CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
The Best of Simon Furman
Reviewed by Blackjack
: Transformers Marvel UK #81, 86, 172, 173, Transformers Marvel US #62, 70, 71, 75, Generation 2 #7, #8, War Within Preview, Beast Wars the Gathering #1, Infiltration #6, Spotlight Shockwave, Escalation #3
Ron Smith, Geoff Senior, Bryan Hitch, Andy Wildman, Derek Yaniger, Don Figueroa, E.J. Su, Nick Roche
Tony Jozwiak, Gina Hart, Euan Peters, Nel Yomtov, Sarra Mossoff, Dreamwave, Josh Burcham, John Rauch, Zac Atkinson
In a nutshell:
A collection of Simon Furman's best stories so far.
Unlike Greatest Battles of Optimus Prime and Megatron, there is more material to choose from, since Simon Furman wrote nearly half (perhaps more) of all transformers comics. Basically, wherever you go in transformer-dom, you'll find him. Thus, choosing his 'best' stories would be hard. Personally, I'm rather disappointed that some of my favourite Simon Furman stories were not included (Stormbringer, Time Wars and Legion of the Lost come to mind, among others). Still, unlike Greatest Battles, there's definitely lots of good material in here. The G1 comics are wonderful (I forgot how much fun Nightbeat was!) while none of the other selections fail to disappoint.
The first story is "Target 2006 Part 4: Wreck and Rule". Some people may say that the Wreckers team are among Furman's greatest creations, and this issue, their debut, is one of the highlights of the excellent Target 2006 saga. We see the politics between Impactor and Xaaron at Cybertron, and the Wreckers are made badass by killing not just random generics (Fang) but killing known characters as well. Okay, fascimile constructs of them, but still, it's more effective than having them slay groups of badly-drawn people we don't care about. Characterization of Xaaron, Impactor, Twin Twist and even Roadbuster (when he witnesses the bait being killed) are excellent. Ron Smith's art, even if he fudges up the toy designs (remember, these guys don't have character models) is great. This story is definitely one of the best from Simon Furman.
The next issue is Target 2006 part 8, another one of Furman's best works. I've recently noticed how much characterization was put into Ultra Magnus in the UK comics, compared to the near-zero presence he made in the US comics. This chapter of the Target 2006 saga is straight action between Magnus and Galvatron, with Geoff Senior's art contributing to the great script and action scenes.
Next up is the two-part 'Wrecking Havoc'. Starring Galvatron and the Wreckers, as well as Cyclonus and Scourge, all of whom owe their comic book characterizations to Furman, these two issues are excellent. From Cyclonus and Scourge massacring the military (who are not potrayed as actually professionals, and manage to damage Cyclonus) up to Shockwave's manipulation of the duo, until the skirmish between Galvatron and the Wreckers. Bryan Hitch's art conveys the scale of the transformers well, and the art clearly shows buildings being blown up and fires all around. Both Springer and Galvatron gets the best lines, although Galvatron's power here is rather underplayed compared with what would come in Time Wars. Still, two magnificient issues.
That wraps up all of the UK issues reprinted here, which is a shame. I had hoped for a couple of Time Wars issues or perhaps 'Legion of the Lost', but the next issue collected is a joy. 'Bird of Prey', from the US comic. It's basically a big spotlight for Nightbeat, with Siren and Hosehead playing as his bumbling, luckless partners. Geoff's art doesn't disappoint, and Nel Yomtov doesn't go all crayola in this issue. The fight against the aliens, as well as the humour-laden dialogue, is a fresh departure from the action-bound scenes of the previous stories in this TPB. Another great work by Furman.
Next up is another character-driven story namely the 'Price of Life'. Megatron and Ratchet had been fused together, and Optimus Prime must decide wheth to kill the composte or let it live. To save his friend (which would also mean saving Megsy) or to kill them both to save the rest of the Autobots. Optimus is definitely the star of this issue, while both Kup and Nightbeat are well-played too. The little side-trip with Grimlock is also nice, playing on his softer side. A character-driven story.
After this is another US issue, 'Surrender!'. Playing off Kup's growing misgivings of Optimus Prime from the former story, this is another one of the better stories. Scorponok (well, Lord Zarak) shines brightly in this episode as well, with his monologues being some of the better instropection in the Marvel run. It goes to show that Zarak is not forgotten even though the Nebulans had not appeared for a long time. I really like Furman's Scorponok. Playing off Budiasky's introduction of Lord Zarak and Scorponok, Furman expands on the character, especially Zarak's worries about his troops' view on him as well as his limitations. Even though they have less dialogue, Kup, Hot Rod, Xaaron, Shockwave, Galvatron and even Starscream shines in their own way, with great dialogue and scenes. Again, another well-done piece.
Next up is what some people have described as Furman's masterpiece, namely 'On the edge of extinction'. Fights with Unicron tend to be either very good, like this one, or very boring. Boring and anticlimatic. This issue, meant to be the end of G1 (which it's not, since it'll go on for several more issues) was well-scripted, with every death and dialogue done perfectly. Geoff Senior's art shines brightly in this issue, and Yomtov's colouring is actually great. While the conclusion is not very original (Prime purifies the Matrix and blows Unicron up) there are many deaths, including Primus/Xaaron, which didn't make the victory seem easy like the cartoon. There are many excellent character moments: Brainstorm going crazy at the sight of Unicron, Shockwave's helplessness as he sees Unicron, Starscream's cowardice, Galvatron single-handedly fighting Unicron, Nightbeat's reaction on Siren's and Hot Rod's brashness, Highbrow dying due to his shock at seeing Cloudburst die, Grimlock and Prowl's camaraderie... as always, Optimus Prime and Scorponok gets the best lines, with the latter's death being one of the greatest moment in transformer history. Scorponok's doubt of his capabilities, and Prime comforting him as he melted away... that is why Scorpy's one of my all-time favourite characters. Even Circuit Breaker and Blackrock aren't a pain to read. Furman ties up most of the loose plot threads in the main US comic in this issue, and even though the conclusion is far from ideal, this is undoubtedly one of the best issues throughout the Marvel run.
We skip a couple of years later to Generation Two, to yet another Optimus-centric two-parter. The first short story, 'Tales of Earth part four', is a great collection of some of Prime and Megatron's best moments, with Derek Yaniger's art beautifully recreating previous scenes. The next part, 'Tales of Earth Part Five', is a nice little interaction between Megatron, Grimlock and Optimus, although it's too short. It's a pity that they didn't reprint some of the more spectacular issues of G2.
Next up is something less spectacular. The War Within Preview. A little flashback and word-fight between Grimlock and Starscream. Not one of Furman's best works, certainly. Some of the other issues in War Within would've worked, but this one isn't that good. A rather poor choice.
We leave the past and enter IDW's work, starting with the first issue of Beast Wars: the Gathering. While it'll go downhill later with an inflated cast, IDW's Beast Wars work starts off with a very promising start. Don Figueroa's art is marvellous, and both Magmatron and Razorbeast shines in the episode. The story itself isn't original: a group of Predacons go back to the Beast Wars to round up the remaining stasis pods. But the art and pacing worked for the first issue. Sadly, overpopulation would later cause IDW's Beast Wars comics to go downhill. While undoubtedly this is one of Furman's better issues, it can't help shake the feeling that IDW's using this TPB as a free advertising for their comics. But business before pleasure and all that.
Next up is Infiltration #6, yet another one of IDW's publication. I mean, it's fair for IDW to publish more of their stories since they're collecting the TPB and all, but I do think Infiltration is not the best choice. Since Stormbringer, any one of thefour issues, would work better than Infiltration #6. Still, this isn't a bad issue: the main event is Megatron and Starscream's throwdown. Unlike previous confrontations, Megatron acts logically. Namely, blow Starscream up instead of forgiving him. E.J. Su's art is wonderful as always, and this had looked so promising for IDW's new direction. Look at what happened now. Ah, well...
Spotlight Shockwave is up next. Granted, many ideas in this short issue aren't original — nearly all of the concepts in the issue is lifted off Beast Wars, while the fight between the Dinobots and Shockers is almost lifted directly from Budiasky's work, and Shockwave being behind everything is based on DW's G1 arc — but it's delivered with style. What should've read like a fanwank goes smoothly, with Shockwave being a wonderful narrator and the Dinobots being great guest-stars. The fact that Nick Roche did the art for this didn't hurt either. The action scenes, the monologues, the dialogue... all of them were golden.
Finally, we wrap it up with Escalation #3, which, I think, is a random choice. It basically is a build-up, and at the end it had players moving into position for the big brawl that would happen from issues four to six. Still, we all know that I love Escalation. It's just that they should've taken issue two or six, which would be more stand-alone than this.
The credits on the first page mistakenly credit Jeff Anderson for drawing 'Wreck and Rule' instead of Ron Smith.
Page ten of the 'Bird of Prey' issue is reprinted twice, replacing page eleven. So the readers miss Fatale's exposition. It's like that on my copy at least.
IDW isn't allowed to reprint any Marvel issues with Circuit Breaker, evidenced by the Classic collections. Guess they forgot, since issue 75 had lots of Circuit Breaker in it. Not that I mind, since that issue certainly is one of Furman's best work.
This hardcover book comes with a wrap-around cover normally used with these hardcover books. The front cover's a simple drawing of Cybertron (a Stormbringer cover, if I'm not mistaken) and the back has three smaller pictures of IDW cover pages (Optimus Prime posing from Infiltration, Magmatron from Beast Wars and Megatron's hand from Escalation).
The hardpaper cover is Cybertron again, done in golden, against a black background. The gold flakes off.
Extra material includes an early proposal of Cybertron/G1 crossover story for IDW, which is thankfully abandoned by them. There are some concepts in here that's re-used in Fun Publications' Balancing Act comics. The G1 arc in this proposal involves a rather fanwanky plot which is really different compared to what IDW's doing now. Also included are script-to-pages for some IDW material.
Not bad. Granted, it is overpriced and there's a bit too much of IDW's stuff, but it's filled with good stories with actual quality compared to Greatest Battles. Definitely not worth buying if you have most if not all of the issues collected here. But unlike 'Greatest Battles', this one is filled with actual quality, and it looks pretty. However, there's no denying that it's overpriced. Only for completists or for people who haven't read these stories. Or Simon Furman fans.