Transformers (2019-?) #1 [SPOILERS]

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Ryan F
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Transformers (2019-?) #1 [SPOILERS]

Post by Ryan F » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:04 am

Okay, here we go...!

First off, I think it's a pretty good idea to use Rubble as the audience identification character. He almost reminds me of a Doctor Who assistant - someone to ask questions the audience would ask, someone who's enthusiastic and excited (rather than jaded), someone for whom - like us - all this is new. Yes, it's a writing technique as old as the sun, but as a way to give information to the reader quickly and concisely, it works well. My one concern is that there's the potential for his wide-eyed wonder to become grating as the story progresses - there's a thin line between endearingly innocent and cloyingly annoying.

In terms of character choice, at the moment it's just the 'evergreen' regular cast plus Rubble at the moment. I'm hoping that, going forward, we'll see some other names who perhaps never got their time in the spotlight. Maybe Ruckley can do for Vroom and Inferno what Roberts did for Swerve and Brainstorm, and give some lesser-developed characters their time in the sun. I had a bit of trepidation when Brainstorm was mentioned (of all the G1 Transformers, why go back to someone who has already been 'done'?), so it was a nice surprise to see him be the sacrificial lamb. (Well, actually it wasn't much of a surprise if you'd read the solicitations and knew that someone was going to be murdered, but you know what I mean).

However, my main bugbear is that, well, we've seen much of this before. Megatron and Orion Pax are at opposite ends of the political discussion (although we don't yet know what Megatron's exact beef is yet), and we know there's going to be an uprising of some sort and that the war will begin as a result. Now, Ruckley might be able to put a new and interesting spin on things - he deserves the benefit of the doubt - but at the moment the concept is yet to grab me.

When Furman started the IDW ball rolling all those years ago, his idea of Infiltration and undercover Decepticons genuinely seemed like a brilliant new take, a breath of fresh air, something we'd never seen before. This, in comparison, just seems a lot safer, and entrenched in the status quo, from what I've seen so far. What's the use of a reboot if you're just going to re-tread old ground?

But there are many ways to skin a cat, and Ruckley could end up surprising me. It's difficult to judge how good a series is going to be from the first chapter alone (Encounter at Farpoint says hi). But surely the whole point of an episode one is to 'wow' people, to grab them, to get them tuning in to the next installment. The TV show Lost may have gone a bit crackers in the end, but that first episode had me on tenterhooks. I think back to issue 1 of MTMTE and remember being instantly pulled into that universe, and itching to read issue 2. This issue, though... my immediate thought is not, 'wow, I wonder what's going to happen next!', but rather 'huh, okay, I'll give it a few more issues, maybe it'll get better'.

Technically, it's... solid? While the Pax/Megatron conversation reads a bit stilted, the more freely conversational stuff between Rubble, Bee and Windblade shows that Ruckley has an ear for dialogue. There is a lot of set-up (the Titans are a Chekhov's Gun if ever I saw one), and the art is fine (helped, it most be said, by some lovely atmospheric colouring by Joanna LaFuente). The fact that there are two different artists is quite obvious: Cachét Whitman, who does the Prime/Megatron scene, draws the characters so on-model that you'd be forgiven for thinking that he's just tracing over photos of the actual toys, whereas Angel Hernandez, who does the Bee/Rubble/Windblade stuff, is more loose and dynamic, although the proof of the pudding will be in how they pull off action scenes.

My major gripe with the art is that there's a lack of emotion in the characters' faces. We all know that Milne/Roche/Lawrence can draw transformers that are extremely expressive, but even back in the day, Senior and Wildman could show you that Optimus Prime was emoting just by how they drew his eyes. There are just too many impassive stares here for my liking, I think.

I don't want to hate on this too much, because it's only the first issue and it might get a whole lot better. But at the moment, the best I can describe issue 1 is simply, 'mildly intriguing'. 2/5.

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inflatable dalek
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Re: Transformers (2019-?) #1 [SPOILERS]

Post by inflatable dalek » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:43 pm

Generally speaking, I liked it a lot. It was nice and eerie and whilst largely just characters talking, it was good talking. Maybe it didn't hit the ground as hard as MTMTE 1, but that was a creative team that had built up to it through prior TF work, Ruckley is getting his feet under the table here.

Some of the dialogue was bit clunky, especially the trying a bit too hard to be James Roberts Prowl conversation, but I think that'll smooth over. It being fortnightly probably helps with the pacing as well, 40 pages a month means it can be a bit more deliberate in its thinking.

It'll be interesting to see how the murder mystery goes. I know a few people felt killing Brainstorm was an FU to the old continuity (which I can sort of see, it's certainly a not in Kansas anymore moment) and also bordering on bury your gays (more unfairly considering everyone bar Cindersaur and his wife were were LGBT in some form in the old timeline). But if it gets a good hook going, it should be fun.

Bet the killer will be the monkey brain thing.

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Re: Transformers (2019-?) #1 [SPOILERS]

Post by Denyer » Sat Mar 16, 2019 1:22 am

Much better than the solicitation copy makes out -- wasn't expecting to find much to like from that, or the choice of characters, but it gets across scale and character depth plus nice touches (eg dormant titans). Reminds me a bit of the FoC art book -- grand and alien.

Isn't a slugfest or cartoon circle-jerk, so it might struggle to win fans, but if I can remember it's out and the eBay prices stay the same will nab singles.

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Ryan F
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Re: Transformers (2019-?) #1 [SPOILERS]

Post by Ryan F » Wed Mar 27, 2019 9:53 pm

Onto issue #2...

The cover promises us that this is a ‘bold new era’. But it isn’t, not yet, anyway. Rather than being the refreshing new take that the cover promises, this is as (little-‘c’) conservative as Transformers fiction gets.

Issue 1 ended with a murder, in a world where murders simply do not occur. This should be earth-shattering; game-changing even. But rather than spurring events into motion, we have Rubble pondering the meaning of life, while Chromia, Prowl and Pax speculate, pontificate and ruminate. Rather than galvanising the characters into action, the murder only results in a couple of tense conversations. The conversations may be grave, but there’s very little gravity or urgency here. I’m eager to see the investigation, not watch people simply chat about one for five pages. I want to see the promised stirrings of war, but instead we get a day trip to Wheeljack’s workshop.

Now, it’s possible that the whole moon-tether set-up will pay off in a big way down the line (and I’d be very surprised if it didn’t), but far too long was spent on these Wheeljack scenes. Both Rubble and Bumblebee note that the moon’s unfurling was the most beautiful thing they ever saw, but if the sight was supposed to be spectacular, it certainly wasn’t depicted as such by the art. If this were a film, the moon’s transformation would have been a signature moment, with rousing music, some sweeping camera movement, and some swanky CGI that took your breath away. But the art doesn’t come close to pulling it off. This should be a ‘wow’ moment, like the Space Bridge transforming into Spanner, or Unicron attacking Cybertron, or Devastator’s first combination. Instead, it was a damp squib, with no real scale or sense of awe.

Everyone here is either a generic, a Siege toy, or a G1 stalwart. I loved when Simon Furman opened up the original IDW-verse with the Battlechargers, and both Barber and Roberts doubled down on the use of obscurer characters, but here we need a background character and they choose… Gears. Probably the most boring pick they could have come up with.

And then we have the Decepticons (Ascenticons, whatever), whose main beef seems to be that the Energon supply is not great. There is talk of ‘hoarding’ and ‘rationing’. At the moment, though, it’s all empty rhetoric. Who are we supposed to be siding with here? Who’s in the right? Are the Decepticons’ claims justified, or are they just being greedy? If the Autobots can suck Energon from the atmosphere using a transforming moon, why is rationing in place, anyway? There’s a scene in which Rubble discusses politics with Bumblebee, and asks about the divisions between the various factions. This would have been the ideal place for Bumblebee to explain what’s going on, to give us a bit of background into the Ascenticon/Autobot schism. But Bumblebee just shrugs and says the equivalent of ‘I’m a centrist, politics is boring’, and we remain none the wiser.

The G1 comics may have depicted the Decepticons as one-dimensional galactic tyrants, but at least this was established from the outset. Likewise, James Roberts’ solo IDW debut went back and delved into what made Megatron and Prime tick. But here… I can’t get emotionally involved in characters when I don’t even know what they stand for. Why do we spend panels upon panels faffing about in workshops and meeting rooms when the ground rules are still to be laid? Megatron had a rally and was shot at. Why should I care? Is Megatron a victim of a terrible attack, or a tyrant who got what’s coming to him? Until I know the stakes, or what the points of view are, this leaves me very cold indeed. I'm half-reminded of The Phantom Menace, which was equally replete with board meetings, clunky exposition and odd stakes that I couldn't really get behind (the ultimate cause of the Star Wars was... a dispute about taxes on exports).

So what do we have that’s actually good here? Well, I like Brian Ruckley’s dialogue. His characters mostly make small talk and don’t say much of interest, but everyone at least has their own ‘voice’. The overall premise (peaceful world turned inside out) is a strong one, despite us being no closer to that moment than we were at the end of the previous issue. (That said, I think the art should be doing a lot more work in selling us a Cybertron that's a veritable paradise on the verge of being lost, rather than a bunch of uninspiring grey landscapes.)

But that’s pretty much it. I criticised the early Furman IDW run because the storytelling was very drawn-out (i.e. four to five issues of plodding in between the Important Stuff Happening). But I don’t mind slow-burn storytelling if I care about the characters, or if there’s a sense of intrigue that makes me invested or curious about what’s going to happen next, a sense of anticipation. But here I find myself reading in hope rather than expectation.

I don’t like to be negative about this comic, I want to like it, I hope like hell it succeeds, and I respect (and envy) anyone here who finds enjoyment in it. It's still early days, maybe it'll get better. It needs to. At the moment this lacks oomph, pizzazz or gusto. If this didn’t have the Transformers logo plastered on the front cover, I think I'd give up at this point.

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inflatable dalek
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Re: Transformers (2019-?) #1 [SPOILERS]

Post by inflatable dalek » Fri Mar 29, 2019 6:54 pm

I still enjoyed it, despite you making some very good points, especially about the odd reaction to the murder.

I guess I'm just enjoying the amiable meander through Cybertron at the moment. A lot will depend on how the story plays out though.

Calling Wheeljack as the killer. Someone with at least the potential for a professional reason to want Brainstorm dead, is the only character to get decent page time who might have been able to do it and a lot of that was spent on "WHEELJACK IS A GREAT GUY".

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Re: Transformers (2019-?) #1 [SPOILERS]

Post by Denyer » Fri Mar 29, 2019 9:07 pm

The Whitman art isn't always functional, but the Hernandez art is ****ing lush with the strong and slightly abstract lines -- maybe it's because I'm ordering the print copies and then looking at digital on a big screen whilst I wait, but loving it. In places it's not far off the approach I associate with The Kindly Ones or TWAU.

Also like the world/characters being quite strongly clean and ordered -- at the moment this is a rational, intelligent society, talking about its differences.

Guessing we've yet to meet the killer.

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