Reprinting: The Transformers #7-12 (Marvel US)
Script: Bob Budiansky (7,8,9,10,11,12)
Pencils: William Johnson (7,8) Mike Manley (9) Ricardo Villamonte (10) Herb Trimpe (11,12)
Inks: Kyle Baker (7,8) M. Hands (9) Brad Joyce (10) Tom Palmer (11) Al Gordon (12)
Letters: Rick Parker (7,8,9) Janice Chiang (10,12) Diana Albers (11)
Colors: Nel Yomtov (7,8,9,10,11,12)
Editor: Jim Owsley (7,8,9) Michael Carlin (10,11,12)
Editor In Chief: Jim Shooter (7,8,9,10,11,12)
The early interaction of Transformers and humans.
It's often hard when going back and reading this material to take some of it seriously. So, when a Spike drawn like Templeton Peck comes out with lines such as "Believe me, I can understand how a giant, talking robot in the middle of the woods can be a bit scary." in "Warrior School", and Ratchet proceeds to ask of the campers they've intruded on: "I know fire. What is this that produces the fire?" it's like every old-fashioned sci-fi movie you've ever seen (or mercifully avoided.) What we need to remember is that transforming robots were still a relatively new concept at the time, and that these early stories feature a lot of interaction with the planet of humans they've found themselves stranded on.
Things improve a little as we jump to Soundwave infiltrating a Blackrock aerospace plant... though exposition such as "Ha! As ever, these fleshlings are no match for the cunning of Soundwave! By carrying me here in my cassette deck mode, they've evaded all of this facility's armaments for me! The fools!" is both totally unnecessary and hilarious. Apparently kids were too stupid to connect a blue tape-recorder with a Decepticon insignia being carried into the plant and place into a locker a page earlier with a robot whose chest is that of a blue tape-recorder bursting out of it moments later. The art is really rather good, though spoilt by a colouring process that allocates as few colours per panel as possible.
Anyway, quite a lot happens in the remainder of this story: Soundwave takes over the plant, we get a couple of pages of Josie Beller in a hospital bed, Ratchet comes across the hung bodies of the Autobots in the depths of the Ark and eventually Optimus's still-functional head, Buster worries about how he can keep a garage running with his father having suffered a heart attack, and Ratchet runs into Megatron and strikes a deal with him to get rid of Shockwave! This is definitely Marvel script-work of the Stan Lee era, each page serving to move the story forwards.
"Repeat Performance!" reminds us that, initially at least, The Transformers was set in the main Marvel universe, as Ratchet takes a trip out into the Savage Land. There's a lot of flashback to last issue, then we cut to Megatron and Shockwave as the latter announces his plan to raid Prime's head for the creation matrix necessary to manufacture a new generation of Decepticons. This was a small master-stroke by Budiansky, allowing him to easily work new characters into the ongoing storyline.
Ratchet locates the Dinobots, and Slag's memory tracks are raided for the tale of their battle with Shockwave four million years earlier. We get another snippet of the recovering Ms Beller, before learning of Ratchet's plan. He tricks Megatron into the open with a recording of the fight, before siccing the Dinos on him. Megs is pushed off a cliff (so it's obvious he'll be back) and the Autobots head back to the Ark.
Introducing "Dis-Integrated Circuits!" Ratchet has revived most of the Autobots, and Prowl sends Jazz and Wheeljack off to visit Blackrock and offer him protection from the 'Cons (who are at this very moment ready to his attack and destroy his new 'anti-robot' weapon.)
We then learn two very interesting things about the creation matrix; firstly, it enables Buster (in whose head it currently resides) to repair machines telekinetically. Secondly, it has a finite (though possibly self-replenishing) existence and ability to grant life, as Shockwave is able to use what remains of it in Prime's head to create six new Decepticons.
Next, we meet Circuit Breaker, the augmented form of Josie Beller. Her costume allows her to access and reprogram computers, fly and to emit bursts of electricity... and isn't just an excuse to include a woman wrapped in skimpy electronic coils for the delectation of a young male audience, nosirree. Elsewhere, Jazz makes the deal with Blackrock, before the Decepticons attack and Circuit Breaker shows up and attacks the Autobots indiscriminately.
"The Next Best Thing to Being There!" sees the assembly of the Constructicons, plus a plot involving even more humans. We witness the first combination of Devastator, in less-than-impressive art, and Huffer is forced to choose between stopping the Decepticons and a chance to make contact with Cybertron.
Onward to the antics of "Brainstorm!" as we learn from Bumblebee that the creation matrix "is the power to control any unliving metal!" and Buster puts it to use against the Decepticon drone, Jetfire. "Prime Time!" continues this story, as Shockwave gains possession of Buster and very generously returns what appears to be Prime's head to the Autobots. Unfortunately, it's a trap, and the false Optimus goes on the rampage...
Buster saves the day, delivering the real head back to its body just as all looks hopeless. Then, in typical Prime fashion, Optimus lets Shockwave go rather than finish him off and runs away to retrieve the creation matrix from Buster. As with the strips at the start of this volume, the "I have a friend who needs me!" panel is comedy gold.
However, there have been a surprising number of enjoyable moments 'twixt front and back covers. An adult audience can easily see what Budiansky's concerns were in the writing stage: the Transformers are stressed to be alien beings, humans are included frequently to make the unfamiliar subject matter accessible to kids, and Buster (himself quite young) saves the day and gives readers a lead character they can identify with.
This is going to be a recurring complaint in reviews, but it's a crying shame that the colouring of the early American strips is as bad as it is. It really does detract from what is generally capable art. The cover is one of the better Titan offerings, having something directly to do with the contents of the book.
I'd strongly recommend picking up the later US volumes and some of the UK ones before this. It's going to be of most interest to readers who are least somewhat familiar with the tone and style of other mid-80s comics.
Reviewed by Denyer
This has been written on the basis of the original comic issues. Information about any bonus features in the Titan reprint (such as interviews and creator bios) will be incorporated as it becomes available.