CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
Transformers Regeneration One #100
Reviewed by Blackjack
Having double the content of a normal Regeneration One issue, this issue contains several extra features: the ‘King of Shadows’ short prose story (covered in a separate review), some lineart and scrip extracts, a couple of pin-ups, a complete cover gallery of the US Marvel series and Regeneration One, a farewell letter from Andrew Wildman, another one from John-Paul Bove and finally from Simon Furman.
The Guido Guidi cover homages the cover of the first Transformers comic, though replaces Laserbeak with Swoop, Gears with Kup, Earth with Cybertron and the father-and-son Witwicky with Spike.
Those killed by the Shadow-leeches (Hosehead, Slingshot, Streetwise, Tailgate) are turned gray as they are deactivated, which is an indication of death in the original cartoon. Primus’ head also turns completely gray as the Anti-Matrix disappears, signaling the death of the parasitic creature. While Optimus Prime doesn’t completely turn gray, his vibrant red and blue noticeably dulls in the panel of his death again as a homage to the 1986 Movie.
Blaster has the ability to create a sonic bubble.
Basically everyone one left on Cybertron has been turned into Shadow Leeches, so anyone not with Team Rodimus for the past three issues and this one is basically dead. Those that can be confirmed to be alive at the end of the Anti-Matrix saga include Rodimus, Shockwave, Starscream, Ravage, Grimlock, Slag, Swoop, Snarl, Blaster, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Roadbuster, Whirl, Topspin, Broadside, Sandstorm, Rack’n’Ruin, Bumblebee, Jazz, Mirage, Prowl, Wheeljack, Perceptor, Jetfire, Nightbeat, Red Alert, Blurr, Hardhead, Highbrow, Chromedome and Backstreet. All these have either shown up on crowd scenes as the Autobots escape the Hub (some people like Getaway seem to not make it out) and aren’t seen to be killed by Shadow Leeches.
Grimlock claims that he has ‘the Touch’ while slicing through Demons, named after the iconic song from TFTM. Rodimus Prime also repeats the oft-quoted ‘light our darkest hour’ with the Sword of Primus. Optimus Prime’s dying line, ‘do not grieve’, is lifted from his death scene in TFTM.
The Shadow-leeches seem to be based on G2’s Swarm visually if not by origin, as greenish-black clouds that can kill anything on touch. The death-touch ability is shared by the inhabitants of the Dead Universe.
Sludge is absent throughout the entire issue. Did he actually die in #97 and his appearance in the group shot last issue is an error? Or did he die because he wasn’t standing close enough to Grimlock?
The alternate universe transformers seen through Zero Space include Gas Skunk (from Robots in Disguise), Blackarachnia (from Beast Wars), Jetstorm (from Animated), what appears to be Leobreaker (from Cybertron) and Starscream (from Prime). As Rodimus summons his alternate-universe counterparts it seems like we are shown a glimpse of the Transformers: Animated episode ‘Transwarped’, where that universe’s Rodimus Prime is fighting on an asteroid.
As he attacks the Shadow-leeches in the Star Chamber, Grimlock’s sword makes the ‘Zarak’ sound effect.
The Anti-Matrix claims to have been recalled to Cybertron alongside the rest of the Transformers in #73 (Out of Time) and possessed one of the Unicron cultists accosting Optimus Prime. Apparently it’s been feeding on the sparks of the underground (the corpses are seen in #93 by Hot Rod), and claims responsibility for driving the Demons to attack living creatures in Transformers #76 (Still Life). Runabout’s death at the stinger for #75 is recreated here. Apparently by feeding on spark energy the Anti-Matrix manages to make the planet unstable up until the Last Autobot’s arrival, causing all the earthquakes and stuff from Transformers #77 (Exodus). It also claims responsibility for whispering into Soundwave’s ears and causing him to begin an uprising in Regeneration One #80.5 leading to the death of the Last Autobot, as well as Galvatron’s awakening in #85. It also took credit for fanning Scorponok’s pursuit of the Gene Key, sorta tying in into the random motion of him trying to further Primus’ plan. The Anti-Matrix possessed Grimlock, pretending to be Primus, in #93-94. Also basically anytime Primus speaks in this series (other than Hot Rod’s Covenant-given vision about the Demons) it’s the Anti-Matrix.
Soundwave is coloured in his Marvel purple in the flashbacks here as well as flashbacks in #80.5, meaning that his blue colour is an actual in-universe change instead of artistic choices.
The three Optimus Primes represent Optimus Prime’s three bodies throughout the Marvel continuity: his original body, his Powermaster body and his current Action-Master-based body which can be distinguished by the wounds on the chest.
The army of Rodimuses is first seen in #93. On the first panel, from left to right are Excellion (Hot Rod-themed redeco of Hot Shot from Transformers Cybertron), Animated Rodimus Prime, what I think is the unreleased Japanese toy, IDW Rodimus (based on his MTMTE body), Alternators Rodimus and Classics Rodimus.
The Anti-Matrix creature, in one of his ramblings, quotes the final words of the mysterious Liege Maximo at the end of Generation 2, ‘evil… is infinite’. Considering the two have similar designs as dark-green horned ultimate-evil entities, well…
As Rodimus destroys the crack, he says “I am Alpha. I am Omega. I am the beginning and the end.” It’s a biblical-based quote that has appeared in the episode ‘Nemesis, part 2’ of the Beast Wars cartoon, where it’s part of the Transformers’ version of the bible, the Covenant of Primus.
Throughout the issue we’ve got several mentions of ‘but it never ends’, with the truncated phrase forming the last words of Regeneration One. The phrase is one of Simon Furman’s often repeated Furmanisms and is one he often uses while talking about the Transformers franchise as well.
The details of how Ravage ended up with Starscream and Shockwave is detailed in the prose story ‘King of Shadows’.
The first of the new generation that emerges from the Demon cocoons resembles Beast Machines Botanica.
Iguanus died in ‘King Con’, so he can’t really be turned into a Shadow-leech.
Scattershot’s gun is found on Cybertron and it’s pretty specific it belongs to him, meaning he was turned into a shadow leech. However, he was part of one of the strike teams from two issues ago, making either that or this appearance an error.
Despite being shown to have their chest burst apart as they are pierced by the Shadow-leeches, Hosehead and Slingshot’s chests are intact when Nightbeat points at their corpses.
In the Star Chamber the number of Autobots inexplicably grows to nearly fifty, even though throughout the story only around ten to twenty Autobots can be glimpsed.
Between the Geoff Senior and Guido Guidi bits the Anti-Matrix creature changes its shape. While not inconceivable for it to transform, Guido Guidi draws the Anti-Matrix as it is traditionally drawn with horns and a slightly-detached skull head, while Geoff Senior draws it as being more heavily-built and having a traditional head, almost seeming like a dark version of Rodimus himself.
As Rodimus is transported into Zero Space, the Sword and the Covenant disappear and reappear randomly as they are needed.
If the Anti-Matrix wants to manipulate Rodimus into going off into space and bother Jhiaxus, why show Rodimus its origin as part of the Creation Matrix that possessed Deathbringer? Or Spike? It is nice foreshadowing, but one that doesn’t particularly make sense in the context. Practically everything else either fed him through the power of hate™ and basically causes conflict, but revealing those two tidbits made no sense and if anything helps Rodimus connect the dots faster.
Why can’t the Anti-Matrix turn everyone else other than Rodimus and Grimlock into Shadow-leeches? Rodimus ends up going to Zero Space and Grimlock leaves the group to hold off the existing ones, so why didn’t it come and either possess them and/or turn them?
While the two other Optimus Primes might just be random constructs, it’s never explained where ‘our’ Optimus Prime came from. We last see him being operated by Blackrock, and the humans don’t act as if he has been abducted by anything, so how did the Anti-Matrix take over Optimus Prime and transport him into Zero Space?
For that matter, how did the Anti-Matrix transport Hot Rod into another universe to obtain a Matrix when he claims he needs the ‘trinity’ and a Matrix to breach the multiverseal walls?
Ultra Magnus has a small army of Autobots with him, and none of them saw the gigantic Fortress Maximus approaching? And none of them sees the army of humans and other Autobots?
What happened to the Shadow-leeches is never resolved. A good amount seem to be killed by Grimlock while holding them off, but whether they were all exterminated or just disappeared after the Anti-Matrix is gone is never told.
”When first we met, you threw down a gauntlet. Insisting that somehow, you and I are destined to fight again and again and again. Win or lose. Live or die. Well, no more. It's over...finished!”
I’m going to talk about the things that are flat-out horrible. Fortress Maximus? For all the buildup, he shows up for all of one panel to get randomly put down by Kup. Again, it feels like a wholly unnecessary addition to the plot since he adds nothing to it. Galvatron, while probably needed to scourge Nebulos as a plot device, ends up getting a very anti-climatic end to his character and his rivalry with Ultra Magnus. He’s just rampaging like a mad dog before Ultra Magnus literally just comes, punches him and crushes his head. The fight ends completely without tension and it’s just blah. Likewise, the inclusion of Linda Chang and practically everything on Earth serves as a massive random distraction that goes nowhere. They could’ve dealt with Fortress Maximus rampaging there or something, but no. The Rodimus army and the three Optimus Primes also do absolutely nothing but act as a distraction and that ‘oh snap’ factor, but all it manages to do is to take up space and generally distract me when one of the Optimuses brought into play by Bob the Anti-Matrix is, in fact, the real Optimus Prime.
Optimus Prime himself gets a really bad showing throughout the entire series, that I really wonder if his death would be better served being in a mutual kill with Megatron back in the first arc, because save from brokering the Space Bridge with the humans (which ends up furthering the Anti-Matrix’s agenda) Optimus Prime does jack shit throughout the issue other than some talks with Spike which really could be filled by any other Autobot. His only contribution here is to act as a puppet before giving Rodimus an Obi-Wan speech. It’s certainly something that could’ve been worked in if Optimus is dead and a revived ghost, which in my opinion would actually be more dramatic. The fact that he randomly moves from Earth to Zero Space with no explanation (Roadbuster asking Linda Chang ‘where is Optimus Prime’ gets ignored by the issue itself) only adds to it. And Optimus Prime’s death really falls flat, just a little afterthought and him just randomly quoting TFTM again.
Also not a big fan on how inconsistent the Anti-Matrix’s plans are. While his recap is pretty nice and seems well thought-out to connect the dots, and dangling the Sword and Covenant is a nice way for Rodimus to subvert the entity’s plans by doing the right thing… it’s never really explained why the plan to abduct Spike seems to hinge on Optimus Prime’s idea of building a Space Bridge… which, to recap, was entirely Optimus’ idea and not a Primus-given vision or whatever. I do like the idea of it posing as Primus, screwing everyone over with visions that they blindly follow, and the idea that the Anti-Matrix wants to invade the multiverse. Not so much the explanation that they are cut off from Primus’ grand plan by severing their ties with the multiverse, though that’s just my personal aversion to the multiversal singularity things that don’t make sense. Most of the things that led to the Anti-Matrix’s revival seems to be mostly coincidence, and hinges so much on things that could go wrong randomly. His death is also rather anticlimactic, with the Rodimus and Optimus armies doing basically nothing and Rodimus hitting Zero Space… and it somehow kills him? The final confrontation between Rodimus and the Anti-Matrix after the monologue ends up being very clunky and the Anti-Matrix turns from this intelligent master manipulator to just screaming ‘ATTACK! ATTACK!’ and ‘NOOOO!’
There’s also the problem of it wanting to infect the multiverse, which doesn’t work to increase tension at all because this is the last issue of a dying series and you’re not going to see this creature show up randomly in, say, Animated or Armada or Beast Wars. It works in Fan Club comics because they have their own invented universes they can play around with, but here? No.
The idea of Shockwave and Starscream suddenly becoming good is also pretty idiotic. They did absolutely nothing that progresses their character throughout the series. Starscream spends half of it as a barely-literate lobotomized zombie that is only trying to survive, and the other half as possessed as the Underbase. The only scene where he really is Starscream was when he plotted to take over Galvatron, and that’s still pretty evil. Shockwave? Shockwave did jack shit, just asking questions and generally being mister exposition until suddenly he discovers emotion out of nowhere and rescues Starscream last issue and making the fangirls go wild. They randomly turn good and it’s just infuriating because it seems that Furman just doesn’t know what to do with them. We could’ve condensed the Megatron and Scorponok arcs and have the two of them be villains of another arc, but no, they become good out of nowhere.
Also, Spike. For the love of shit, do we really need him around? He takes up so much space, it’s never really explained how torturing him mentally makes the rift grow wider – Galvatron scourging Nebulos and generally causing chaos at least sorta makes sense – but beyond vague trinity stuff it doesn’t really make sense. Spike ends up being a plot device that really distracts and suddenly goes all ‘oh yes, I am good guy now and I won’t cry.’ The alternative to that poorly-written Spike regaining his senses would be to see a lot more of Spike, though, so I suppose it could be worse. The whole thing feels stupid, though. Surely Fortress Maximus would be the perfect trinity, having been joined to both a Nebulan and human? Granted Fort Max hasn’t been a proper character at all, whereas Spike has been a constant throughout the issue, but the whole thing just doesn’t make sense, and Spike’s acceptance of his role (but his bigotry is never addressed) feels just clunky and unnecessary.
I highly enjoy Rodimus throughout the issue and indeed throughout the series, though. While it’s clunky, his character arc taking up responsibility and braving through his insecurities and visions, acknowledging that he caused everything because he is so easily manipulated, only to find out that they are manipulated and finally taking the difficult choice of severing their immortality, and finally as an old man recognizes that despite all their mistakes and sacrifices at least they manage to do good in the world before collapsing to the ground. It’s wordy and is done in Furman’s normal super-wordy way, but it’s still rather enjoyable to see Rodimus’ growth throughout this issue and indeed this series. Rodimus is a lot more likable than the Optimus here, who caused an apocalypse thanks to not doing anything and ends up doing absolutely nothing afterwards but angsting and dying again.
Grimlock also shows up – of course he survives – and somehow gains the immunity against the Shadow-leeches. I personally found his inclusion not as obnoxious as it should, and found him just chopping stuff up pretty entertaining. He basically disappears about halfway through, though. Kup also only shows up to be the only Autobot who is crazy enough to mercy-kill one of their own, Ultra Magnus shows up to put Galvatron down like the mad dog he is, Roadbuster to talk to the humans and Jetfire to grab the sword. The entire issue is basically just Rodimus confronting the Anti-Matrix, though throughout Regeneration One no secondary character really gets to do anything in the climax anyway, so it’s at least familiar territory.
The idea that everyone on Cybertron just dies off-screen is rather stupid on first glance, and this includes everyone like Bludgeon, Soundwave… hell, basically anyone who’s not from the cartoon and not a Wrecker dies. But considering Furman’s burn-the-earth-and-salt-the-ground, burn-all-bridges take on this finale, basically killing everyone off by old age in the Rodimus epilogue, it actually feels appropriate. I still wish they used Bludgeon or Soundwave or Sludge or someone we will recognize and be surprised as as the one Perceptor identifies instead of Iguanus, who feels like a completely random choice. Bludgeon being a Shadow-leech would actually be good, as it would be a karmic and appropriate punishment to be turned into an undeath creature after his whole ‘I want a glorious death’ thing.
The Shadow-leeches themselves seem to be another revisit of Furman’s favourite ‘dark entity that can kill with a single touch’ and certainly more than visually resembles the Swarm, and while a lot of questions regarding what exactly happens to the Shadow-leeches remain unanswered. It feels a little tired out, though the idea of all of Cybertron getting corrupted is certainly a nice one and the fact that they didn’t manage to repair the damage done to it (unlike the endings of the original G1 and G2 comics) is certainly a nice variation.
The Anti-Matrix is just connecting the dots of every evil thing that has happened throughout the final stages of Marvel G1 and Regeneration One, and while it’s not perfect it’s certainly made rereading and reviewing the series somewhat less boring as I go ‘ah, that is part of the evil thing’s plan’. It’s not a particularly foolproof plan and there are a lot of plot holes, but at least there is some planning involved and it’s not completely pulled out of Furman’s ass.
The Demons, basically ignored after turning into cocoons, end up basically hibernating until millions of years later where they emerge as the new generation. I’m perfectly neutral about this – it’s not what I expected what the Demons would be doing, and on my first few readings I missed the fact that ‘Botanica’ emerged from a Demon’s cocoon and thought they were just ignored, but it’s a nice little concept.
The art is pretty good as well, though not particularly spectacular. Andrew Wildman returns for the finale, drawing the first third, and for once seems to be at the top of his game. Other than the rather odd-looking face of Rodimus illuminated by the Sword, his art really looks pretty nice, unlike the rushed feeling of his past work in Regeneration One. Geoff Senior takes the middle part, and while his style clashes somewhat with Wildman and Guidi-imitating-Wildman, it isn’t so bad as to distract. Highlights include the rather horrifying picture of Sparkplug’s face melting off to show a skull, Galvatron blowing up Nebulos, the flashbacks and the sketchy, abstract take on the Anti-Matrix creature in general. However, there are some spots where Rodimus feels unfinished, and the inconsistency between Senior and Guidi’s art regarding the Anti-Matrix feels odd. Senior also drops the ball completely drawing the alternate-universe Transformers – Leobreaker and Prime Starscream in particular seem pretty badly drawn. Guidi’s art is pretty impressive as well, though I’m not a big fan of his take on Animated Rodimus.
Overall Rodimus’ monologue throughout this entire issue feels so melancholy, and at times I’m not quite sure if I’m reading Rodimus the character or Simon Furman the writer. There is a distinct sense of passing the torch onwards to a new generation throughout this issue, from Optimus to Rodimus and later on Rodimus to the new generation of Transformers. From Furman just wiping out the slate clean by killing off everyone, and Rodimus having to sever his universe from the multiverse to allow ‘Primus’ grand plan to create the perfect world based on the mistakes of the others’ seems to be somewhat symbolic of Simon Furman letting go of his hold on the Transformers as a writer to allow the newer generations to craft new Transformers lore based on the foundations and mistakes he’s made. The whole thing with Rodimus seems pretty evocative of Furman just facing his own Demons. The powerful Guidi image of an old, wizened Rodimus reflecting on his long life and how the fight has gone out of the Transformers, before accepting the state of things and making way to a new generation… yeah, Rodimus’ melancholic monologue near the end seems to be at least somewhat inspired by Furman’s current state of mind.
The issue’s not that good of a climax. On one hand, I do like Rodimus’ confrontation with the Anti-Matrix which feels relatively new unlike the rest of Furman’s Regeneration One plots. On the other hand, he basically ignores everything else and Spike, Magnus/Galvatron, Earth, Grimlock, the Shadow-Leeches, Fortress Maximus and even Optimus Prime all seem to just be random distractions to take up space. The climax can certainly be served better by exorcising several of them – Fortress Maximus and Earth being the most egregious, though I wouldn’t say no to Spike being exorcised as well. It could’ve used some better wrap up regarding the Shadow-Leeches in the end, though overall the melancholic tone and the finality of the ending certainly aren’t that horrible. It's just strange.
As the final issue of the series I think I need to say a couple words about Regeneration One, as rambling as the review already is. It’s certainly a hate-it-or-love-it topic among fans, with those that crucify it at the stake thanks to being perceived as the final ramblings of a has-been writer, as well as the extremely unpopular (and moronic, in my opinion) decision to ignore the UK and G2 comics… and then proceed to re-introduce those concepts. On the other side of the spectrum are those who really love the art and are sycophantic to no end to anything made by Furman. And then there’s other people who acknowledge that this certainly isn’t anything resembling a masterpiece or even a glorious alternate ending, but not as bad as what it’s perceived as. I’d like to count myself among these, and do admit that there are a few good issues throughout Regeneration One and despite Furman’s tendency to regurgitate plots there are some good ideas spread within. For all the ill he's done, for all the times I've slagged him while writing Regeneration One reviews, Furman has done a lot of good stories in the past and that feeling of farewell and general oldness certainly comes off pretty heavily throughout this finale.
Overall, though, there’s a huge sense of just checking off stories Furman never seem to be able to finish telling, either in IDW or Marvel, and the general poor quality for ending his arcs and stretching stories and truncating some, end up making this entire venture a messy one. I’ve read worse stuff, and continuing the Marvel comics certainly could be done – I would totally read something exploring the days between G1 and G2, and whatever happened after G2 – but what we got isn’t really up to snuff and is just an odd beast altogether mixing so many elements both good and bad. ‘Messy’ and ‘padded-out’ seem to describe it the best, with the Megatron arc being pretty good but taking up too much space, the Scorponok arc being horrible all around, the Bludgeon and Jhiaxus arcs having great (if regurgitated) build-ups and horrible finales, and the Anti-Matrix stuff being a nice goodbye letter if not a really good story. The side-plot of the Demons end up kind of aborted after they go up the surface only to provide a plot device to usher in a new generation, whereas Shockwave and Starscream are needless distractions that show up every time but never do anything particularly Shockwave-y or Starscream-y. Galvatron has so much potential but ends up being a massive disappointment when he has an entire issue to fight Magnus and now when he finally gets put down it is tired-out and pyrrhic instead of climactic. And, I think, that particular word sums up the entire series nicely. Overall the experience of re-reading the series for the purposes of reviewing it hasn't been entirely pleasant, but I can't say it was entirely as unpleasant as what it is in my mind either. It's certainly surplus to requirements to the established US/UK/G2 Marvel continuity, but it's there.
Still... it's over. Finished.