Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Divebomb's Transform

Continuing the theme started last week, this edition of The Ark Addendum looks at the extended transformation sequence of Divebomb, the Predacon.  It's really a very simple transform -- his legs and arms tuck in a bit, and he's done. 

What's fun about Divebomb, for me, is the serendipity surrounding his name.  You see, Divebomb was a name proposed by Bob Budiansky for Swoop.  For whatever reason it was rejected, but Furman picked up on that and had Swoop make reference to 'back when I was Divebomb' in a story.  Lo and behold, a Decepticon named Divebomb shows up the next year, and so Furman weaves this together into a story about how Swoop lost his name to this Predacon.  Nifty stuff; Furman seems to excel at taking lemons and making lemonade.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ron Friedman auctions, charity, and you

Do you know the name Ron Friedman?  He's the gentleman who penned the first draft of The Transformers: The Movie.  Well, as it turns out, a large number of his files are going being auctioned off next Friday, including some character model packs, some original Transformer scripts with handwritten annotations, some early color cells, and more. 

Some of you may remember last year's charity auction for an early Toy Fare catalog.  We wound up raising over $2300 dollars in addition to purchasing the catalog and making it available to everyone.

Now, we're trying to see if lightning can strike twice.  In what started really as an effort to coordinate serious bidders to prevent working at cross purpose has blossomed into another charity drive. If you're interested in the details, you can click over to The AllSpark.  It's been 24 hours and we're at $50 from five people.  Hopefully we can snag one or more of these auctions, share them, and use what ever is left over to benefit a good charity.  (We'll be voting on which auction items to go for, and which charity we'll be choosing.)

Well, we raised over $1600 dollars, and we managed to snag at least 6 items with the help of some coalition bidders.  We also coordinated with some major TF bidders to prevent unnecessary bidding wars, and I believe that several more winners will be sharing their findings.  Thanks to all who participated; it's events like this that convince me that the TF fandom is one of the more friendly ones.

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 36

The Deadliest Disease is the thirty-sixth episode of War of the Worlds, the series.  When the aliens face infection by Earth's bacteria, they turn to a contact in the US military for solutions, seeking to trade hyperdrive technology for an advanced med-cell capable of repairing organic tissue.  Their plight is complicated when they find the device has been stolen.  Malzor and the military, represented by one Colonel West, each attempt to retrieve it.  Wouldn't you know it, but West turns to the old Blackwood team to get it.  Both track the device to The Exchange, a black market structure run by a Chinese man, Tao, an Iranian, Abraham, and a black man, Walla.  Holding this together is Brock Security.  Malzor and the Blackwood team each infiltrate Brock Security (via clone and subterfuge) in time to kick off a five way war for the invaluable device.  In the carnage, Tao and Brock each lose a son, Malzor gets the device and removes the infection, and the Blackwood team... well, they really don't do much besides wander through the carnage.  It's not really their story.

The Good: Let's start with character moments.  Malzor and Mana have never been closer than this episode.  When she gets infected, eh seems genuinely concerned, a nice deviation from their usual tension.  "I've failed you," she mourns, but he replies "No, we'll conquer this.  We've always been successful... together."  It's a nice I / we switch.  He seems almost tender.  He also puts himself in harms way to attempt to retrieve the med cell when it's apparent the clone is defective, something that he might have been more reluctant to do had Mana not been at risk.

This episode is a more-or-less total success for the aliens.  Now, they lose two soldiers, but they get the device and stave off the infection.  Malzor killing the Colonel at the end and calmly walking away was a nice moment.  Deal with the aliens at your peril, people!

The defective clone of Brock decides to take his fate into his own hands and rescues his original.  It's a neat exploration of the cloning idea, one that would definitely not have worked with the S1 osmosis technique. 

Many folks have aliases this episode.  Malzor goes by Mr. Malcom again when meeting with the Colonel.  Kincaid infiltrates Brock Security as a Mr. Wolf.  Blackwood talks to Tao as Mr. Milcroft.  Each name seems to suit their personality somehow.

The idea of the machination of two fathers accidentally killing their own children is old but still powerful.  It was a touching moment, at the end, as they both mourned their loss and put down their weapons.

Finally, the irony of a device intended to heal kicking off all this violence is rather nice. 

The Bad: Sadly, big picture-wise, this story doesn't really work.  It's a confused jumble of really interesting elements that can't quite decide what kind of story to be.  Is it about racism?  Generational conflict?  Greed?  There are some interesting sci-fi elements mixed in, but they feel tacked on, not organic to the story.  A clone and the original running around is neat, but thematically disconnected from an already muddled mix of elements.  I get the sense that "The Deadliest Disease" is meant to be whatever's driving this story... but what that is isn't exactly clear. 

Also, the team is really not the focus of this story.  Kincaid manages to insert himself just a bit, but even then he's pretty far from the emotional center of the story.  It's also a big coincidence, the team working for West who's working with Malzor.  I like the irony of this, but it's not really explored in any meaningful way, meaning it's a flaw without a redeeming flip-side.

I'm not sure what's going on with race in this episode.  We've got a five way war, between Arabs, blacks, whites, Asians, and, um, Morthren.  Racial epithets like 'chink' are thrown about.  Again, I feel like the writers were trying to make some kind of social commentary... but it gets lost amid all the other elements.  Tao seems almost a caricature, so it hardly seems like they were going for a post-racial world.  I just don't quite get it.
Using bacteria as a motivator feels REALLY redundant.  The whole first season was about that, as was the movie.  This ground feels very well trod.

I don't like to pick on production values, but the fight between Kincaid and the Chinese soldier is awkward.  So is the disolve from the sick to the healthy mouse intended to demonstrate the efficacy of the med cell. 

The Ugly: Plenty of ugly in this episode, but I'll go with the moment the alien dies of the disease. The various infections that were impacting all of the alien's organic technology was pretty cool too.

The Deadliest Disease.  An episode with potential that seems to have been killed somewhere in committee.  If it just decided if it was a story about race, or about generational conflicts, or about greed, it might have been quite good.  Oh, well, c'est la vie.  Hey, and for those keeping score, take a drink.  Yup, General Wilson was namechecked for the first time in over a dozen episodes.   War of the Worlds: The Final Season, is available  for purchase on DVD, if you'd like to check it out.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #75: On the Edge of Extinction!

The seventy-fifth issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers is titled On the Edge of Extinction!  Naturally, it sprang from the pen of one Simon Furman.  Our old favorite Geoff Senior returns to do the artwork on this double-sized extravaganza, with Parker and Yomtov on letters and colors.  Continuing the trend of playful credits, editors Tokar and DeFalco are listed, collectively, as 'certainly doomed.'  The cover, too, is by Senior.

The cover is certainly evocative.  Unicron holds Cybertron, which is way too small, but it's not a literal cover so I can accept that, and cracks it open to pour out the juicy Transformers within.  Grimlock, Hot Rod, Kup, Galvatron, Optimus, and Scorponok pour out.  I'd have swapped Hot Rod out and put in Starscream or Shockwave, given the recent prominent cast members, but that's a nit.  It's a powerful image of doom and gloom, with the bold inking and stark geometries that Senior is good at.  "Double-sized all-out action anniversary issue!" entices us up above, while in the corner it asks us if this is "THE END?! ... or the beginning?"  I don't know if the bit about the beginning was necessary.  I can't help but think that, when Furman took over the book, getting to 75 must have seemed like a real stretch goal.  I'm glad that, after his initial four-issue foray into the field, he started laying groundwork for this milestone issue.  He made it, and five issues on top of that.  Sadly, by the time this issue saw print, behind-the-scenes the cancellation was already finalized.  Still, even had things ended here, this would be considered a seminal run of Transforms. 

But I get ahead of myself.  We open immediately as the last book left off, with Unicron's enormous hand crashing down into the land stood on moments before by the fleeing Transformers.  Bombastic text accompanies bombastic imagery, retelling the origin of the Transformers.  The opening page leads to a GORGEOUS two-page splash of Unicron floating above Cybertron, gorging himself on the meat of his ancient enemy.  (If I may brag for a moment, I own the original art for this piece.  It hangs proudly in my living room.)  The sheer scale of things is apparent as Unicron chows down on the landscape, with his ominous shadow falling across that which he devours.  We even homage the movie a bit as we cut to Unicron's internal organs, processing this feast into energy.  "Certain doomed" indeed.

Echoing the earlier panicked retreat, sheer terror is the only emotion that the Transformers seem capable of processing.  The normally clever Brainstorm, when prompted for a course of action, just shuts down and starts firing.  Nice lettering by Parker here.  Brainstorm's reward for this course of action is to be impaled on a fingernail and ingested as a snack.  The last line of defense by Primus is, according to Unicron, pathetic... but tasty.  Primus, through Xaaron, implores his warriors to fight, but how can they do anything but flee in the face of this monster.  The normally indomitable courage of Optimus Prime falters.  "It's - so big!  So impossibly big.  We -- we can't fight that!" Optimus isn't the only one shutting down against this.  Shockwave, the shining beacon of logic and logistics, looks a Unicron and simply... cannot compute.  I love the idea of the living computer that is Shockwave basically crashing in the face of a data input like this.  Using Optimus and Shockwave as the voice of despair was a clever trick by Furman.  Optimus represents emotions, ideals.  Shockwave represents reason and intellect.  Both, however, in the face of this titan, seem helpless.  By the way, I love how virtually every important character from the past 20 or so issues has a role to play in this story, sometimes several.  (The big exception is Megatron and Ratchet, their story will come later.)  Shockwave (and Starscream) has now played his role in the story, that of the coward.  It's a bit part, but an important one, and putting him in the role is a sort of casting-against-type that I appreciate.  Starscream, on the other hand, plays the part to a tee.

The first voice of hope is, oddly, Thunderpunch, the human displaced to Cybertron with the rest of the Neo Knights.  He won't run -- after all, there's no where to go.  He convinces his team to stand and fight, something that ironically Unicron wants.  Astride Cybertron he stands, blasting away at his ancient enemy, cajoling them to fight back.  For a battle that he's anticipated since literally before the beginning of the universe, it's too easy for him.  Primus seeks to give him what he desires, as the god of light snares Primus in bonds of 'nauseating, choking pureness.'  Primus tries to bluff his ancient adversary into submission, but Unicron sees through it and obliterates his enemy.  "Xaaron!" calls out Scorponok, and an almost comically wide-eyed Optimus cries out "Primus!"  They've lost their god today; they're on their own. This moment comes in most good stories, when the mentor dies and leaves the young ones (even if the young ones, in this case, are millions of years old.  It's a relative thing) on their own.  By placing Primus' demise so early in the story, it gives that much more weight to the battle about to erupt.

The battle is kicked off in earnest by Galvatron.  It was him, after all, that woke Primus and the god to call home his children.  Galvatron seeks to humble Unicron, make the dark god pay for humiliating the ultimate Decepticon.  He taps into Cybertron's energy and blasts off to do battle with the Chaos Bringer, hoping to rally the panicked Transformers into action.  He hits Unicron full in the face, stinging the monster, but he's promptly swatted aside.  The artwork here is terrific, from the amazing energy of Galvatron blasting off, to the casual backhand that chnnks Galvatron aside, to the way Galvatron flies through a building and bounces off the ground.  Galvatron has thus played his role, that of the instigator.  It's the part he was born - er, created - to play.

Amazingly, though, it worked.  Faced with such courage, Autobort and Decepticon alike begin to fire back, showing Unicron exactly what four million years of war can do to military innovation.  Darkwing and Dreadwind, Cloudburst and Nightbeat and Siren and Jazz, Highbrow and Finback and Misfire and Hardhead and Bomb-burst, Quake and Joyride and Waverider, and presumably many more, all go off to do battle with what is just about literally the devil.  For most of them, it doesn't go well, as robot after robot is destroyed.  Optimus takes a mighty blow and crashes to the feet of Scorponok, who he begs to carry on the fight.

Scorponok, faced with perhaps the death of his entire race, reflects again that this isn't his war.  He's a Nebulon, a man, amid a war bigger than anything he could have imagined.  His moment of weakness passes, though, and he charges boldly forward. It does not go well.  Unicron hits him with flame breath and destroys the poor robot.  In what is hands down the best death scene in the entire run of Transformers comics, a badly melted Scorponok asks Optimus if he did good.  Prime reassures him that he did, and he gives up the ghost.  Thus does Scorponok play his roles, that of the reluctant hero, and of the martyr. 

Another hero, boldly charging forward, is Thunderpunch, who somehow managed to get beat up but not killed.  I'm not sure how that works, but I'll accept it for the sake of drama.  Dynamo is trying to channel Cybertronian energy, but his body is having a tough time of it.  Circuit Breaker is still catatonic, so that leaves Rapture.  She snares Unicron's mind, but only for a fleeting instant.  His fantasy, by the way, is of... nothing.  Emptiness.  The void.  Blackrock does the unthinkable, and attempts to rouse Josie by slapping and mocking her, all the while hoping he can forgive himself. 

The late arrival of the Ark gives the Cybertronian warriors some badly needed reinforcements.  The Ark rams Unicron, causing him some damage but totaling the ship. When Prowl criticizes this strategy, Grimlock shoves him out a hatch to 'go fight.'  Wheeljack asks Grimlock if battle at this point is wise, given the unstable energy reanimating them, prompting a fantastic exchange.  "Should what!?  Have holiday? Put feet up?" Grimlock mocks.  He charges forward, with the Dinobots (and a reluctant Wheeljack) in tow.  Thus does Grimlock play his part, that of the impetuous and fearless warrior. 

Optimus, meanwhile, is starting to rally, though he's hit with another of his gut-wrenching bouts of pain.  He is imploring his unnamed friend, which is clearly Hi-Q, to stay with him just a bit longer, when what should arrive but Thunderwing and the Dark Matrix.  It desires vengeance against the Transformers, and won't let anything stand in its way... not even Unicron!  Optimus frets that they may have to turn around and destroy the Matrix, should it destroy Unicron, but he needn't worry.  The tainted Matrix is in the realm of evil, where Unicron has no equal.  He shatters the enormous Matrix projection, sending numerous warriors flying and dismembering Thunderwing in the process.  Thus does Thurnderwing play his part, that of the tainted and impure warrior, he who fights for the wrong reasons and is thus doomed to fail.

Optimus has one last gambit; to retrieve and purify the Matrix.  Before he does so, he insists that Hi-Q exit his body.  This task he must do alone.  He'd better hurry, though, as Unicron converts to his planet mode and begins to devour Cybertron once and for all.  He's had his sport, now he seeks unadulterated victory.  Blackrock's cajoling has finally worked, though, and Circuit Breaker ignites his body in pain as his circuits sizzle and crackle with energy.  Her sanity is gone, shredded, but she's bought Optimus a few precious seconds.  Thus does she play her part, that of a madwoman.  With Unicron distracted, Optimus seizes the Matrix and battles its demons.  Though it seeks to control him, he has seen so much nobility, so much courage, so much sacrifice, that he has no doubt whatsoever in the power of goodness. He's also purged his doubts about his god, who he realizes created them not as pawns but as successors.  Truly the Transformers are his children.  When Unicron recovers from Circuit Breaker's assault, he's confronted with the advance of Optimus Prime, weilding a purified Matrix brimming with pure white energy.  Optimus flies into his maw and overloads the monster.  "Thoughts - fears - doubts - pain - love - death."  It's all too much for Unicron, who explodes in a very nice splash page.  (Oh, and thus does Optimus play his part, that of the self-sacrificing hero.) 

The story isn't quite over.  A tale that big deserves an epilogue, and we get one, a nice page that reiterates the mythology.  "They were the dream," it tells us, mechanical beings created as a last line of defense against Unicron.  "That battle is done, the story told.  But life goes on, and the story of the Transformers is far from told!"  Accompanying this rather uplifting text are some nice images of Cybertron from space and some battered but living warriors savoring a moment's peace.  If the entire comic ended on this page, I don't think there would be too many complaints.  (Though there would be a few dangling plotlines.)

Even this isn't enough for Furman, though.  We get one more page, one shrewdly marked "Prologue:" and thus promising more tales to come, wherein Battletrap and Runabout take a walk and muse about how even this hasn't really changed who they are.  From the shadows, Hi-Q watches as a hand grabs Runabout and pulls him into the ground, where he is promptly devoured.  It's actually a slight anti-climax, but labeling this section a prologue salvages that somewhat. 

And that's the end!  It really was a fantastic story.  So many characters, big and small, got to shine here, though the stand-outs were Optimus and Scorponok, Autobot and Decepticon.  The emotional arc, from sheer terror to resolve to triumph, is masterfully executed.  I also love how many pieces of the story come together here, including Grimlock's Nucleon arc, the Matrix, Galvatron's abduction from the future, and the Neo Knights.  Plot, character, and emotion, all of them working together to make this the biggest Transformers story ever brought to the comics.  The artwork, too, is great, a perfect accompaniment to the powerful story.  Though as a kid I didn't really appreciate Senior's style, I now could hardly imagine anyone else tackling this story.

Next Month: "A holiday? A chance to put your feet up?  NAH!"  We're promised even more action, shocks, thrills and intrigue.  Frankly, I find that hard to imagine, though I love the call-back to Grimlock's line to Wheeljack.  On the Edge of Extinction! is the first chapter in IDW's Classic Transformers Vol. 6, available for purchase at Amazon.com.  This volume also contains both the Headmasters and the Movie miniseries, for some extra added value.  Again, if you haven't read this story and you're reading this blog, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Razorclaw's Transformation

Happy Tuesday!  In addition to our weekly celebration of Mars, that means that we're ready for another installment of The Ark Addendum.  This time, I figured that in honor of the Ron Friedman auctions (and if you haven't contributed to the charity/auction drive, what are you waiting for?) I'd go back to some American G1 classic models.  Yup, no Masterforce or Headmasters today, no siree.

In fact, I figured I'd do up the full Transformation sequence for none other than the Predacons, my favorite combiner team.  I know, blasphemy, right?  Everyone knows it's supposed to be Devastator.  I just love how sturdy the toys are for these guys, and I rather like the idea of five sleek and deadly Decepticon jungle warriors.  This week it's Razorclaw, team leader extraordinaire.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 35

Pied Piper is the thirty-fifth episode of War of the Worlds, the series, and features the first Morthren born on Earth.  You'll remember him, he was born to a kindly old lady back in Breeding Ground.  They're calling him Adam now.  Adam isn't getting his human emotional needs met, and so Malzor sends him to the Creche, a human institution for genetically engineered test-tube babies that masquerades as an ordinary school for the gifted.  Thus, Adam will get what he needs while helping out the Morthren cause, reporting back human progress on improving itself.  Suzanne is called in to help reach the distant Adam, as she is a friend of the director of the Creche.  What she sees concerns her, even before Adam starts to rack up a body count. When she returns with her posse to bust Adam out, she finds out what he is and thwarts his mission to steal the children.  She does allow him to return to Malzor with all the Creche's records on genetic experimentation, though.

The Good: There are some nice character moments.  The Julie's dreaming about flying felt like a very real response to the oppressiveness of her environment.  Martin's dream of the loss of his son had a human violence to it that was nice, especially when he shouted "Don't you ever threaten me, bitch!" to his wife.

I liked the idea of Adam's perception powers.  He can manifest visions of Mana to communicate with, share his dreams with his fellow students, or turn them against his captors. 

Suzanne has now made peaceful contact with an alien, as Harrison, Kincaid, and Debi have done before.  It's interesting to me that, of all of them, she's last.  Somehow she seems the most open-minded about this sort of thing.

The Creche is a terrifically dull place in most respects.  I like that way the imaginarium is done up, though.  It seems a bit ahead of its time.  I also like the conceit that there's one room for scheduled imagining, and the rest of the time bleakness reigns.

I like the continuity with Adam.  Also, him manifesting as Patrick, Martin's dead son, is appropriately creepy.

The Bad: Coincidence.  Suzanne just so happens to be the godmother to a child killed by the director of the Creche?  Boo! It's another symptom of the limitations of the format of S2.

The debate between  Martin and Suzanne seemed stilted.  It's as if the producers wanted to slam genetic engineering but didn't have a good idea about how to do so.

The whole episode has a bit of a Village of the Damned feel to it that I can't shake.  Maybe it's just the subject matter, but it seems a smidge derivative to me.

The Ugly: There is a complete paucity of gore in this episode.  No funky alien tech, and even the human bodies have no marks on them as a result of the mechanism of Adam's assault.  I'm forced to fall back to Martin's death by jumping from a window.

Another fairly standard S2 episode.  A bad coincidence to get us in the door, some attempts to explore social themes, a bit of action.  The aims are more ambitious than the execution, but that's not such a bad sin.   War of the Worlds: The Final Season, is available  for purchase on DVD.   (In fact, this is the first review where I've been able to watch it in high quality, as opposed to crummy YouTube videos.  I hope you appreciate the difference in screen grab quality.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #74: The Void!

The Void! is the seventy-fourth issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers.  For the fifth issue in a row, it is brought to us by Furman (script), Wildman (pencils), Baskerville (inks), Yomtov (colors), and Parker (letters).  Editor and editor-in-chief Rob Tokar and Tom DeFalco are credited as 'nobody' and 'nothing,' respectively.  The cover is by Wildman and Baskerville.

The cover features Optimus Prime and Scorponok, side-by-side gainst the hordes of Unicron.  It says so itself!  Still sporting the damages they've sustained from issues 70-73, they face off against a swarm of robots wearing Unicron masks.  The alliance is intact, it would seem.  For some reason this cover fails to excite me.  I feel like it should, it's well rendered and the idea of the alliance facing off against minions of Unicron feels right and natural.  I can't put my finger on my issue with it.  Perhaps it's just not as brilliant as the rest of the book, or perhaps it's the odd white background.  Maybe it's that the cover fails to surprise; it is rather expected, in a way.

The book itself opens in a rather unexpected way.  We get a full page of almost nothing, with Unicron curled up in the center.  The title of the book is incorporated into the narrative, which I always like.  We then cut to a two-page spread of the Primus-possessed-Xaaron going over the Transformers' creation myth, which leads into a two-page spread of the assembled Transformers, complete with logo.  It's really very well done.  It's been a while, well over a year, since we were introduced to the idea of Primus and Unicron, so it's nice to see it reviewed here right in time for the big finale.  What a motley crew populates the book!

After Primus names Optimus Prime the his champion, we cut to Grimlock on board the Ark.  Some seeds are planted for the future (Snarl detects only one Cybertronian life form on Earth, and that one's in two parts... fascinating!), Grimlock's hand locks up again, and the Dinobots pump Nucleon into the life support bays without stopping to see who they're reviving.  No harm could possibly come of that, now, could it? I love how dense these two pages are.  Grimlock's motivation, to prove to Prime that he was right and Prime was wrong, continues to be compelling.  It seems to me that it stems, at least in part, from Grimlock's time as leader.  How frustrating it must be for him to have his reign end in failure, to have to turn the reins back to his predecessor.  He's so proud; surely on some level he wants the Autobots to say that they choose him, not Optimus.  These themes will be explored more in upcoming issues, but they certainly make for compelling reading.

On Cybertron, Blackrock begs Prime to have Primus send them back to Earth.  Circuit Breaker isn't doing too well on a planet full of robots.  Primus, though, is shut down, filling Optimus with misgivings.  Scorponok, too, is worried about the future.  After Starscream and Shockwave threaten him, he asks Prime to walk with him to strategize.  Instead, though, he confesses his fear to his sworn enemy.  He, a man, just doesn't want to die.  Perhaps that's one of the reasons that Zarak bonded with Scorpnok; it must offer a sort of immortality.  Optimus, having experienced death, is in no hurry to die either.  It makes him feel selfish, but he resolves to face death with nobility and resolve, should he have no other choice.  Scorponok is touched by his example, but his resolution to fight together is interrupted by Unicron cultists.  They're hunting Optimus, though, and not him.  He has a moment of weakness, when he contemplates leaving Optimus to his fate, but ultimately leaps (quite literally) into battle.  It's a lovely panel, no?  It's also great character development on his part.  Scorponok is coming a long way.  We also get a nice Galvatron moment, when he interrupts a cultist about to ambush Optimus and feeds him his own grenade.  Bad-ass!  He summons some help, and then makes himself scarce.

We get one more interlude, seeing Thunderwing fully repaired and the dark Matrix make its way to Cybertron for revenge, before cutting back to the Autobot and Decepticon reinforcements who have arrived to save the day.  Side by side, they battle the Unicron minions.  Scorponok is stopped from killing the last one by Optimus.  They are, after all, beings possessed.  Primus hails the wisdom of Optimus, and informs the assembled Transformers that this was his plan all along, to flush out those Cybertronians corrupted by Unicron's will.  Naming Optimus leader was a ploy.  Optimus' misgivings increase, but before he can do anything about them he collapses in pain again, begging his 'friend' to fight it.  Hi-Q?  Once again, Furman's use of the lore of Transformers past creates compelling layers of story.  How easy it would have been to forget about Optimus' Nebulon companion, but instead he becomes an important plot point.

The book ends on a bang.  Kup, looking up in the face of a shadow, asks Primus to confirm that the god is aware of everything Unicron does.  When Primus does so, Kup asks him how he could possibly have missed THAT, pointing to the looming form of Unicron about to destroy them all!  It's a lovely piece, one of my all-time favorite Unicron images ever.  The glint on Unicron's long nail, the starscape, the look on his eyes, the landscape that is Cybertron.  It's just gorgeous.  So gorgeous, in fact, that Wildman signed it, which he hardly ever did for an interior page. 

Another terrific installment in the Transformers saga, this was.  The plot continues to build, as all threads converge on Cybertron.  Even as this goes on, Furman is laying the foundation for the next story, the life after Unicron plotline.  It's such an absolute joy to read these issues, to appreciate the deftness with which Furman weaves together disparate elements from both his own run and Budiansky's.  Issue #75 feels absolutely perfectly set up.  I can't wait to read it again.

The only hint we get for next month is the 'to be continued...' at the end of the last page.  I don't think any more needed to be said about what we're going to see next issue.  The Void! caps off IDW Publishing's Classic Transformers, Vol. 5, available for purchase at Amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Cab's Transform

Huzzah!  War of the Worlds, season two has arrived on DVD, so I can get back to my weekly reviews.  Exciting!  And since we're on the topic of weekly content, it's time for another Ark Addendum.  This week, I present to you (dramatic drumroll here) Cab's Transformation.

Confession time.  I never liked Cab.  I dunno why, he just never sang to me.  His design, at least, is kind of cool as a human I suppose, what with the animals and the spears and whatnot.  But as a robot, he seems a bit too lanky for my taste.  Even his action shot at the end of the transform seems lackluster to me.  Shuta and Minerva were much more relatable to me than the Prince of Kairn.  Don't even get me started on how much cooler most of the Destrons were than this fellow.  Ah, well, to each his own.  Anyone out there love Cab and want to tell me why I'm crazy?  I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

War of the Worlds DVDs

If I may shill for Amazon for a moment, there won't be any War of the Worlds review today because the DVDs got lost in transit.  My office has a horrible postman; packages go missing or get delivered to the wrong office.  FedEx and UPS have no issues delivering here, but the post office can't seem to get it right.  Nevertheless, when I contacted Amazon about it they were very reasonable and are sending me another copy two-day express.  Hopefully next week I'll have a review queued up and ready to go. All they asked was that I give the item a week past the 'delivered by' date, which seemed very reasonable to me.  The moral of the story is, Amazon customer service is top notch. (The other moral of the story is that the West Hollywood postal service is lacking.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #73: Out of Time!

The seventy-third issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers is titled Out of Time!  For the fourth issue in a row, the creative lineup is unchanged, contributing to the strength and momentum of the story.  For those keeping score, that makes this a Furman (writer) / Wildman (penciler) / Baskerville (inker) / Yomtov (colorist) / Parker (letter) production.  The cover, too, is an Andy Wildman.

The cover is rather intriguing.  Optimus Prime, Scorponok and Shockwave appear to be in the process of vanishing, as they stand before the Neo-Knights.  LESS than Meets the Eye is written above the logo, which is itself transparent.  "The Vanishing!" is written.  All of the lines drew your eye inevitably to Optimus Prime, front and center, making it a very effective piece.   The coloring, too, is very effective, with the Neo-Knights popping much more than they would otherwise.  The sum of all these parts is a very strong cover.  If there's a criticism to be had, it's that perhaps it gives away too much, but then the idea of a 'vanishing' is so abruptly different than anything that we've been building to that this serves to pique rather than to spoil. 

Once again, the issue manages to live up to the promise of the cover.  We open on a beautiful close-up of Galvatron, barking orders against some lovely Furman prose. I'm just a bit surprised that they put the logo on this page, rather than the next as a part of the narration, though this way works fine too.  It seems that Xaaron and Galvatron have made the journey to Primus' slumbering form, where Xaaron prays and Galvatron rages.  Galvatron worries that Hook, Line, and Sinker will be coming for him soon, and he's right to be concerned.  Unicron is closing in on Cybertron, having ignored the planet Jhi in a fun vignette, and dispatches his minions to find Galvatron and thwart whatever treachery he might be planning.  They stop menacing the Autobot Targetmasters and plunge into Cybertron's core to find their prey...

The opening sequence works well, picking up where the Galvatron/Xaaron plot left off while delaying the expected confrontation between the Neo Knights and the Transformers by just a few more pages.  Galvatron's frustration and mad lashings out are well done, especially him pacing about and smashing the wall.  Meanwhile, Xaaron is beautifully desperate in his supplication.  Meanwhile, Unicron's ambition and greed resulting in him sparing a world was a nice bit of cosmic irony.  By the time we cut back to the main action, all we want is to see Galvatron fight the trio of minions.  The tension continues to build.  Bravo, Furman, bravo.

Following a one-page summary of recent events on Earth, we get to see some superhero action as Thunderpunch and Dynamo (Hector Dialonzo), Rapture and Circuit-Breaker, square off against Scorponok.  Optimus realizes that he might have to defend Scorponok from these humans as Shockwave realizes that Circuit-Breaker poses a threat to him and resolves to kill her after she cripples Scorponok. When he shoots her, naturally Nightbeat takes the blame, and things go from bad to worse.  Across the river, Mindwipe manages to hypnotize Soundwave, Scorponok's second in command. He sees victory for his rebel Decepticons for a fleeting instant, before the Autobots put their guns to his head.  They're going to salvage the alliance any way they can.  They'd best hurry, though, as Nightbeat is down and Optimus is rapidly weakening under the ministrations of Circuit-Breaker.  Blackrock begs her to stop, then commands the others to stop her.  Thunderpunch won't side with robots against a human, though, even if they are Autobots.  All seems darkest until Shockwave converts to his space gun mode to destroy Scorponok.  Blackrock instantly recognizes it as the form that crippled Josie way back in issue #6.  He shouts for her to look, and she does.Her reaction is beautiful, and the shot of her unleashing on Shockwave, sixty-seven issues in coming, is priceless.  The coloring, inking, lettering, pencilling... everything just works so well.  Spent, Circuit Breaker plummets to Earth, but Thunderpunch jumps up to catch her.  Contrasting this is Shockwave's fall, a fall which Scorponok watches with grim satisfaction.  He turns back to the humans, but Optimus challenges both sides to stop.  The civil war is over, and the alliance is in tact.  Perhaps things are looking up for our heroes?

On Cybertron, though, things seem dark.  Hook, Line, and Sinker have arrived.  Galvatron is tired of cowering, and squares off against his opponents with savage fury.  He skillfully disarms Line, then dispatches him using Sinker's own weapons.  Sinker, too, he blasts apart, though Hook gets the drop on him.  Before Galvatron can be destroyed, though, Primus has awakened!  Using the body of Emirate Xaaron as an avatar, the god effortlessly destroys the dark creation tainting his presence.  Galvatron pours on the charm, beseaching Primus to bring the scattered children of Cybertron home.  Looking at the Decepticon symbol adorning his supplicant, Primus agrees, leaving a smirking Galvatron to muse that even Gods can be conned.  No doubt he's got some experience in that department.  On Earth, we finally find out what the cover is all about as robot after robot vanishes, summoned home by their creator.  Nightbeat's damaged form is in contact with the helicopter of the Neo Knights, and so they too are teleported away.

We seem to be rapidly approaching the endgame, with the Earth plotlines resolved and the Cybertron plotline about to blossom.  There's one more page, though, and Furman uses it to pull in yet another unresolved thread from the past.  The Creation Matrix has come back online, thirsting for revenge.  It hovers over the mangled form of Thunderwing, and we realize that that tale is not yet fully told.  When I first read it I turned the page, expecting Thunderwing too to vanish, having not quite grasped the mechanics of how Primus' teleport worked.  (As it turns out, he only grabbed the Transformers on Earth.)   

And that's it!  20 pages just flies by when the storytelling is this strong.  Furman is knocking down pins set up by Budiansky years earlier, as well as providing payoff for his own stories and weaving in threads like the Matrix Quest that had been lying dormant.  He's supported by consistently strong artwork. Anyone who knows comics must realize that #75 will be a big event, and now we're just one issue away.  Many fans, myself among them, consider this entire storyline to be one of the all-time high points of the Transformers, and it's easy to see why.  The emotional resonance of characters like Optimus and Galvatron, Scorponok and Shockwave and Circuit Breaker, is so strong that each of their intertwined fates looms so much larger in the imagination than they have any right to. 

No teasers for next month.  Maybe Furman didn't think they were needed.  Maybe he was right.  Out of Time! is available in IDW Publishing's  Classic Transformers, Vol. 5 at Amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Ark Addendum - The Dormant Volcano Mysteriously Erupts (part 2)

And now, as promised, part two of The Dormant Volcano Mysteriously Erupts!  Once again, my profound thanks to Steve Mapes of Transformers At The Moon for providing me these model sheets. 

Here we see the rest of Pipiro's family.  They're a rather wholesome looking bunch, no?  It's fun that they provided a little scale chart as well.  I thought about knocking out the Japanese and replacing it with English, but instead opted to just describe what was said in my text description.