From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Transformers Comics: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

After reading this blog, I’m rather saddened. No, it’s not because he hated Revenge of the Fallen. If he hates Revenge of the Fallen he has proven that he has a soul that can feel and a mind that can reason, and it gives me hope that one day all people of this nation can rise up and throw Michael Bay into the ocean.

It’s that the guy can’t find much redeeming value in Transformers comics. Come on, now, they’re not high art, or even middle art, but they are fun. Robots fight each other and turn into cars. Sometimes they turn into guns. Sometimes they turn into planets, planets that eat other planets. How can you say no?

There are good Transformers comics, well worth a used search on Amazon. As J. Caleb observes, there are also some truly godawful ones. Here’s a list of which ones are worth reading, which ones to avoid, and which ones are so damn bad that you have to read them.

The Good:

One-eyed robot pirate Shockwave.

One-eyed robot pirate Shockwave.

The New Order: After a lackluster start to Marvel’s TF series by four different writers, editor Bob Budiansky took over and upped the stakes when he killed off half the Autobots, decapitated Optimus Prime, and left the fate of our world in the hands of Autobot medic Ratchet. Ratchet had to make a deal with the metal devil Megatron to save his friends, with maniacal results. (Titan Books)

Cybertron Redux: Budiansky did it again, with the aid of extraordinary penciller Don Perlin, this time bringing us back to the TFs’ home planet of Cybertron, where a group of outnumbered, outgunned Autobots fought a losing war against a monolithic Decepticon empire. (Titan Books)

Target 2006: This high-stakes time-travel epic, with the Decepticons of the future sowing discontent in the past, put the UK Transformers comic on the map and spotlighted a little writer named Simon Furman. The story in Target 2006 spun out to epic proportions through the following stories Fallen Angel, Space Pirates, Legacy of Unicron, and Time Wars, and Furman’s jaw-dropping space opera combined with Geoff Senior’s dark, lightning-dynamic pencils quickly made this the number one book in the UK. (Titan Books)

A healthy appetite.

A healthy appetite.

Primal Scream: When Furman and Senior moved to the American comics, they spun yet another star-spanning epic, this time of an ancient battle with a dark god that had come back to haunt the Transformers. Through Primal Scream into Matrix Quest, All Fall Down and End of the Road, the Transformers saw their greatest hopes corrupted by darkness and their greatest fears come to life. (Titan Books)

My father never had an Autobot, actually...

My father never had an Autobot, actually...

Dark Designs/A Rage In Heaven: The “bad-ass Transformers of the 90s” was how this series started, and at first it seemed pretty silly—though artist Derek Yaniger was vivid and dynamic, he also had the TFs clutching giant guns that rattled off strings of shotgun shells, and the first issue bore the heading, “This Is Not Your Father’s Autobot!” But Furman got his mojo on, eventually joined again by Geoff Senior, and spun his very best work—a tale in which every Autobots or Decepticon faced a ruthless race of robots to whom they were mere evolutionary throwbacks. (Titan Books)

Transformers Spotlight vol. 1: New publisher IDW launched a pretty good main series with Furman and the master of mammoth action EJ Su, but their biggest surprise came in this series of one-off issues, each about a single Transformer. Furman’s experience writing short-shorts for the cramped UK comic paid off here, in gems like the tale of ultra-logical Decepticon Shockwave forced to confront the rage of the illogical Dinobots. (IDW)

Decepticon propaganda poster.

Decepticon propaganda poster.

All Hail Megatron: The ultimate love-or-hate series for all Transformers fans. Bringing this story up with the online fan community is akin to bringing up intelligent design in Dover, Pennsylvania. An ambitious tale by newbie Shane McCarthy, where the Autobots have been decimated and the Decepticons have smashed Earth’s cities into the ground, I would have personally put it in the “bad” pile despite the beautifully animated work of Guido Guidi—too much ambition, not enough execution—but the debates have made this a comic you must read, like it or no. (IDW)

Other goods: Infiltration, Escalation, Devastation, Revelation, Stormbringer, Spotlights vol. 2-4, (IDW) War Within, Worlds Collide (Dreamwave)

The Bad:

Showdown: This is one that still makes me angry. Bookmarked by a few mediocre TF tales is a story in which Optimus Prime dies the absolute worst death ever—committing suicide because he failed to save innocents in a battle against Megatron—a battle in a video game. Prime dies because he didn’t save freaking Pac-Man. You heard it. I shouted a big fat “FWHAAAA??” when this one arrived in the little brown mail wrapper. (Titan Books)

Perv.

Perv.

War and Peace: Often considered the best work by the now defunct Dreamwave company, which held the license from 2002-2005, War and Peace was a big, ambitious work about Autobots and Decepticons finally resolving their quarrel. The first few issues made it look like newbie Brad Mick would redefine the TFs forever, but the the constant fan-wanking references to the cartoon, the incomprehensible “superstar” art of Pat Lee, and finally the ending, in which Shockwave monologues sooo much that that font size goes down by half, dropped the ball several stories. (Dreamwave; reprinted by IDW)

Megatron mashing grapes into wine, I think. Also, police tape on his head.

Megatron mashing grapes into wine, I think. Also, police tape on his head.

Megatron: Origin: This one promised to be an interesting bit of character development. How exactly does one become an intergalactic robot dictator (and why choose to turn into a teeny little gun)? Megatron: Origin, won’t tell you, though, mostly because you need a Rosetta Stone to decipher the horrific art, the mushy gray coloring, and the ridiculous Dickensian dialogue among the “working classes” of Cybertron. All I got from this was that Megatron likes to wear police tape on his head. All right, then.

Other bads: Prime Directive, Sunstorm, War Within; The Dark Ages (Dreamwave)

The Ugly:

The exact moment when both Transformers and Spider-Man started to go downhill.

The exact moment when both Transformers and Spider-Man started to go downhill.

Beginnings: With four different writers, the initial Transformers stories came off as schizophrenic, but that’s not what makes this an absolutely purple piece of work. It’s the presence of one Amazing Spider-Man, in issue #3, as he webs up Megatron and tries to save a valiant Autobot from falling to his… er, death. Gratuitous? Marvel? It cannot be! (Titan Books)

The Car Wash of Doom!

The Car Wash of Doom!

Treason: It’s wet! It’s wild! It’s the CAR WASH OF DOOM! The silly Transformers story by which all other silly Transformers stories must be measured. You drive your car through the Decepticons’ wash—it doesn’t drive out again. Only brave Buster Witwicky, with his trusty tire iron, can save the day. Will he? Seriously, this one is worth the laughs. (Titan Books)

Last Stand: Bob Budiansky seemed to have a requisite amount of cheese stories to deliver before he can deliver a good one. This one is a treasury. Autobots fight the Mecannibals, a bunch of talking balls that eat you-can-guess-what, an Amazon Warrior Queen falls in love with an Autobot disguised as a human, a Decepticon climbs the Empire State Building and gets electrocuted, and a Transformer becomes… it’s too awful… a professional wrestler. (Titan Books)

I hate spiders!

I hate spiders!

Transformers/New Avengers: I almost forgot—Spider-Man does indeed meet the TFs again. And Iron Man makes a giant transforming suit. Luke Cage makes bad-ass black man remarks. I didn’t actually finish this one, but it was pretty damn awful for the first two issues. Still, it might be worth it for the novelty value. (Marvel)

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