Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Beyond Dark Cybertron: The Comics Transformed

This is an epic time to be a Generation 1 Transformers fan—if you read the comic books.

The 30th anniversary year for the Transformers, 2014 has already seen one important run end. The original Marvel Comics continuity, begun in 1984 by writer Bud Budiansky, originally finished in 1991 with issue # 80—not bad for what began as a four-issue limited series.  That run was picked up by IDW Publishing in 2012, written by the last writer on the Marvel run, Simon Furman, and ran from # 81 to # 100, finishing the series as Furman had originally envisioned it more than two decades before.  The Marvel UK run, which existed in its own continuity, ended in 1992.

There are various other splinter continuities that either continues very slowly or abruptly ended, the most obvious one is the eye candy but overly dense plotting of the Dreamwave comics. (We have of course left out things like the movie universe, the animated universe and the Prime reality).

This just shows how IDW has persevered in pursuing its own distinctive continuity.  IDW began its own Generation 1 continuity in 2005 with “Transformers: Infiltration” and still runs strong. Furman started things off and this new reimagined G1 universe was controversial, with radical redesigns of the characters and a darker, more political approach to the plots. After a slow start, it even seemed to be, ahem, spinning its wheels a bit with a plethora of “Spotlight” issues by different authors/artists. There were excellent volumes, such as “The Transformers: Stormbringer,” an all-cosmic story arc by Furman and fan favorite Don Figueroa. There is the gritty tale “The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers,” from Nick Roche and James Roberts. But as the IDW series went on, it began to anchor itself and really got things going when writers James Roberts and John Barber pushed towards their unifying vision for the series through the two series born out of the original one: “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” (TF: MTMTE) (about Rodimus’ ship the Lost Light searching for the legendary Knights of Cybertron) and “Transformers: Robots in Disguise” (TF: RID) (which is about Bumblebee and everyone else left dealing with the discord on Cybertron). Each series dealt with small and big TF Almost ten years since IDW took over the Transformers license, its comic book continuity reached a brave new credo with the “Dark Cybertron” storyarc.

Barber’s and Roberts’ take on G1 continuity is the most ambitious and sweeping attempt to tie together the different threads of TF stories. It’s very contemporary and complex, with lots of subplots tied together by its all-hands-on-deck conclusion. Like it or not, you have to give the writers massive points for daring to create a single, focused resolution to the star-spanning blood (oil?) feud of the long-opposed factions. In fact, the Barbers-Roberts books are considered by some to be the best-written TF comic books of all time. However you feel about distinction, it cannot denied that Dark Cybertron was a gripping, entertaining read that presents the perfect jumping-on point for new readers of the TF saga. Those already hooked will certainly hang on.

Through redesign and restarts, “Dawn of the Autobots” is the next step in TF graphic adventures. Transformers Philippines will endeavor to bring you the steel skinny on the new IDW Transformers issues from here on out. But first, a little recap is necessary before readers begin reading the next arc, dubbed “Dawn of the Autobots.”

Here is your cheat sheet to catching up with the events of Dark Cybertron. MASSIVE spoilers ahead for those who still intend to read Dark Cybertron.

1)   Bumblebee, who was leader of the Autobots for a bit, died while trying to stop renegade scientist Jhiaxus.
2)   Orion Pax is back being Optimus Prime.
3)   Characters from what had previously been separate continuities (Rattrap from Beast Wars, Metalhawk from Masterforce) are now definitively tied into the G1 continuity.
4)   Prowl now combines with the Constructicons to form Devastator. This is every bit as strange as it sounds.
5)   Cybertron lies ravaged—again. The titan Metroplex is back on Cybertron and is literally Autobot City again.
6)   To save the planet from his own diabolical plans, former senator Shockwave remembers his heroic past and, at the crucial moment, allows Prime and Megatron to destroy him.
7)   Arcee is no longer alone. There are three more “female” Autobots. Windblade is their leader. The others are Chromia and Nautica.
8)   The ship Lost Light is now destroyed, but its remaining crew—led by Hot Rod—are back on Cybertron. What that means for their mission of finding the Knights of Cybertron will play out in the next issues of TF: MTMTE
9)   Galvatron—now a completely different character from Megatron and hailing for the Nova Prime era—is back permanently from the Dead Universe and seems to be leading the unhappy Decepticons because---
10)                   Megatron is now an Autobot. “This is not a trick,” he promises Prime.

Next time: “Transformers: Windblade” # 1! 

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