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TransFormers: Generation One (2003 Series) #6

May 14, 2011 Leave a comment

October 19, 2003
Quick Rating: Okay
Title: Revelation (War and Peace Chapter Six)

Shockwave’s scheme is revealed.

Writer: Brad Mick
Pencils: Pat Lee
Inks: Rob Armstrong
Letters: Ben Lee
Publisher: Dreamwave

The difficult thing about reading Dreamwave’s TransFormers: Generation One, at least as someone who was a fan of the original incarnation of the property, is that it’s such a piecemeal of all the various versions that have gone before. The title is not in continuity with either the old Marvel series or the cartoon, but instead borrows elements from both. This is all well and good, and even exciting when you see plot points that mirror moments in the movie, but makes it a little difficult to keep track of where all the pieces are on the board.

The good thing about this issue is that a mystery that has been chasing this series for twelve issues now is resolved. The bad thing is that the solution is not terribly surprising. This is perhaps the most exposition-heavy issue of TransFormers ever written, and althoughMick tries to juxtapose the talking heads sequences with some really superb action sequences, there are a lot of points where this issue drags.

Some of the things that are thrown in are confusing as well. To my knowledge, this series is the first time any reference has been made of Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus being brothers… considering the characterization of the two, I suppose it makes sense… but how exactly does that even work with robots? If this was an element that needed to be introduced to the story, it could have been explored more.

Not to sound like this is a terrible issue. This book ties up several of the loose threads in the series and sets things up very nicely for the ongoing series that will begin early next year. Mick did great action work, and I absolutely love the new look for an old character introduced in this issue. Pat Lee also continues to prove he can draw big ol’ robots better than just about anyone in the business. Dreamwave’s color team does a nice job as well, polishing these panels to the point where you could almost believe they were lifted straight from an animation cell.

If Mick had paced his exposition a bit more, perhaps spilling a little last issue instead of saving it all up for the finale, the whole thing probably would have worked a lot better. I was fairly satisfied with the previous five issues of this title, so I’m keeping my hopes up that the ongoing series will be more evocative of those issues than this last one.

Rating: 6/10

TransFormers: Generation One (2004 Series) #4

April 11, 2011 Leave a comment

May 1, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: The Omega Effect & Runnin’ With the Devil

Sunstorm versus Omega Supreme! Giant robots blowing stuff up!

Writer: Brad Mick
Pencils: Don Figueroa & James Raiz
Inks: Elaine To & Erik Sander
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Elliot Kravichik
Letters: Ben Lee
Cover Art: Don Figueroa
Publisher: Dreamwave

As Megatron returns to reclaim his leadership from the treacherous Starscream, Sunstorm is drawn into battle with the giant Autobot, Omega Supreme. Meanwhile, the ragtag band of Autobots on Earth tries to rescue their comrades that Starscream has shut down.

This is a major action-heavy issue, which this title was starting to need. Mick has a good feel for the characters, but his scripts are usually so bogged down with expository dialogue that it can be a chore to read them. Pumping up the action in this issue really works.

Figueroa and To, along with Award Winner for “Colorist With the Hardest Name to Spell” Espen Grundetjern do their usual beautiful job with the artwork. TransFormers was one of the first comics I read as a kid, after I started branching out from Archie and Spider-Man, and I can say with authority that this is the best they’ve ever looked. I take off a little for resorting to a sideways page for Omega Supreme’s entrance, because I find that really annoying and think it pulls the reader out of the story to have to suddenly turn the comic around, but even that page looks good. Colorists are becoming more and more noticeable these days, and few make their mark on a title they way Grundetjern does.

There’s also a short back-up feature that shows how Megatron made his way back after being hurled into outer space, guest-starring fan favorite Wreck-Gar. It’s not something you really need to enjoy the main story arc of the title, but it doesn’t hurt, and James Raiz and Erik Sander do just as good a job as the regular art team. Colorist Elliot Kravichik really stands out in the back up, giving things a strange, grimy texture that’s perfect for the Junkion’s spaceship and helps to make the entire sequence more authentic.

This is still a solid title, but I’m not enjoying it as much as I did earlier incarnations, probably because of the characters Mick is concentrating on. Yeah, I know Megatron is a fan favorite, but for me, it’s not TransFormers without Optimus Prime. Bring him back, Mick, we’re getting impatient!

Rating: 7/10

TransFormers: Generation One (2004 Series) #3

March 4, 2011 Leave a comment

March 27, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Skyfire

Jetfire returns to the Autobots just in time to face off against Sunstorm.

Writer: Brad Mick
Pencils: Don Figueroa
Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Rob Ruffolo
Letters: Ben Lee
Cover Art: Don Figueroa
Publisher: Dreamwave

Brad Mick is marking the 20th anniversary of the TransFormers franchise in style – with the return of Jetfire, one of the most popular Generation One characters, and the introduction of Sunstorm, the best new character in the Generation One line in probably at least a decade.

Last issue Sunstorm, Starscream’s nastier brother, appeared to wrest control of the Decepticons away from his brother. This issue Jetfire returns to do battle with the would-be leader and strikes an uneasy alliance with Starscream.

In addition to the new character and old returning character, we get to play with some of the regular cast as well. We see how little Bumblebee functions as a leader in Optimus Prime’s absence, and also how some of the other Autobots resent taking their commands from one so small. If Mick’s writing has any fault, it’s that it still seems overly wordy, overly expository. So much of the story depends on knowledge of a continuity that is, to a large degree, a piecemeal creating, blending elements of the cartoon show and the old Marvel comic as is convenient and leaving the reader, even a longtime reader, unsure of exactly what parts are still valid. The result is tons of word balloons that exist to bring everybody up to speed but, tragically, may cost them impatient readers in the process.

The artwork, by Figueroa and To, continues to impress. The TransFormers are great-looking characters to begin with, but not everybody can draw giant robots and make them look cool (in too many artists’ hands, they just look sort of silly). There’s a lot of action in this issue, and the battle scenes really stand out powerfully. The coloring team deserves credit here as well, keeping the action from looking muddy and helping Sunstorm and Starscream, identical except for their color scheme, stand out from one another individually.

The reliance on TransFormers minutia hurts this title, but it’s something die-hard fans will be able to get through. If you’re willing to go through all that stuff, it’s a fun read and one of the best-looking comic books on the racks.

Rating: 7/10

TransFormers: Generation 1 (2004 Series) #2

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

February 28, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Black Sunshine

A new TransFormer challenges Starscream’s claim to the Decepticon throne!

Writer: Brad Mick
Pencils: Don Figueroa
Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Rob Ruffolo
Letters: Ben Lee
Cover Art: Don Figueroa & Elaine To
Publisher: Dreamwave

Although we do get to check in with the Autobots – both in space and on Earth – in this issue, most of issue two of the new Generation One ongoing is concerned with the Decepticons. With Megatron missing and presumed dead, Starscream has reverted to his same old plot of usurping control of the darker TransFormers faction in his absence. Things are thrown for a loop, however, when a new Decepticon arrives on the scene, wielding enough influence to threaten Starscream’s grasp.

I can’t talk too much about this much-hyped new character, other than to say that his very existence has serious implications for the Decepticon hierarchy. The interaction between him and Starscream is well-done, and I’m anxious to see where this storyline is going.

This issue, like most of issues since Brad Mick took the writing reigns of this title, is very dense and loaded with dialogue. Usually I don’t have a problem like that, but in a book like TranFormers, I really would rather have a bit more action than we’ve been served up so far. I’m also somewhat disappointed that, only four (relative) issues since his “transformation,” Ultra Magnus has re-armored into his old form. The new look was great, and I hope it’s not gone for good.

Don Figueroa and Elaine To’s artwork carries no complaints, though. He handles the robots very well and every scene is dealt with powerfully, from a firefight at the beginning to the Autobots holding a vigil over the recuperating Optimus Prime. The color work is also very good in this title, mixing up powerful, vibrant tones with great energy and underwater effects. This book looks almost like some of the best animation you see these days – and in fact, it’s far superior than the new TransFormers cartoons on television.

Mick is still setting up his story in this issue, that much is clear, and hopefully once all the pieces are in place this title will launch into a great roller-coaster ride like the TransFormers should be. It would be a shame if he took to long to get to that point and lost his readership in the process.

Rating: 7/10

TransFormers/G.J. Joe #6

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

April 3, 2004

Quick Rating: Fair
Title: The Iron Fist

With Bruticus on a rampage, only the the Autobot Matrix can save the world… but at what price?

Writer: John Ney Rieber
Art: Jae Lee
Colors: June Chung
Letters: Ben Lee
Cover Art: Jae Lee
Publisher: Dreamwave

While the initial premise for this series was great – the G.I. Joe and TransFormers titles reimagined in a World War II setting, in execution the book has suffered from extremely slow pacing and issues that felt padded. If this had been done in four issues instead of stretching it to six, many of which were quite late, it would have read better and more satisfying.

This issue features the long-awaited final battle, which delivers for the most part, focusing on the odd friendships that have bonded between the characters – Stalker, Roadblock, Grimlock and Bumblebee make for an intriguing foursome. By contrast, you see the distrust and venom between Cobra Commander and Megatron, Destro and Starscream. The villains are every bit as dastardly as the heroes are noble.

One of the things that makes an alternate timeline setting like this appealing is the freedom of doing things to characters that couldn’t be done in-continuity for fear of damaging the continued marketability of the property. Rieber takes full advantage of that freedom, but I think he actually goes a bit too far, sealing off the storyline so much that any potential to return to the setting is almost voided. Not that this is a book screaming for a sequel for me, but I do think there’s a lot of potential in the basic idea, and the character designs are great.

Jae Lee did a great job reimagining these characters for a 1940s setting, particularly the Autobots. Seeing Grimlock as a tank and Bumblebee as a motorcycle were nice twists, and the huge, imposing Optimus Prime was a highlight of the book. The only downside to the artwork is that I never felt we got to see quite enough of the robots to totally envision them, although I suspect a toy line would be a best seller. June Chung’s color scheme employs grays and dark greens and browns almost exclusively, giving the whole series a dark, stormy mood that’s appropriate for the story but extremely gloomy for the reader.

In the end, out of the two crossover series these properties have shared in the past year, this one may have been the most anticipated but just wasn’t as good as Devil’s Due’s G.I. Joe Versus the Transformers. This one didn’t use the potential of combining the two favorites to its fullest potential, but that potential is still there, and if they ever decided to revisit this world, I for one would at least take a look.

Rating: 6/10

TransFormers: Generation One (2003 Ongoing) #1

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

February 7, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Night of the Combaticons

Ratchet and Brawn escape the Decepticons, but can they outrace Bruticus?

Writer: Brad Mick
Pencils: Don Figueroa
Inker: Elaine To
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Rob Ruffolo
Letters: Ben Lee
Publisher: Dreamwave

The TransFormers ongoing finally begins, and it’s off to a rollicking start. With Megatron presumed dead and seven Autobots as his captive, Starscream has proclaimed himself leader of the Decepticons. His coronation is disrupted (shades of TransFormers: The Movie) when two of his captives escape and he sends his grunt troops, the combined robot called Bruticus, to bring them back.

The chase takes up most of the issue, with Ratchet and Brawn on the run, fighting enemies and even trying to get past their own defense systems. Brad Mick has demonstrated real aplomb for these characters, crafting a really exciting action issue and allowing us to really root for our heroes on the run. He even manages to work in a little comedy (with the help of the art team), placing little Bumblebee in a captain’s chair way too big for him.

Although most of the buzz about this property when it relaunched surrounded artist Pat Lee, Don Figueroa has really come to make it his own. From battle-damage to looks of pain or determination on the metal faces of our protagonists, he has a range that he’s really allowed to show off. The color team is also deserving of kudos, doing some great effects with energy, shadow, light sources and just the overall look of the book.

The only real knock against this title is that it does at times drift into a lot of stuff we’ve seen before – robots “killed” in such a fashion that they will almost certainly be reactivated in an issue or two, Starscream proclaiming himself king in the absence of a Megatron no one doubts will return… these are TransFormers staples, things we’re so used to seeing that they don’t even phase us anymore. This is a good book. If Mick manages to overcome the clichés, it could be on its way to being a great one.

Rating: 7/10

TransFormers/G.I. Joe #5

September 12, 2010 Leave a comment

January 24, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Trenches

The Autobots finally find a reason to fight.

Writer: John Ney Rieber
Art: Jae Lee
Colors: June Chung
Letters: Ben Lee
Cover Art: Jae Lee
Publisher: Dreamwave

After a few issues of overly stretched-out fights that just seemed to plod along, this issue seriously picked up in the second half as the Autobots learn enough about the World War II-era Cobra to begin fighting. So what have they been doing the last few issues? Well, protecting themselves, basically, and standing up to the Decepticons. But they’ve tried to stay uninvolved. Involvement, it seems, is what this book needed to pick it up.

The last two and a half issues probably could have been condensed into one without losing any of the story. Rieber is a good writer and has a good grasp of these characters, but he’s just taken too long to get around to it, and one imagines that the problem was taking a story that should have fit into four issues and stretching it into six. It’s unfortunate that this title overshadowed the G.I. Joe Vs. the TransFormers series put out by Devil’s Due, because that story really did fit into the allotted space much better, it had more story to it.

The story we have is good, it’s a lot of fun to see these characters transplanted to a different era, but in this day where comic books cost around three dollars a pop, you do feel cheated when so much of an anticipated miniseries feels like padding.

Jae Lee, as always, does a great job on the artwork. He and June Chung have crafted a world that looks as dark and bleak as World War II must have been, and still makes the sci-fi elements of the TransFormers and the quasi-superhero look of G.I. Joe all fit in very well.

With only one issue left to go, it feels like the setup is finally over that next issue will bring us along to the ultimate slam-bang, action packed finale, a big, massive battle that will settle things once and for all. And with a book like this one, that’s what you really buy it for in the first place. It just should have gotten to it earlier.

Rating: 7/10