Wednesday, September 30, 2009


All the great reviews of The Complete Ark and The AllSpark Almanac have put me in a review kind of mood. So, some random reviews.

First up, long-time Transformers scribe, (and personal hero of mine,) Simon Furman has recently started doing some reviews for Total Sci-Fi Online. His monthly column is called Comics Candy, and the first edition covers 28 Days Later #1, Punisher Noir #1, G.I. Joe Origins #6 (Scarlett), and several others.

Second up, I thought I'd post some reviews from around the world for the AllSpark Almanac and The Complete Ark. If you're a fan of the English language, Dave Van Domelen does an examination - you'll have to scroll down a bit. If you're more in the mood for some Japanese, you can read this for a brief overview of the Complete Ark - click next at the bottom (and scroll down) for a review of the Almanac. For a longer review of just the AllSpark Almanac, try here. Finally, friend of the blog Carlos gives us a review in Spanish for both books. Know of any reviews in other languages? Give me a holler and I'll post them here.

11/11/09 Addendum: I found a very nice Chinese review here. Warning, big images and slow loading.

1/21/10 Addendum: Here is another review in Japanese.

1/28/10 Addendum: Here is an English review of The Complete Ark

5/2/10 Addendum: Here is a third Japanese review.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Ark Addendum - Darkwings' Weapons

One of the elements that I have available to me that didn't make it into any of the books is detailed views of the Masterforce weapons. Actually, I was almost always able to get the actual weapons in, though not always as large as I'd have liked them. But I typically had two views of each character, one holding their weapons, one without. And so, this week's Ark Addendum - the Darkwing brothers, carrying their weapons, as well as more detail on the guns themselves.

I'm a big fan of alternate views of the characters like this, but unfortunately I didn't have room for in The Complete Ark. Incidentally, while the AllSpark Almanac is doing great, The Complete Ark is dying in the reviews ... come on, Amazon reviewers, don't you know what an animation model is? And if you don't, why are you buying the book in the first place? Anyone who's read the book, a little review-juice would be much appreciated.

EDIT: As of 7:30 PM, PST 9/29/09, we're up to five reviews, three of them positive. I appreciate everyone who took the time to share their opinions. These things really help undecided people make an informed decision as to whether or not to purchase.

By the way, is there any interest in seeing Gobots animation models on this blog? I recently came into a few. Let me know!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Iván's Gallery: Black Hand

Continuing his exploration of Blackest Night, this week Iván's Gallery features the Black Hand. Here is what the artist has to say about the piece:

One of the principals players in the Blackest night ....
It is a very serious, probably never will smile as in this illustration, but enjoy doing it.

In the series of Green Lantern, and from the Secret Origin series can see William Hand, still innocent, is worn into this ... at number 39 - 40 of the regular season.

We will see that it ends.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 7

The seventh episode of War of the Worlds, the series is titled Goliath Is My Name. The aliens attempt to acquire several vials of the deadly Y-Fever, a man-made disease that melts the human brain within minutes of exposure. In the process of infiltrating the tunnels under Ohio Polytech, alien agents take over the bodies of fantasy role players using the tunnels for their games. One of the aliens gets exposed to the disease and loses the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, causing trouble for both his Comrades and the Blackwood Team. Blackwood uses his knowledge of the game to bait the alien into following him back to the sterile lab environment, where they trap and kill it safely.

The Good: This episode opens strong. Slimy alien hands adjust televisions showing images of disease and devastation in the alien lair, an evocative image.

The alien troopers are dressed as the Blue's Brothers, perhaps unintentionally (on the part of the Advocates.) Billy Thorpe's musical cues borrow from the movie as well. There's even a surreal moment when the aliens arrive at a party with other folks dressed as the Blue's Brothers. I don't know why it works, but it works.

Harrison's characterization. His tuning fork technique is used again, which I always enjoy. There's a great bit where the campus security decide that they should patrol around the proximity of a wet t-shirt contest and Harrison laughs ... only to cover it up with obviously phony outrage when Suzanne shoots him a look. He may be a vegetarian environmental pacifist kook, but hey, he's still a man. He also has a great exchange with Ironhorse where the soldier laments that he'll probably be sent to the stockade for their latest transgression. Blackwood quips that he'll take full responsibility, prompting Ironhorse to ask what that even means. Harrison admits that he has no idea, but thought it sounded good.

Speaking of great exchanges, Ironhorse had some good ones too. When he hears the term "fantasy gamer," he asks if that's some kind of swinger. When Harrison's aforementioned tuning fork comes out, he grouses that "it's oogah-boogah time." And, of course, he kicks some serious alien ass. I like the image of him searching alien corpses for the Y-Fever, alas in vain.

There is some nice unintentional foreshadowing with Debi and Norton. "Some day I'll be old enough to help," she says. It'll come true in a major way in the second season. Norton just rolls his eyes and sarcastically says that he can't wait.

The Advocates get in a nice little bit of misanthropy, when they comment that humanity's self-destructive nature is both their greatest enemy and their greatest ally. Earth is "truly a filthy place."

Jefferson, the Alien-human hybrid, is a hoot. He's a football star, though somewhat clumsy, brought in as a ringer by one of the RP teams when they think that one of their own was kidnapped (more on that later.) He's the Goliath from the title no doubt, who gets absorbed by an alien and then exposed to the toxins. Once his human brain starts to melt, he becomes confused. He treats the theft of the Y-Fever like a game victory, to be loudly celebrated. He also grabs his still-human RP buddies and drags them into the tunnels, to hunt their game enemies. Eric Broskotter really sells the role of a fraternity alien.

The Bad: Once again, the cardinal sin of this show is coincidence. This time, rather than be alerted to a missing bit of germ warfare, which would make sense, the team is sucked in because a friend of Dr. McCullough goes missing. He's the first victim of the aliens in the tunnels, a kid who gets his face ripped off after shooting an alien with a toy gun. It's worse because it's not even necessary.

After the poor kid gets his face ripped off, his fellow gamers make the bizarre assumption that the other team has kidnapped him. There is nothing in the episode to make one think that this makes sense. They're playing a glorified version of lasertag, so why would they do such a thing? Just shoot him and be done with it.

Norton playing video games in frustration at having nothing to do. It's probably meta-commentary about how little there is for the character to do, but it just makes him come across as bitchy.

The Ugly: I'm gonna have to go with the face-ripping on this, though they kill Jefferson by inducing a vacuum. A great thing about the face ripping was how the alien screamed like a little girl when he's shot with the fake weapon, only to realize that he's fine and kill the kid in retribution.

All told, probably the best episode of the show to date. Good writing all around, strong characterization and a nice use of imagery. If they'd just avoided the silly coincidence that started things off, it'd be completely solid. Perhaps the writers are starting to hit their stride.  War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season  is readily available for purchase on DVD.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bish's Review: Marvel UK #80 "Target: 2006" Part 2

“Target: 2006” Part 2 was written by Simon Furman, drawn by Will Simpson and inked by Tim Perkins. The lettering was done by Anne Halfacree and the colouring by Tony Jozwiak. Ian Rimmer edited.

The cover was by John Stokes and is, unsurprisingly, a huge step up from the previous issue. Ultra Magnus arrives on Earth in a torrent of energy from the space bridge and falls to his knees in a very dramatic pose. Magnus is a brilliantly designed character for big splash pages and covers and Stokes draws him very well. It’s not perfect. The perspective makes his lower legs look a little too small, but the impression the image gives is more important than the fine detail and this cover succeeds very well.

The issue begins with Jazz and Hound watching Galvatron’s Decepticons at work. The Constructicons have lived up to their name and built a gigantic solar powered assembly for their new leader. The Autobots cannot tell what the machinery is for, but they now it is very powerful and very important. The conclusion, dramatically is that “That thing’ll be the death of us!”They are about to return to the Ark when an energy bolt comes from nowhere and takes Jazz out. Cyclonus has arrived.

Elsewhere the sky opens in a burst of energy and Ultra Magnus plummets to Earth from the space bridge. He is wracked with pain and confusion from the brutal teleportation and Furman uses this as an excuse to show us a flashback that demonstrates how Impactor is still not happy that Magnus might not be ready in time for Operation Volcano.

As his head clears Magnus determines that he only has one hundred and twenty hours before Volcano gets underway, putting a serious time constraint on his mission to Earth.

Meanwhile we see Hound being thrown around by Cyclonus. The Decepticon boasts about how powerful Unicron made him as he knocks the Autobot around. As he explains how his broken body was transformed he is surprised by a shot from the newly arrived Ultra Magnus. Initially Cyclonus thinks Magnus has followed them back from the future, before realising that this is the Magnus of 1986. He manages to give Magnus the slip and, transforming to jet mode, escape into the sky. Magnus transforms to car carrier mode and lets the battered Hound climb aboard.

The arrival of Ultra Magnus has rattled Galvatron but he is determined to forge ahead. He has Jazz and plans to use him in some way to defeat the Autobots.

Back at the Ark Hound is being repaired by Grapple (since Ratchet disappeared in the prologue). Ultra Magnus finds himself in conflict with Jetfire about their course of action. Magnus says that the priority is to locate Optimus Prime and the matrix flame, while Jetfire wants to strike against Galvatron. Jetfire does not trust Ultra Magnus because he appeared from nowhere after the strange events began and he flashbacks to the prologue to prove it. They are interrupted by Smokescreen who has picked up a transmission from Galvatron showing Jazz’s helpless and tortured state. The Autobots are left speechless as the tagline for the next issue promises: “DEFEAT!”

The story has really picked up the pace in a number of areas. Ultra Magnus’ mission on Earth has a real sense of urgency given the huge importance of Operation Volcano. Galvatron’s ultimate purpose for his huge machine is also an interesting mystery. Cyclonus continues to drop hints about the future, mentioning his metamorphosis via Unicron. Jazz’s fate, of course, sets up the primary problem for the next issue.

The general tone of the issue leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that these events are pivotal. The Cybertron flashbacks are laced with urgency and Furman does well to make us care about this new group of characters. A less confident writer would have simply used events on Cybertron as a delivery system to get Ultra Magnus to Earth but Furman puts enough effort into both storylines that we are genuinely concerned about the fate of Operation Volcano. Furman loves developing new worlds and new characters and is excellent at taking the reader along with him. A long-running saga like Transformers is constantly in danger of stagnating. It would have been too easy to make this a story about finding out the fate of fan-favourite Optimus Prime and restoring the status quo but Furman instead uses his disappearance to explore a bevy of new characters, settings and time periods. Cracking stuff.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the art. Regular readers of this blog will already be aware of my belief that Will Simpson’s style does not fit the usual tone of the Transformers book. While I do not consider him a bad artist I feel that his rather over-complicated pencils mix very badly with Tim Perkins’ heavy-handed inking and leave the whole issue feeling somewhat busy and confusing to look at. I am a great believer in artists putting their own stamp on a book, but when each issue is only eleven pages long, and artists’ runs can be as short as one issue at a time, I feel a certain amount of effort towards visual continuity should be expected, and Simpson makes no effort at this at all.

All in all, this story continues to be a winner and the doom-laden set up for the next issue makes the reader anticipate it even more. IDW's trade of  Transformers: Target: 2006 is available from

Friday, September 25, 2009

Review: Marvel G1 #32: Used Autobots

Used Autobots is the thirty-second issue of the G1 Marvel US comic series. The creative team is mostly familiar. Bob Budiansky continues as writer, with Don Perlin providing the pencils. Akin & Garvey are on inks, Yomtov on colors, and Pat Brosseau provides letters. The cover is by Frank Springer, who returns to the comic after a long absence.

It's a decent cover, with the Protectobots battling the Combaticons while the Throttlebots watch in vehicle mode. It's a fairly literal interpretation of the events within, though somewhat lackluster.

The issue opens with a convoy of Throttlebots getting attacked by Vortex. Blaster, for one, welcomes the attack, as it means he can stop searching for Decepticons to fight. Rather than stop to fight, the Throttlebots continue to drive on in car mode with Blaster balanced precariously on two of them. This strategy proves less than wise when oncoming traffic forces Rollbar to swerve, knocking Blaster off the roof. Nevertheless, he manages to electro-disrupt Vortex away while hanging off the side of a bridge. Hardcore.

With the immediate threat removed, the Autobots decide to fuel up before the Decepticons return. However, a routine stop at a Blackrock gas station turns into a R.A.A.T. ambush. The government has finally twigged to Blackrock's alliance with the Autobots and taken advantage of it. The Autobots again escape, though now Rollbar is injured and Blaster doesn't have enough juice to operate his weapon. Alone, low on fuel and damaged, the Autobots find a quiet place to lay low for the day ... a used car lot.

The opening sequence is quite good. There is a real sense of tension for these Autobots, operating without a safe base or a readily accessible source of supplies. It's also nice to see R.A.A.T. back.

Meanwhile, back at the Ark, Wheeljack has finished building a Geothermal generator, able to refuel the newly-repaired Ark. The intrepid engineer is starting to chaff under Grimlock's heavy-handed leadership, but not enough to act openly against his leader yet. When Slag reports a possible sighting of Blaster, Grimlock sends out Hot Spot to retrieve the errant Autobot.

Steve Ludwig, proprietor of Big Steve's Used Car Lot, is every smarmy car salesman in history rolled up into one. He just oozes insincerity. Bob's words, Perlin's pencils and Yomtov's colors all combine to paint a greasy portrait. Sure, he's more cliche than man, but it works. He brushes off some cops trying to tell him something about six vehicles, then proceeds to rip off a nice young family.

It doesn't take long for him to notice six new vehicles on the lot, thought he damaged Rollbar he decides would be best junked. This prompts the Autobots to reveal themselves. He freaks out, thinking that the Autobots are some agent of retribution for his past wrongs, though they assure him that all they want is a little fuel. At first he agrees, but then he remembers what the cops were trying to tell him. There's a $50K reward per vehicle, and Big Steve can't resist a lure like that. He not only calls R.A.A.T., but he fills their fuel tanks with sugar, incapacitating the six Autobots.

R.A.A.T., the Combaticons and the Protectobots all arrive within moments of each other. As they get ready to fight, Big Steve proposes an auction instead of a battle, with himself keeping the proceeds. As the sides talk it over, Swindle prepares to disrupt the proceedings by blasting Big Steve. Blaster prevents the death of a salesman, and the battle begins in earnest. While Autobot battles Decepticon, Walter Barnett has R.A.A.T. round up the incapacitated Throttlebots and high-tail it outta there, though not before pressing some paper into Big Steve's grubby hands.

With Blaster's help, the Protectobots drive off the Combaticons. Big Steve is distraught over the destruction of his lot ... at least until he realizes that Barnett has given him $300K. Blaster can't stand the thought of the human profiting at the expense of his comrades and disintegrates the check. When he urges the Protectobots to pursue R.A.A.T. while the trail is still warm, Hot Spot drops a bombshell. The Protectobots aren't here as backup for Blaster, they're here to arrest him. We end with a great image of Blaster, surrounded by five Autobots with guns pointed at him.

The issue basically works. The tension at the beginning is played well, and the sense of isolation for Blaster and his allies is reinforced by the twist ending. Big Steve, the other main character of this issue, exists merely to be punished for his transgressions. He even realizes this on some level, as demonstrated by his initial reaction to the Throttlebots. He's cartoonish, but then not every character needs to be multi-layered and nuanced.

The art, especially the battle scenes, have a certain kinetic quality that I find appealing. Perlin may not draw in the modern hyper-detailed style, but he has wonderful composition. Check out Onslaught decking Hot Spot, isn't it fun?

Next month, we're promised Blaster's fate revealed and Bruticus vs Defensor. We don't get it though - instead, due to some deadline problems, we get Man of Iron. It was a frustrating way to break up the story, stretching the cliffhanger from 1 to 3 months.

Used Autobots is available for sale as the last issue in IDW's  Classic Transformers Volume 2.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Killer Virgin Road

I've recently found out that a good friend of mine, a gentleman who goes by Hydra, is going to be playing a fairly important part in a new film in theaters in Japan called Killer Virgin Road. Hydra supplies me (and a lot of the rest of the western fandom) with Japanese-exclusives, especially the hard-to-find convention stuff. He also helped me with my research for The Ark II and even wrote the foreword to the book. What most of you probably don't know is that he's one of the hosts of a segment on TV where new restaurants and destinations are explored. As far as I know, this his his first foray into the world of film.

Killer Virgin Road is a dark comedy about a loser who nevertheless manages to snag the man of her dreams. There's only one hitch - she accidentally kills her landlord the night before the wedding. What ensues is a farce as she attempts to hide the body in more and more ludicrous situations. Hydra plays one of a pair of mysterious hitmen who put Tabasco on EVERYTHING they eat. Hey, you can even see the Tobasco in the movie poster.

Check out the movie's official site at and if you happen to find yourself in the land of the rising sun, be sure to give the movie a watch. Congratulations, Hydra!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


One thousand years ago,
Superstition and the sword ruled.
It was a time of darkness.
It was a world of fear.
It was the age of Gargoyles.
Stone by day, warriors by night,
We were betrayed by the humans we had sworn to protect,
Frozen in stone by a magic spell for a thousand years.
Now, here in Manhattan, the spell is broken, and we live again!
We are defenders of the night!
We are Gargoyles!

For those of you who don't know Gargoyles was a cartoon from the mid 90's. It was a well-written, well acted series with complicated story arcs and nuanced characters. Without going into crazy details, they had a 65 episode run and a spin-off series of sorts. The whole first season and half of the second season are available to date.

I certainly enjoyed Gargoyles when it first aired, but what really impressed me about the show in later years was how accessible Greg Weisman, one of the original creators of the property, has made himself. There is a huge archive of questions that fans have asked him, organized by subject or by year, that further enrich the tapestry that is Gargoyles.

In recent months, Gargoyles has returned in comic book form. A twelve-issue story called Clan Building has been released from Slave Labor Graphics. It's a direct continuation of the 65 issues of Gargoyles, written by Weisman and with some excellent art. Needless to say, the story is excellent. It's available as Clan Building, collected in two trade paperbacks.. There is also a six issue black&white mini series called Bad Guys featuring some of the more memorable secondary villains of the show. I think it's wonderful that the show could come back after more than a decade in this new medium.

Finally, for those of you who are already big Gargoyles fans, Bowen Studios is releasing a gorgeous Goliath Statue! It clocks in at a pricey $270, so it's certainly not for everyone. But if you're into comic and sci-fi statues and have disposable income, it's pretty gorgeous.

And this this is nominally a Transformers blog, I'll point out that there is a high degree of crossover between the actors from Gargoyles and the actors from Transformers. Frank Welker played Bronx, though of course he's in everything. Bill Fagerbakke plays both Broadway and Animated Bulkhead. Jeff Bennet plays both Brooklyn and Animated Prowl. Keith David, the lead in Garoyles, also played Barricade in the Transformers 2007 movie game. There are a few more, though the show that REALLY overlaps with Gargoyles in terms of acting talent is Star Trek: Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, LeVar Burton, Colm Meaney, Nichelle Nichols ... wow!

So, there you have it. Gargoyles, one of the best American sci-fi cartoons ever. Check it out!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Ark Addendum - Fire in the Sky

For this week's The Ark Addendum, I thought I'd come back to the US. Fire in the Sky was an early season 1 adventure. It featured some beautiful arctic landscapes, including the aurora borealis for the final scene. I also rather like the snow-covered Ark.

The episode is notable for introducing us to Skyfire, a large white and red Autobot jet. Skyfire was of course a stand-in for Jetfire, a large white and red Autobot jet with a completely different design. While Hasbro licensed out the Valkyrie toy from Bandai in the US, in Japan Takara was a competitor of Bandai's and didn't have the rights to the toy. To avoid giving free advertising to their competitor, Skyfire was born. American kids got the idea that these were the same guy, more or less, and Japanese kids were none the wiser.

Jetfire did have a character model made up, and it actually saw use in a commercial. You can see the model on the Transformers Wiki, or in  Transformers: The Complete Ark (order it today!). Incidentally, The Complete Ark got its first review ... a mere three stars, from someone disappointed by the black and white nature of the book. Sigh. Ah, well, I'm just happy that the models are back in print so no one has to pay $50 or $100 for models contained within.

Catch y'all on the flipside.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Iván's Gallery: Karu-Sil

Good morrow, good readers! Another week, another edition of Iván's Gallery. This week, Iván brings us Karu-Sil, a member of the Sinestro Corps. I've been on a bit of a Green Lantern kick ever since watching First Flight a few weeks back, so when Iván asked me if I minded him branching out from Transformers I said not at all. I think he captures her feral nature quite nicely.

In slightly related new, my JLU collection is very close to complete again. I'm just missing the latest three-packs, after finally getting the new Target six-packs. Cheetah, you WILL be mine! Batman Beyond guys ... ummm ... well, I guess you can hang out with the Legionnaires. Darn you time-displaced folks! (That said, I wouldn't say no to a Jonah Hex. Oh, heck, who am I kidding, I'd buy a six-pack of the Jokerz in a flash.)

UPDATE - Here is what the artist has to say about the piece:

Long been a friend recommended reading Green Lantern.. I can say?! Excellent comic...... one of the best that are edited together now to Brubacker Captain America.
Geoff Johns really knows what he does to himself. He rescued the series until it became what is now ..... the first major series was the War of the Sinestro corps.
This series is a character I drew special attention to me. She is Karu- sil.
Under a weak and innocent appearance hides a monster.
Pinup wanted to show this in a different way the characteristics of this character.... I was inspired by an old movie, "Det sjunde inseglet" ( 1957 ) performed by Von Shidow... with director Ingmar Bergman,
I was inspired by the final scene, where we see the Death dancing with the characters, in a mythical plane.
It also reminded me Karu-sil in spirit to the famous story of the Crepshow or Creppy comic, Jennifer... terrifying story.
The result is this .. we see the innocent Karu - sil dancing, celebrating the death and the terror who inspires in others.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

AllSpark Almanac on Amazon

Just a quick update on  Allspark Almanac on - we're now up to 20 reviews. So far, everyone's loved the book - 20 five-star ratings. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share their opinion. Having this kind of feedback is tremendously gratifying.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bish's Review: Marvel UK #79 "Target: 2006" Part 1

“Target: 2006” Part 1 was written by Simon Furman, drawn by Jeff Anderson, Lettered by Anne Halfacree, coloured by Tony Jozwiak and edited by Ian Rimmer.

The cover was by John Higgins and is tied with the cover of “Second Generation” for the coveted title of “Worst Transformers cover ever.” Like the aforementioned depictions of Bruticus and Superion this cover exists only to showcase the new characters in the story in the least imaginative way possible. The renderings of Galvatron and Ultra Magnus aren’t even that good, which is a big problem if that’s the entire point of the cover. They could have been shown as locked in combat or something but in fact they clearly aren’t even part of the same scene, firing at nothing and floating in a starry void. The overly excitable advertising bubble that proclaims “The new leaders are here!”, which isn’t even true in Ultra Magnus’ case, only serves to make the cover seem even more cheap and half-arsed.

Luckily you can’t judge a book by it’s cover (groan). The first proper issue of this epic story opens with a terrific introduction to the destructive capabilities of Scourge and Cyclonus as they zoom about the American Pacific Northwest shooting things up and leaving devastation in their wake. The first splash page is especially striking as they swoop from the sky, weapons blazing and Furman introduces us to them by name and personality. They are, he says, “like nightmarish birds of prey”. Cyclonus is interested in how easy it would be for them to rule Earth but Scourge points out that their mission is to build for destruction in the future.

After this slightly cryptic exchange we find the Autobots, still reeling from the mysterious disappearance of Optimus Prime, spying on the current Decepticon base. As they observe we can see that Megatron is pleased with his remaining troops for their actions against the Dinobots (in “In The National Interest”). As he is briefing his soldiers on the danger posed by Omega Supreme he is interrupted by the arrival of Galvatron and his lieutenants. After some debate about their origins Galvatron, with a casual disregard for causality missing from most time-travel fiction informs all and sundry that he is the Decepticon leader from the future. He asks Megatron for the use of the Constructicons. Megatron’s fusion cannon is his only response to this obvious challenge to his leadership (what, after all, is a mere twenty years to someone with a Cybertronian life-span?).

Galvatron is barely hurt but Scourge and Cyclonus (who need everything explained to them) threaten to avenge their leader’s honour but he frantically stops them, telling them that “Megatron cannot die!” Can you guess who he is yet? Galvatron transforms into cannon mode and blasts the cliff-face, burying Megatron and Soundwave beneath tons of rock. They round up the Constructicons who, after this display of power simply stand meekly and take instructions and then they leave.

Ironhide sets Jazz and Hound to follow the future Decepticons while he puzzles what these revelations spell for the future of the Autobots.

Meanwhile, back on Cybertron, Impactor, the leader of The Wreckers, is arguing with Emirate Xaaron. He is concerned because Xaaron has planned to send Ultra Magnus to Earth in order to determine the reasons for the extinguishing of the Matrix Flame, possibly at the expense of Operation: Volcano. His pleas fall on deaf ears, however, as we are treated to a full page of Ultra Magnus standing proudly and saying “I ULTRA MAGNUS, must travel to Earth!”

Part 1 really was a great issue. It picked up the threads from the prologue very effectively and ran with them. It is still very much a set up issue, and it doesn’t really disguise this in any way. Clearly Furman is under instruction to showcase the rivalry between Ultra Magnus and Galvatron and these issues remove all the obstacles to their inevitable clash on Earth (ie, Megatron and Optimus Prime). There’s nothing wrong with that but it doesn’t exactly keep the reader guessing. Admittedly, if one were to read this story without the prior knowledge that Galvatron is a future version of Megatron, then the whole thing might be a little more intriguing.

If that is even a criticism it is the only one. Furman hits all the nails squarely on the head here. Megatron and especially Galvatron are the stars of the issue and their oh-so-ironic personality clash is the highlight. While they are essentially the same individual, Galvatron comes across here as the more level-headed of the two, confident in his strength rather than given to wild flashes of aggression as Megatron often is. This is a strong contrast to the way Galvatron would be presented in the Sunbow TV series but is pretty close to his portrayal in “Transformers: The Movie”. Of course, Galvatron will only be this calm while his plans are working out. We will no doubt see Galvatron the berserker warrior before too much longer, especially when Ultra Magnus arrives.

Earth’s Autobots do not get much play this issue, but we do get to check in on them and see that they are still looking for answers to Prime’s disappearance. The glimpses of Cybertron continue to intrigue, with the fate of Operation Volcano in the balance. Impactor and Xaaron are clearly interesting personalities and while we do not get any action from Ultra Magnus, his imposing presence projects a clear aura of strength and nobility - great work from Jeff Anderson there who’s work is extremely solid throughout the issue. The Magnus splash is the obvious standout but all of the art is to a very high standard and Jozwiak’s colouring manages to go that extra mile and create the textured look that sets the UK book apart (except for Ironhide’s red face - that is still awful and always will be).

We’re not into the meat of the story yet but Part 1 is a very enjoyable read that is mostly exciting for the drama it promises in future issues. Everything is heating up nicely. IDW's trade of  Transformers: Target: 2006 is available from

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review: Marvel G1 #31: Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom

The thirty-first issue of the US Marvel G1 run of Transformers is the pulpishly-named Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom. It's a title so awesome that no exclamation mark was required. The creative lineup shifts around a bit from the steady run we'd been enjoying. Bob Budiansky is still, as always, the writer. Perlin is still on artistic duties, but only for breakdowns, with finishes by Jim Fern. Rick Parker provides lettering and Nel Yomtov is the colorist. Bob once again draws the cover.

It's a terrific cover. Buster is in Ratbat's claws, pushing him back in a desperate attempt to keep the mech's fangs away. In his fist he clutches a tire iron. Jessie, unfortunately a bit off somehow, clings to Buster, attempting to wrest him from Ratbat's grasp. Her dress is torn, though not immodestly. All of this takes place in a car wash, which is emphasized by the words "It's wet! It's wild! It's -- the CAR WASH of DOOM!" It's a campy masterpiece, much like the book that follows.

Inside the book, we start with a familiar site - the Decepticons attacking some fleshlings. Ramjet, Thrust, Vortex, Laserbeak and the Insecticons quickly rout the sailors on an oil tanker belonging to Blackrock. After an efficient capture, they set the sailors adrift and bring the ship back to the Decepticon's desert island headquarters. Shockwave is proud in his understated way; the whole thing was a demonstration for Ratbat's benefit. Unfortunately, the tanker is empty. Ratbat is understandably furious - Shockwave has expended 60,238.4 energy units for a net return of 23.4 energy units ... and that is assuming someone goes below deck and licks the walls clean. Ratbat suggests utilizing humans instead of Decepticons for greater efficiency. Shockwave advises against that idea, as humans are fundamentally illogical and unpredictable. However, Ratbat reveals that he already is.

The first four pages of the book function as something of a prelude to the main story. Ratbat, used quite effectively for the past few issues, has now been brought to Earth. He's also revealed that he has some sort of plan going on, a plan which will fill the rest of the book. We also get a glimpse into Shockwave's operations, alluded to back in #29 by Blackrock. It all works quite well from a narrative standpoint. Ratbat's humiliating imagery of licking the walls clean is a deft touch.

Back in Portland, Oregon, we peak in on S. Witwicky Auto Repair, which is now dominated by a huge Wash and Roll car wash structure next to it. It'd be quite innocent looking if the cover hadn't already primed us to expect something sinister from car washes. Buster and family haven't been seen since #12, at least, not in the US. He's been doing his best to stay away from the Cybertronian civil war. Business is booming, both at the pump and at the car wash, which keeps Buster from having much of a social life. He has to turn down his girlfriend's offer of a date so he can keep working the pumps. Incidentally, gas consumption is way up, and Sparkplug is busy filling his own tank up even though he just did that an hour ago ... but that's probably nothing to worry about.

All of the above paragraph was crammed into two pages. Budiansky's narrative here is very slick, giving us lots of exposition without making it feel forced. He even manages to remind us that Buster was a good friends to the Autobots way back when, for any readers who have joined since #12.

From here, the story shifts into gear. Blackrock gives a press conference, touting the record profits of his Wash & Roll franchise, and unveiling his Mark II car wash for all his franchisees. However, when the press leaves, so does Bkackrock's mind. We now see what was up with the hypno-chip in the last issue. When he pulls Ratbat from his pocket, the intrigue level ratchets up.

That night, Jessie swings by to visit Buster and suggests they give the car wash a spin. Buster reluctantly agrees, though he sits there not really looking at the lights or paying attention to the music like a petulant child ... at least, until Jessie starts making out with him. However, just when it starts getting good, her eyes pop open and she unexpectedly says she needs to leave. Buster thinks this suspicious and follows her for nearly an hour as she drives to a Blackrock oil refinery. There he apparently watches her fill up the tank and drive away, which seems more than odd to him. She ignores him, at least until he flashes her with his bright lights. However, this prompts the watchful Laserbeak to fire a few shots at him. At first he thinks that the 'Con remembers him from before, but he eventually realizes Laserbeak is merely trying to herd him over to the line of cars. Once on line, he realizes that it's a siphon, and not a pump. Jessie joins him in the car, and they prepare to go contact the Autobots when he notices his Dad entering the plant. Buster and Jessie climb up one of the tanks to at least get a good view of what is going on.

What they see startles them. Blackrock and Ratbat sit at a podium, and Blackrock proceeds to explain to his gathered franchise owners how he was hypnotized and forced to produce Wash and Roll units based on the cargo sent over by Ratbat. (This is clumsy, since it's hardly necessary for their hypnotized franchise owners to know all this.) However, the hypnotic conditioning that forces humans to empty their fuel doesn't last very long, so a new version that's guaranteed to last forever is being introduced. Sparkplug is going to be the first customer. Buster can't let this happen - he sends Jessie for help, then blocks off the entrance with his car. When Ratbat pursues him, he flees the only place he can - into the car wash. Ratbat smashes up his car, and he tries desperately to defend himself with a tire iron while also keeping his eyes blocked. Jessie keeps him from having to pit his muscles against Ratbat's steel by driving in and rescuing him, but they still have to contend with the zombie franchise owners. Buster thinks quickly and hurls his tire iron into the neon sign, causing it to explode in a flash of light and break the conditioning. The workers rebel and Ratbat withdraws to a "healthier economic climate."

It's a great climax. Buster facing off against Ratbat, even though it's hopeless, is a fun and identifiable image. Who wouldn't want to interpose themselves between their loved ones and harm in so dramatic a fashion? Using light to break the hypnotic trance was set up early enough that it doesn't feel like a cheat. Since Buster actually uses the tire iron to effect the rescue it makes his grappling for it earlier have meaning, albeit in an unexpected fashion.

It's come time for the book to end. Blackrock and Sparkplug each thank Buster for saving them. Blackrock promises to both refund his franchise owners and use his leftover illicit profits to help the poor. Sparkplug assures Buster that he'll give him more time to have a social life, and Jessie and Buster resume their interrupted kiss.

The denouement is pretty good. Blackrock promising to help the poor comes off as a bit forced somehow, but picking up from the earlier kiss helps cement the story emotionally. This was Buster's journey, and he gets the hero's reward.

All told, a campy classic. It's one of only three US stories where no Autobots whatsoever appear (outside of brief flashbacks,) the others being #13 (Joey Slick) and #25 (Megatron's death, though he thought the Predacons were Autobots.) Like #13 before it, it gives the conflict a very human face. Buster was a particularly good choice for a story like this, since he got quite a lot of build-up and then hasn't been seen since. (In the US. He gets some play in the UK.) Of course, the upcoming Headmasters story was probably a factor when Bob decided to reintroduce the Witwicky family, but we'll get to that later. The artwork is decent but not spectacular, but the story is just good old-fashioned fun.

There is another dramatic trick going on here. Grimlock became Autobot leader in #27. #28 featured Blaster and Goldbuck carrying out his orders but facing off against humans, not Decepticons. They go AWOL, then face off against Decepticons on their own in #29 and #30. Now we see what the Decepticons have been up to, but we still don't know exactly what Grimlock and the main force of Autobots are doing. Apparently it doesn't involve curtailing Shockwave's Caribbean operation. It's a nice way to build up tension while keeping the story rolling along.

Finally, something I don't normally do. The IDW Generations series was reprinting old Marvel issues. #12 was this story and featured an absolutely gorgeous. It's a Nick Roche, one of my favorite Transformers artists and the illustrator of the cover for The Ark II, and Nick seems to be channeling Bruce Campbell here. It's just too damn good not to show.

Next week, Bob asks the question "How much is a four million-plus years old Transformer with several trillion miles on him worth? Find out in ... Used Autobots!" While it's clear that Bob is fascinated with juxtaposing car robots with traditional car elements like mechanics, car washes and now used car lots, perhaps two back-to-back stories with them is a bit much. Ah, well, we'll find out when we get there. Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom is available for purchase as part of IDW's Classic Transformers Volume 2 .

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Podcasts! Podcasts! Podcasts!

Podcasts - they're what's for dinner.

So, podcasts, eh? Downloadable and often streamed internet audio content, perfect for listening to at work or on a long commute. I've been in a couple recently, and a third is giving away some copies of The AllSpark Almanac as a prize!

Let's start with a few weeks back. I was interviewed by Kal-El Prime and Chris McFeely on the Moonbase 2 Podcast. Long-term readers will remember that this is not my first Moonbase 2 show, which I did back in December 2008. Chris McFeely is the guy who has written up the Annotated AllSpark Almanac, wherein he catalogs most of my crazy Easter eggs. (Still missing a handful there, Chris.)

Then, in a podcast that airs tonight, I am interviewed by Radio Free Cybertron, which is the undisputed first Transformers podcast and one of the earliest podcasts ever. Tune in tonight to check it out.

Finally, while I'm not actually on this one, episode 15 of ToyCast over at the GeekCast Radio Network is giving away two copies of The AllSpark Almanac. You'll have to listen to the show to get the details, but if you can answer a trivia question you'll get your name in a hat and possibly win one of these books.

Podcasting ... won't you?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Ark Addendum - Planet Sandra

Another Tuesday, another edition of The Ark Addendum. This week I bring another Headmaster's themed edition, the populous of Planet Sandra.

In SOS from Planet Sandra, the Autobots and Decepticons alike receive a distress call from Planet Sandra, which exists in a parallel dimension in the spot occupied by Earth in our dimension. The planet is running out of energy, having foolishly squandered their own abundant natural resources.

Since this episode originally aired in 1987, it makes it one of the very first Transformers stories to involve traveling from one dimension to another. Of course, by now the concept of a Transformers multiverse is old hat, but at the time the only earlier dimension-hopping that I can think of was negative universe of The Killing Jar and the Quintesson banishment apparatus of Madman's Paradise. It's not really necessary to make the story work, but it's an interesting bit of the foundation of the modern approach to multiple Transformers continuities co-existing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Iván's Gallery: Junkion Nancy

After a bit of a break, Iván's gallery returns. This week Iván brings us the Junkion Nancy, who showed up in The Big Broadcast of 2006, one of the few stories to appear in both comic and cartoon form. The name makes its way to us from Japan, where it either appeared in the episode itself or in some of the supplemental material published there.

Incidentally, I'm a big fan of the Junkions, so when one of the guys who originally drew them agreed to help Bill and I brainstorm some names for them I was quite happy. Now, in addition to Wreck-Gar, Nancy and Detritus (an e-hobby exclusive Hound repaint), we have Junkyard, Scrapheap, HAZMAT, Ashtray, Trashbin, Greasestain, Rubbish, Wasteoid Gamma and Re-Cycle. We even talked a bit about their personalities, though I didn't have room to work it into  Transformers: The Complete Ark (order it today!). (Rubbish is a big fan of the Britcom, for instance, while Re-Cycle likes documentaries and Ashtray can't get enough of reality television.) I included some of this in a spec script I wrote for a Spotlight: Wreck-Gar, but alas it hasn't been something that fit into IDW's editorial vision/schedule.

Enough about me, though, here's what the artist has to say about the piece:

Nancy is a character which has not been discussed too much and the fans do not know much. She appeared in the marvel comics as the wife of Wreck-gar, It would have been a good idea in any Spotlight show with him.

It would be another way to expand the universe transformer, clearly the design of this character is inspired by the race of Lithones.

This will be one of the pannels from one of the Mosaics I've done and will serve as a presentation, about how this character would have gone along with Wreck-gar.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 6

The sixth episode of War of the Worlds, the series is titled The Second Seal. The Blackwood team and the aliens simultaneously converge on Fort Streeter, the US Army top secret record archive. Both are hoping to raid the remains of the 1953 invasion, stored hundreds of feet underground. The aliens are looking for a list of 10,000 soldiers squirreled away in North America, while Blackwood is looking for Dr. Forrester's research. Human desires make up the somewhat muddled theme of the episode; there is an alien crystal which makes Blackwood macho and McCullough frisky, along with a subplot about a Hollywood-plain lieutenant and the object of her affections. Blackwood and McCullough stumble on the alien incursion and have to fight their way out before the vault explodes. Using the crystal as a weapon helps, and fortunately Ironhorse is on the upper level vault blasting aliens away. All looks well until a burned alien, caught in the explosion that they themselves set, climbs the elevator shaft and runs off with the list. Though he gets shot and killed, the team can't be sure that he didn't pass off the list elsewhere.

The Good: It's nice to get a bit more continuity with the movie, though perhaps this episode could have taken place a bit earlier. In particular, Thy Kingdom Come might have worked better after this episode.

It's a subtle thing, but when the team of aliens contacts the Advocacy, there is an alien Nun working the keyboards.

Ironhorse, once he's alerted to the alien threat, kicks a lot of butt. He also gets shot in the arm in the course of his rampage and it actually seems to incapacitate him. Chaves really does a great job with the character; he's in his element making nice with the Army brass, running through the base like Rambo, or just sinking to the floor and allowing his injuries to finally lay him low once he realizes that the threat has been neutralized.

The Bad: Coincidence. The timing of the episode, with the aliens and the Blackwood team showing up within literally minutes of each other, is just painful.

Blackwood, the pacifist who doesn't like guns, seems more than happy to use the crystal as a kind of force-blaster. Of course, he was under the influence of the crystal at the time, so maybe he wasn't quite himself. (Second season would have him handle guns readily enough, but that's a separate issue.)

The alien crystal / drug. It didn't add much to the episode but just sort of ate up time.

Missed opportunity! The aliens gain access to the base by using a reporter. Just two episodes earlier, a reporter was taken over by aliens. Sadly, they did not get the same actress.

Aliens killing themselves for failure. It seems silly, especially when they are so limited in number that 10,000 reinforcements is a big deal.

The Ugly: I'm gonna go with the burned alien, though there were plenty of alien corpses to go around.

Overall, pretty standard fare. The plot would be solid, if uninspired, but for the timing necessary to make it all work.  War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season  is readily available for sale on DVD.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wedding Photos

Matrimonial Bliss! I finally have a few photos, along with a video of our grand entrance, to share. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I specifically looked for science-fictiony elements to emphasize, like our D&D Dice party favors and the Hot Rod / Arcee cake topper. Enjoy!

Yup, I convinced my bride that The Imperial March would be an awesome way to make our big entrance. Ain't she grand?

Left to right: my brother-in-law Ryan, my sister Liz, and my brother and Best Man David.

Me slipping the ring on her finger during the ceremony.

Groomsmen Bill Forster and Marty Amodeo, with Shana Storey in the middle.

Flowergirl Meridith, niece to the bride.

D&D Dice, mixed in with our more conventional candy bar.

The OTHER happy couple of the day.