OTHER TRANSFORMERS BOOKS AND SERIES
Transformers Legends Anthology
Reviewed by Blackjack
In late 2004, with the new cartoon series Armada and Dreamwave having just picked up the publishing rights for the Transformers license, ibooks released a small anthology of short Transformers text stories from multiple continuities. While there are some gems here, and some text stories written by old-timers like Simon Furman and Bob Skir, the majority of the stories were written by new authors with varying degrees of success. Transformers Legends is now out of print, and it is really hard getting a copy of it, even online – it fetches easily four times its price on eBay!
I’ll be treating this as a ‘collected stories’ book and shortly review each story before reviewing the whole thing.
The first story we are treated to is ‘A Meeting of Minds’, a story written by long-time Transformers scribe Simon Furman, set in the highly popular Beast Wars series. It is an attempt to tie up some loose ends, namely whatever happened between G1 Megatron and BW Megatron when the latter took the former’s spark into his own body. With the two trying to take over each other’s mind, a small plot has also been injected, making it worthwile to read. It has Furman’s penchant for drama and overblown dialogue, but while it is a treat, newer fans might have some trouble understanding the set-up. Of course, only a more experienced fan, so to speak, would even know of the existence of this anthology, so it’s not such a big harm. It’s a nice enough story that fitted between the gaps of the episodes of Beast Wars, although it is kind of confusing which ‘Megatron’ Furman is referring to at times.
The second story is ‘Collect and Save’ by Tim Waggoner, a short story (even by the standards of this book) set on the planet of Junk from the original G1 cartoon. Basically a bunch of aliens called Recyclons land on the planet of Junk, and our heroes drive them away and kill them. It’s a nice piece for the oft-overlooked Junkions, although I wished that the writer would focus more on the Junkions’ culture than the banal Recyclons.
Next up we have ‘Paddles’ by Jean Rabe, a story revolving on the ‘sixth Dinobot’. Yes, you read that right – the sixth Dinobot. Basically the writer (who can’t get his facts straight, and considers that there are only three other Dinobots other than Paddles) wants us to believe that there is another Dinobot that had been left to die during a battle and forgotten about. It is a silly and overlong (and slightly uncomfortable) story that doesn’t merit reading.
‘Redemption Center’ (by Alexander B. Potter), however, is exactly what a short story should be. A small episode involving a character that delves into a character’s persona, before returning things to their status quo. This one could take place in either the cartoon or original comic continuity, and it had Starscream play the good guy for a little while. It’s not exactly original, but it’s so charmingly written and there’s a bit of clever writing thrown in.
The next story is from Armada, namely ‘Something Robotic This Way Comes’. It carries with it the over-juvenile tone of the cartoon aimed for five-year-old kids, and explores the Minicons as they discover Halloween. The least said about this story the better. It’s just so dull.
‘Two for the Price of One’, by Brandie Tarvin, sets the spotlight on the antics of Decepticon salesman Swindle, presumably set in the G1 cartoon continuity. While a great story with a great set-up, it is marred by having way too many bland human characters, and telling it mainly from a random general’s point of view instead of from a Transformer’s. Not exactly the best way to tell a Transformers story. Also, they totally butchered Abdul Fakkadi’s name.
‘Joyride’, by Jenifer A. Ruth, is another story set in a generic G1 continuity where Bumblebee teaches two carjackers a lesson. It’s hardly original, and gets tired after quite some time. It’s not the best story in the bunch, but hardly the worst.
The next story, ‘Lonesome Diesel’, by David Bischoff, however, is the result of a new writer being inducted to Transformer lore for the first time. It revolves around a Minicon named QuickFire (with the ‘Fire’ being capitalized, a la many badly-named fanmade characters out there) making friends with an old man. While seemingly based on the Armada cartoon, the setting of the story is a hodgepodge of elements scavenged from the ‘Ultimate Guide’ book. For instance, nearly every location on Cybertron mentioned in the book is copied, while QuickFire quotes the Decepticon lieutenants as Starscream, Skywarp and Shockwave, the Decepticons that are given in the ‘Decepticons’ section of the Ultimate Guide… except that they were in the G1 continuity. The writer also seems to misunderstand the whole Minicons are partners to larger Transformers thing, making the read a boring chore. And the fact that QuickFire is implied to want to make love to the guy’s truck is unsettling to say the least.
‘Prime Spark’ is a semi-humorous and semi-serious story. Written by Sean P. Fodera, it explores the time when Armada Optimus Prime got killed, and he finds himself in Maccadams. While there, he meets up with the ghosts of Primal (Optimus Primal from Season One), Optimal (Optimus Primal from Beast Machines) and Prime (G1 Optimus Prime), and the four have a nice little chat while drinking. It’s much silliness, and it’s kind of fun to read.
‘Parts’, by Donald J. Bingle, revolves around a guy named Geosensus, who apparently is someone that is part of the first Ark crew. It reads like a fanfic revolving around one of those ‘part of the original group’ fanmade character’s origin. The only good part of this story is the Prowl and Optimus Prime moment, where Prowl tells Prime that they had to cover up Geosensus’ death to prevent the Autobots from doubting Prime. Cold.
‘Healers, Fighters and Transformers’ by J. Steven York, is a charming story set in the G1 cartoon continuity where Ratchet and a handicapped military medic had to work together to try and operate on a woman whilst trying to deliver a Sky Spy to stop Megatron’s weather machine weapon. It’s a charming story that revolves around medics, and a nice, satisfying read.
‘Fire in the Dark’, by John Helfers, is another disaster brought up by mixed-up research. It is a hodgepodge of Beast Wars and Armada continuity, with Beast Wars apparently taking place before Armada. Since the characters that appeared are all featured quite prominently in the Ultimate Guide, it’s a safe bet that the author is another lazy researcher. A pity, because the bits where the protohumans considered the Beast Warriors as gods and that similar events might have happened all over the world's past is a nice concept.
The book closes with ‘Singularity Ablyss’ by Bob Skir, one of the people behind the awesomeness that is Beast Wars and Beast Machines. Basically it’s a fantastic story revolving around Megatron’s spark-searching between the final few episodes of Beast Machines, redefining Megatron’s cruelty as Rhinox leads him through the afterlife. It ends with Megatron killing of Rhinox for a second time, basically erasing his spark from the Well of AllSparks, making Rhinox deader than dead. While I dislike the idea of Rhinox being killed, it’s a great story. Megatron's monologue is simply fantastic, and, hell, the whole thing is just a joy to read. Villains have seldom been explored as such, and it's a shame that so very few characters experience the same depth that is given to Megatron here. It's small wonder, then, that Beast Wars is so great with people like Bob Skir working on it.
So, overall? Several great stories, and several disasters, with the rest neatly mediocre. Most of the stories, no matter how good, are several pages overlong, and suffer from over-focusing on keeping the audience ‘amazed’ as they are introduced to Transformers for the first time. Only the Furman and Skir-penned stories, as well as the Geosensus story and ‘Prime Spark’ do not try to let the audience think that they are meeting the Transformers for the first time. Still, while there are some nice stories here it’s not really work the time and effort of tracking down. It is that hard to find.