CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
Transformers Bumblebee #1: the Hanging Sword
Reviewed by Blackjack
'Respectful'. Come on. It's just Bumblebee, for Spark's sake...
Dull. For what it's worth, like the ongoing, credit must be given to the pretty decent dialogue. Skywarp shows promise... it's nice to see him given monologue after being left in the background for far too long. The scene with 'Bee and Ratchet early on is well-scripted, and it's nice to see that we get to know about the main character from the very first issue (unlike Megatron in AHM). However, the art isn't good at all. The colourist seems to be using colours of the light gradient almost exclusively, and block colouring is very rampant in this issue. Unlike, say Wildman or Senior, Chee doesn't leave sharp pencils for the colourist to recognize the character. See if you can identify anyone standing behind Bluestreak and Wheeljack in the crowd scene. Or see if you can identify the Autobots running to catch Frenzy. In fact, anything at the background looks like the artist couldn't be bothered to draw it properly, a fact made worse by the lack of an inker. It's a stark contrast to the sharp IDW art we've seen so far. I understand that the artist is trying to go for mellowness, but it's not to my tastes.
What's more jarring than the half-arsed art is the characterization. While Wheeljack's dialogue is well-scripted, it doesn't change the fact that he was a jovial wise-cracking inventor in the Furmanverse series, and had some friendly camaraderie with Bumblebee in AHM. Heck, even in Ongoing #2 Wheeljack is still on good terms with Bumblebee. Zander turns him into Prowl to complement Bumblebee's Grimlock (well, vice versa, but you get the general idea). I suppose it's the same reason why they decided to stick with G1 Bumblebee's design although all the other comics are using the IDW redesign with the hood of the VW on the chest. It's frankly irritating and a show of piss-poor editing on IDW's part, like so many character changes in AHM and the Costa stories. Thankfully, Frenzy and Ratchet retain their previous characterizations, and Omega speaks normally again. There are several pages where dialogue could be trimmed down. The nine-frame pages filled to the brim with dull conversation are what I call superfluous, even worse than Costa's Prime-and-Spike sessions. It's as if Zander Cannon decided to cram as much dialogue inside. There are so much banal crap in the dialogue that could've been deleted in favour of more interesting scenes.
The biggest and most prominent problem is Zander Cannon's idea of using a human villain. You never believe for a second that the Colonel wouldn't doublecross the Autobots, and the sheer stupidity Bumblebee displays with the badges are unrealistic, even if it's meant to show his inexperience. Heck, you get badges from a guy who's part of a group that just captured Prowl and killed Ironhide, so what do you do? You distribute them to every single Autobot. The Colonel is as dull as Lazarus, General Hallo, the Initiative, or any of the Armada brats. The main problem with IDW (and early Dreamwave) is that they use the bloody humans as the main villain here. For a comic who screams 'TRANSFORMERS!' you'd think the Decepticons would be featured more. The idea of a shifty backstabbing human organization controlling transformers isn't even original. Marvel, Dreamwave... heck, even IDW's first Skywatch even tried (and failed) to control the Cassettes and Dinobots in a miniseries, what, one and a half year ago? Honestly, is it so hard to come up with a new idea?
Worse, for a miniseries that's supposed to tie in with the Ongoing, it has more plot holes than the already not-stellar ongoing. What happened with Wheeljack's counter-inhibitors? Why is Cliffjumper an emo blabbermouth instead of a slightly-angry trigger-happy guy? With three more issues down the road, let's see how well this team could progress...
Optimus Prime's surrender to Skywatch happened in issue one of the ongoing. Hot Rod's desertion of the Autobots happened in issue two of the ongoing, as did Bumblebee's rise as the Autobot leader and Ultra Magnus' visit. Blurr running away from Skywatch agents happened in issue three.
The Decepticons captured by Skywatch/Autobots are Cindersaur, Gutcruncher, Axer, Squawkbox and Frenzy. Frenzy was last seen in AHM, Gutcruncher and Axer were among Banzaitron's secret service in Revelations, while Squawkbox was last seen in Spotlight: Sixshot. I'll be kind and assume they're unseen troops during the AHM series, like Thrust.
A very Bluestreak-esque robot is among the crowd looking at Bumblebee. While this is probably Smokescreen, there's nothing to say that Bluestreak and Silverstreak (who left the Autobots in Ongoing #2) aren't two separate guys...
Bumblebee being a leader was last visited by Dreamwave comics' ongoing before they went bankrupt. And, if I may say so, they handled it better than this mini-series does... and when Dreamwave handles things better...
The title is a reference to the Greek myth of Damocles.
For the entire mini-series, Bumblebee is in his G1 Sunbow character model body, instead of his IDW design. This is especially jarring when compared with the art in the ongoing. It's not just Don's movie-ized thing either- ongoing's Bumblebee is still in his IDW design, albeit Donizized. The parts arrangement in the ongoing is still the same with the updated Bumblebee we had throughout IDW's output, namely with the front of the VW bug forming his chest instead of his legs. Anyone hear about consistency much?
So... the Autobots have faced off against evil human organisations like Machination and the first Skywatch. Why is Bumblebee so eager to put on the badges? And why put it on everybody? Surely they're not that
stupid as to hand out the badges to every single Autobot. Just imagine Omega Supreme stuck in the cave, wearing that badge.
Wheeljack hates Bumblebee when the two are chums during AHM. Wheeljack doesn't even act hostile in Ongoing #2 when he announces the victor.
Soundwave left Earth three years ago. Surely he'll remember if Frenzy was left behind? Even if you think this is possible, Frenzy was briefly glimpsed with the main Decepticon army in AHM Coda #13.
Why did Frenzy suddenly transform into cassette mode when the Autobots approach him?
Bumblebee: "I mean, is it too late to turn down this job?"
Wheeljack: "Well, you just listen all the reasons no one else would take it, so yeah, I think it's too late."
Bumblebee: (on himself) "...And weak, and slow, and small..."
Ratchet: "Well, it's not hard to be brave when you're as big as Optimus Prime, or as fast as Hot Rod. But Prime's made a decision that's too big and Hot Rod's made one too fast."
Colonel Gordon: "Hello! Er... Bumblebee Prime, is it?"
Bumblebee: "Ah... no. No, just Bumblebee, colonel. Just Bumblebee's fine."
Colonel Gordon: "Now, I have to say, from Wheeljack's description, I expected a Japanese car. I mean, you know... small, compact, fuel efficient-"
Bumblebee: "Well, ah... no, I guess I'm a German design. But... he- he said that about me?"
Bumblebee: "His name is Blurr. He's one of us. Err- I mean, he left this group, but he's- he's a good guy."
Colonel Gordon: "Excellent. It should be easy for you to convince him to turn himself over to us then."