Friday, March 24, 2006

Transformers Comic Review...

Amazing Fantasy #19
"Death's Head 3.0 - Unnatural Selection" (Part four of five)

Format: Ongoing (multi-issue story arc)

Writer: Simon Furman
Artist: Shannon Gallant

(Cover Art by Lucio Parrillo)

Synopsis: The story starts off with Ray Hidalgo rushing to hide in a church. He starts to do something with a welding torch when Death's Head bursts in on him. The rest of the story flashes back six hours where Agent Braccia is concerned that he hasn't checked in with her. She asks his colleague, Ms. Breski, about him but she doesn't seem too concerned since they're all busy with the upcoming treaty. Elsewhere, Ray has used AIM's computer to figure out exactly what Goddard is up to and tries to send an email to warn someone about it. Goddard has shut down the comm systems that reach out of the base however, so he sends it somewhere else. Breski shows up then and tells him his mother is ill...he saves what he's found to disk and rushes off with her. Later on, we learn his mother has been dead for years and Agent Braccia had used Breski to get him out of there, fearing he was in trouble. He tells her he knows everything and she tells him to meet her at the Madrid safehouse for extraction. Elsewhere, Hub Controller Avi Flint (the guy in charge of AIM's eurobase) recieves Ray's email and reads it. He goes with others down to confront Goddard. She surprises them however when she emerges from her high tech iron lung and tells them her nanotech has regenerated her to the point she no longer needs it. She kills them... Elsewhere, Hidalgo's car is attacked by Death's Head and he escapes from it's flaming wreckage while his driver/bodyguard tries futilely to stop DH. Hidalgo steals an old mo-ped and makes some distance on Death's Head, but the android shoots his bike, forcing him to flee as best he can on foot, injured. Agent Braccia and GEIST show up at the church Hidalgo took refuge in and find they're too late--he's already dead!

Comments: The action really heated up in this part, which was something I appreciated since the first three parts were all set-up. Hidalgo's dead. It looks like I was right about that happening in my last review (he wasn't essential to the story). The art this time was by someone new (James Raiz did the first three parts) and I didn't like their style as much--it wasn't terrible per se, but different from the other parts (I hate it when they switch artists in a short enclosed story like this). The new artist is less for details in the frames then Raiz was and it's annoying. Otherwise, the story was pretty interesting and I look forward to the finale in part five. Will Death's Head go through with the assassination? Will Goddard get what she wants or what's coming to her? I suspect DH will be able to overcome his programming in time... also, Hidalgo was doing something with a welding torch--I have a feeling this may play into events in part five (something that happened which hasn't been revealed as of yet).


Transformers Comic Review...

Transformers Generations #1

Writer: Bob Budiansky
Artist: William Johnson, Kyle Baker

(New Covers: Ashley Wood, Nick Roche)

Synopsis: This is the premiere issue of Generations, a "new" comic that reprints the classic Marvel comics in a new edition with new covers. This first one reprints Issue #7 of the original Marvel U.S. comic, titled Warrior School! If you need a memory refresher, the story chronicles Ratchet as he ponders what to do now that all the other Autobots are incapacitated while Shockwave and his Decepticons are roaming free, large and in charge. Ratchet returns to the Ark to assess the situation for himself where he encounters Megatron. The Decepticon plans to eliminate him but Ratchet realizes he has lost control of the Decepticons to Shockwave and convinces him to let him go so that he can go find the Dinobots and reactivate them--they can take out Shockwave. Megatron decides to do just that...

Comments: A nice walk down memory lane... of all the TF comics that have gone before, I loved the Marvel series (odd bad issue not withstanding) so this is kinda neat. Of course, we all had access to the TPB collections of the original comics in recent years so anyone that really wanted them likely got them already. Still, this series introduces new readers to the classic stories for cheap (which is always a plus). It's a shame they couldn't start at the beginning and go in order, but since some of the earlier issues involves stuff like Spiderman showing up, they couldn't print that (since Hasbro owns the TFs and stories but not Marvel's stuff). On that note, how come they can reprint this issue when it clearly mentions The Savage Land (i.e. a Marvel thing)? Or did they figure Marvel wouldn't notice/care? (maybe they didn't even notice the reference themselves?) Next issue jumps ahead to reprint issue #13 of the Marvel comic--the one where Megatron is damaged and found by a two-bit thug that uses him for his own agenda.
A typo found in this issue: Ratchet tells Megatron (on page 20) "Help you... defend Shockwave!" Obviously, he meant "Defeat Shockwave". I never caught that until now, but I'm pretty sure it's a mistake from the original comic (IDW just scanned and reprinted this as far as I know).

All in all, you'd only need this comic if you haven't already seen the original comic. If you own either the original or TPB version, skip it (unless you want the nice new cover art--I got Ashley Wood's painted cover. I liked Nick's cover too, but didn't want to spend money on two copies).

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Transformers Comic Review...

Transformers Beast Wars #2

The Gathering

Format: Limited Series (part two of four)

Writer: Simon Furman
Artist: Don Figueroa

(Cover A by Don Figueroa, Cover B by Nick Roche, Cover C by Guido Guidi, Cover D by James Raiz)

Synopsis: On prehistoric Earth, Magmatron organizes his troops, both old and new (apparently some of the stasis pods were turned into new Predacons, after all). He tells them they must hunt down Razorbeast and his comrades before returning to Cybertron in the future. Drill Bit asks him where they should begin and Magmatron says there is only one place they could be going--Razorbeast will certainly try to contact Cybertron and warn them of what's going on. Elsewhere, Razorbeast and his five new comrades rush to the site of where Ravage's ship crashed (they hope to recover a transwarp signal amplifier). Both groups get to the ship and fight it out. Razorbeast gets the upper hand on Magmatron and buries him under rock while Optimus Minor and Snarl retreive the amplifier from Drill Bit. The Maximals discover the amplifier is broken but Razorbeast tells them he might be able to fix it with the proper tools. Bonecrusher asks where on Earth they can find the right equipment to fix it and Razorbeast tells them everything they need can be found on the Ark. Elsewhere, Magmatron and his Predacons discover that while Ravage was destroyed, his spark survived...

Comments: Another part of the story... this issue answers the question I had last issue of whether or not all the protoforms became Maximals or not (not. Some are Maximals while most are Predacons). Some interesting characterizations and potential plot directions emerge this issue. It will be interesting to see how things play out--I'd love it if, for a change, the Preds succeed in getting back to Cybertron with their new reinforcements and a follow-up series with a new civil war (but I seriously doubt it will go that way. More then likely, the good guys will win this one). Good art this issue (as with last time).

Mildly Recommended.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Transformers Comic Review...

Transformers Infiltration #3

Writer: Simon Furman
Artist: EJ Su

(Covers by James Raiz, EJ Su, Andrew Wildman and Guido Guidi)

Synopsis: The Autobots watch their new human guests on a monitor as Verity yells at the camera in their holding room and threatens to erase the data on the PDA she's carrying unless they're set free. Ratchet and Prowl argue over what's to come next--Ratchet insists that the Decepticons are going to act openly soon and Prowl is more interested in how Ratchet disobeyed orders, endangering the humans and alerting them to the Autobots presence. Prowl tells him to get that data from Verity and wanders off. Ratchet appeals to Ironhide then goes to the humans. He downloads the information from the PDA and finds several pictures of an abandoned Decepticon base in Nebraska--which is odd since Autobot intel had indicated the Decepticons were situated in Oregon. Meanwhile, Skywarp and Blitzwing go about the country, destroying evidence left behind from earlier--the trailer the dead man (who'd been carrying the PDA originally) was living in, the bus he rode on, the garage that Jimmy Pink owned, etc. Also, Ironhide decides to send a message directly to Optimus Prime, alerting him about what's going on (Prowl had decided not to alert Prime but Ironhide appears to feel otherwise). The humans convince Ratchet to take them to Nebraska so they can help him gather evidence that the Decepticons are moving into "seige mode". Ratchet is reluctant to take them but realizes they can probably get inside easier then he can and Bumblebee agrees. He decides to tag along with Ratchet and the humans. Elsewhere, Starscream orders Skywarp and Blitzwing to destroy the last piece of evidence--the Nebraska installation!

Comments: Like the first few issues, this comic continues the overall story and keeps things interesting. I speculate that Starscream was trying to start a coupe against Megatron, which is why there are two Decepticon bases (one was official, the other secret). His conspirators got sloppy, the humans noticed them and now they're trying to eliminate the evidence at all cost so Megatron doesn't find out what's afoot (notice how the first Decepticons we see are Runamuck and Runabout? Two of Starscream's conspirators from the original US comic!) I guess time will tell if I'm right or not...
The story is well written and the characterization is abundant even though there's not as much action (I prefer this type of approach, though). Pages two and three have an old school group shot with everyone's name in word balloon beside them--it's silly in a way, but like something Marvel would've done (silly, since the inside cover has their names anyway--assuming a reader is new and doesn't already know who everyone is).
The art is consistent with previous issues. For some odd reason, Su chose to inverse Bumblebee's chest design (the windows are on his back now). He still becomes a classic Volkswagen Beetle, though, which is weird (shouldn't he be the newer model?) Starscream also has a more sleek design, although I think I like it. Also, Bumblebee's driver hologram is a young attractive woman (I only mention this because it's neat that we get to see more "drivers" and that the Autobots didn't all make them men).

Highly Recommended.

Transformers Comic Review...

GIJOE vs. Transformers: The Art of War #1
(series three from Devil's Due)

Format: Limited series (one of five)

Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Joe Ng

Cover Art:
Cover A by Joe Ng, Espen Grundetjern, Tom Liu;
Cover B by Tim Seeley and Rob Ruffulo;
Cover C by Don figueroa and Sunder Raj

Synopsis: In the desert of New Mexico, a secret base (Area 52) houses the remains of the Decepticons forces from Earth (we see Megatron and Soundwave's heads). A science team experiments around Megatron's head and talks about the great power they could obtain from Cybertronian technology--it's usefulness to America and ensuring that they stay the dominant force in the
world. A few levels above them, GIJOE welcomes a team of Autobots from Cybertron (Perceptor, Grmlock, Arcee and Bumblebee). The Autobots have been sent by Optimus Prime to retrieve the Joe's mech-suit things (from volume 2, I guess--I never read those), thus leaving no Cybertronian tech on Earth. Just then, on cue, Cobra Commander launches an assault on the base with a legion of B.A.T.S (Battle.Android.Tacti--who cares! They're robot soldiers;). The Joes and TFs repel the attackers, but it's just a distraction while Cobra Commander and Zartan sneak into the base (using intel from Zarana, who's disguised). The three Cobras decide to steal the new Serpent O.R. android--a prototype shell made with Cybertronian technology and programmed with the battle tactics of history's greatest conquerors. Cobra Commander thinks it would be a great asset for Cobra so he sets it free. The robot comes to life... it has not been programmed as of yet and it appears that Megatron attempts to access it's brain. The robot attacks Cobra Commander and his
allies, knocking them out while it accesses Soundwave's mind and learns what's going on and what it is. It sees Megatron's head and calls it "father". Putting on Serpent armor, it decides it must seek out the Autobot Matrix of Leadership--the source of great power!

Comments: There's two ways to take a story like this... either it's a blast from the past! A great re-imagining of classic story elements with a modern twist. The other way is to consider it a total hack job that mines old stories with an eye to playing on their nostalgia. I think I drift more to the latter.
I gave volume one of GIJOE vs. Transformers a chance, wasn't impressed by what I saw and then skipped out on volume two entirely. This is volume three now and I still see the same elements I saw in volume one.
For one thing, the story plays like a old GIJOE cartoon. This may or may not be to one's liking... for my tastes, the cartoons were always a bit simplistic (although sometimes imaginative) which is why I preferred the comics. The plot follows certain convenient contrivances--Cobra just happens to attack exactly when the Autobots have arrived; as always, Zartan/Zarana or somebody manages to infiltrate a high security facility with ease; the Joes happen to be exactly in the right place at the right time, etc. Also, Serpentor is from the original 80s concept. Originally, he was a clone programmed with the tactics and minds of the most brillant military conquerors of history--at the time, somehow Cobra Commander never considered such a personality would possibly want to run the show. This time, Serpentor is a android but the same thing applies. As it happens, that plot isn't pursued but one does wonder why none of the characters think about the obvious in these stories. For that matter, why do they always make something like a superpowerful android that can be easily co-opted for evil?
Also, the story is chock full of dumb little fan jokes like,
"I didn't know they made girl robots."
"Arcee. I get that a lot."
Or... in reference to Megatron's severed head.
"This machine, Martin... is not a toy."
Ha, ha, hah..?
The plot is fairly obvious too. Serpentor runs amok, gains resources, makes some plan to get the matrix and/or use it to rule everyone. Due to some spunky good guys, he'll fail in the nick of time. But...insert epilogue to set up the next series.
The art is by Joe Ng and is inconsistent. Some frames look good but others seem detail-less. I think they're trying to go for an anime-esque look in their characters like Dreamwave used to. I don't much care for it, though. I remember in the old days, comic artists used to actually have to have talent.

If you liked the first or second volume of Devil's Due Joe/TF crossover, you'll probably like this one too. If not, then I'd pass on this one.

Transformers Comic Review...

Amazing Fantasy #18
"Death's Head 3.0 - Unnatural Selection" (Part three of five)

Format: Ongoing (multi-issue story arc)

Writer: Simon Furman
Artist: James Raiz

Cover Art by Lucio Parrillo

Synopsis: Death's Head slaughters all who oppose him in the African republic of Kuanga. General Tal, the dictator in charge of the country demands his forces throw themselves at it and either stop it or die trying. He kills his advisor for not having any information on the mechanoid and later kills a soldier that wants to quit the battle. GEIST watches from their satellite meanwhile but their director decides that they should stay out of things for now--Kuanga is a recognized independent republic and it wouldn't be easy to send their forces in there without good justification to his superiors. He tells Agent Braccia to let AIM sort it out--it's their mess. AIM, meanwhile, sends a force down there to try and retake Death's Head at all cost. Raymond Hidalgo continues searching through AIM's computers and finds an experiment that Goddard's grandmother had been working on--an attempt to capture the Uni-force for AIM's own purposes. When this fails, they instead attempt to mimic it for their own reasons--Goddard observes that he is too close to discovering her true intent and muses how she will stop him. In Kuanga, Death's Head stops all who challenge him and when General Tal will not surrender, his Captain shoots him so that more men will not die needlessly. Death's Head escapes and goes to Europe and some of Goddard's associates. They plug him into a computer where Goddard interfaces with him and uploads a new directive to him--kill Raymond Hidalgo!

Comments: Goddard's grandmother had been trying to capture then "Uni-force", which is the thing that occasionally shows up in Marvel Comics and bestows someone with superhuman powers. It gives them the identity of Captain Universe and they use the powers to avert some disaster or the other and then the powers leave them (it happened to Spiderman about a decade ago--that was a really bad storyline, imo). It all sounds more complicated then it really is...
Anyway, it seems they failed to capture the Uni-force and instead mimicked it somehow, calling their version the "Uni-Alias" (but it's sixty percent less powerful--so a bad copy of the original). Apparently, Goddard has used the Uni-Alias to "empower and free Death's Head".
The story seems to indicate that the mechanoid has several different things going on--that it was an alien soldier, designed to kill but that the Uni-Alias is acting as some sort of soul within it, trying to do right (which is why it tried to free the African rebel in part two). But, Goddard has programmed it with nanites to kill for her...
It's all an interesting set-up. Of course, we have to see where it all goes. I suspect, based off what's here so far, that Death's Head will be able to fight being a puppet and resist killing Hidalgo in the next part (or, failing that, will kill Hidalgo and then resist carrying out the UN assassination mission). Knowing Furman, it seems option "A" is more likely...
The art is this issue seemed a bit more generic in places, like Raiz was in a rush to get it done or something. For example, some shots of Hidalgo don't look as good as in the previous issues nor do the satellite displays have any images on them (you could argue this is a art style choice, though). The cover is also crappy compared to the last two issues--this employs a split-image, one of Death's Head and one of the back-up "New Universe" story while the two previous issues opted for Death's Head only (the last image of the DH story shows a back up image, likely the alternate, unused cover).
All in all, another chunk of story, but more interesting then part two proved to be.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Galaxy Force Magna Comic Part 2

As promised, I've finally uploaded the second half of the Magna comic:

GF Magna Comic Pt.2

Hope you enjoy. I'll try real hard to get the TransMaster Comic/Magazine site
issue fixed soon. Thanks for your patience.