Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Transformers Issues 1-6

The Transformers Issues 1-6
Optimus tries in vain to shoot the review.

Writer: Mike Costa

Artist: Don Figueroa

Owned Digitally.

Note: This collection can be bought in print form as Transformers: For All Mankind

Background Info:

IDW took the Transformers reins a few years ago from Dreamwave Publications. With it, came a total reboot of the series. The series actually titled Transformers is somewhere in the middle of IDW’s continuity. So here’s what you need to know.

Before this series actually started, Optimus Prime and the Autobots fought and defeated Megatron and his Decepticons in a maxi-series called All Hail Megatron. Megatron is presumed dead, the Decepticons and Autobots are in hiding.

And, oh yeah, everyone knows the transformers exist.

Not only do they know, but they’ve developed a group to systematically hunt down and neutralise them using what look like generic mobile suit gundam.

Fans of Transformers are used to seeing their favourite series continually rebooted. One minute they’re animals, one minute they’re Japanese, one minute they look like they came of the set of Popeye and inhabit a world of short people with saucer-eyes.  So there isn’t a whole lot of room to be disappointed by an apparent lack of loyalty to the original storyline in these issues- it’s something Transformers fans have come to expect.

But even if it wasn’t, this is still an excellent book. Writer Mike Costa takes the characters that we loved in the original cartoon and slides them into a world that makes sense. Not everyone is nuts about big destructive robots romping across America. And as such, all transformers are being rounded up and locked away.

The story really kicks off, however, when Optimus Prime turns himself into the human organisation known as Skywatch. This creates a schism between the Autobots that remain. Half of them decide to keep calm and carry on under the leadership of Bumblebee, the other half decide to follow Hot Rod in his ill-fated attempt at leaving earth and making friends with the remaining Decepticons.

Dear Micheal Bay, please take note: A Transformers movie should focus on, well, THE TRANSFORMERS, not Shia LeBouf (I have given up trying to spell his name and have resorted to guesswork) running around yelling “no, no, no, no, no, no!” and Megan Fox leaning over engines and pouting. If you want to see this work, read this comic. Costa creates this great moment of strained relationships between the Autobots and makes them interesting characters. Sure, there’s enough shooting and such things to make it fun as an action title, but the real meat comes from the Autobots trying to deal with the fact Optimus Prime has left them by his own choice. Up until then, the only time we had been without Optimus was when he spent a short time dead. The fact that Optimus throws in the towel, naturally freaks the Autobots out, and Costa handles it beautifully.

Costa even writes good human characters. Costa’s Spike Witwicky is not some bumbling kid whose job is mostly to be rescued and talk about how amazing the transformers are. He’s a commander in Skywatch, and has the interesting job of interrogating Optimus Prime. It’s these moments, more than anything that show just what great characters both he and Optimus are. One isn’t superior to the other. These are two equals who actually see eye to eye more than they know. These aren’t the humans we have seen on movies or television shows, and that’s a very good thing.

Costa’s writing is backed up by great art from Figueroa. Most of the characters in this series are redesigned versions of their 80s selves. They are more slick designs that somehow manage to refer back to what you may remember from television without looking like every Transformers comic/cartoon that came before it. Figueroa’s only problem is that he gives his robotic characters these creepy, skeletal faces. I suppose this is his way of hearkening to the Bay films, and yeah, I know they’re meant to be robots. But it has the weird effect of giving all the characters a sort of robotic five o’clock shadow that often serves to distract the reader.

The first collection of Transformers is a definite must-read for those who have become jaded by the poor storytelling of the Bayverse. It gets a four and a half out of five robotic five o’clock shadows.

**** ½ 

+ Relationships between Autobots are perfect.

+ Human characters are done right.

+ Character redesigns look AWESOME.

- Those skeletal faces… urgh.

Alternate Option: Beast Wars: The Ascending

The only other Transformers book I’ve read. Figeuroa’s artwork generally steps up a notch here.

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