CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
Transformers: The Animated Movie #4 (of 4)
Reviewed by LKW
Well… and so concludes Transformers: the Movie, old school style. IDW’s fourth and final issue in this adaptation is again impressive visually, and provides a fairly accurate re-creation of the original film, with an occasional added touch here and there. If that’s what one is looking for from this issue, it should deliver pretty well for you.
The art is perhaps the most standout feature of the issue. Don Figueroa continues to deliver excellent pencils, at times largely recreating memorable shots from the movie, and in other places composing new presentations. Space restrictions force a bit of a truncation in the depiction of both Unicron’s transformation and his destruction (we don’t even get to see him rip his own leg off), but what Figueroa is able to present is very well-rendered. And the colors continue to impress, bringing both clarity and energy – it is not apparent which work was done by Josh Burcham and which was done by the assistants, a pretty fair accomplishment considering the standard of coloring quality set by the rest of the series. And, speaking of creative staff changes, series designer Neil Uyetake is able to match the lettering of Robbie Robbins without any noticeable differences.
And then there’s writer Bob Budiansky. One of the founding fathers of the Transformers story, adapting a twenty-year old work by a different creator may have seemed an odd choice for his first IDW project. But, while restricted by working within the movie’s established plot, Budiansky is also able to find the room to make his own additions and tweaks to the story, adding new lines and moments easily discernible to anyone very familiar with the original film, often improving the piece. Some new dialogue is there just to help clarify actions which may be unclear in the unmoving frames of a comic book, as when Galvatron exclaims “I -- I can’t unleash its power!” as he tries to open the Matrix to use against Unicron. And Budiansky continues to add or change dialogue to fill in readers who may have missed a previous issue. At times, this can seem somewhat obtrusive, as when he makes sure that every main character is addressed by name (though, to be fair, at least most of this issue’s examples would probably blend in nicely, if not for the bold type used for the first appearance of the names). But, Ultra Magnus’ page 2 re-cap of the loss of the Matrix actually makes sense, as none of the other Autobots witnessed it; the added detail actually would have improved the original story. Not every change works as well, though - even without the benefit of Peter Cullen’s voice speaking the words “Arise, Rodimus Prime!” I’m not sure that it was necessary to change Hot Rod/Rodimus’ awed whisper of "…Optimus!” into an exclamation of “The voice of Optimus!” (Although, it could have been worse – “The voice of Optimus Prime!” or something even more explanatory.) Other notable added dialogue adds to dead zones of the Movie, which noticeably lacked any dialogue before – Hot Rod warning the other passengers of the Quintesson ship to “Hang on!” Galvatron speaking before firing on Unicron and Unicron addressing him as he “swallows” him. I also enjoyed Wreck-Gar’s line as the Junkion ship is being crushed (spoiler warning for anyone who’d rather wait and be surprised by the line when reading the issues her/himself): “Ashes to ashes! Junk to junk!” In all, while an occasional memorable line is lost – “I knew you had potential, lad!” here (probably due to a lack of space to dedicate to a picture of Kup) – again, Budiansky adds positively to the Transformers: the Movie story.
Another change which longtime TF fans will probably appreciate, which could have been the idea of Budiansky, or Figueroa, or even editor Chris Ryall, is the addition of a little more detail to the Decepticon attack on Unicron. It’s still unclear what Cyclonus, Scourge, etc. are doing during the attack (the Unicron-given spaceship is not seen in this depiction, even), but Shockwave is in this version shown to lead the attack on Unicron himself. The story may also give a clue to Shockwave’s absence from the post-Movie seasons of the cartoon, as half his body is obscured by a blast from Unicron’s eyes, though ultimately there’s not a definitive indication if the blast was fatal. Another regular character from the series who was oddly absent from the film, Reflector, also joins in the attack here.
Speaking of characters oddly absent from the original version of the Movie, Snarl continues to be present right along with the other Dinobots. He participates in the otherwise (perhaps surprisingly) accurate depiction of the Dinobot attack on Unicron, and is prominent on the opening splash page, as Figueroa manages to give his stegosaurus face a look of saddened shock. On the other hand, Blurr fans may be disappointed by the prominence of his absence. However, while he has gotten dialogue and actions cut here and there in previous issues, his non-appearance here is in fact an accurate adaptation, actually just pointing out how completely he disappeared from the climax of the film. In both the original movie and this adaptation, Blurr is seen as Ultra Magnus awakens from his repair by the Junkions; in the film, he doesn’t show up again, at all, until the “ ‘til all are one!” speech on Cybertron. In issue #4, he is basically deprived of even that appearance – he may be one of the little dots seen by the Dinobots as the readers’ perspective of the gathering begins to pull out into the atmosphere. (What was he doing – babysitting the Planet of Junk or something?)
I would have to say that I found this issue, and the series overall, to be a pretty enjoyable read. It can’t fix the plot problems which the Movie possesses, but this series does add some nice lines of dialogue, missing characters (to some extent), and other bits, enhancing the original story. The battle against and within Unicron gets a very attractive presentation here, and the flaws in the original work don’t serve to drag things down as much as they did in the previous issue. This issue and series do an overall very good job of transferring the Transformers: the Movie story to the comic book format – certainly far, far, far better than the 1986 attempt by Marvel Comics (though the final issue of that series did at least try to explain how the Quintesson-crashed Autobots were able to track down the others, with some [heavy-handed] explanatory dialogue about tracing exhaust and calculating probable trajectories). If you don’t like the Movie, you may want to knock an Energon cube off of my ratings (maybe more if you actively hate it); and if you’re a fan of it, you might want to add a cube (unless you’ll be disappointed by the, generally minor, omissions). Personally, I’m somewhat ambivalent about the film; but I’ve found myself appreciating it more after reading IDW’s version, and have find their series to be both a good adaptation of Transformers: the (Animated) Movie, and maybe even an improvement upon it.
The Junkions have a spaceworthy ship hidden under the surface of the Planet of Junk. (Despite Wreck-Gar calling it “new, improved Junkion planet,” it does not appear that the entire planet actually becomes the ship.)
Unicron is capable of transforming from a planetoid into a gigantic orange and silver robot, with horns and a “moustache” and “goatee”. His interior has various tunnels, some spiked walls, pipes transporting water (possibly consumed from victimized planets), an automated digestive system for robotic victims, and a security system featuring long cables armed with pincers.
Unlike when he touched it in issue #2, grabbing and holding the Autobot Matrix during his fight inside of Unicron with Galvatron increases Hot Rod’s size and strength, transforming him into Rodimus Prime.
Unicron appears to be the “darkest hour” for which the Matrix is destined, as Rodimus is able to open it and unleash its power against the planet-devourer. (It is unclear whether the fact that Rodimus actually used the fingerholes in the Matrix’s handles when attempting to open it made any difference.)
The Decepticons seem to have disappeared by the end of the issue (in fact, Galvatron is the only Unicron-created robot who appears in this issue at all; it’s unclear where he left his entourage after leaving Junk.). The ending may imply that they were destroyed fighting Unicron.
Issue #4’s contribution to the “Galvatron is/is not Megatron” question leans towards the “is” side, carrying over the dialogue from the Movie’s fight with Hot Rod which suggests that Galvatron at least thinks that he is Megatron. He re-uses the “I'll crush you with my bare hands!” line, and begins a list of Autobots he’s killed with Optimus Prime.
The issue includes a two-page interview with IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall regarding the comic book prequel to the Transformers (2007) film, a six-page preview of a Star Trek: the Next Generation comic, an advertisement for Hot Topic’s exclusive 12-inch G.I. Joe figure, an ad for Alternators Optimus Prime, and a back cover ad for the Transformers: the (animated) Movie special edition DVD. This issue also moves the “Cover Checklist” to the inside of the front cover, moving the credits/recap page to page 1 of the comic itself.
And, as with every previous issue, Transformers: the Movie creators Ron Friedman, Flint Dille, and Sunbow Productions receive no credit (and/or blame, depending on your disposition) for the creation of the work being adapted in this series.
Just a handful of minor things:
There is a typo in the “The Story So Far” paragraph: “the giant, planet-eating orb know as Unicron.”
Galvatron’s appearance is different in the full-length views of him on pages 4 and 11; at the least, the red details on the front of his “kneepads” have changed from a six-sided shape into squares.
There’s a possible balloon misplacement on page 21, as Rodimus Prime tells Spike and Daniel to “Jump in!” before
saying “Autobots -- transform and roll out!” and transforming himself.
And, while several pages’ art prevents the use of page numbers, there doesn’t appear to be any reason for the absence of numbers on pages 14-15 and 20-21.