicles" producer James Middleton says "Naraghi is the first to delve into the details of the human resistance on an international scale." This is wildly and hilariously untrue, as international stories date all the way back to the first spinoff stories from Now Comics. Granted, it is the first international story on THIS timeline.
The way Elena tries to recruit Jackson and his sewer-dwelling group parallels the attempts of John's group to recruit people from Moldering Lost Ashes in "From the Ashes."
Detroit was also the setting of Dark Horse's "RoboCop vs. The Terminator" (1992) – and likewise, Skynet repurposed auto plants as Terminator factories -- but "Sand in the Gears" marks Africa's debut as a location in "Terminator" lore.
Elena and some of her colleagues are picked up by a Skynet aircraft in L.A. and, presumably due to a malfunction, are dropped in Detroit. John tells Elena the aircraft was a "Harvester" (4). They are known for capturing live humans, but the Resistance doesn't know what the purpose is. This is a teaser to "Salvation."
TIMELINES AND TIME TRAVEL
Fitting with the "Salvation" franchise's (somewhat refreshing) aim to focus on the details of the Future War, there is no time travel and no talk of timelines in this comic series.