November 12th, 2012

Transformers

I was never really into Transformers when I was a kid: I never saw the cartoon series, read the comic, or had any of the toys. I did have a Robo Machines toy (same concept from a different company), and I read the last few installments of their strip in the Eagle.

I watched the Transformers animated film about 10 years ago, then bought a few of the comics: in particular, I picked up the UK reprints and some of the later volumes from the US series, all written by Simon Furman. These had a good reputation online, and I can see why, although I think perhaps that he went back to the well too many times with the same idea.

More recently, I've seen the 3 live action films. I liked them: they don't have much artistic merit, but there were things to enjoy in each one. Meanwhile, there have been various new animated series: I haven't seen any of these, but I get the impression that they keep rebooting, i.e. each new series starts with the robots coming to Earth and the Autobots fighting the Decepticons. There have also been various tie-in comics, but I haven't kept up with these. In fact, most of my awareness comes from reading Shortpacked!

However, IDW (a comics publisher) have done something quite interesting. Last year they printed a one-shot comic: "The Death of Optimus Prime". Death tends not to be permanent in comics, and that particularly applies to Transformers comics, but I don't think they'll reverse this any time soon. This then led to 2 new ongoing series: Transformers: Robots in Disguise and Transformers: More than Meets the Eye. The basic premise is that the war is over, and the Autobots won. So, all the Transformers have gone back to Cybertron, and they've sent out a signal to invite all the other Cybertronians home as well: this includes lots of "non-aligned" robots who left to avoid the civil war. I've spent the last couple of months catching up on both titles through Comixology.

In the context of the story, this war has literally lasted for millions of years. So, what happens next? Can they preserve the peace or will they just revert to their old enmities? Can soldiers adjust to peacetime, and will the civilian population accept them? At a more meta level, is there a market for this kind of story, or do readers just want the premise that they've been used to for the past 25 years? Meanwhile, there is still a "traditional" animated series with accompanying comic.

Looking at the live action films, one common complaint was "Too many squishy humans and not enough giant robots." That's not a problem here, because there are no humans around at all. There are a few alien species, but they're about the same size as the "standard" Transformers; there are also some really huge (city-sized) robots around. This does imply that humans are basically the midgets of the Transformers universe...

I now need to reveal minor spoilers.

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Although these 2 comics are set in the same universe, there's no direct crossover between them; it's similar to when Buffy and Angel were on different networks, so they couldn't swap guest stars. That means that you can read either of them in isolation, and if you have any interest in the Transformers as a concept then these are well worth a look.