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Old 2015-01-02, 08:49 AM   #1
inflatable dalek
Duke of Kidderminster
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Kidderminster UK
Smile Outside the Briefcase: The State of the [Comic] Union in 2014.

Yes, it's time for another thread rounding up our thoughts on the year's comics that have just gone past (remember how we never bothered with these when Mike Costa was about? I hate that the comics now being good enough for us to care has created more work for me).

I'm bound to miss something out here as my brain is not unlike one of those things used to drain rice, so do feel free to chime in with whatever I've not at the very least mentioned. knowing me it'll be the best comic of the year.

So 2014 was a year that started and ended in fembot related controversy (though I was mildly surprised to see the Furman/Scott debate closed out 2013 when I was checking threads about it the other day, I'd have sworn it was much more recent than that), even if the discussions raised by James Roberts' comments on Twitter seemed much more mild and friendly than the first time round, indeed, I think Slag mentioning there'd been an issue was the first time I'd heard of it.

[As there was some discussion over exactly what James may and may not have meant in the MTMTE 36 thread, a LINK to a longer clarification from the man himself. Annoyingly he seems to agree with Warcry about gender being an issue of self identity rather than biology for the female Transformers.]

The real surprise of the year then was that the Windblade miniseries managed to avoid all the pittfalls inherent in the legacy of Spotlight: Arcee (and the treatment of female characters in Transformers generally) to be a nice, fun read that had a decent thoughtful ending. Helped no end by picking up on the Cybertron politics side of thing that RID had initially done so well and which had been sorely neglected for... what felt like a year at that point.

For our other "Main continuity" mini series of the year... Well, I must admit the mad completeism that had seized me once more in the early days of the relaunch has waned by this point. I read the first two (I think) issues of Primacy and became happy to wait for the trade. And I didn't even bother with Drift 2: Let's Have the Guy who Made Drift Uninteresting to the Point MTMTE Had to Make Him a Comedy Character Do Another Mini, it feels very much like something my life will be made much more cheerful by not experiencing.

Regeneration One shuffled to a somewhat embarrassed close this year, and though the final storyline actually managed to be good fun by just chucking away any pretence of being a serious continuation of Marvel and going for full on camp adventure instead, it was too little too late. The final issue itself was a rather mangled mess, and considering Furman seemed to be recycling various ideas IDW had already rejected once (including his very first pitch to them, a "Crisis on Infinite Cybertrons", plus what seems to the the vestege of his original Dead Universe notion that was chucked for AHM) and the fact it was treading not dissimilar ground to Dark Cybertron, you have to wonder how anyone thought it was a good idea. Certainly all the really, really loud and passive aggressive defenders of the series who so dogged me two years ago wound up going rather quiet on it at the end.

As a sign of how tired Reg felt, the series that replaced it as the "Retro" book, Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe has gone on to not only sell extremely well but has received all sorts of proper actual critical plaudits from the sort of places that would never normally bother looking at Transformers.

Yes, having a name aboard helps with getting attention, but it's approach of just tackling one specific apporach and doing it to the hilt means that, whilst it's clearly not to everyone's taste, those that do love it, loooooooooooooooooooooove it, and in a much more cheerful way than the big Reg fans enjoyed that book. I've not found time for issue 4 yet (I'm a busy man!), but I will be catching up with this.

The only real downside I can see for the future of this book is that, no matter how much Terome tries to persuade me otherwise, I just don't see it being sustainable in the long term. One more trade and then it being called a night could result in a great maxi-series, going on and on and on could run it into the ground.

There was also Angry Bird Transformers this year, did anyone read that?

That leaves us with the big two (of which, I'm just going to keep calling RID "RID" for both this post and all future ones indefinitely for ease of reference. I think we're all too old and grumpy to even notice the new cartoon, let alone be confused by it).

The year, to put it mildly, did not start well with the conclusion to Dark Cybertron. The series did rally round to a solid enough climax (and seemed to finally kill off the Dead Universe cancer that has been at the heart of all the really bad IDW moments, but then of course we've had a flashback with Nova and Jhiaxus in that suggests some bad ideas just won't be let go of) but an awful lot of damage was done to the momentum of both books, especially RID, that could well have been permanently disastrous.

For MTMTE, it managed to recover fairly quickly despite being lumbered with what could potentially have been the silliest idea ever in Megatron becoming an Autobot.

It was helped by just basically going right back to where it left off, meaning that whilst time was spent establishing the new characters over the old it still felt very much like the same series. Making the acceptance of Megatron's change of side amongst 200 odd Autobots made the early issues creak a bit (and- unless the final reveal is they're all in a plot against him- is something I don't think will ever really go away) but there was still a lot to like and the discovery of the ALL saw things really kick into an exciting new high gear with everything just working really well.

I would also say that the fight in the planes in issue 36 is the first unambiguously straightforward big fight scene Roberts has pulled off successfully. Previously he's struggled with them and has either written around them (the Barney with Overlord is basically made entirely about Pipes' death) or done them rather poorly (the Star Sabre/Cyclonus sword fight basically made everyone go "Is that it?"), mainly because he's clearly much more interested in characters talking at each other than punching each other. Which is fine as we get enough of that in other Transformers products, but it's nice to see this particular area of weakness improved upon.

All in all, Dark Cybertron and Megatron mandate wibbles aside, MTMTE has weathered the year very well.

RID on the other hand...

Well, I always want to like RID more than I do. The first year or so of the book was great, Barber has done wonders as editor (it can not be emphasised enough how much of a difference no Andy Schmidt makes) and the last few issues have been perfectly serviceable fun overall.

But it has to be said, it is telling that- whilst MTMTE went straight back into business as usual- RID has a reformatting for the post DC relaunch. There's the feeling that the failure of all that Prowlestator nonsense as the conclusion to a big serious political plotline has been acknowledged by Barber and so he's offloaded that side of things onto Scott and moved his own book into territory that better fits his big action scene ideas.

And there are places, most notably Galvatron who is simply brilliant and wouldn't have felt at home in year one RID at all, where that's worked fine. Even Prowlestator works better in the context of an all action romp than he did previously.

My problem largely remains Barber's desire to please the fans with lots and lots of continuity and revisiting of old plot threads, even if no one actually liked those plot threads to start with.

My rewatch of Doctor Who has just gone through the Colin Baker era, possibly the best example of what can go wrong if you try to play to the fans as it is possible to find. It's the mentality that leads to Attack of the Cybermen. Hell, it's the mentality that leads to Regeneration One. Absolutely nothing good can come from going "Hey, let's see what Spike's been up to!".

And sure, there are loud and vocal fans who want to know what happened to, say, Jimmy Pink. But they're not the fans who are interested in good storytelling (because there's nothing about the vacuum that is Jimmy Pink- a character who wound up boring his own creator to the point of barely featuring him- that screams "This is worth catching up on!"), they're the fans who are happy if you can give them something to tick off on a checklist or add to the wiki. I've certainly been guilty of that in the past (probably most of us have), but that's exactly the sort of mentality that needs to be avoided to keep the books actually good.

That's why I'm much keener on the newer fans being cultivated. From the demographics of AA attendees to the reactions on places like Twitter and (as the kids call it) Tumblr suggest there really is a different demographic out there reading the books. And if the series are going to play to anyone, it should be them. Because fandoms don't thrive on stagnation, they thrive on new people coming in, loving what works and ripping down what doesn't which has just been left to rot slowly by the old farts because they've always been used to it.

The sort of people in other words who can keep an author on their toes because they won't just go "Yay, Marissa Fairborne" or (to pick a Roberts example, he's generally handled reusing past elements well as he tends to hit on the ones with actually interesting story potential) "Nightbeat huzzah", but will be much more down on how well these characters they've not encountered before work to the story.

Of course, new fans won't get everything (or in a worst case scenario even most things) right, but then, that's what the generation of fans after that are for.

[On a similar note, I'd really love to know the digital sales. With physical basically remaining steady that's presumably where most of the new readers are coming from].
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