Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #42: People Power!

People Power! is the forty-second issue of the US G1 Marvel comics run of Transformers.  It features a Bob Budiansky script, though the art is a bit complicated.  Breakdowns are by José Delbo, but finishes are by Dave Hunt and Don Hudson.  This, combined with the filler issue we'll get next month, make me think that something was running behind, probably the artwork.  Letters are by Bill Oakley, and colors by Nel Yomtov.  Delbo and Hunt are credited with the cover.  Given the aforementioned time issues, it's not clear which of them did what exactly on the cover. 

It's a pretty mediocre cover. Hasbro was probably happy, but I can't imagine anyone else was.  Optimus Prime is the focus, though his chest is popping out as a little man.  He's fighting a rather lackluster Darkwing and Dreadwind, backed up by some badly miscolored and weirdly drawn Powermaster Autobots.  "Optimus Prime -- Powermaster!!" it proclaims, when surely anyone in the audience would just be excited to have prime back at all.  The composition is actually pretty good, but the execution is simplistic and unappealing. 

Oddly, it's not the rushed art but the slapdash story (note the capitalization there) that hurts this issue. We open on a scene of a Decepticon super-jet attacking a Nebulan ... restaurant? The Gardens of Eternal Peace and Harmony Macrobiotic Resturant, to be precise.  Off the patrons scatter, and the jet reveals itself to be two squabbling Decepticons, Darkwing and Dreadwind.  They each have a partner, and they quickly engage in their 'mission:' chowing down on 20 servings of their best entrees.  It's a suitably bizarre turn of events, one that does not fail to intrigue.  The prose, especially, is nice right at the beginning. "Several dozen light years from Earth, the planet Nebulos spins contentedly around its sun, its people unblemished by want or war.  Indeed, the serenity and sophistication of Nebulan society would typically be the envy of most worlds in the galaxy."  Nice to see that Bob can still bring it when he wants to.

Meanwhile, the Steelhaven has arrived, allowing Getaway, Joyride, Slapdash (see what I did earlier?) and Goldbug to attempt to complete their mission. They're heading towards the lab of Hi Q, old friend of Galen, to request his help rebuilding Optimus Prime.  Hi Q doesn't quite get that these are living, sentient robots, which seems odd for one as brilliant as he.  He warns the Autobots off, for following the events of the Headmasters mini-series, he and Hi-Test turned the fuel of Nebulos poisonous to living robots. It worked, and when some Decepticons showed up, they quickly broke down. But envious Hi-Test hated being 2nd fiddle to Hi Q and brokered a deal with them, creating the Powermaster process to bond Nebulon and Cybertronian and bypass the poisoned fuel.  It's a lot of backstory, all to justify the new toy gimmick.  It holds together, but only barely.

Goldbug volunteers to help, but Hi Q points out that without energy the Autobots can't win.  Joyride wants to leave the planet, but Goldbug refuses.  Hi Q welcomes them as guests even as he mourns their inevitable passage.  He believes that it is their programming that compels them to stay, and helps them with the construction of Prime.  Their efforts are interrupted by a Decepticon attack on the Council of Peers, but their best efforts are repulsed.  Not only are the Autobots low on fuel, but the Powermaster process (surprise, surprise) makes the cons tougher than normal.  Here the rushed artwork really hurts, as what should be exciting is merely perfunctory. 

Hi Q is impressed that the robots defied their programming to attempt to thwart the Decepticons, prompting one of his four helpers to muse that they may be more than just machines. The Autobots incredibly decide to energize Prime with poisoned fuel, arguing that living in real life however briefly is preferable to a living death as a computer program.  Guh?  Really?

When Prime wonders if he's still a game character, Hi Q returns to his original impression that these are merely intelligent machines. But when Prime starts to die, he realizes that he must actually be a living organism.  He thanks his troopers for restoring him to life, and Hi Q decides that he can't let such a noble soul die. He agrees to undergo the Powermaster process, as do Rev, Lube (unfortunate name!) and Hotwire.  However, the fifth member of the Nebulon science team, Kari, can't bring herself to bond with Goldbug. He assures her that with his legendary fuel efficiency, he'll be all right for a little longer.  It was actually really shrewd of Budiansky to introduce five Nebulon characters to go with the five Autobots. If you weren't following the toy line, you'd probably fully expect Goldbug to go Powermaster.  Also, Kari wears a lot of clothes for a Nebulon woman .... what's that about?

With the Autobots now Powermasters , the Decepticons are quickly dispatched. Hi-Test and his partner Throttle are banished from Nebulos, which is pretty convenient for future stories.  Kari points out that the Powermaster process irrevocably united the Autobots to the Nebulons, and that Nebulos wasn't a proper place for her compatriots. Reluctantly, they leave the planet behind, to Kari's tears.  It's a tender moment, and makes one wonder what exactly her relationship was to the rest of them. Hi Q's daughter, perhaps?

Yawn. For an issue that reintroduces Optimus Prime, it's amazing how dull it all manages to be. Budiansky does a passing fair job of introducing us to Darkwing, Dreadwind, Hi Q, Hi-Test, Throttle, Rev, Lube, Hotwire and Kari. Hi Q, in particular, gets to shine as the avuncular skeptical scientist. But the real focus should have been on Optimus Prime's resurrection, the culmination of a plotline that began way back in #24. And while that's in here, it's kinda buried in the middle somewhere. The unspectacular artwork certainly doesn't help.

This issue marks a turning point.  We've basically hit a local climax, with a ton of resolution to plot threads in this issue and last.  From here on out, we've got one last hurrah left, the rescue of Buster Witwicky, but mostly we'll get stand-alone stories from this point forward. 

Next month, we're promised Sharkticons battling Junkions at the behest of the Quintessons?  Ultra Magnus, Galvatron and Rodimus Prime!  Really? Has the time come to incorporate all of these new elements? Sadly, no, it hadn't, we'll get a bizarre fill-in issue, but we couldn't know it at the time. People Power! is available for sale in IDW's  Classic Transformers Volume 3.


mmcelhaney said...

Great review. I actually own this issue w\from when it was published by marvel.

Anonymous said...

What I remember most from this issue was that the humans were willing to sacrifice themselves for the Autobot cause; voluntarily leaving their home planet to support the Autobots must have been a hard decision to take. It is usually the other way around, with the Autobots bending over backwards, sometimes to a ridiculous level, to aid humans.

LBD 'Nytetrayn' said...

I can't help but love the cover, as my Hi Q toy would almost never stay in Optimus' chest, either.

--LBD "Nytetrayn"

Lagomorph Rex said...

This was a good review.. and I've never been as partial to this issue as I was to " The Return of Optimus Prime " two-parter.. even with all of that shows flaws.. it was Exciting..

I'm not sure, but if your going to eventually be reviewing Space Pirates when you get to that point.. wouldn't it be better to wait on Big Broadcast until then.. I only bring it up because in the US series it has no context.. its merely an Episode of the TV show adapted for the comic book medium.. but in the UK series it was given context thanks to the two book ends that were added too it..

Either way, keep up the good work. Hard to think you're nearly done with Budiansky's run on the book.

Jimtron said...

A lot of love in the comments section of this issue.

Hey, Marcus. I didn't pick it up when it was first published, but after I chanced upon issue 69, I went and tracked down all the back issues within a few months. They were so cheap! The hard part was just finding a store that had them in stock.

Good point, anonymous, though it seemed to be a reluctant step for them. Kari kind of pushed them off-world, since they were indeed a threat to global stability. I'm a little surprised we never saw more of Nebulos, but this is a fitting end to the planet's story arc.

I hadn't considered the cover from that sort of ironic point of view, David.

Lagomorph Rex, I'll be reviewing this issue in the context of the American series, but my pal Bish will probably re-review it in the context of Space Pirates when he gets up to it.

Mark Baker-Wright said...

This issue marks a turning point. We've basically hit a local climax, with a ton of resolution to plot threads in this issue and last. From here on out, we've got one last hurrah left, the rescue of Buster Witwicky, but mostly we'll get stand-alone stories from this point forward.

Well, as far as Budiansky's concerned, anyway. Furman had quite a few long story arcs.

Hans said...

It's actually fairly easy to spot which pages were done by the guest inker. He did a... weird job on the faces of his robots. He starts off at the page were the Decepticons attack the council of peers (look at Darkwings' face in the second panel). The next page is Dave Hunt, but then the guest inker returns all the way, until Prime is first shown in his combined mode. This particular part is quite jarring, because on one page Prime has a fully drawn face, while on the next Dave Hunt takes over, and he couldn't be bothered with drawing/inking Prime's face at all, he just puts in a black blob of ink with two (red) eyes...

That's something that always bothered me about this particular inker. We know Delbo drew a regular face on Prime (see issue #48, drawn by Delbo but inked by cartoon storyboard artist Danny Bulanadi... Prime has a nose there). I still wonder to this very day why Akin and Garvey left the title. It wasn't the same without them, at least until Stephen Baskerville joined the artteam :)

Felicity Walker said...

“Delbo and Hunt are credited with the cover. Given the aforementioned time issues, it’s not clear which of them did what exactly on the cover.”

I would assume Delbo pencilled the cover and Hunt inked it.

“The Autobots incredibly decide to energize Prime with poisoned fuel, arguing that living in real life however briefly is preferable to a living death as a computer program. Guh? Really?”

One of the harder givens to accept in Budiansky’s run is that Optimus Prime’s entire mind, including memories, personality, and skills, can be stored on a disk, but that there can only be one copy of it and once the file is copied to a body, the original ceases to exist. You would think that if anything happened to Prime while he was hacking into Scorponok’s computer, Ethan Zachary would still have Prime’s mind backed up on the floppy, and that if Prime died from the poison fuel after his mind was copied into his new body, there would still be the floppy. In fact, given how well saving Prime’s mind to a floppy worked out for him, you would think all the Transformers would make regular backups.

But that would violate the spirit of the stories, in which the object is to have drama. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be the kind of person who thinks about things carefully!

I liked Jose Delbo’s art (Transformer eyeballs notwithstanding) and was glad when the post-Akin/Garvey inkers took a smooth, simple approach. Akin & Garvey’s metallic textures looked grubby to me. But then I imprinted on the cartoon as my ideal of what Transformers looked like.

Hans said...

I see your point, but I sure liked their style, myself. Although I didn't think Hunt's inks were bad. They were indeed smooth, and he made human eyes look really good in particular. There are two things I didn't like though: his lines were so thin sometimes, things dind't print too well. Especially issue #50. The bots are mostly just colors...

And the Prime face made no sense to me.

Good points about the floppy disk, but I can't remember ever really questioning that storyline when I was young. I guessed it worked for most readers who didn't know much about computers... we were just glad Optimus came back I suppose :)

Felicity Walker said...

Ten years later, my tastes have changed a little...I still like the clean Dave Hunt style inks the most, but I’ve also come to appreciate the Akin & Garvey inks.