Reprinting: The Transformers #45-50, #74-77 plus ‘Victory!’ from Transformers Annual 1986 (Marvel UK)
Script by: Simon Furman
Art by: Barry Kitson [45-46, 50], Will Simpson [47, 49, 74, 77], Geoff Senior [‘Victory!’]
Pencils by: Barry Kitson , Will Simpson [75-76]
Inks by: Marc Griffiths , Dave Hine , Tim Perkins 
Colours by: Gina Hart [45, 76]‘Victory!’], Stuart Place [46-47, 49-50], Jeff Anderson , John Burns [74-75], Tony Jozwiak 
Letters by: Richard Starkings , Annie Halfacree [47-48, 50, 74-77, ‘Victory!’], Mike Scott 
Edited by: Ian Rimmer [45-50, 74-77], Shiela Cranna [‘Victory!’]
Art Assist by: Tim Perkins , Andrew Leary 
Cover to cover Dinobot action!
The initial storyline within this trade, consisting of ‘The Icarus Theory’ (#45-#46) and the eponymous ‘Dinobot-Hunt’ (#47-#50) can probably be considered Simon Furman’s first attempt at a ‘mini-epic’. ‘The Icarus Theory’ mainly concerns Swoop’s return (he was presumed killed in #32 ‘The Wrath of Grimlock’) under the mind-control of Professor Anthony Morris. ‘Icarus…’ is a direct lead-in to ‘The Dinobot-Hunt’, a four-part affair that sees small teams of Autobots attempting to capture the berserking Dinobots, in no small way hindered by Soundwave’s machinations. The postcript to ‘Dinobot Hunt’, the 1986 Annual story ‘Victory!’ is presented next, followed by another Dino-centric four-part tale, ‘In The National Interest’ (#74-#77), which introduces us to Centurion and features a Dinobot vs. Constructicon brawl!
‘The Icarus Theory’ is a strong little 2-parter, with Furman and Kitson effectively testing out a few different storytelling techniques, such as showing events out of sequence in part 1 and using non-standard panel layouts and composition in part 2. This artistic experimenting, combined with some of the content, makes this story extremely mature for a comic supposedly squarely aimed at children and is a noteworthy departure from the usual hackneyed ‘mind-controlled Good Guy turns on colleagues’ plots. Two moments particularly stand out in this regard: the death of the security guard and Swoop’s confrontation with Professor Morris. The former is a rare moment of graphic violence directed at humans, complete with blood sprays and limp corpse, while the latter is a simply chilling moment, mainly thanks to Barry Kitson’s fearsome rendition of Swoop. His “You’re dead” line, directed at Morris, is one of my favourite moments from the entire series. There’s also the first mention of Swoop’s past connections with Optimus Prime and the Elite Flying Corps, a plot-point that crops up again in future stories.
The Dinobot Hunt itself is a slightly mixed bag. The first chapter, focusing on Snarl, is a solid piece of work by Furman, with some excellent writing concerning a non-existent military base which ceases to exist (!). However, the art is either tremendous or terrible, depending on your opinion of Will Simpson’s ‘sketchy’ style. Personally, I like the dynamics and sense of motion he brings to the Transformers, and he draws excellent Dinobots. However, his Transformers, the heads especially, often seem slightly deformed and have spooky over-large eyes.
The second part features excellent art by Barry Kitson and is altogether hugely enjoyable. Sludge is the focus of this story, but the real stars are the Autobot trio Windcharger, Cliffjumper and Gears, who bitch and moan and joke with each other convincingly and entertainingly throughout. More examples of Simon Furman’s ability to graft endearing personalities onto minor characters. This issue is probably the Marvel comic-book highlight for these characters, so if you’re a fan of the Mini-Bots, it’s a must-read. In some clever slight-of-hand plotting, the Decepticons are introduced to the story.
And it’s the Decepticons who steal the limelight in the third installment, nominally about Slag, but which is actually more of a character-piece with a centralised dramatic conceit. Told in flashback by Laserbeak (yes, you read that correctly) both he and Soundwave benefit from some much-needed characterisation… although Soundwave’s James Bond villain moment at the end of the issue is obviously a step too far and never repeated. Also of note is that Jetfire still sports a Decepticon badge in the story, due to US/UK continuity issues, and in fact it becomes integral to the plot. Unfortunately, this chapter is by far the weakest story so far, with a silly premise and more of Will Simpson’s take it or leave it art. Also, the reproduction of this issue in the trade paperback is not brilliant. The original issue was slightly ‘smudgy’ to begin with, but somehow seems to have gotten worse in it’s transition to the nice shiny trade paperback, with colours and inks seeming to bleed into each other.
No such problems with the last part of ‘Dinobot-Hunt’, which is brilliant from start to finish. Barry Kitson again delivers some gorgeous, interestingly laid out art, and Furman provides multiple narrators, showcasing the action from the viewpoints of individuals. The situation is resolved and the Dinobot-Hunt finished, all personnel accounted for. However, it’s extremely clear that it has not been a victory for the Autobots, and it is genuinely pleasing to see the Decepticons perform so well. Soundwave is a great character in the UK comics and you can’t help but feel he deserves the little victory-speech he gives at the end of the issue.
Talking of victories… ’Victory!’ from the 1986 Annual is possibly the best Dinobot story ever and it’s inclusion in this trade paperback is thoroughly satisfying. Its narrative structure is delightful, with each Dinobot getting a chance to shine as an individual. Of particular note is the way that the ‘outside’ voices of Ratchet and Optimus Prime slowly start to break into the bombastic narratives more and more until we are drawn back into the ‘real world’, and realise the truth of the situation. The notion that the Dinobots are trapped in individual ‘dream-states’ seemed highly original the first time I read this, and it hasn’t aged at all badly. The themes of mind-control, delusion, self-awareness, destructive power, controlled fury and the consequences when that fury is set loose run all through this first batch of Dinobot stories and pay off nicely in ‘Victory!’ Geoff Senior’s art is absolutely terrific and suits this tale perfectly and one can’t help but feel a huge affection for the Dinobots after finishing the story. For any fan of the characters, it is absolutely essential.
‘In The National Interest’ is a different thing altogether. Another one of Furman’s stories set in a gap created by the US book’s sidelining of the characters, it is enjoyable, intelligent and well-written. Again, the full enjoyment of the tale depends on your opinion of Will Simpson’s art, but ‘…National Interest’ is still highly recommended as an example of the style and flavour of the British comics. All of the characters (even the individual Constructicons) get their chance to shine, there’s plenty of action, and the story even manages to be a reasonably complex tale of blackmail, loyalty and manipulation.
This is a UK format collection, so it’s a little wider than the more commonplace A4 style of trade. There is a 3-page summary of a section of the UK comics at the front of the book, part of the ongoing UK Transformers comic history being told in the UK format trades. The front-cover is an eye-catching shot of the Dinobots charging through the snow, but it’s a little childish-looking and not as flat-out cool as some of the other covers in the same series (City of Fear, for example). The back cover features thumbnails of the original issue covers (it’s a shame they weren’t included in the content as single-page spreads) and a fairly decent blurb. However, the material used for the front and back covers is somewhat low-quality and I’m concerned that it won’t stand up to even slightly rough treatment. Considering the price of this trade paperback, I’m a little disappointed by that.
Obviously, this is a must-buy for anyone who numbers the Dinobots among their favourite characters. But there is also a huge amount of fun to be had here for everybody else, with the Decepticons (especially Soundwave) getting lots of good scenes, and effectively winning the day both in ‘Dinobot-Hunt’ itself and ‘In The National Interest’. Several of the more overlooked Autobots also make a fine showing and characterisation is excellent throughout. Basically, for anyone curious as to what the early UK comics were like, and who isn’t interested in a storyline featuring Galvatron, ‘Dinobot-Hunt’ is an excellent trade to go for. The only reservation I would make is that Will Simpson’s art really isn’t for everybody and doesn’t fare well when compared to the work of the other artists in the trade – and he pencils half of the stories within. Apart from that, it’s highly recommended.
Reviewed by KingMob