Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 29

The twenty-ninth episode of War of the Worlds, the series, is titled Seft of Emon.  The Morthren power supply is running low, prompting them to raid some nuclear material.  Unfortunately for them, what they stole doesn't play nice with their existing systems, prompting them to bring out of stasis Seft, high priestess of the planet Emon.  She is a crystal master, able to transmute raw materials into energy-generating crystals.  Her species was conquered, then obliterated, by the Morthren, though they kept her and her son on-ice in case of emergency.

Perhaps sensing a kindred spirit, she reaches out telepathically to Blackwood and they form a bond.  Eventually, she conspires to make physical contact with him by convincing the Morthren that she needs to select her materials in person, then slipping away.  This contact puts strain on the relationship between Harrison and Kincaid, who is rightfully distrusting of non-human life.  Seft gets recaptured (or goes back willingly, the story's a bit of a muddle), and is released again as a ploy by Malzor to find her human contact.  His plan works, and our team is pinned down by Morthren fire.  She and her son transcend to a higher plane, which allows our heroes to escape. 

The Good:  There's some.  I rather like the aliens in this episode.  It's cool to find out that, indeed, they've done this sort of thing before.  As always, the performances are solid, especially from Julian Richings, Catherine Disher, and Denis Forest.  Richings had a nice moment during the battle where he gave the order to fire and crouched, while his men let loose. 

Harrison has now made peaceful contact with a non-human life form, one that wasn't based on deception as was the case with Katya and Quinn.  Over the course of this season we'll see Kincaid, Suzanne, and Debi each do the same.  It's nice to see, and will pay off in the final episode of the series.

It was fun to see the old alien costumes trotted out, in flashbacks and dream sequences. However, points off for reusing footage from The Second Wave.

The confrontation between Kincaid and Blackwood near the end of the episode was well done.  Kincaid's perpetual distrust and Blackwood's optimism were bound to come into conflict sooner or later.

The Bad:  This story seemed jumbled and confused.  Seft's first contact with Harrison must be a dream or a telepathic outreach, but there's nothing actually in that sequence to suggest so.  Seft slips away, then gets recaptured, but it isn't clear how she accomplishes this.

There's also a bit early on where the aliens are cloning someone who can lead them to more radioactive material, but it's not sure who that someone was or where they got him.  He fried anyway, so perhaps this isn't a big issue.  However, Kincaid is asked by one of the market folks to help him figure out who's raiding radioactive supplies.  The story just doesn't seem well constructed, like there were a few too many revisions in there.  The scenes with payoff are still in, but the transitions got lost along the way somehow.  Bad editing, perhaps, or bad story editing.

Suzanne gets shot in the arm during the final firefight, but her injuries are minuscule, just a tiny patch on her shoulder.  I've heard of glancing blows, but that's crazy.

Finally, Harrison's 'love' with Seft seems way too fast.  They dream of each other, meet, he plies her for information... there's no soul there.  I do like the crystal she gives him in the end, though sadly I don't think it shows up again.

The Ugly:  It's not all that ugly, but the Morthren nutrient tubes are kind of cool and alien in a weird way.  Unless my subconscious is completely fabricating this, I seem to remember an interview with Disher where she talks about pushing for stuff like this.  I'm glad she did, the strange and bizarre are one of the fun aspects of this show.

So, Seft of Emon.  An episode with plenty of potential, but it seems to have gotten lost somewhere on the editing room floor.  Had they been a bit less ambitious, I think this could have been a quite good episode, but as it is it doesn't really hold together.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #61: Primal Scream

Primal Scream is the sixty-first issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers.  Having a bit of fun, the creative staff played around with the credits.  This issue purports to be written by Simon Furman Maximus, drawn by Geoffire Senior, lettered by Jim Lock Massara, colored by Shrapnel Yomtov, and edited by Megadon Daley, under the auspicies of Editor in Chief Double Dealer DeFalco.  Cute.  Don Perlin returns to the comic after a lengthy absence to draw the cover.

The cover is an interesting piece.  Grimlock, Jazz, and Bumblebee fall towards a stylized, enormous face.  The glowing mouth and action lines make it clear that the face is screaming.  It's an interesting piece, and certainly thematically appropriate, though I'm not sure that I find it aesthetically pleasing to look at.  Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, I just don't like it very much.  "The Primal Scream!!" it declares, in case you, I dunno, missed the artwork completely.

Once inside the book, things immediately look up.  A mysterious robed mechanoid shouts at the Autobots for daring to intrude on this sacred place, while narrative captions handle the brief exposition.  Furman even integrates these two elements rather slickly.  The narration ends by saying "and face to face with their maker" while the Keeper mechanoid ends by saying "your living god--".  Both of these elements are answered with an oversized "PRIMUS!" on page two, tying them together well.  While the Jazz, Bumblebee and the Micromasters are quick to kneel before their living god, with the Rescue Patrol going so far as to prostrate themselves, proud Grimlock wants answers.  He dismisses the Keeper as a charlatan and demands to know how he was "created."  (The quotes are Grimlocks, by the way, not mine.)  The characterization of Grimlock is rock-solid.  He's a strong-willed robot, one who doesn't accept things at face value.  Demanding the creation myth seems just a bit clumsy, but I'm willing to accept it

What follows is the first US telling of the origin of the Transformers race.  As the age of gods ended and the age of life begun, Primus had a task to accomplish before he could ascend to better things; defeating Unicron.  The two battled across realities, but Unicron proved the stronger.  Nearly obliterated, Primus tricked Unicron into manifesting himself in a lifeless asteroid.  Each of them was locked forever in metal lumps.  In time, Primus learned to psionically shape their new forms, and so Cybertron was born. Unicron, too, shaped his world into a planet-destroying engine.  To combat this menace, Primus created the Transformers, and gave them a genetic matrix containing his life essence.  Unicron scoured the cosmos endlessly, searching for his old enemy, while Primus slumbered to hide himself until the day when the Transformers were ready to do battle with this greatest of threats.

And there you have it, the cosmic origin of the Transformers, almost as far from the Quintesson origin of the cartoon as one could get.  I love this tale; I find that it elevates the Transformers into something timeless, like ancient Greek heroes.  Senior's visuals make a great accompaniment to it too, very stark and powerful.  I love his use of ink, especially on the panel I selected above.  Also, note how the mythological panels have wavering, uneven edges to them that very effectively set them off from the rest of the story.  All around quality, this part of the book was, and we're only seven pages in!

Of course, it wouldn't be a Transformers book without a ginormous fight.  As Emirate Xaaron, frantically working to repair the teleporter, feared, the Decepticons have caught up with their quarry.  After a brief but very effective interlude on Earth, where Starscream's presence has caused the other Decepticons to question Scorponok's judgment, the battle is joined!  Unfortunately, the Autobots have to hold back, lest a stray shot awaken Primus and doom their whole race to extinction.  The Decepticons have no such compunctions and are running wild.  Again, great artwork here.  Furman's dialogue is punchy too: "Prattling fool," exclaims Bludgeon to Jazz's banter, "Your warrior heart is tainted by an idiot's tongue! Perhaps I shall remove both for you!"  Where before Grimlock motivated things, now it's Bumblebee.  When his cries for help to Primus fall on deaf ears, he decides that they've sacrificed enough already and shouldn't have to lay down and die here.  He rallies the troops and leads the Autobots to victory. 

Unfortunately for all of reality, their victory is not absolute.  Octopunch blasts Grimlock in the back, a shot which ricochets  and strikes Primus directly.  His primal scream "shatters audio sensors and rocks Cybertron itself!"  At that moment, the teleport is fixed and all are sent to Earth.  Grimlock worries that perhaps Cybertron was doomed to get them there, but Bumblebee has less faith.  It's possible, he reasons, that no one but them heard the scream.  He's wrong.  In deep space, Unicron senses the return of his primordial enemy and begins his long, slow march to Cybertron.

All in all, this is an extremely powerful and effective bit of storytelling.  Great artwork, high stakes and fun dialogue make the final fight sequence whiz by.  By having the inevitable awakening occur after the battle is over, Furman manages to instill a brief sense of security, then shatter it.  We get an origin, two Autobots having some great character moments, a bit of foreshadowing about the main Decepticon camp, a fun fight, and much much higher stakes than we're used to going forward.  What more can one ask for in an issue?  It doesn't get much better than this.

Next issue, "the only thing that can save them is the thing they haven't got--the MATRIX QUEST begins!"  Of course they don't have the matrix, it died with Optimus back in issue 24... or did it?  Intriguing.  Primal Scream is the final story in IDW's Classic Transformers Volume 4 (v. 4) , and if you haven't read it you really really should pick this up from

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Planet Sandra shuttle

About a year ago, I posted an Ark Addendum for the inhabitants of Planet Sandra, from the SOS from Planet Sandra episode of the Takara Headmasters series.  Today I figured I'd finish off that episode with some models of the shuttle that the Autobots pilot to that world.  Rather than reuse the existing Autobot shuttle models, as they had done in earlier episodes like Approach of the Demon Meteorite, they got a brand new one.  It's massive; according to notes on the model, it's even larger than Fortress Maximus!

The Autobots pilot this behemoth to Planet Sandra to render aid to that world’s inhabitants.  Note the huge size of this ship, a bit larger than Fortress Maximus.

Oh, by the way, Bill Forster has updated his Deviant Art page with some of the original art  for the AllSpark Almanac II.  You can get a closer look at guys like Longrack Major from the Omega Sentinel page, Astrotrain from the Great War board game, and  Sky Lynx from the Maccadam's menu, plus plenty more.  What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hasbro Q&A

Every few months, Hasbro engages the online fan communities in Q&A sessions.  This offers the fandom a great chance to get answers directly from the horse's mouth.  Some of the answers that have been given out over the years have been remarkably informative.  There was one in particular that I loved, pertaining to the nature of The Fallen.  You can read it over on

Well, this week the latest round of answers are coming out, and one of the answers over on Parry Game Preserve was a particularly detailed and well written one.  I, uh, also have a selfish reason to like it, which will become clear:
Preserve: My favorite Transformers: Animated episode has to be Thrill of the Hunt which brought back the legendary Sue Blu as Arcee in the touching Ratchet wartime flashbacks. It was spectacular that it was recently perfectly captured by the Toys R Us Exclusive wave of those two figures. I'm wondering if the Transformers Brand team has any favorite episodes of that series that they would like to share.

Hasbro: Some of the team's favorite episodes from the past include War Dawn from the Generation One series, Other Visitors from the Beast Wars series, and the popular Armada episode Carnival. As for Animated, one of the most beloved episodes is the two-part series finale End Game. During its production, both the studio and Hasbro believed that End Game could very well be the final episode of the series. So many of the loose ends from the previous seasons were tied up and the escalation of the stories written by Rich Fogel and Marsha Griffin are the most action packed in the entire series.
There's this immense amount of tension built up during both episodes leading into the final battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron, while the rest of the Autobots tend to the Lugnut Supreme problem in their own ways. There was so many layers of story telling going on, and each Autobot had their own tasks to accomplish to make everything work out for the better. One of the most moving moments in the entire series also happens during the last episode, where Prowl sacrifices himself to save the city and his friends. I feel like that moment in particular really added a dose of reality to the animation and helped really drive home the difference between Autobots and Decepticons. Additionally, although the episode was written in a way to leave the door open for a potential season four, that never materialized, but the story concepts did! Those concepts are laid out in the The AllSpark Almanac II which is available at stores now.
So, uh, yeah.  Wow.  Thanks for that, guys!  I really appreciate it.  And thanks to PGP for asking the question in the first place.  Keep up the good work, great questions garner great answers.  BTW, there's a whole 'nother question about the logistics of international toy distribution too, so check them out.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SDCC 2010

Wow, what a blast.  This was my very first time going to a San Diego Comic Con, and I didn't QUITE know what to expect.  I'm not a fan of long lines or big crowds, so I was a bit daunted.  However, Bill was very keen to go and with a free Pro badge I didn't see much downside.  We resolved to attend but not try TOO hard to see everything.

EVERYONE was here.  I got to talk to EJ Su and Marcelo Matere over at the IDW booth, David Willis over at his booth, Aaron Archer and Eric Seibenaler just randomly walking around, my former editor Denton Tipton, amazing pin-up artist Olivia, Bruce Timm, Art Adams, J. Scott Campbell, Sean "Cheeks" Galloway, Greg Weisman, and a ton more.

DCAU figures aren't down for the count just yet!  We're finally getting a Kalibak, which is the DCAU figure that I've wanted the most for the longest.  We're also getting a Toyman, a Killer Frost, Guy Gardner, Parademons, Golden Age Flash, The Grey freaking Ghost, and plenty more.  I must have turned to Bill at least five times during the convention and said "Kalibak! Kick-ass!"

Lots and lots of costumes!  I love a good costume, so it was fun to see so many beautifully done ones walking around.  We snapped a few photos here and there, but really couldn't get close to having all of them represented.  The one I enjoyed the most was probably Archer and Lana, from the spy-spoof cartoon Archer.  Storm Trooper Elvis and The Colonel were also pretty cool.  I think Bill was most smitten by Black Cat.   Last Halloween I dressed up as Tony Stark, but this guy put me to shame!

Neato props and set pieces, including Terminators, the mech from Avatar, stuff from Tron, Toy Story legos, a fully mobile Astromech Droid, the complete suite of Iron Man suits, full sized Transformers, naturally, and plenty more.

Street signs in Klingon?  Good.  Those same signs in romanized Klingon?  Great.

The shanty-town behind our hotel? Wow.  It makes me thankful for what I've been blessed with.

So, those are my initial impressions.  I'm sure more will come to me in time, but that was what stood out.  Made some good contacts, kept up with even more contacts, got a few cool souvenirs, and generally just had fun. Oh, and check out my Flickr set for the dozens of photos Bill took.

Friday, July 23, 2010

More behind-the-scenes from The AllSpark Almanac II

The AllSpark Almanac II (buy it now!) would not have been possible in its current form without the help of a host of very talented individuals.  One of them, Javier Reyes, also worked with us on the first Almanac to make sure that we had as many of our models colored in as possible.  You see, the originals for many of the models, especially backs of models that were only used in one episode, were sometimes left as black & white line art.  That worked really well for us in the Ark series, but for the most part that wasn't jiving with the aesthetics we wanted for the Almanacs.

That's where Javier came in.  He tireless colored quite a few of our models, and did a bang-up job of it too.  In this new book, he did even more for us, designing several additional characters and a few props. 

Now, Mr. Reyes has posted up some of his work over on his deviant art page.  Go on over and see some of what he did, then drop him a note to let him know what you think.  He's got a page of his new designs, and a page of his coloring work

By the way, Bill and I will be heading on over to SDCC tomorrow morning.  If you see a red-faced ginger in an Iron Maiden tee shirt, that's probably him.  We'll see if we can set up a time to sign some of your books over at the IDW booth.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

AllSpark Almanac and AllSpark Almanac II Reviews!

Well, it's toot-my-own-horn time again. The reviews for both  Allspark Almanac and  The AllSpark Almanac II keep rolling in!

Starting with the first Almanac, we're now up to an amazing thirty reviews!  It took about a year, meaning we're getting a little more than one every two weeks.  What's really incredible is that every one of the 30 reviews is five stars.  Thanks, guys!

Moving on to the second Almanac, we just got our tenth review today, and it's a doozy!  It's a repost of a review that uber-fan Tengu posted over on  It's really very very lovely.  One highlight was this line: "I really believe that Transformers Animated: The Allspark Almanac 2 is perhaps the best literary tribute the show (and toyline, actually) could ever ask for."  Thanks, Tengu!  (For those who don't know, Tengu was the writer of several of the BotCon Wreckers comics back in the day, so I hold his opinions in particularly high regard.)  By the way, yes indeed, all ten of the AAII reviews on Amazon are five stars.

Man, I'm in a good mood!

So, guys, use the links above to buy the books if you haven't already.  You'll thank yourself!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Attack of the Autobots (part 2)

Continuing from last week, the rest of the background models from Attack of the Autobots. 

The evil Autobots proceed to menace Doctor Harding at the Space Center, a building with rather interesting architecture.  Meanwhile, the Decepticons go after the real prize, the satellite atop the Titan rocket. 

I rather like how detailed the mission control model is, and of course the rocket itself is pretty cool. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 28

The twenty-eighth episode of War of the Worlds, the series is titled Breeding Ground. A medical supply shortage sends Harrison to the Metro Hospital, where he stumbles upon an alien breeding program.  An old friend of his is helping the aliens implant seeds of the Eternal into human hosts, including a rather likable old lady named Kate Barrows.  Though the team manages to abscond with her, she escapes and returns to her hospital, where she delivers the first Morthrai to be born on Earth.  Her physician, Dr. Justaine, is killed off by the aliens for his trouble, but they allow her to live on with the memory of her loss. 

The Good: Quite a lot, actually. The acting was great all around, especially Helen Hughes stint as Kate Barrows.  Before her ulcer perforates and she winds up in the hospital she seems sort of carefree despite the lack of her welfare check (the department is on strike) and her pile of bills.  Unable to have children, her maternal instincts have been directed towards her career (in her youth she was a dancer of some renown, Champagne Katie) and her cat.  After she's checked into the hospital without insurance, miserable, she just exudes pain, but Ms. Hughes doesn't overplay it.  The character is doing her best to be stoic.  After she's impregnated with an alien seed, she becomes confused but ecstatic.  Finally, once the aliens abandon her and take their offspring with her, she's broken, sitting alone in her house with a cured ulcer but a loss she had never before known.  Her arc is complete, leaving her physically better off but emotionally broken.

The directing was also quite nice in this episode.  I rather like how creepy some of the shots were, including the first silhouetted appearance of Ardix and Bayda.  The tension stays high this episode, with some rather poignant moments to offset the horror. 

Hey, speaking of Bayda, last seen in Doomsday, it was nice to see the return of Ardix's accomplice.  I wonder if they were purposfully going for names evocative of the alphabet, or if that was a happy coincidence.  In any event, I like this sort of continuity.  There was great dialogue between them, especially when they observed how humans treat their elderly and their diseased "like so much refuse."  They also explain away some of the logical faults of the episode with some rapid fire-dialogue.  "We should have done this at our base," she scolds, but he rebuts that they don't have the equipment.  "We should have cloned the doctor," she continues, but the doctor is too old and sick to survive the process he replies. 

This episode is the first one where the "Almost Tomorrow" is starting to live up to its potentials.  The shortage of 'Megacillin', off-hand references to another Senator skipping bail, level-five pollution alerts, and of course the Georgetown Epidemic.  The latter was an important motivating factor in the episode, as Doctor Justaine was a brilliant surgeon who tried to help out with this Epidemic, only to later find out that it was a man-made disease that got loose.  He lost all his patients, leaving him broken, and later found out that he was infected with the disease.  The aliens offered him a cure, temporary as it turned out, which is why he was willing to sell out other members of humanity.

I've mentioned it before, but I think that Kincaid's battlewagon is pretty cool.  It features in an extended battle sequence where an alien tries to run them off the road.

In that same sequence, Harrison completes his journey to action hero.  Though he's been handling weapons for quite a few episodes now, I believe that this time is the first time he'll actually discharge a handgun at an alien.  Even now, he hesitates and has to be goaded on by Kincaid.  Given the airing order flub that this one represents, that means that it took him four episodes to transition away from his pacifist roots that he managed to more-or-less hold onto in season one to his new season two persona.  As that the season is only 17 episodes long, that's nearly a quarter of the story devoted to this evolution. 

The Bad: Let's start with coincidence, again.  Suzanne gets sick, prompting the team to look for medicine.  Harrison happens to know a brilliant but broken surgeon who might be able to get him some, and just so happens to be in the hospital when the first victim of the alien breeding program goes on a rampage. 

Suzanne mentions that the aliens have done breeding experiments before.  I'm wondering exactly what she's referring to. Unto Us a Child is Born springs to mind, though really that was an accident and the team knew it.  My Soul to Keep involved aliens attempting to breed, though no humanity was involved.  There were plenty of experiments done on humans in He Feedeth Among the Lilies, though those resolved around the immune system.  I wonder if McCullough commingled some of those events in her mind, or if there were some other alien experiments foiled off-stage.  This isn't a horrible 'bad', by any means, but as continuity nods go it's not great either.  I guess points for trying, though.  In a similar note, this episode unfortunately aired after Terminal Rock, which references 'only one breeding success.'  Whoops, guess they flubbed the airing orders there.

The Ugly: Alien surgery, though not nearly as gruesome as some of the S1 material, still counts as ugly in my book.  I couldn't tell from Youtube, but it seems that the alien surgical tools are variations on their three fingered hand, which is a nifty idea. 

So, there you have it.  Aliens attempting to incubate their young in human hosts.  It's not QUITE an idea we've seen before, as I point out above, though it's not a wholly new idea either.  However, it's saved by its execution.  Aside from how the team finds out about it in the first place, which will unfortunately be endemic this season, it's really quite solid. Let's hope that there are more like this ahead.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

AllSpark Almanac at Auto Assembly!

I've got some news that I find incredibly exciting.  This year, both Bill Forster and I have been invited to Auto Assembly, Europe's largest Transformers convention.  As I haven't been to England since 2006, I'm extremely excited to get the chance to go back and mingle with the terrific fan community out there.  In addition to hanging around and making a nuisance of ourselves all weekend, we're tentatively planning to use our time on Sunday to give a brief presentation on some behind-the-scenes artwork from various generations that hasn't been published before, before shifting to a traditional Q&A session.  

Other great guests include Derrick Wyatt, Garry Chalk, Scott McNeil, Simon Furman, Nick Roche, Guido Guidi, and many more.  This looks like a must-attend convention if you're native to the British Isles.  If you were at all on the fence about coming to this con, I strongly urge you to preregister now, as the spots are filling up quickly and there's no worse feeling than having to turn someone away from an event like this.  I have to extend my warmest thanks to the convention organizers and especially to Steve and David Mapes from Transformers At The Moon for making this happen.  I love smaller conventions, so it really is quite an honor to be invited. AA at AA... feels like a natural fit, doesn't it?

TFWiki Work


(Still not really sure of the fiction header on the Crocodillos.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #60: Yesterday's Heroes!

The sixtieth issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers is called Yesterday's Heroes! The creative line-up is unchanged from the last issue, meaning that we have a tale brought to us by Furman, Delbo, Hunt, Massara, and Yomtov. The cover is by José Delbo.

 The cover leaves me colder than it should.  Grimlock, Jazz and Bumblebee look up as an orang samurai leaps down at them, sword drawn.  There's nothing wrong with the rendering, but the composition isn't so much action-packed as it is confusing.  We're supposed to get the impression that the Autobots are at the bottom of a shaft, but havign the white floor and colorful walls makes the eye confused about where to go.  Bludgeon's back is to us, which robs us of some of his impact.  Perhaps to try to compensate for some of the flaws of the cover, there are a lot of words on the cover.  "Introducing: BLUDGEON!" is written above the logo.  We're also informed that "They're Back! Jazz! Grimlock! Bumblebee! The Classic Pretenders!" Neither one of the above blurbs are particularly prominent, but you can't help but notice the box stating that "The Autobots have three great heroes...", which is answered by a word bubble from Bludgeon stating "BUT NOT FOR LONG!" I do rather like how Bludgeon's sword slices through the logo, though. 

The issue itself, though, is nothing but solid.  We open on a scene that had not yet become cliched, Optimus Prime despairing over the loss of a friend.  He has a dialogue with a semi-sentient computer about Ratchet's choice from the last issue, with the emotionless computer applauding Ratchet's one-life-for-three choice and Optimus bemoaning the endless grind of self-sacrifice. Furman goes over-the-top here, but not in a bad way.  Rather, he's delving into the mindset of Optimus Prime in a way that we haven't gotten to see much of, at least in the US.  Delbo's art manages to be expressive through eyes and body language.  I especially like the third page, where a dejected Prime straddles the page, breaking out of his panel both above and below.  It makes him seem isolated and alone.  He decides that he's done, he's had enough.  He has the Autobots land the ship on the moon and just walks out into the lunar landscape.  Hot Rod, though, has a plan.  He's going to fire up a Mark V Guardian droid and have it pretend to run amok. 

Predictably, the robot ACTUALLY runs amok, prompting Optimus Prime to return and kick some robot ass.  Delbo's art really shines here, as does Massara's lettering.  The fight is punctuated by some great lettering effects, and I rather love the expressiveness of Kup's exclamation mark to the left.  As Optimus fights the droid, he philosophizes as can only happen in a comic book.  "Of course, I'd been fooling myself! Giving up wasn't the answer! Giving up is never the answer!" He concludes the fight by cycling back to the beginning of the issue, asking the computer if it understood the lesson that he himself had just learned.  The computer, indeed, picked up on the moral of the story.  "The heroes of yesterday provide the motivation and impetus for the heroes of tomorrow."  It's a nice little self-contained plot, taking Prime on a brief emotional journey and giving us some great action along the way.  I rather like the reuse of some UK concepts, this time the Guardian Robot.  It's a newer model, but it's recognizably of the same ilk as the droids seen in early UK plotlines.  Neat.

The other plotline of this issue is the resurgence of the Autobot resistance. With Grimlock, Jazz and Bumblebee leading the way, the Autobots have started to take back the night.  We get two pages of them just tearing through Decepticon opposition, while simultaneously introducing a few new characters.  There is quite a bit of exposition here, but Furman cleverly mixes it in with the action to hold our attention.  Heroes back, will be heading to the main battlefield, Earth, Decepticons are on the defensive.  Simple, but effective.

Naturally, all this  activity has attracted an official Decepticon response.  The Decepticon leader, Thunderwing, doesn't want to see his hard work slip away, and so sends Bludgeon, Octopunch and Stranglehold, the Mayhem Attack Squad, on an Autobot hunt.  As much as I love all of these characters, the artwork here lets the story down a bit.  Thunderwing's body language makes him look like he's slumping.  He seems like a rather decadent figure here, far different from the dashing and competent leader we'd come to know in future issues.  Meanwhile, the Mayhem team winds up looking stiff and weird, rather than monstrous and frightening.  Undead samurai and tentacled creature from the deep should be terrifying, but by copying the character moedl a little too closely they became rather dull.  And, um, there's Stranglehold.  He's just a dude.  It was a very weird choice, on Hasbro's part, to break from the concept of 'Decepticon Pretenders are monsters, Autobot Pretenders are humans' here.   I can't help but wonder if Longtooth was originally going to be the Decepticon in this assortment.  However, that's neither here nor there, and certainly not the fault of anyone on the Marvel side. 

The Decepticons manage to track the Autobots back to their lair, thanks to irradiated fuel set up by Thunderwing.  (Ah, now we're starting to see how Thunderwing's mind works.  No dilettante him, no!)   They're just in time, too, because the Autobots are about to transit to Earth. Emirate Xaaron wishes the blessings of Primus on the group, prompting Bumblebee to remark that he had forgotten the Transformers even had a God. After some very heavy handed foreshadowing, Bludgeon intervenes just as the space bridge activates, fiddling with the controls and sending his squad and Autobots alike deep into the heart of Cybertron.  What do they encounter there, but.the aforementioned Primus!

It's all terribly exciting, though more than a bit contrived.  Since Furman's been on this title for five issues, you'd think he could have dropped some Primus hints beforehand and then more casually mentioned them here.  Of course, the idea of Primus (as well as the Mayhem Attack Squad and Emirate Xaaron) was  already well established over in the UK, but since most of his US audience wouldn't know that it's still rather clumsy. It's also quite odd that a random space bridge jaunt with Earth as the destination would take them right to Primus, but since that actually could be some sort of divine intervention I've decided to give it a pass.

For all the logical contrivances, though, it's actually an intriguing development.  Whereas Furman's first arc was rock-solid but rooted solidly in what had already been established in the book, this new one is starting to look like it's much much deeper.  A God of the Transformers... how fascinating.  I also rather like the narrative structure here, with a complete story about Optimus in the foreground and the Primus stuff brewing in the background.  One quibble, though; Thunderwing and Bludgeon will go on to be some of the most memorable characters from the Marvel series, but in this, their introductory issue, they're fairly underwhelming.  I suppose that Furman had rather a lot to do in 18 pages, though, and at least the seeds of greatness are here, though buried very very deep. 

Next issue, we're promised "The honest-to-gosh origin of the Transformers," which sounds fantastic.  Only, they missed a trick here.  "honest-to-god" would have worked better in context.  In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that that's what the copy originally read, until someone higher up decided not to risk offending their readership or said readership's parents.  Yesterday's Heroes! is is available in IDW's   Classic Transformers Volume 4, and it comes highly highly recommended.  Order yours today.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Houston, we have a Winner!

As some of you know,  The AllSpark Almanac II (order it today!)  features a massively difficult crossword puzzle.  I don't mind saying that I spent about three or four weeks working on that thing.  It's designed to be completely solvable and to have as much overlap as possible.  To make it work, I needed a few non-TF words, but I tried to use Transformers clues for those words whenever possible.

Since it's a crossword with almost 150 words, I figured that I'd try to make it worth your while and ran a contest.  The rules were this: you have to get every answer correct, solve the word jumble, and then send me a picture of yourself holding the book.  (You have to put a face on the contest, you know?)

Well, as it turns out it took 15 days for General Tekno to blow through this thing.  Congratulations to our winner!  He even beat out Chris McFeely, who had decided not to enter the contest but was a few clues shy anyway.  The very last clue to be solved was 118 across, Syli.  That's a real currency, btw, not a Transformers reference.  In honor of that, General Tekno made up this cartoon:

 (Oh, and apologies for some late night crossword bungling, but 118 down doesn't exist - it should have be 119 down, which is the blank square immediately to the right of 118.  Unfortunately, there already IS a 119 as an across square, so that makes it, um, 118.5.  Sorry, guys!) 

Oh, and if you have no intention of solving it yourself, the answers are here.  General Tekno (and, to a lesser extent McFeely) proved that it can be done!  Congrats, guys.  I'll be getting in touch with you about your prizes.

PS: do ya get the word jumble? I thought it was a newspaperishly bad little clue. "Neutron laser demagnetizer cannon," weapon of choice of Action Master partner Screech, who is oddly described as an eagle scout.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Attack of the Autobots (part 1)

After a break of nearly a month for all of the excitement of BotCon 2010, The AllSpark Almanac II, etc, it's time to return to an old standby feature of this blog.  That's right, it's another edition of The Ark Addendum. This week we look at part one of the background models of Attack of the Autobots.

This episode featured one of the sillier premises of the old Sunbow 'toon.  Megatron slips a personality destabilizer device into the Autobots' recharging chambers.  The Autobots then wake up evil, and willing to obey Megatron's orders.  It's kind of a waste of a silly but fun idea; I much prefer more modern interpretations like Dark Designs or Shattered Glass, which show just how evil a turned Autobot can be. 

One thing to note is that the original Floro Dery concept artwork, shown here, is much more exotic than the simple beds with class coverings we ultimately got.  I love how alien everything that springs from his pen looks.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 27

Terminal Rock is the twenty-seventh episode of War of the Worlds, the series. Tired of the dangers posed by the urban decay of Almost Tomorrow, the aliens attempt to harness human aggression.  Their chosen avenue is puck music, with a clone of Ripper, frontman of The Terminal Band.  Meanwhile, the team faces tensions of their own as Kincaid adjusts to sharing his space with outsiders and Debi has difficulty with the camped space. To seek solace, Kincaid finds the arms of an old lover, Rose, but her brother is involved with some dangerous folks. In attempting to help her with her domestic situation, he learns of the alien plot. He and Blackwood track the problem to the source, rescue Larry and thwart the alien operations.

The Good: Great performances on the interpersonal relationships.  John and Rose, Rose and her brother Larry, Kincaid and McCullough, Suzanne and Debi. Plenty of great exchanges.  When Kincaid and McCullough start to snap at each other, Harrison tries to play the peacemaker. When Larry confronts Rose, a simple argument devolves naturally into physical violence.  Very nice directing here. 

Harrison continues his character growth.  When Kincaid brings back an alien earpiece, the first experiment with musical control, Harrison and Suzanne want nothing more than to dissect it and run some tests.  However, when Kincaid insists on going back out into the world to try to find Larry, Harrison reluctantly arms himself and goes with him.  He's closer to being an action hero, but he's not all the way there yet.  Also, a bit of the old Harrison comes through when he fights off the alien mind control with multiplication tables.

The aliens have some great moments too.  Ardix is nearly killed early on in the episode when random punks called Scavangers stream out into the streets looking for a fight.  This prompts Mana to boldly question Malzor.  Though Malzor refuses to seriously consider relocating their forces again, he lets her execute her music plan.  There's great tension between the two of them, and Malzor seems almost smug when her plan is thwarted in the end.  It's clear that he's reasserted himself as the alpha dog of the Morthren race.  I like that the dystopic setting negatively impacts the aliens as well as the humans, while simultaneously giving them possible vectors for attack.

As a part of the above exchange, there's a rather fascinating line-drop.  They've only been able to reproduce once so far, which will at the present rate of alien attrition (ten lost so far) will lead to their extermination in less than a year.  I think this episode may have been intended to air after the next one, which indeed features an alien birth.  I wonder where the ten aliens lost figure came from.  Quite a few perished in the first episode of this season, though those may not be counted as the dead were attributed to this quadrant.  I almost want to go back and skim prior episodes to see if that figure comes from anywhere.  In any event, ten dead is a big deal to them.  Depending on how much time has passed, that means we're dealing with at most a couple of hundred aliens.  Interesting...  

The Bad: Coincidence.  It was bad in the first season, but it's terrible here.  I suppose that the aliens and the Blackwood Team are practically right on top of each other, but that only goes so far.

When Debi hears music coming from the earpiece, which she knows is incredibly dangerous, she holds it up to her head and it latches onto her.  The character just seems a lot more sensible than that.  She did a pretty good job bopping around, though, once under the alien's sway.

Choirs of Angels was one of the best episodes of season one.  This episode feels like we're retreading old ground.  It won't be the last time, either.  We also get a really clear look at the alien base.  It's really rather bland compared to the caverns of season 1.

I feel bad about putting this in The Bad, but there's a lovely scene of John and Rose making love.  It's sweet and tender, but it goes on too long and doesn't serve that much purpose in the episode.  Contrast to Harrison's relationship with Karen in He Feedeth Among the Lilies, where the tenderness of the relationship provided a necessary contrast to the brutality of the 'rape' that she had experienced and would experience again.  This time it feels out of place.  So, good scene, but it probably should have been saved for somewhere else.  Even if they'd saved it for the end of the episode, where it could have been a sort of reward for them, it would have felt a bit better dramatically.

The Ugly: Alien earpieces, which today remind me quite a lot of bluetooth headsets. Ah, how time makes fools of us all.  (A Doctor Who episode would make use of bluetooth headset equivalents as mind control devices, which seems pretty reasonable to me.)

So, another mixed episode.  There are quite a lot of good elements, including better acting and directing than we often get, but they don't gel together as well as they could.  I'm still deciding how I feel about the new setting for the show.  It undeniably ratchets up the tension, but I don't think this episode really takes full advantage of the setting.  In a way, making homicidal street punks MORE homicidal is less frightening than turning more casual hard rock lovers violent, so the setting actually undercuts the premise of the episode.  Still, it's a step up from last week's offering.  

Oh, and for those keeping track of such things, Debi's age is given as 13 this episode.  I don't remember hearing it spoken before, but she can't have been much younger than, say, 11 by the end of the first season, so we've got a maximum of about 2.5 years separating the two of them.  Yeah, I'm having a hard time with that too.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Annotated Almanac II!!!

Transformers Uber-Fan and all-around great guy Chris McFeely has been working non-stop for the past 11 days or so, attempting to document every reference, every hidden message, every tiny scrap of data squirrled away in the Almanac. Well, he's finished his work and published it on-line, so go check out this massive document!  He's done a remarkable job at it, too.  I'd say that less than 2% of references remain undiscovered. (I'm not counting things that were obvious references that he just hasn't figured out yet, I mean things he's completely missed.)

In honor of his accomplishment, I figured I'd post the complete text of something only partially visible in the book: Ultra Magnus' speech from the board game.  McFeely correctly identified it as being a derivative of Churchill's famous "we will fight" speech... here it is in its entirety:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in Vehicon, we shall fight on Antilla and Vespa, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in space, we shall defend our planet, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight in the canyons, we shall fight at the spaceports, we shall fight in the asteroid fields and on the moons, we shall fight in torus states; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this planet or a large part of it were subjugated and energon deprived, then our Commonwealth beyond the stars, armed and guarded by the Autobot Navy, would carry on the struggle, until, in sparks good time, the Expansion, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the homeworld.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Not QUITE in the AllSpark Almanac - the original Tux!

So, there's this very talented fellow named Laurent Libessart, who draws up awesome GoBots in the Transformers Animated style.  I love, love, LOVE his work, so when I was putting together the second Almanac, I contacted him and asked him if he'd like to be involved.  He drew up this lovely Tux / Stretch model. It's slightly different than what's in the book, as the book version features a new head by Derrick Wyatt (with Laurent's consent, of course.)  Still, I thought it might be nice to showcase Laurent's original vision.  Go on over to his Deviant Art page and check it out in full resolution, and while you're there browse around a bit!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #59: Skin Deep

Wow, what a busy couple of weeks.  And with SDCC coming up, it promises to get only busier.  But, while I can take a breather, I figured I'd get back to regular blog programming, and for today that means another comic book review.

Skin Deep is the fifty-ninth issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers. The creative lineup is virtually unchanged from the last issue, which helps give the story a nice continuity.  It was written by Simon Furman, drawn by José Delbo, inked by Dave Hunt, lettered by Jim Massara and colored by Nelson Yomtov.  The cover is by Delbo.

We're treated to a vision of Grimlock battling the Sports Car Patrol outside of Megatron's base.  In the background, Megatron angrily stomps forward.  The coloring and inking give extra weight to what otherwise might be a rather flat cover.  Note the use of yellow explosions, as well as the angry black and red clouds of smoke and dust.  The composition is rather nice, with Grimlock dominating but plenty of motion.  In a riff off of the classic X-Men #42 cover, this issue declares that "Not a HOAX--not a DREAM-- THIS issue, an Autobot DIES!" Clever. 

We open right where 58 left off, with Grimlock charging forward and attacking Megatron.  We get some nice metaphysical musings from the big bruiser, about how his own lengthy deactivation has shaken him.  Two panels in and already Grimlock seems deeper.  Megatron knocks him out and threatens Ratchet, but is interrupted by... Bumblebee?  Bumblebee shoots Megatron a few times, then decides that instead of pressing his advantage he'll catch up with Ratchet.  The docbot rather clumsily explains that he never liked the Goldbug design, though Hydrus Four gets mentioned as a place with good surgeons.  I wonder if he was planting seeds, or if he later remembered the line for the Action Master storyline almost a year in the future.  Finally, Jazz joins the fray, asking for help with the Micromasters.  In a blatant attempt to sell toys, Ratchet touts the benefits of having a radio controlled outer shell, before heading out to try to contact Optimus.  Sure, all the toy stuff is a bit clumsy, but at least Furman gets it out of the way in the first five pages so he can concentrate on bigger and better things.  It does seem like they should have kept pounding on Megatron while he was off balance, though, rather than chatting it up.

On Earth, Starscream seems unstoppable.  Scorponok is certainly cowed, remarking that he will direct the counter-attack from the rear.  Hot Rod, though, manages to save the day by getting in a direct hit to the shell.  Starscream roars in pain, and Scorponok realizes that they are indeed dealing with a mortal.  "It can feel pain -- it can be hurt!" admonishes Optimus, in a classic Furmanism.  (Nice lettering here, by the way.)  With Scorponok counterattacking, Starscream's injures cause his original personality to rise to the fore.  Him being a coward, he immediately blames the whole attack on Megatron and begs for his life.  Riffing on the title of the issue, Furman wryly observes that his cowardace was only Skin Deep.  Thus does one of the three legs of the story come to a very satisfying climax. 

Megatron, meanwhile, mops the floor with the Autobot Classic Pretenders, blasting Bumblebee through his fortress wall, sidestepping Grimlock's charge and allowing the lummox to fall out, and then knocking Jazz's head into his Pretender head and chucking them out too.  "Two heads are not necessarily better than one!" he quips in a very comic booky manner.  He then send his minions out after them, while he goes to find Ratchet.

Ratchet, the true hero of the arc, has failed to contact Optimus, though he at least contacts the Ark and starts to coordinate with them.  Megatron observes him run up to the trans-time dimensional portal and erroneously assumes that he's trying to escape.  Ratchet, with a fusion cannon pointed at his head, gloats about how Starscream's MIND might have been blank, but his PERSONALITY was still there.  He also directs Megatron's attention to the pile of boobytrapped explosives that he teleported to the base from the Ark.  With only seconds to spare, Megatron attempts to flee through the portal, only to have Ratchet tackle him at the very last second.  BOOM!  (Or, should I say, "BRADDAKOOM!")Yup, Ratchet out-maneuvered Megatron at virtually every turn, reactivating the Autobots, sabotaging Starscream, and thwarting the attempt to destroy the Ark.  Why, he even prevented Megatron's escape... more or less.  More on that in issue 69.  In one fell swoop, Furman removes the threat from the Ark and gives Megatron his comeuppance, all while using elements already introduced in the story. This is very slick storytelling, with characters who we care about.  It bodes well for the rest of Furman's run.

In the 3/4th of a page denouement, the Autobot Pretenders watch the base destroyed in horror.  On Earth, Hot Rod can't quite believe that Optimus let Scorponok withdraw with Starscream.  Optimus observes that, with Starscream's history, he could be more of an asset to the Autobots than a liability.  He's much more concerned about Ratchet, and with good cause.  In fact, the blurb for next month even says as much.  "You SHOULD be worried, Optimus Prime! Judging by what happened to the Decepticon Base, it looks like Ratchet is one of YESTERDAY'S HEROES!"  Sounds intriguing.  Skin Deep is is available for purchase  in IDW's  Classic Transformers Volume 4.