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

Post by inflatable dalek » Fri Jun 21, 2019 1:33 pm

Seven issues in, and I think Ruckley has gotten the hang of comic pacing now, And I'm actually quite enjoying it. It's a lot less dense than the Roberts/Barber stuff, but it's nice and breezy and fun.

Quite like pissed crazt Cyclonus as well.

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

Post by Denyer » Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:01 pm

Am liking the fact it hasn't dived into war a few issues in, definitely.

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

Post by Denyer » Sun Jul 21, 2019 10:11 am

Sixshot doesn't seem like much of a big deal in #9, does he?

Would be lying if I said I was keeping track of this by any other way than seeing other people mention they got it on social media, but I am enjoying.

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

Post by Denyer » Sat Oct 05, 2019 12:04 pm

Anyone still reading this? I was thinking #12 might be a logical jumping off point before a new arc, but it's basically a xeno-sociology spotlight from Nautica's point of view, and if Ruckley's going to keep up this quality (plus it's going monthly and easier to keep track of) I think I'm in, probably until it gets to whatever Earthrise is in the context of the comics. Although based on this, if the millions-of-years schlock gets dropped it might be possible to pull off a comic with a proportion of Earth-based action without being too shit.

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

Post by inflatable dalek » Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:49 pm

So it looks like, as it's what has just been promoted on Twitter and it's all that's showing up for pre-order on Amazon, the series isn't being collected in average six issue paperbacks, but (for the first one at least, a second is also up for pre-order, but not sure of the contents there) 12 issue fancy hardbacks.

So I guess they've pretty much decided the market is either digital or Very Serious collectors at this point.

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

Post by Skyquake87 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:21 pm

Physical format things do seem to be leaning that way, don't they? Certainly the trend for comics seems to be huge unwieldy tomes (still struggle with the ones Denyer kindly gave me a few years back - I feel like I need to be reading them in a library standing up whilst wearing gloves).

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

Post by Denyer » Wed Oct 16, 2019 8:44 pm

It's nice to have series in one place for a proper read, but they do vary in success a great deal -- IIRC without double-checking the Planetary one has noticeably thin paper, or things like the old 2012 Annotated Sandman (like a lot of DC/Wildstorm titles of the era) has a cheap and porous matte finish that would have left a bad impression if it'd been more than about three quid from London Forbidden Planet's impressive all-year-round clearance shelves. I'm led to believe that the actual cost difference between paper stocks isn't huge, which is backed up by better treatment for other series -- Planetary will have been because they didn't want the book too thick, and Sandman because the release was intended to contrast with the Absolute releases.

Really thin hardbacks like the Nemo individual volumes or a lot of the throwaway DC New 52 era collections annoy too. The format suits 6-12 issues of better than average quality.

I'd say the first twelve issues of this series do justify it, but push me towards giving up singles.

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

Post by inflatable dalek » Fri Oct 18, 2019 11:58 pm

Mind, I think digital has been a boon for Transformers, even with Comixology being cagey about figures (though from what someone who'd know was telling me, More Than Meets the Eye sold better than any of us thought that way), it's definitely where that new audience that's generally found comic book shops off-putting found the franchise and embraced it. If the downside of that is the physical media becoming more niche, fair enough.

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

Post by Denyer » Sat Oct 19, 2019 1:07 pm

By this point paper singles have lost out because they're crap -- more expensive, fragile to read, hassle to store, don't hold value versus collected editions, etc. Most adults with other demands on their time aren't bothering to make specific journeys to comic shops to catch up on monthly releases, unless they're very local to one. Online shopping is the norm, mostly waiting for collected editions or opting for the convenience of digital, but places will also do mail order subs and parcel things up at agreed intervals for one lot of postage.

Judging by eg that Forbidden Planet, the clientele is around 50/50 and so are the staff. They're all much younger than us. Generalisations from the era before massive comic book movies might be the case with small/sketchy independents, but chains like money. The busy areas are collectibles (upstairs) and books (downstairs) -- new single comics issues make up a small display area, and it doesn't see much footfall that isn't walking straight past it. Retail effort goes into what sells.

Coming back to this particular series, ad hoc mail order is at least three quid an issue. Because Amazon has publishers in a vice grip, the "fancy" collected edition has a pre-order value of thirty. And at some point before it goes out of print it'll probably drop below that as other sellers (new/used) get in on it, which is the point to pick one up, gift or charity shop the singles and debate the wisdom of buying more (whatever format).

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