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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

IDW Publishing
(2005-now)
Devil's Due
(2003-2007)
Dreamwave
(2002-2004)
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(2001-now)
Titan Books
(2001-now)
Marvel Comics
(1984-1994)
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and Titles

CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING

Transformers: All Hail Megatron #1
Reviewed by Inflatable Dalek

Issue Review

Let's for a second forget the muddled chronology, the various (and to a certain extent still not fully explained beyond PR fluff) behind-the-scenes changes and the weight of expectations upon a "Event" comic, let's just judge it entirely on its own merits as an issue 1 page 1 relaunch of the range.

It's awful. From the moment the New Yorkers treat giant machines as some sort of wacky joke (a moment not any less crap than when a tired and worn out Bob Budiansky used it in Dark Star) every single line of dialogue is astonishingly bad. We're introduced to a pilot who we're meant to think is a regular and be shocked by his death, but the fact his big character establishing briefing happens off panel makes it clear he's not important enough to last five seconds (and if the personality-free second pilot is going to be a main character, god help us.)

There's also a complete lack of plot. In 22 pages the Decepticons show up and blow some shit up, the end. McCarthy has claimed he wanted to set up questions and mysteries to the audience, but all of them really come from the insane choice to start this before finishing the plotlines it follows on from... the only question coming from the actual content is "Why the hell should I bother with issue 2?" This is asking us to make a 12 issue commitment to the title... it needs to promise enough plot to last the distance or else why bother?

And what do we learn of the supposed star of the title? He likes blowing things up and telling people his name. And that's it. All the personality of a wet paper bag. The other Decepticons who are doing all the hailing don't do any better either, beyond the fact Starscream is still Megatron's bitch. There's also a worrying feeling that McCarthy is completely unfamiliar with anyone who wasn't in the TV show.

There's also a feeling of familiarity (and we know what that breeds) -- the whole issue comes across as more of a Dreamwave reject than Megatron: Origin ever did, with the scene of Megatron destroying skyscrapers in New York the most gratuitous attempt at 9/11 symbolism since the fire-fighter moment in the other company's first mini (in fact, this seems like deleted scenes from that battle). To a certain extent perhaps this doesn't matter. Despite IDW assurances this is for "everyone" this is blatantly aimed entirely at new readers who haven't read or seen any Transformers media in twenty years. However, the one bit of G1 fiction anyone even vaguely aware of the brand will be familiar with is the film, which shows the Decepticons inflicting real damage and has Prime dead on a table. So what's new and exciting for them? Why devote a year to his when you can pick up the film from your local supermarket bargain bin for less than the cost of this issue?

Guido is a artist who is often exceptional (see Galvatron for a example of him at his best), but one thing he seemingly can't do is be better than the material he's given (and see Hearts of Steel for a good example of that). The battle scenes are confused and bitty with characters appearing and disappearing, and the overtly cartoony art detracts from what seems to be trying to be a fairly "dark" sequence of destruction in New York. Hasbro's insistence on removing the blood was actually the right one as it jars badly with the rest of the style. The entire issue feels like a widescreen film that's been badly pan-and-scanned for TV.

The advance publicity push (and don't be fooled by the claims McCarthy is some sort of major talent, he's a minor Batman hack) means this issue sold better than anything else IDW have done since the film came out, and indeed at the time of writing looks likely to be the first issue the company has done that is going to be reprinted. The soulless, creatively bankrupt mess that the issue is leaves me very doubtful this will continue far after issue 2, and the company have no one else but themselves to blame. Even if the next 11 issues are all a huge improvement this was the one that mattered. The half cube rating is solely for Scrapper's "we come in peace" gag.

Notes

And all change. This comic was born out of the desire to have a big "event" to boost sales. Shane McCarthy, a writer who's most notable writing credits are a handful of Batman issues, approached the company with the idea which was taken up as the main storyline in the year leading up into the second film's release. Though it [in theory anyway, it's hard to tell for sure at this time] is part of the previously established continuity the title is designed to be as standalone as possible to be accessible to new readers. As such various previously important things in the IDWverse (Super Energon, facsimiles and so on) are being left behind at this stage.

An upshot of all this is that the arc that Furman had been writing for the company had to be wrapped up much faster, resulting in the Revelation and Maximum Dinobots titles. As these are being published concurrently with All Hail Megatron it's not yet 100% clear how certain things are going to fit together, what's going to be explained here in flashbacks in this title and what's going to be covered by Furman and what is a plain old continuity mistake. This is going to make writing the reviews lots of fun, but until how things do (or don't) tie together becomes clearer the changes are just going to be listed as dispassionately as possible for now.

Main new events since the currently published Furman stuff:

The Constructicons are on Earth under Megatron's command, dialogue makes it clear they've only recently arrived [No indication if they're combiners or not]. Soundwave (with Laserbeak) and the Insecticons are also now on the team;

Despite the implication of Devastation most human civilians (and more problematically the military, see Goofs) are unaware of the giant alien fighting robots;

Starscream is back full time as Megatron's second in command (something he hasn't really been up till this point in the IDWverse, he was a lowly field commander bitter at being moved sideways by Megatron); their relationship now basically what it was in the cartoon;

Sunstreaker is back with the Autobots. Apparently he is no longer a Headmaster though there's nothing to confirm or deny that here. Mirage, Trailbreaker, Tracks, Sideswipe and Cliffjumper are now also with Prime's team as well. It also looks as if Jazz now outranks Prowl;

All the Autobots who we've never seen on Earth have Terran alt modes suggesting they've been to the planet at some point [impossible to say if Spotlight: Mirage has occurred yet];

The Autobots are back on Cybertron. McCarthy has said the planet is still uninhabitable so presumably a forcefield arrangement as seen in Spotlight: Galvatron is in effect;

Optimus is critically wounded on a table.

In addition to this, several characters have new alternate mode: The Seekers now turn into F-15's (based on the Masterpiece Starscream toy), the Insecticons have more insect like bodies, Prowl and the Autobot brothers are in their Classic toy designs and Cliffjumper, bizarrely, has an Earthmode based on the Alternator/Kiss Players Hot Rod toy.

The issue opens with a three panel recap of the basic story so far, the final panel of which shows the Earth based Transformers (thankfully in their previous bodies) facing off against each other. This doesn't seem to to be based on any previously seen events, but it's hard to tell if this is supposed to be a event between Revelation and AHM or is just something that looks cool. The recap is based on a similar one in the first issue of All Star Superman.

The "One Year Later" concept is one DC have recently used across their main Universe titles (ironically the last Batman story set before the time jump was written by Shaun McCarthy). Though it might be more pertinent to note that it's becoming increasingly common for American TV shows to have longer than real time gaps between seasons, Alias being a trend setter in this regard but 24 doing it pretty much every year.

Times Square contains shops for Takaratomy (in real life the name of the joint company hasn't been adopted outside of Japan) and Hasbro. There are also a few real logos on display (such as Virgin). Long Haul has the registration LNG-HL.

Megatron quotes his first line from the film ("I AM MEGATRON!" ...coming not long after the season 4 final of Doctor Who, I half expected Starscream to reply with "Yes, we know who you are".)

The moment where Skywarp is seen to Transform from the POV of a F22 cockpit is strangely like a scene in the first Devil's Due GI Joe Vs. The Transformers crossover.

The credits for the issue (and all the IDW titles released in this month) are at the back rather than their usual front place due to a requirement to run a advert for the first Transformers: Animated DVD.

There are a few minor details that are different between this and the preview version in Focus On Decepticons -- some blood in the destruction scenes has been removed and Megatron and Starscream have different lines when they first meet.

Goofs

The people who nearly get run over by Long Haul must be blind not to have seen the large green truck driving fast towards them. They again, the New York locals are stupid enough to think Hollywood would actually build giant robots for a film rather than just CGIing them.

Whilst it's not impossible there was some sort of huge cover up following Devastation that means the general population are unaware the aliens are amongst them, the US Government should still know, and the pilots should have been briefed (and it's not as if they were scrambled suddenly, they had enough time for a group hug beforehand).

The daftly named DJ has one of those stupid little chin beard bum fluff things, against USAF regulations.

Bad page layout and/or scripting makes it seem as if several of the Decepticons (Soundwave, Blitzwing, Astrotrain and the Insecticons) appear out of nowhere. Some of them then disappear for the odd group shot.

The USAF pilots are shocked when the F-15s turn into robots, which means they missed Starscream and co changing into jets in the first place despite it happening right in front of them.

More of a conceptual problem than a plot goof: there may well be a good simple reason for several of the Autobots having new alt modes (and as yet we don't know how easy it is for them to change in IDWland), but within the context of this issue the attempt to portray them as defeated and desperate is completely undone by half of them having shiny new bodies to play with.

Quote/Unquote

Scrapper: Human creatures of Earth, we come in peace. We come to preach the message of unity, co-operation and goodwill between our races, ours is a message of kindness.
Scrapper and Hook: HAHAHHAHA!

Mixmaster: The creatures' building materials are strange, everything seems weak, soft.

Andy: DJ! Hold up. Thanks for rallying the troops back there man. you always know just what to say.
DJ: Don't worry. Have I shown you the boat I bought for my retirement in two days? It's called the Live4Ever. [Part of this may be lies.]

DJ: The jets... they're those things! They change into those machines on the ground! I can't- I'm... I'm gonna have to ride this one in, sorry man!

 
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