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View Full Version : So is Spotlight Ramjet the Only Thing That's Gotten Better With Age?


inflatable dalek
2011-12-09, 11:11 PM
Right, lets discount stuff from the last two years that's still a bit too recent, is Ramjet the only IDW comic that's really aged well? There are other issues I loved more and still love as much (hello Kup), but the vast majority of what IDW have done since they started has only gotten worse over time.

A lot of that is context, I loved Escalation when it came out (and still stand by those innocent reviews as a contemporary opinion), but now we know all the plotlines within go exactly diddly and squat has killed a lot of that enthusiasm. I mean, even now with the slightly desperate tying up of lose ends we've had, has there been any follow up on the Decepticons controlling large chunks of the American and Russian governments?.

I reread Ramjet today, and even though I enjoyed it at the time I think I was slightly biased by it being written by the New Avenegers crossover guy. I spent most of it thinking "Hey, this can't be that good can it?". But it is.

What really stands out though, is how much it feels like a fan fic written piss take of the worst of IDW. Come on, don't the deeply silly and contrived plans Ramjet comes up with that we're encouraged to laugh at feel like the sort of bollocks every IDW super villain has had going on? Don't he over ponderous speeches about non-linear thinking sound like a send up of Furman at his worst?

Even without the meta, the whole issue is genuinely funny on its own merits, and the Mini Constructicons are the greatest IDW created Transformers of all time. I know it's generally well liked, but it's awesome enough to deserve even higher levels of love.

So, errr... love this comic. More. "Wassup RJ?"

Warcry
2011-12-10, 12:27 AM
I thought it was pretty bad when I first read it, and I'd still level most of the same criticisms at it as I would at Costa's work. It made no sense in continuity -- I can't remember why just now, but I know a big deal was made of that back when people still cared about IDW books being internally consistant. And Ramjet's personality is way off of how he's traditionally been depicted, which to me seems to defeat the purpose of a Spotlight to begin with. The major difference is that Spotlight: Ramjet's author didn't think he was writing a piece of high art. It's throwaway, doesn't really fit with the rest of the story and would make more sense if it had starred Storm Cloud...but it's lighthearted, silly fun so it's a lot easier to overlook stuff like that.

StarscreamX
2012-01-22, 06:59 PM
I would pick Stormbringer, Last Stand of the Wreckers, Escalation, Chaos Theory, Spotlight: Kup, Spotlight: Shockwave, Spotlight: Ultra Magnus, Spotlight: Ramjet and Spotlight: Hot Rod as the best of IDW's input so far with maybe an honourable mention for issue four and issue 13/15 of the ongoing by Mike Costa. Issue four for doing some decent character work on Thundercracker and MAYBE issue 13/15 for actually making Megatron seem pretty intimidating again, before Costa turned him into the thick prat from the cartoon

zigzagger
2012-01-23, 02:09 AM
Yeah, I initially didn't care for Ramjet myself, either. Which in retrospect, I find a bit odd. I tend to like the occasional lighthearted/campy tale in between storylines. Dog knows the Furman arc needed it.

Similar to Warcry, while I don't have issue with it not portraying Ramjet accurately - though he is an idiot here, just a different kind of idiot - Ramjet's personality could have easily been superimposed on, well, anyone.

I'm not sure what my problem was. Reading it again, I found that it's actually quite funny. The Mini-Constructicons are great fun and it quite possibly has the most characterization we'll ever see given to Skywarp. Even with all the tie-ins to Escalation, it manages to be one of the more accessible of the Spotlights.

Also -- one thing I credit the Furman era for, before it was undone, was Megatron's zero-tolerance policy, in that he didn't put up with any crap from his subordinates. That trend is continued in here. In fact, I think the 'Cons in Infiltration got off pretty easy. It was a total emotional whiplash kinda moment. I don't recall expecting that ending.

Really, looking back on it, I think main the reason I didn't like Spotlight: Ramjet was that I went into it biased. It's silly, but that's pretty much it. It was after all written by the author of, in my opinion, one of the worst TF comics ever, right up there with the likes of War and Peace, the second half of Revelation and International Incident (Christ on a bike, was International Incident stupid). I'll admit that really wasn't fair, as the only thing tying RJ to TF/New Avengers was a vague, throwaway comment.

I dunno. Guess I was too invested in what Furman had going at the time or something.

...I'd come to regret that, of course.

Terome
2012-01-24, 12:48 AM
Maximum Dinobots seems to have somehow gotten worse with age, while Spotlight: Nightbeat now has the unenviable task of supporting the entirety of that Dead Universe nonsense that followed.

Mind, I came across Spotlight: Doubledealer the other day and thought it was a bit more solid than I remembered. That's not saying much - it's still largely forgettable in my estimation, but you can't really fault it on structure.

zigzagger
2012-01-24, 01:53 AM
Maximum Dinobots seems to have somehow gotten worse with age


I re-read it about, oh, a year ago and, yes, I don't rate it as high as I did when it first came out. Mind, I still think it's a lot of fun - or rather, it's the premise that I still find enjoyable - but a lot of its more glaring flaws have become more obvious now that the Furman buzz has long wore off.

The kitschiness that I found endearing before has also lost a lot of its charm. Looking at it now, it kind of reads like Furman didn't originally plan to write Scorponok as a mustache twirling Bond villain; he was just doing his usual Claremont-lite thing until readers - those who were enjoying MD, anyway - playfully pointed it out, to which he proceeded to exaggerate it more and more with each issue. Just to be clear, I'm not saying that's what he actually did, but it sure does read like that.

To be honest, I think I wouldn't have rated MD as high as I did had AHM not been released concurrently with it - which, while not the worst Transformers book to date (good premise, poor execution), I still have an undying hatred for the thing. While I still don't have issue with the more introspective Grimlock, Maximum Dinobots is a pretty muddled reading experience and it's bogged down with waaay too much continuity to the point that the titular characters are competing for attention.

...Sigh, and yeah, the flip-flopping Swoop bit was pretty stupid.

Skyquake87
2012-01-24, 10:27 AM
I liked Spotlight Ramjet. I thought it was a good, fun comic. Nothing bad about it. Nice, clean artwork. Okay, it didn't ahere to St Bob's Universe Bio, but then I thought IDWs take on Transformers was to put a new stamp on tired old concepts (er, mostly...). I think these days when you do get a comic that's light, enjoyable and fun it's too easily dismissed as irelevant or not important simply by virtue of not tying into the morass of 'serious thought provoking' storylines that surround it.

I can't remember where this came in continuity, but Furman's run seemed to be struggling from Devastation onwards (those aliens, ugh! Ironhide's off panel rescue despite being built up as a major part of the story in the preceeding issues!). This wasn't helped by IDW getting cold feet and scrapping his run, but still. I think the spotlights were the only things I was reading by this stage. AHM I eventually picked up as two trades and actually enjoyed it. I didn't think it was as out and out awful as everyone says. The main problems, aside from pacing, come in the back half of the run when suddenly we've got all these Furman references shoe horned in to shut up IDWs undoubtedly lively message boards...which seemingly sent us down the slippery slope to having the comics effectively edited by response on the boards (its the only way I can explain the last three years of piss poor decision making).

I've no longer got the spotlights that make up 'Revelation' as I found them all awful. There was just too much thrown into those books to bring Furman's run to an end and I've avoided Maximum Dinobots as I suspect it'll rate up there with his appalling Death Metal series for Marvel UK - another throwing his toys out of the pram excercise...

Cliffjumper
2012-01-24, 02:30 PM
Ramjet's a fun bit of fluff, but it's part of a shit continuity, so it doesn't matter, and it's going to matter less as more and more people let the scales drop from their eyes. It's Trailbreaker twatting Grimlock with a metal bar or Spinister turning up as the last Transformer alive. It's good, but it's not worth the festering wound that is everything around it. Better to seal it off with all the rest of the shit and be done with it.

Maximum Dinobots is a genuinely bad comic book. It got a ****-ton of sympathy screws out of fandom because Simon got dumped by nasty IDW for that hussy McCarthy, so it was a chance for all the enablers who'd been buying Furman's shit and doomed the book to six-monthly relaunches to huddle together around a metal drum, warming their hands and whinge about how they'd been screwed by a company who didn't want an expensive license ****ed in the arse by someone who can't write comic books any more. Sure, McCarthy and Costa weren't the answer, but at least it was something other than "that guy who used to write them".

Most of the material concerns have been covered above - Furman's inability to write the Dinobots with any of the chemistry he'd summoned up for a kids' comic 20 years earlier, most notably the spineless whining Swoop, is the real killer, but the Drift-esque characterisation for the Monsterbots is worthy of serious slating, because it's exactly the same as the (widely exaggerated) Drift stuff. We're told by both the Dinobots and the writer that they're SERIOUSLY AWESOME AND BADASS, but it's all tell, no show. And if there's ever been a more "meh" comics death than Sludge's (was it Sludge? There was Grimlock, Swoop and three other guys that I'm guessing were the Dinobots, but they all just stood there going "Yes, me too", so I'm not really sure which was which), I've yet to find it. At least the Underbase casualties didn't try and convince me I was meant to care.

The comics have not aged. They're, what, 3-4 years old, not from the Golden Age. They were awful at the time and they're still awful now. The mass delusions that Furman's stuff was going to be really, really great if only he was given another eight 6-part arcs and 25 more Spotlights have gone (the same way Animated was going to actually get good three or four seasons after it was cancelled, right?), that's all. You got sucked into giving blind faith to a middle-aged man's bad fanfic. Deal with it.

IDW are rotten to the core due to inept editing and handling, but that doesn't excuse that Furman's work for the company was abject. The only thing different to Mad Brick's stuff is that Furman had a better reputation within fandom and was given an easier ride as a result. That is it - otherwise it is exactly the same directionless, thread-obsessed nudge-nudge wink-wink shit. And who cares about the DW universe now? Two people - James McDonough and Adam Patyk. You're all already learning to ignore Furman's stuff in favour of the lovely James Roberts. Comics that, here and elsewhere, went out to rave reviews at the time, are now being dismissed. Well, tough. You all enabled this shit at the time by buying bad comics and then having the gall to claim, say, Devastation or Spotlight: Arcee was anything other than the turds they are.

Talking of Roberts, I will not be buying or even downloading anything Roberts does. It's nothing personal, but IDW will **** it up. They've already given the one-shot a needlessly whorish title. They will **** it up. Give it 12 months of inevitable gradual sales decline and some **** who wrote a couple of issues of X-Men will be given the job.

IDW are a dead weight. Do not get dragged down with them.

Skyquake87
2012-01-24, 05:26 PM
I' m under no illusion that Furman's stuff went rapidly off the boil. Infiltration and Escalation still hold up well, but beyond that? It's down hill all the way. I think it's a little unfair to say no one cares about the DW stuff, it just all ended so badly and with McDoughnut and Packup going back to Toyfare in a sulk. I was quite enjoying that run and yes, it tied into the film and there were little references all over the place, but coming at a time when fandom was just finding out a lot about Transformers (I know I was), those were quite nice little things. Do I think those comics were up there with Grant Morrisons (for example) stuff? No, they were decent, fun comics (well, Armada/Energon weren't and TF/GI Joe was a big black mess). I think those comics are still better than the stuff that IDW have farted out and indeed still hold up well now.

Was there goodwill towards Furman? Undoubtedly. His stuff for DW wasn't mind blowing and I wonder if that's down to how he himself sees himself - there was a telling intro to War & Peace in which Furman admitted that he treats Transformers as his own personal playground and found it difficult to deal with a new writer tackling something he saw as 'his'. When he's not into writing a particular comic, it really really shows and that's how his work at IDW ended up which is no doubt why MD is purportedly such trash. One of the reasons I think the IDW stuff hasn't held up so well is that it's trying so hard to make Transformers a 'serious' science fiction comic, which for better or worse, Transformers has never been. The 'Ultimates' approach would have worked but it's buggered up with human characters you can't believe in because Furman shatters your suspension of disbelief by giving the characters such bloody stupid names. Hunter Onion? Jimmy Pink? Sheesh.There's also the reheating of the Dead Universe - a concept Furman first used in Necrowar for Dreamwave. A concept so turgid that no one went near that book (have you read it? has anyone? the only thing its worth picking up for is Adi Granov's earliest professionally published work). Would Furman's run have improved? No. I don't think so. Devastation was a clear signpost that this was all on a hiding to nothing. If it had just focused on the more interesting infiltration aspect i think it would have been gone much more interesting places.

I didn't like Stormbringer. I have no idea why that's held in such high regard. It's a load of technobabble culminating in Bludgeon going mad inside a pretender shell. Making Cybertron a dead husk wasn't such a slick move either IMO, its not like it's been explored in any great depth so there was a squandered opportunity.

In someways, I wish IDW had stuck to their guns with whatever they had envisioned for AHM. I think it had the potential to be better than the guff we got handed after.

I am optimisitc about IDWs future. I am hoping that they've learnt their lesson now. Well, I think they must have. They let Costa have a sustained run despite the criticism levelled against him after all. As fopr making any alteration due to sales decline, well the comics over the last few years have been selling consistently around the 10,000 mark. I can't see that changing. A new jumping on point might create a spike in sales, but one things dip down again I can't see IDW getting their knickers in a twist. Transformers has likely hit the ceiling in terms of audience appeal, and in some ways Mike Costa is right about the books wider appeal. Hell, most comics these days don't break the 100,000 mark and I was quite suprised to learn that Fantastic Four - one of Marvel's flagship titles- only pulls in 50,000 readers. Comics are declining, and its going to take more than reboots and endless 'event' crossovers to pull in new readers and keep the medium alive. Marvel are experimenting with a hardcover graphic novel part work at the moment and it'll be interesting to see what impact (if any) that has (although i'm betting its doomed to failure as asking folk to fork out 10 a fortnight for the things is a bit of an ask in this climate).

Cliffjumper
2012-01-24, 05:46 PM
I think the tone of the Furman IDW stuff is an important thing, yes. It takes itself far, far too seriously. Furman does (or did at the time) think he was Grant Morrison. Infiltration especially is a conscious attempt to do something incredibly pretentious and at the same time utterly derivative with a comic about some toys. The Marvel comic had its' portentous moments, but never really forgot it was an adventure story. Infiltration thinks it's something from The Invisibles. It's a fanfic by someone who's read something non-Transformers and gone "you know, I reckon I could do that with Transformers".

This is later further highlighted by Furman's desperate flip-flopping to try and counter every criticism. The (criminally over-rated) Stormbringer effectively junks the human cast, Earth setting and treacle-slow pace of the 78-part Infiltration by giving us "fan favourite" robots shooting each other on Cybertron. It's a cast-iron sign that Furman didn't know what he was doing, and was reacting to reaction rather than following a plan.

Then there's Escalation and Devastation, which also move radically away from Infiltration as the humans we spent three years learning the in-depth characterisation (Jubilee, geek, car-fixer) of are ignored in favour of stilted intended-to-crowd-please action scenes that seem to be an incredibly inept attempt to compete with the Bay films. "You want fight scenes and car chases? You'll get 'em! I can't do them, but you'll get them".

There are signs people are beginning to tire of 247 concurrent utterly soul-less plot threads ("What are combiners?" "What are Pretenders?" "What are female Autobots?" "What happened to the first Ark?" - who gives a ****? Why should we give a ****?) and he chucks out a cookie-cutter "offbeat" story like Spotlight: Wheelie, which is probably the apex of "dumb idea, disproportionately huge acolyte acclaim".

I greatly disliked Infiltration. But if Furman had at least stuck to his guns and told a whole story (Infitration is not a whole story just because it fills a TPB) that way I'd have a sort-of grudging respect for it even if I didn't like it. But he didn't. He lost his guts almost instantly and just starts throwing everything he can think of at the book in a desperate attempt to get people to love him again.

That means he's got less artistic conviction than Michael "Bad Boys II" Bay.

inflatable dalek
2012-01-24, 07:59 PM
I think a large part of it is the Lost/X-Files factor, however much people might enjoy the set up of a long running story arc at the time if it doesn't pay off well (and I think even people who are excited by issue 80.5 would acknowledge Furman buggered up his previous run) re-investing time in rewatching/reading those old stories. Most of my family were massive Lost fans, that last episode had them ready to start a big DVD bonfire.

But I do think it's unfair to chuck the stuff that does work away just because it's in a swarm of what ended up crap, be it Ramjet or Wreckers. Whether or not a story "matters" should be fairly irrelevant if it's entertaining.

Without going back to double check my reviews, IIRC with MD I wound up finding each issue more and more disappointing, Scorponok was good fun (and I do think that was deliberate, for some reason Furman seemed to be on a huge Bond kick during most of his IDW run staring with Fleming and Markham. I don't doubt the View To A Kill homage with the blimp was deliberate and he was always supposed to be a camp supervillain) but there just wasn't enough plot for five issues. The Dealer and Sideswipe stories should have been resolved in there, which would have given the far too cramped Revelations storyline more space to breath. With a bit more common sense Furman could have wrapped up his storylines within the constraints required but he completely ballsed it up. And that's his fault, not anybody elses.

I also don't think it helped that Nick Roche is a great artist, and James Raiz is a great artist (and it was nice to have him back). But their styles just don't go together at all in any way shape or form.

You're all already learning to ignore Furman's stuff in favour of the lovely James Roberts.

Not in my case, it's actually Roberts whose got me rereading the older stuff, albeit in a morbid way. I know from Wreckers and Chaos theory that he's not some desperate reboot artist, he's going to be respectful of previous stories and use what they've set up properly. That's part of what was so nice about Wreckers, it's not just a self indulgent Marvel UK love in as it could have so easily been, it's a functional IDW Universe comic. That is still accessible to readers who neither know the continuity or get the injokes. It shows it can be done, which makes Costa and McCarthy even less excusable.

The main reason I'm semi-optimistic for the future though is Andy Schmidt has been gotten rid of. Barber is a completely unknown quantity to me, but he can't possibly be worse at editing the books. Indeed, my main worry is we've still got a long shadow cast by Schmidt as he'd set so much of this new stuff up before going to his amazing new job of putting the wrong names on toy boxes.

Cliffjumper
2012-01-24, 08:15 PM
I think a large part of it is the Lost/X-Files factor, however much people might enjoy the set up of a long running story arc at the time if it doesn't pay off well (and I think even people who are excited by issue 80.5 would acknowledge Furman buggered up his previous run) re-investing time in rewatching/reading those old stories. Most of my family were massive Lost fans, that last episode had them ready to start a big DVD bonfire.

I don't think much was well set-up, though. It's not just that IDW finally saw the light and hobbled Furman in an attempt to find the point. Most of the issues are bad to read. Characterisation is next to non-existent - the IDW material relies either directly or (very, very occasionally) as the source of a direct subversion on the Furman material. It's the equivalent of fat reality TV star John Lydon doing Sex Pistols gigs now or Bryan Singer remaking the Usual Suspects in the first place before we get onto the complete lack of focus and traction in the overall story.

Anyone excited about 80.5 hasn't learnt their lesson. But don't worry, they'll get a second sitting.

But I do think it's unfair to chuck the stuff that does work away just because it's in a swarm of what ended up crap, be it Ramjet or Wreckers. Whether or not a story "matters" should be fairly irrelevant if it's entertaining.

If it means acknowledging much around it, it's a problem. But I'll agree those two exist in a nice bubble. Wreckers, there's only really Ultra Magnus - Space Cop (hey, he's Robert Stack, how ****ing clever would it be if he was Untouchable? About as ****ing clever as a Wheelie spotlight, that's how ****ing clever). Ramjet gives us the Megatron Furman failed to deliver. Furman's material is inter-dependant, though, and thus unsalvageable.

With a bit more common sense Furman could have wrapped up his storylines within the constraints required but he completely ballsed it up. And that's his fault, not anybody elses.

The whole situation - AHM, Costa - is his fault and his fault alone. He was given the golden opportunity without all the apparent constraints he pisses and bitches about in interviews, and he blew it spectacularly, pretty much ****ing the comic property with his hubris.

I also don't think it helped that Nick Roche is a great artist, and James Raiz is a great artist (and it was nice to have him back). But their styles just don't go together at all in any way shape or form.

Neither do Jeff Anderson's and Will Simpson's. A good enough script can overcome any art shortfallings.

inflatable dalek
2012-01-24, 08:24 PM
Neither do Jeff Anderson's and Will Simpson's. A good enough script can overcome any art shortfallings.


Though they never (as far as I recall) drew alternating pages of the same issue, that would have been hugely distracting. If Raiz and Roche had done one issue each of the last two it wouldn't have been so bad, but as published it just pulls me out the story when the look changes that much from page to page.

And as much as I love Roche, his character design for Swoop was terrible, the Dinobots in general don't really need any messing with looks wise and Swoop just wound up looking like the Rocketeer after six months starving in a death camp. Coupled with him bearing the brunt of the padding ("Lets go! No, lets stay... on the other hand we could go. Or stay") that's one of my favourite characters pretty much failing on every level.

I can't at this point actually remember the Monsterbots actually doing anything in the series, but I'll be willing to bet whatever it was couldn't have been cut to give the other Dinobots something to do instead.

I am completely baffled by the amount of buzz "Regeneration One" seems to be creating, I've not seen anything about it yet that doesn't scream "train wreak".

Warcry
2012-01-24, 08:24 PM
Okay, it didn't ahere to St Bob's Universe Bio, but then I thought IDWs take on Transformers was to put a new stamp on tired old concepts (er, mostly...).
When did this happen? IDW told us it would, sure, but what they actually produced was Furman's Greatest Hits Remix, McCarthy's X-Treme Sunbow and Costa's G.I. Joe knockoff. Maybe Barber or Roberts will actually be able to give us something new before they're inevitably given the axe, but so far it hasn't happened.

And, honestly, with good reason. IDW are writing G1 comics starring G1 characters because G1 is what sells to the fans and no one else cares about Transformers comics. And since they're writing G1 comics the characters should be recognizable for reasons other than their colour schemes. Developing the characters into something different from their 'baseline' personality is something I can get behind, but having them show up and be an entirely different person for no reason? Especially when characters already exist with the personality traits that've been randomly assigned to a more recognizable guy? I just don't like it.

If I read a Movieverse comic and Skids was written as an absent-minded theoretician instead of a wannabe gangsta, or if I picked up a Beast Wars comic and Silverbolt was a boring guy who was afraid of heights, it'd throw me. Picking up a G1 book and seeing Ramjet behave like Starscream does the same. I dunno...maybe that's just me?

Most of the material concerns have been covered above - Furman's inability to write the Dinobots with any of the chemistry he'd summoned up for a kids' comic 20 years earlier, most notably the spineless whining Swoop, is the real killer, but the Drift-esque characterisation for the Monsterbots is worthy of serious slating, because it's exactly the same as the (widely exaggerated) Drift stuff. We're told by both the Dinobots and the writer that they're SERIOUSLY AWESOME AND BADASS, but it's all tell, no show.
Ew, Monsterbots. What were they even there for, anyway? I mean, I suspect that Furman intended to have the Dinobots think "We don't want to turn out like them", but then why did they spend the entire comic acting exactly the same as the Dinobots?

And did Doublecross or Grotusque actually get lines? The only thing I remember about the two of them is Repugnus (who read suspiciously like 80s Furman Grimlock...) telling us how they were so much less civilized than he was (which left me scratching my head much like Ramjet did since the only info we've ever gotten on those two say that they're a quartermaster and a jokester...).

IDW are rotten to the core due to inept editing and handling, but that doesn't excuse that Furman's work for the company was abject. The only thing different to Mad Brick's stuff is that Furman had a better reputation within fandom and was given an easier ride as a result. That is it - otherwise it is exactly the same directionless, thread-obsessed nudge-nudge wink-wink shit.
I disagree. Dreamwave were under no illusions that they were making a big, dumb nostalgia comic, so they went out and made a big, dumb nostalgia comic. It wasn't high art, but it wasn't trying to be and I at least find it enjoyable enough for what it is. IDW's writers (not so much McCarthy, but Furman and Costa for sure) think they're making something that's better than that, and when their runs inevitably collapse in on themselves it makes the prior stories into pretentious gibberish.

At the very least, I can reread Dreamwave books without getting pissed off about how much of a waste it all was. :(

Talking of Roberts, I will not be buying or even downloading anything Roberts does. It's nothing personal, but IDW will **** it up. They've already given the one-shot a needlessly whorish title. They will **** it up. Give it 12 months of inevitable gradual sales decline and some **** who wrote a couple of issues of X-Men will be given the job.
They've already got a good head-start on that, sadly. Telling Nick Roche that he's not going to be allowed to write comics for them anymore was a great way to chase away half of the book's much-hyped creative team after only one issue.

I didn't like Stormbringer. I have no idea why that's held in such high regard. It's a load of technobabble culminating in Bludgeon going mad inside a pretender shell. Making Cybertron a dead husk wasn't such a slick move either IMO, its not like it's been explored in any great depth so there was a squandered opportunity.
Yeah. In retrospect, Stormbringer was an obvious attempt to placate the "we don't want humans!" crowd who were vocally active while Infiltration was running. But Infiltration's real problem was that it introduced a bunch of interesting ideas that were never followed up on, and Stormbringer did the exact same thing.

It also managed to cut the knees out from under the main Earth story, by sandwiching itself between chapters and leaving a six-month gap for readers to lose interest. A decent editor would have put a stop to the idea before pen even touched paper and forced Furman to keep writing the story he'd already started.

I greatly disliked Infiltration. But if Furman had at least stuck to his guns and told a whole story (Infitration is not a whole story just because it fills a TPB) that way I'd have a sort-of grudging respect for it even if I didn't like it. But he didn't. He lost his guts almost instantly and just starts throwing everything he can think of at the book in a desperate attempt to get people to love him again.
I enjoyed Inflitration much more than you did, aside from a few cringeworthy moments where characters take the time in the middle of a battle to stop and yell hackneyed Furmanisms at each other because Simon doesn't realize that storytelling techniques have moved on since 1985. I think that makes me even more annoyed by it in retrospect, though. It felt like watching the pilot episode for a new TV series, being intrigued by what you saw and then tuning in for week two only to find that they'd replaced half the cast and changed the entire premise.

Segueing from something as fresh and minimalist as Infiltration into big-universe stuff like Stormbringer and the Spotlights only showed that, sadly, Furman just isn't capable of leaving some of his favourite toys in the box for the good of the story.

inflatable dalek
2012-01-24, 08:32 PM
If I read a Movieverse comic and Skids was written as an absent-minded theoretician instead of a wannabe gangsta, or if I picked up a Beast Wars comic and Silverbolt was a boring guy who was afraid of heights, it'd throw me. Picking up a G1 book and seeing Ramjet behave like Starscream does the same. I dunno...maybe that's just me?.

I think the difference with Ramjet though, is that his Spotlight is, as far as I can recall, the only time he's ever shown any personality in a story whatsoever. Otherwise it's fairly functional third henchmen to the right style lines that at best, show him to be a bit dim. Which if nothing else does tie in with his Spotlight as he only thinks he's Starscream, everyone else views him as that third henchman guy.

It does disagree with his Universe profile, but I've never considered those definitive. Fine for giving your toys a bit of extra personality, but if it's not back up by the stories it doesn't bother me very much. Bob himself was happy to ignore them at times (Emo Blaster being probably the most obvious example). I guess that's a YMMV thing though.

Cliffjumper
2012-01-24, 10:07 PM
I see what you're saying with Ramjet, Warcry; I guess it probably varies depending how much you've previously latched onto the character before they semi-randomly get picked for this sort of thing. To me personally Ramjet's always been The Other One, so it didn't bother me. But if someone else that I'd latched onto who was really a bit of a nobody (er... Growl?) turned up in a similar role it'd probably bug me in the same way.

There is very little new characterisation in Furman's IDW material. There are straight lifts from both the comic and the cartoon, and there's the odd "Hay bet you were expecting Scorponok to be all noble PSYCHE!", and that's it. Even Hardhead is basically the no-nonsense Rebirth character, just with more lines. And I do agree that remoulding characters isn't necessarily a good idea; it just means there's no advancement in the characters to compensate for the lack of advancement in the plot. We just never seem to learn anything new about these guys.

DW Vol 1-2 were pitched as a nostalgia comic, I'll agree (quality and success is irrelevant). However, I felt the ongoing was moving very much into the same character and plot thread overload that blighted Furman's book; there was the same promising set-up of Jazz and Bumblebee's teams who were rapidly swamped by Jetfire, Omega, Combaticons, Predacons, Sixshot etc. There's the same "I want to use all my favourites!" vibe, most of which were then quickly overriden by the next batch of 'new' arrivals.

However, I would count the Sunstorm arc, derivative though it was, as better than any of Furman's IDW stories because it remembers to have a central story alongside the over-arching plots.

The weird thing is this approach is generally choppier than the Marvel stuff where Hasbro mandated which new characters would appear - even that run of 1985/6 issues where there's something like an average of five new characters a story feels more focused, because Bob kept things like the downfall of Megatron/Prime going as a constant. It's ironic that both writers took the choice to basically do what the 1980s US creative team found to be such a major obstacle to developing their stories.

The other big problem with Furman's storytelling in the IDW stuff is the need to keep reminding us of all the plot threads. There are issues of Devastation where basically nothing happens because by the time Furman's gone around all the locations with their little clutches of characters explaining the plot to each other, bam, 22 pages, wait 'til next month. It's a hammer blow to his Energon work too.

Warcry
2012-01-25, 12:04 AM
It does disagree with his Universe profile, but I've never considered those definitive. Fine for giving your toys a bit of extra personality, but if it's not back up by the stories it doesn't bother me very much. Bob himself was happy to ignore them at times (Emo Blaster being probably the most obvious example). I guess that's a YMMV thing though.
I probably don't give them much more weight than you do, but I prefer that writers use them as a 'baseline', so to speak. Something to use as a starting point, and to build off of to make a complete character. I find it much more rewarding as a reader when writers take a neglected character's bio and build a story around it (Kickoff in LSOTW or Thundercracker in the last few years' worth of IDW books are both good examples of that) than when they write a story and then go looking for a character to graft it onto. To me at least, one of the Transformers' universe's biggest selling points is that it everyone already has a fleshed-out personality even if we never get to know them 'on-screen'.

Sometimes this can be done well (Overlord, as an example) and sometimes a character's 'official' personality is so amazingly stupid that it deserves to be forgotten (Krok, and a lot of the Euro-exclusive and G2 characters), but when there's a solid foundation already in place I usually don't like seeing it knocked down and replaced with something else.

I see what you're saying with Ramjet, Warcry; I guess it probably varies depending how much you've previously latched onto the character before they semi-randomly get picked for this sort of thing. To me personally Ramjet's always been The Other One, so it didn't bother me. But if someone else that I'd latched onto who was really a bit of a nobody (er... Growl?) turned up in a similar role it'd probably bug me in the same way.
It's funny, because in Ramjet's case it's his lack of personality that I really find appealing. I like that he really is just a dumb goon who likes to hit stuff, no extra depth or pathos required. Having guys like that as a part of the Decepticons makes the faction as a whole much more believable to me. They can't all be Starscreams and Soundwaves and Shockwaves, not if you want to keep up the pretense of them being a large, functional military force.

Beast Wars Megatron may have surrounded himself with traitors, lunatics and Scorponok, but he was a criminal recruiting whoever he could find. G1 Megatron's minions are supposed to be soldiers, and it's nice to have some people on the team who actually act like it.

There is very little new characterisation in Furman's IDW material. There are straight lifts from both the comic and the cartoon, and there's the odd "Hay bet you were expecting Scorponok to be all noble PSYCHE!", and that's it.
Even that was basically just Budiansky Scorponok, wasn't it? He went all-in with his zany Bond villain schemes too.

DW Vol 1-2 were pitched as a nostalgia comic, I'll agree (quality and success is irrelevant). However, I felt the ongoing was moving very much into the same character and plot thread overload that blighted Furman's book; there was the same promising set-up of Jazz and Bumblebee's teams who were rapidly swamped by Jetfire, Omega, Combaticons, Predacons, Sixshot etc. There's the same "I want to use all my favourites!" vibe, most of which were then quickly overriden by the next batch of 'new' arrivals.
Even in the ongoing, I thought that Mick and Patyk knew exactly what kind of book they were writing and just decided to have some fun with it. It seems like such a long time ago now, but the Dreamwave ongoing felt to me like a bunch of fans who were having a blast throwing out the type of "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" scenarios that we used to discuss on the boards. Furman's self-conscious attempts to retread former glories just didn't have the same sense of mindless fanfic-ish fun as the DW stuff. At least, not for me.

Not saying I think the DW stuff is especially good, but I can enjoy it in the same way that I'd enjoy the G1 cartoon. Does that make sense?

The other big problem with Furman's storytelling in the IDW stuff is the need to keep reminding us of all the plot threads. There are issues of Devastation where basically nothing happens because by the time Furman's gone around all the locations with their little clutches of characters explaining the plot to each other, bam, 22 pages, wait 'til next month. It's a hammer blow to his Energon work too.
And that's all down to a poor storytelling choice, isn't it? Devastation in particular was just completely ruined by this. If he'd devoted one issue to Hot Rod and Wheeljack finding Ironhide, one issue to Sixshot hunting Ratchet, another one to those stupid Reaper things, etc...he could have told a much better story in the same number of pages instead of juggling each plot thread for a few pages each issue. Maybe we would have even found out whether or not Ironhide was dead by the end of the book...

Strange choices like that plague Furman's IDW stuff. Why does Grimlock show up out of nowhere to have the climactic fight with Magmatron in the first Beast Wars book when we haven't even heard his name mentioned before? Why is Shockwave the guy having a showdown with Scorponok in a miniseries that's marketed about being all about the Dinobots? Why abandon the Earth storyline you've spent several years building up in favour of an RiD Scourge knockoff? Etc, etc, etc...

Cliffjumper
2012-01-25, 05:15 PM
The thing Furman's IDW (and to a lesser extent DW) work really reminds me of is Larry Hama's Marvel G.I. Joe stuff. For those of you fortunate enough not to have read these, a lot of the same hallmarks feature - insane character armour, the constant reaches for the middlebrow, the plot ideas that dominate everything, the plot ideas which are just basically forgotten about, the over-exposure of favoured characters to the point of hatred, the gortesque expanding casts exacerbated by a reluctance to write anyone out, self-conscious diminishing recycles of past glories and a general inability to tie anything off properly.

The really curious thing is that I don't think Furman's 1980s/90s material suffers from this stuff quite so badly. Furmanisms and bad dialogue, while not totally uncommon, have certainly been over-exaggerated, and I found the purple patch from Crisis of Command to around City of Fear still stands up fairly well, and in places superbly - Legacy of Unicron is still a serious contender for best TF story of all time, for example. As Ziggy said, it's almost like he's consciously taking into account what people expect from him and letting it define his work. The problem is it's pretty hard to homage yourself and not have it end up like shit on toast.

TBH I don't doubt he reads a lot of fan feedback, probably a lot more than your average Batman writer or whatever, and I think it means he makes a lot of bad choices rather than going "**** them, I know what I'm doing". Like I say, the real damning thing about his IDW work is his attempt to pander to every faction of fandom going instead of sticking to his guns with the Infiltration approach.

I'd love to interview him about it five, six years down the line when ties are cut.

I find it much more rewarding as a reader when writers take a neglected character's bio and build a story around it (Kickoff in LSOTW or Thundercracker in the last few years' worth of IDW books are both good examples of that) than when they write a story and then go looking for a character to graft it onto. To me at least, one of the Transformers' universe's biggest selling points is that it everyone already has a fleshed-out personality even if we never get to know them 'on-screen'.

Yes, I'll agree it's nicer when someone semi-obscure is given their day in the sun as themselves. However, if they've already had it (and I'd say Season 2 gave Ramjet's "dumb goon" persona a good airing), or if their original character is rubbish (anyone from 1989 onwards pretty much) I don't think a fresh take would hurt.

Funnily enough, in-universe I think Skywarp might have been a better fit for the Spotlight, with Ramjet taking his role. In Infiltration (or Escalation, or one of them) we're already shown Skywarp isn't hugely loyal, and most sources agree that he's as dumb as a post. So him having a moronic plan to overthrow everybody might have worked a bit better, with Ramjet as the loyal, limited thicko who turns him in.

Problem is, Furman - who surely got final say on the subject - is loathe to write characters out, especially from the first year of toys. Which is cool in a way, the first series probably have the most potential due to it being some of Bob's best work. But only if you use them. Furman doesn't; he's the writing equivalent of the guy who's got a shelf full of MISB figures he's never going to open. He clearly had no significant further plans for Jazz, Wheeljack and Ratchet - having Sixshot wipe them out would have heightened the drama. But no, they've all got to escape because Furman can't bear to get rid of them. So, for the Spotlight he probably had final say as to which Decepticon got the bullet, and he didn't want to get rid of anyone he likes.

Even that was basically just Budiansky Scorponok, wasn't it? He went all-in with his zany Bond villain schemes too.

Hmmm - by 'subversion' I meant more a subversion of what Furman thinks we were expecting, which is typically someone else's relatively unpopular take on a character (Sunstreaker, for example, is lifted from hints in Bob's bio and the Mad Brick take - the Earthforce version is ego-centric but amiable rather than egotisical and spiteful).

Even in the ongoing, I thought that Mick and Patyk knew exactly what kind of book they were writing and just decided to have some fun with it.

I'd say they made the same mistakes, but maybe for different reasons. I think the difference was that when DW came out they could perhaps be excused a little more - their material was G1 at the time. There was no other outlet for that sort of thing, no cartoons, toys (aside from reissues) or films which took the original stuff onboard particularly (remember, 2001-2004 was the height of Hasbro's name-slapping phase; nowadays you'd expect a character called Smokescreen to have some sort of vague link to the original in either character or appearance; then it was pretty much accepted that any resemblance was coincidental).

If, say, Ironhide (random example) turned up in DW it was the first time he'd been in anything for years. Now we've had him in comics more recently, we've had a Classics figure, we've had fairly faithful takes in the film and Animated (and he's probably lined up for Prime - be interesting to see how film-influenced he is). It's perhaps easier to forgive the DW writers for getting a bit carried away, and fans for getting excited about seeing a particular favourite for the first time in a decade in some cases. Now that it's beginning to look like these guys are here for the duration it's no longer enough to go "Wooo, Ironhide" and not do much else with the guy.

Actually, rather than being the MISB guy, I think Furman's more the guy who takes over the living room floor for the afternoon, spending hours setting up his collection of awesome toys in a variety of dangerous, dynamic poses ready for a battle royale, then sits back and thinks "What am I going to do with these guys now?", shrugs and starts packing them away again.

And that's all down to a poor storytelling choice, isn't it? Devastation in particular was just completely ruined by this. If he'd devoted one issue to Hot Rod and Wheeljack finding Ironhide, one issue to Sixshot hunting Ratchet, another one to those stupid Reaper things, etc...he could have told a much better story in the same number of pages instead of juggling each plot thread for a few pages each issue. Maybe we would have even found out whether or not Ironhide was dead by the end of the book...

Devastation's probably the worst-written of the lot, even if it is slightly less unlikeable than Maximum Dinobots attitude-wise. It all sort-of congeals into a mess of nothing, and because of the limping narrative and cheap escapes (was that the one that had the humans turn up die and revive in the space of a few pages?) events that should be momentous like the Autobots pulling out of Earth or whatever barely draw a 'meh'.

It's actually hard to think of anything in any TF media as inept and pointless as the Ironhide sub-plot; there are probably a few but not many, and it's not really bombast IMO to suggest that one's up there with the worst. Five issues of turgid chase scenes and limp would-be drama are suddenly capped by Hardhead acheiving what Hot Rod and Wheeljack have spent the past five months trying to do in three seconds flat, and there's not even a resolution to it.

inflatable dalek
2012-01-25, 08:57 PM
Yeah, Devastation is a complete mess really isn't it? A couple of great moments for Ratchet and that's about it. As AHM was announced before it finished I do wonder if there was some desperate last minute rewrites to accomodate the new set up because things like abandoning Earth don't make any sense (especially as only three of the characters who do so contribute anything to Revelation, making the gesture a pointless forced cliffhanger). But, as far as I know, Furman still officially stands by it as what he wanted to do so there's no one else to blame there. Especially as he was daft enough to waste a page on Grimlock (did he think no one would buy the Spotlight without it?) rather than the Ironhide thing.

I still thinks Infiltration is a decentish start by itself, I like the careful build up and world building. But when you have a long build up the pay off needs to be worth it, and it wasn't. Plus, as Cliffy says, the time spent on the fairly one dimensional humans was utterly irrelevant in the end as only one of them was needed.

Having now read The Death of Optimus Prime, I'm in two minds about the future. It's well written, but there's not one likeable Autobot in it. They're all knobs, if this going to carry on into the new books they're not going to be much fun to read. I want Bumbelbee and Rodimus to die horrible deaths, I don't really feel like reading their exciting adventures. I didn't think the title was especially whoreish myself:

A bit obvious from the first page, but I thought it worked well enough. Though from what I've read elements seem very inspired by the end of season one of Prime, which was, as I understand it, also promoted as a "Death" in advance.

Prowl is actually a good example of Furman and others missing the point of what he did with the Marvel stuff. All of Prowl's post DW (and this applied to Eugenesis as well) characterisation is based on the assumption that Grimlock was right everytime he slagged him off. Prowl is a cold heartless git who just wants to be leader himself. Which was never the case in Marvel, most obviously in the fact that when he's the only one who hears Prime's last words he still tells the truth and has Grimlock made leader. Then you've got things like him getting so pissed off with the Battlechargers across half a country because he's so pissed off and passionate. IDW Prowl is clearly intended to be the same character, but he's a poor Xerox.

Warcry
2012-01-25, 09:39 PM
Furmanisms and bad dialogue, while not totally uncommon, have certainly been over-exaggerated
In the Marvel stuff, for sure. In his modern comics, though...well, it certainly feels like he's doing it on purpose now.

TBH I don't doubt he reads a lot of fan feedback, probably a lot more than your average Batman writer or whatever, and I think it means he makes a lot of bad choices rather than going "**** them, I know what I'm doing". Like I say, the real damning thing about his IDW work is his attempt to pander to every faction of fandom going instead of sticking to his guns with the Infiltration approach.
I think Furman got used to being a big fish in a small pond, and wasn't quite sure what to do when that wasn't true anymore. He got a lot of love because for the first decade and a bit that Transformers existed he was the only writer to ever give it their all and produce something consistantly top-notch. Even up until the last five or six years, Furman's Marvel run and Beast Wars were the only TF fiction that the majority of fans would have agreed was actually any good.

But the pond's turned into an ocean lately, and with so many Animated fans, Movie fans, toy-only fans, Prime fans, etc. getting in on the act Simon isn't as universally beloved as he used to be. It doesn't really surprise me that a middle-aged guy who's watching his one and only claim to fame fade away before his eyes would scramble to try and get the fanbase to love him again. But sadly, the crowd-pleasing moves he's tried are only ever going to drag his stock down. The only way he'll ever actually attract the same sort of accolades as he once did is if, like you say, he can manage to stop caring what the fans think long enough to produce something good that doesn't ride on the coattails of something he wrote 20+ years ago.

Yes, I'll agree it's nicer when someone semi-obscure is given their day in the sun as themselves. However, if they've already had it (and I'd say Season 2 gave Ramjet's "dumb goon" persona a good airing), or if their original character is rubbish (anyone from 1989 onwards pretty much) I don't think a fresh take would hurt.
Usually I'd agree, but I'd prefer something a bit meatier than a one-and-done joke issue if a writer decides they're going to redefine an existing character. Initially I didn't care for Ultra Magnus's place in the IDW universe, but as Furman and Costa made good use of the 'new' Ultra Magnus I came around and accepted it. With Ramjet though, there was no time to even process the fact that he was an entirely new guy before Megatron had torn him apart.

Funnily enough, in-universe I think Skywarp might have been a better fit for the Spotlight, with Ramjet taking his role. In Infiltration (or Escalation, or one of them) we're already shown Skywarp isn't hugely loyal, and most sources agree that he's as dumb as a post. So him having a moronic plan to overthrow everybody might have worked a bit better, with Ramjet as the loyal, limited thicko who turns him in.
I'm genuinely curious whether the writer actually had Ramjet in mind when he came up with the pitch. Since Ramjet comes off as such a generic traitor, I really do wonder if the author didn't have 'Spotlight: Starscream' in mind and had to recast the lead role when he found out that Furman had killed off mildly inconvenienced Starscream in Infiltration.

Problem is, Furman - who surely got final say on the subject - is loathe to write characters out, especially from the first year of toys. Which is cool in a way, the first series probably have the most potential due to it being some of Bob's best work. But only if you use them. Furman doesn't; he's the writing equivalent of the guy who's got a shelf full of MISB figures he's never going to open. He clearly had no significant further plans for Jazz, Wheeljack and Ratchet - having Sixshot wipe them out would have heightened the drama. But no, they've all got to escape because Furman can't bear to get rid of them. So, for the Spotlight he probably had final say as to which Decepticon got the bullet, and he didn't want to get rid of anyone he likes.
The sad thing is that he'd managed to write good, tightly-focused stories before without letting the huge cast smother things. The Unicron arc managed to focus on a small group of 'leads' even though there were dozens of other characters bouncing around the background, and even after he brought back most of the early cast with Nucleon he managed to keep a tight focus on Grimlock, Prowl, Bludgeon and the Ark fivesome. And then there's G2, which is among his best work and only has five or six important characters in it.

At least some of this can be chalked up to Hasbro and/or editorial meddling, I think. After all, they did pretty much cut the legs out from under the Marvel revival and ruin whatever little chance it had to capture the spirit of the original by insisting that it focus on the 'core' characters. In particular, I suspect by the time Devastation rolled around IDW had a good idea that Furman was getting the boot and didn't want him to kill off anyone that McCarthy had plans for.

That's not meant to excuse him, because he'd made the mess in the first place. But by the time he had a chance to clean it up I don't know if he'd have been allowed to. I've always taken the "Acceptable losses" line after the Battlecharagers die to be Simon's way of saying "these are the only guys I'm allowed to kill off".

Actually, rather than being the MISB guy, I think Furman's more the guy who takes over the living room floor for the afternoon, spending hours setting up his collection of awesome toys in a variety of dangerous, dynamic poses ready for a battle royale, then sits back and thinks "What am I going to do with these guys now?", shrugs and starts packing them away again.
That's a good metaphor, although I think he just kept taking more and more toys out of the box until was 3 in the morning and the people who owned the house kicked him out for making a mess. He never got to the 'putting them away' stage, since he was still taking out new toys as late as Revelations and Max Dinos...

(was that the one that had the humans turn up die and revive in the space of a few pages?)
Did they revive? I don't think we saw them again until the end of Maximum Dinobots.

Cliffjumper
2012-01-25, 10:50 PM
In the Marvel stuff, for sure. In his modern comics, though...well, it certainly feels like he's doing it on purpose now.

Sorry, bad phrasing on my part - that's what I meant, really, there's a conscious rise. Like the way he seems to feel obliged to wheel Grimlock out for everything now.

I think Furman got used to being a big fish in a small pond

It's a fair interpretation. He's been completely unable to move with the franchise's recent growth, being especially incapable of writing for a wider pool of people than were reading his work a decade ago.

I'm genuinely curious whether the writer actually had Ramjet in mind when he came up with the pitch. Since Ramjet comes off as such a generic traitor, I really do wonder if the author didn't have 'Spotlight: Starscream' in mind and had to recast the lead role when he found out that Furman had killed off mildly inconvenienced Starscream in Infiltration.

Now that would have been outright superb. I despised the "Hey, he's killed Starscream!/No, he's going to repair him" cop-out which is basically the point at which the new hardcore Megatron's credibility evaporates and we realise it's the same old shit (he repairs him in G2 because he can't be choosy, and even then it's not well-handled) all over again. Of course Starscream would have been repaired for AHM if not before, but the Ramjet storyline would have fitted him like a glove.

I mean, Starscream is a moron. His 'plans' only come anywhere near fruition when some crazy plot device lands in his lap, otherwise it's all telling random Decepticons "one day I will be leader!" in that terrible squeaky Cobra Commander voice. It would have been memorable for him to get such a violent pounding even if it was later gone against, it would have laid down the law from Megatron and it would have cost the plot basically nothing as Starscream did pretty much ****-all then until McCarthy turned up. The Marvel stuff gives a good pointer on this too; the best way to handle you more general TF death is not to overuse the super-emotional response and don't salt the Earth and you can generally get away with having someone revived a year down the line. Nobody cried foul on the revivals of, say, the Underbase casualties despite the fact nobody popped up a frame after Grimlock died to go "put him in the repair bay".

I'll agree that Hasbro might have had a hand in this, but Furman's tone means we're set up for drama that never happens. If he isn't allowed to kill Starscream, don't have him potentially lethally injured and then have Doc phone in to tell us Duke's A-OK, especially not if it makes Megatron look like a complete tit. Don't call an arc Devastation if there's no Devastation in it, and don't load a cast with characters you won't be allowed to off and then pretend you're making a gritty no-boundaries rethink of the mythos.

TBH I expect few characters were really off-limits for killing before the writing was on the wall for Furman; if Moore was allowed to kill Ramjet when he was one of the few cast members with a toy on the shelves, offing Wheeljack a few years before he had 16 toys released in a year surely wouldn't have been much of a problem.

My central problem with Furman and general IDW material is basically that none of it's anywhere near as good, intelligent and groundbreaking as it plainly thinks it is. The Marvel stuff rarely took itself quite so seriously, and as a result the obvious commercial constraints (i.e. character armour) doesn't stick out quite so badly.

Warcry
2012-01-26, 07:08 AM
(Somehow missed dalek's post entirely the first time through...)

Having now read The Death of Optimus Prime, I'm in two minds about the future. It's well written, but there's not one likeable Autobot in it. They're all knobs, if this going to carry on into the new books they're not going to be much fun to read. I want Bumbelbee and Rodimus to die horrible deaths, I don't really feel like reading their exciting adventures.
This is something of a concern for me, too. Rodimus and his crew don't come off too badly to me because they're at least admitting that something is wrong and trying to find a way to fix it. But the characters left on Cybertron? Assholes, the lot of them. I never thought I'd see the day that the Autobots would
set loose a bunch of Decepticon thugs to beat up civilians, let alone employ them to do that on a continuing basis.
If the NAILs (and their spokesman Metalhawk) didn't come across as such huge cocks themselves I would have no qualms about saying the Autobots were the bad guys here.

Prowl is actually a good example of Furman and others missing the point of what he did with the Marvel stuff. All of Prowl's post DW (and this applied to Eugenesis as well) characterisation is based on the assumption that Grimlock was right everytime he slagged him off. Prowl is a cold heartless git who just wants to be leader himself. Which was never the case in Marvel, most obviously in the fact that when he's the only one who hears Prime's last words he still tells the truth and has Grimlock made leader. Then you've got things like him getting so pissed off with the Battlechargers across half a country because he's so pissed off and passionate. IDW Prowl is clearly intended to be the same character, but he's a poor Xerox.
Oh, shit, Prowl. He's all kinds of a mess, isn't he? He's got at least four distinct personalities in the IDW books alone (a rule-quoting bureaucrat in the Furman stuff, socially awkward but really-trying-to-help in AHM, Generic Police Autobot under Costa and soulless manipulator under Roche, Roberts and (seemingly) Barber.

I don't particularly mind any of those characterizations (though the Furman one is the one I'd lean to personally) but they really need to pick something and stick with it. I mean, in the last few months we've seen Prowl investigate an ally for 'murdering' a sworn enemy in battle, and then turn around and blow up a ship full of Autobots whose only crime was trying to leave Cybertron and find a way to make their lives better. I don't even know where to begin dissecting what's wrong with that.

I mean, Starscream is a moron.
But the sad part is, he doesn't have to be! If there'd been some buildup, any buildup to him betraying Megatron, any hint of why he's doing it or how he expects things to go once Megatron was out of the picture, we could have gotten a good Starscream story. Show us a Starscream who uses guile and cunning to carry out his assignment on Earth, all the while scheming to seize the planet's resources for his own after the Infiltration and turn them against Megatron. Then we could respect him as a character, win or lose.

But Furman was too eager to have Prime and Megatron show up so things would return to a nice, safe, comfortable paradigm. So we got a Starscream who sat in a throne giving cryptic orders for five issues before getting bitchslapped by Megatron.

The more we talk about it, the less I like Infiltration. :(

I'll agree that Hasbro might have had a hand in this, but Furman's tone means we're set up for drama that never happens.
Sad thing is, there was the potential for plenty of drama. No one at IDW or Hasbro seemed to have any problem with the Decepticons razing entire cities in AHM, after all. Furman could have carried through with the threat of Infiltration and shown that the Decepticons were a genuine threat to destroy the entirety of human civilization even though there were only eight of them on the planet.

But no, let's have Sixshot fight the Reapers again instead.

inflatable dalek
2012-01-26, 02:38 PM
(Somehow missed dalek's post entirely the first time through...)

All my wise and wonderful words ignored. :(


This is something of a concern for me, too. Rodimus and his crew don't come off too badly to me because they're at least admitting that something is wrong and trying to find a way to fix it. But the characters left on Cybertron? Assholes, the lot of them. I never thought I'd see the day that the Autobots would
set loose a bunch of Decepticon thugs to beat up civilians, let alone employ them to do that on a continuing basis.
If the NAILs (and their spokesman Metalhawk) didn't come across as such huge cocks themselves I would have no qualms about saying the Autobots were the bad guys here.

Yep. Though I don't think Rodimus comes off much better with his refusal to understand why no one else will give a crazy old legend any credence, he's the David Icke of Transformers.

I think the problem is the book is trying too hard to make sure everyone's POV seems valid. Whilst that's sensible (if it was obvious to everyone that, say, Bumblebee was right there'd be no need to read the other book and vice versa) but it goes too far and just winds up making everyone seem equally twatish. Ratbat and Starscream actually came over as more likeable than all three leader Autobots.

Hell, even that NAIL who accosted "Orion Pax" upon his return seemed a knob with just three lines considering Prime just saved the entire Universe. Plus, if the NAIL's think the Autobots and Decepticons are both crazy war mongers which one in his right mind would go up to the biggest crazy war monger on the one side and say "Hey your granny sucks cocks in hell!" without expecting violent death as a result?

I'll give MTMTE (and let me say how much I hate these titles once again) an issue to impress me but I can't get very excited about RID for three reasons:

1: The whole brave new direction of Cybertron after the war with an uneasy peace that slowly starts to come apart at the seems is exactly the same set up as Furman's Energon comic. And we all remember how good that was, right?

2: The whole brave new direction of Cybertron after the war with an uneasy peace that slowly starts to come apart at the seems is exactly the same set up as Furman's forthcoming "Regeneration One" book. From the same publisher being put out at the same time. One of those two books should really, really have been required to come up with a different plot.

3: The ending is obvious from the start. Transformers is a war book, they're not going to publish an ongoing that could run for decades in theory that's entirely devoted to post peace politics. If the war hasn't kicked off again after a year I'll be surprised, two years is pretty much impossible. Bumblebee is doomed to failure from the off, so who cares about what happens inbetween?

Cliffjumper
2012-01-26, 03:02 PM
The more we talk about it, the less I like Infiltration. :(

It's a fabulous pitch and a dreadful story, IMO. I'd certainly say it's a lot easier to praise than read. The Big Ideas are superb, with the basic layout of the civil war, the status of the Transformers and the Decepticons' modus operandi up to that point by far the best we've been given anywhere, ever. Even the idea of a slow-building storyline is great. The problem is as soon as the story starts it's basically tearing down its' own ideas with the same portentous dirge we've had before.

It's like Furman had the idea but simply doesn't believe in it. He wants to be esoteric and de-emphasise the Transformers, but he wants to put enough familiarity in there that he's not going to get slated. He also can't write humans for toffee, resulting in two dreadful characters and a cardboard cutout.

He's fighting his own strengths for the whole book, and it just makes it incongruous - X issues of slow-moving minimalism just throws Ratchet's stupid line when fighting Blitzwing into incredibly sharp relief; the gradual build-up and stoic badassitude of Megatron in the first half of the mini makes him look even stupider when he lets all his treacherous minions off and repairs the ring-leader.

inflatable dalek
2012-01-26, 03:19 PM
I do actually like Starscream's motivation in Infiltration, he's not the constantly traitorous guy but someone who use to be a true believer in Megatron's ways who has slowly lost his faith after unfairly (in his eyes) being sidelined into a dead end go nowhere job. When given a chance to do more with the Super Energon he takes it. All that feels very logical and sensible to me (though I've no idea if later stories have retconned it with flashbacks showing him being a traitor all over the place. Though one of the two good bits in AHM was the conversation between him and Megatron that acknowledged this).

Indeed, as a first offence by a previously very loyal and extremely competent officer, it even makes sense that Megatron would let him off with being brutalised rather than killed. It's when you get to Starscream doing it again in Devastation and Megatron letting him off just so someone can hold him in gun mode in battler (really? Skywarp can't do that? Is he worried the colours will clash?) and then doing it again in the shameless rehash that was the end of AHM that really buggered things up.

I always thought the best way to write Starscream would be to treat him as Blackadder with Megatron as Queenie.

Cliffjumper
2012-01-26, 06:47 PM
The problem is that aspect of his character just isn't built up at all. Once again it's tell not show, which means we basically have Starscream being all Classic from the start with vague hints of "but yeh, I'm not all that treacherous". The thing to do would have been to have Starscream the loyal but increasingly disillusioned underling for 12-18 issues, enough to make people seriously ponder whether it's the real him or just bluff, then have him go all Sunbow. And then, IMO, have Megatron kill him, blind to the message his disenchanted underling's trying to deliver.

If anything, the vague hints that this is the first time Starscream's stepped out of line are another manifestation of the Dead Furmanverse's habit of wanting to have its' cake and eat it too. It wants Starscream to be a true believer at the end of his tether so it can claim it's not just another G1 reheat, but wants to get Screechy Latta in there too so TF fans will love the comic (because however sick we might be of Starscream there're thousands of morons out there who lap the "one day I will lead!" shit up).

It's like the same way we're occasionally told these Autobots are harder and more distant than the cuddly Saturday morning fellers of old. But what do you know? The story just so happens to start at the exact point where they all decide they want to have some little human buddies to design horribly outdated top-down arcade games for. Well, how's about that?

Regarding Prowl, I'd love to know what happened round-about 1991 to make Furman hate him, because in Earthforce he's a very cool character - funny, fairly bouncy, quite chilled, gets most of the good lines and is something of a figure of sympathy because he's #2 to a complete moron. Whereas Grimlock is a buffoon, constantly three pages behind everyone else and displaying all the leadership qualities of, well, Grimlock the last time and next time they put him in charge, and a vicious piece of shit to boot.

Then post-Unicron they flip, and Grimlock ends up this smug Snake-Eyes/Wolverine hybrid whose egocentricism is frequently rewarded by cards falling his way and Prowl's meant to be an annoying prick whose sound advice is largely ridiculed by Grimlock doing whatever the **** he wants because the writer likes him and is always going to make things work out his way.

Warcry
2012-01-27, 05:01 AM
Yep. Though I don't think Rodimus comes off much better with his refusal to understand why no one else will give a crazy old legend any credence, he's the David Icke of Transformers.
But does he, even? I got the impression that he was just grasping at straws and looking for something he could do. At least, that seems more Hot Rodish to me than buying into an ancient prophecy lock, stock and barrel. He's the sort of character that doesn't deal with downtime very well.

I'll give MTMTE (and let me say how much I hate these titles once again) an issue to impress me but I can't get very excited about RID for three reasons:
I agree, terrible titles. Which one is which, even?

2: The whole brave new direction of Cybertron after the war with an uneasy peace that slowly starts to come apart at the seems is exactly the same set up as Furman's forthcoming "Regeneration One" book. From the same publisher being put out at the same time. One of those two books should really, really have been required to come up with a different plot.
Nah, with Furman it'd last two issues tops before we're back to the Autobots and Decepticons quipping at each other between poorly-aimed laser volleys.

The problem is that aspect of his character just isn't built up at all. Once again it's tell not show, which means we basically have Starscream being all Classic from the start with vague hints of "but yeh, I'm not all that treacherous". The thing to do would have been to have Starscream the loyal but increasingly disillusioned underling for 12-18 issues, enough to make people seriously ponder whether it's the real him or just bluff, then have him go all Sunbow. And then, IMO, have Megatron kill him, blind to the message his disenchanted underling's trying to deliver.
This would be a beautiful way to use Starscream. Built him up into a character that the readers can sympathize with first, and when he finally makes his move they'll either be cheering for him or at least understand where he's coming from. When he shows up and starts acting immediately treacherous, how are you supposed to take him seriously?

I suspect most readers were smiling when Megatron evaporated his torso.

Regarding Prowl, I'd love to know what happened round-about 1991 to make Furman hate him, because in Earthforce he's a very cool character - funny, fairly bouncy, quite chilled, gets most of the good lines and is something of a figure of sympathy because he's #2 to a complete moron. Whereas Grimlock is a buffoon, constantly three pages behind everyone else and displaying all the leadership qualities of, well, Grimlock the last time and next time they put him in charge, and a vicious piece of shit to boot.

Then post-Unicron they flip, and Grimlock ends up this smug Snake-Eyes/Wolverine hybrid whose egocentricism is frequently rewarded by cards falling his way and Prowl's meant to be an annoying prick whose sound advice is largely ridiculed by Grimlock doing whatever the **** he wants because the writer likes him and is always going to make things work out his way.
If I had to guess, I'd say that Furman fell in love with Grimlock while he was writing the Nucleon stuff. That seems to be the spot where stops acknowledging that he's an aggravating, surly dimwit and starts treating him as a sympathetic protagonist. After that, anyone who tried to get between him and the spotlight needed to be made to look like an idiot so that Grimlock came off well, since Grimlock's actual behaviour hadn't changed. Prowl was just the one unlucky enough to catch all the flak, and (probably unintentionally) I find him very sympathetic in those stories. Prowl is right about almost everything, Grimlock is almost always wrong, and Prowl is simply trying to help Grimlock be a better leader. And instead of appreciating him the Dinobot just throws everything back in his face. Prowl's obviously there just so that Grimlock can laugh at his advice, act like a maverick and somehow come out smelling like roses even when he wanders off into the wastes and almost gets his Dinobots killed, or destroys whatever shreds of goodwill might have existed between the factions by pissing all over Fangry, or blundering into an ambush and getting all but five of his Autobots killed.

In the real world, commanders like that wake up in the morning to the sound of a frag grenade rolling under their bed...

inflatable dalek
2012-01-28, 08:59 AM
Just reread Devastation, and you know, I'd forgotten how blatently it really does feel like it was being rewritten as it went along. As well as the dead end Ironhide thing, we have pages devoted to Dealer and Hound's group coming to Earth that don't go anywhere because of the ending and the very last mention of the whole "The Decepticons are about to take over the US government" thing. The flip flopping over Hound is actually hilarious, "OK, come to Earth. Actually... don't". I can't believe that it wasn't the result of AHM being set in motion as even Furman isn't usually so bad as to abandon plots within two issues of the same series.

What's annoying is, it would make so much more sense to ditch the Reapers and have Hound's group attack the Decepticon base as a way of drawing Sixshot away from Prime. It'd stop Prime's crew surviving just through blind luck and the return of the "Well, I could just kill you right now and it would take three seconds but I've been called away!" crap. And add a nice level of irony in that the Autobots would accidentally have reunified the Decepticons through their attack. There's even some red shirts on Hound's crew Galvatron could kill.