...with bad writing?...
...overplayed plot devices?...
No, the Transformers have been infested by zombies sillies!INFESTATION...
The Transformers universe has had a few crossovers in its past. GI JOE being the favored property, but recently we also got the Transformers crossed over with Marvel’s Avengers for a few issues matching robotic strength and intelligence with superhuman strength and intelligence and coming out rather poorly for both parties, and especially the readers.
IDW has decided to try another approach, with not a typical crossover, but an introduction of a single element to its existing titles. Thus, we get zombies and vampires introduced to the Autobot and Decepticon war (much like they have been introduced into many other mainstream companies titles over the last year: Green Lantern, X-Men, and their related titles to name a couple). And thanks to IDW (little late to the party) now they are also added to the Star Trek Fleet Academy, and Cobra’s ruthless terrorist group. And into the realm of Ghostbusters (somehow). The main characters in each brand never actually crossover with one another, but events do, starting out with an introduction in INFESTATION #1, and then continuing its events into the four main titles respective individual universes.So what happened in INFESTATION #1 which came out last week? First of all, it sold out and IDW is going to release a 2nd printing on February 16th. Plot-wise, a group of paranormal watchdogs (vampires, a zombie, and a very familiar looking red demon) were assigned to try to take care of a government mistake involving parallel dimensions-universes.
The government in its pursuit of more resources, and alternative solutions found a way to open a portal to another Earth, this one inhabited entirely by some sort of zombie plagued humanoids. Claiming the zombies could not come through at this time, plans were being made on how best to use this opportunity for the ‘good Earth’s‘ benefit (ie-mostly zombie-less Earth’s benefit) Then, as fate is known to do, an event happens where the zombies somehow find their way through the portal. GASP! Totally unexpected plot twist.
The undead task force enters the situation hoping to make a quick kill and shutdown of the situation. However, the zombies prove more resilient, and it is discovered that there is a hive mind controlling the zombies (the ‘Undermind’--sounds familiar), and that when the zombies feast, they are gaining power and knowledge for this collective, even though at it this time we do not know its other motives.
A key member of the task force gets corrupted, and another member becomes an undead, undead... Wrap your mind around that one. Oh, and did I mention that the zombie plague has magically (literally) also become able to infect robots, which also were being used at this secret government base.
As the issue comes to an end it sets up the 4 universe crossover, and infestation of said universes.
What this will mean for the Transformers universe is still uncertain. But with the release of TRANSFORMERS: INFESTATION #1 yesterday, we are now finding out.
For you to chew on while you read this review and read the issue yourself, supposedly, we have this on good authority, that the events that happen in TRANSFORMERS INFESTATIONS #1
are actually meant to happen within the realm of the regular ongoing story, ie not an alternate dimension, or what if type story...hmmm....
So getting that out of the way, let’s explore this issue.ART and PLOT:
Nick Roche on pencils... this should be a very large, yay, for the fandom at large as Nick has been known to draw his designs very similarly to cartoon, comic, and current toy images, albeit with a bit of cartoon-y flare of his own involved. Nick has his detractors though, and this issue may add more on to that list. You can definitely tell who each character is meant to be.
Another solid reason for Roche to be involved in this story is his work on the acclaimed Kup Spotlight.
Gaining his notoriety from his artwork and story there, Nick has worked hard to become what we now see, and his art on Kup while a very different style, now looks more normal than other artist’s art that we have seen recently. I mention the Kup Spotlight because Kup curiously goes a little insane this issue and as the zombie hoards start menacing Las Vegas, Kup plays a bigger role in this than some of his Autobot buds. Was Roche chosen as artist for this reason? His link to Kup’s past? Hmmm...
Roche’s work does bug me a little at times, being a bit too cartoon-y, and stylized. For example, his Optimus Prime ‘ears’
make Prime look a bit like the TRIX rabbit, maybe not that bad, but they are long. Hate to see what HASBRO would have to do with the toy version of Nick’s Prime (more chopping!). Prowl’s ‘eyebrows’ are also like-wise enhanced. Roche is also drawing some very chin-tastic (Spoon!) characters, so much so that you might feel like you are stepping back into TF-Animated
Small criticisms aside, his work does move the story nicely, and as stated before, you can tell who the major characters are, where they are, and what they are doing.
Is it dark like a zombie book would seem to need to be? Nope, it’s been drawn to take place in the bright lights of Las Vegas so Lafuente’s character colors are pretty bright palette, as are the layout colors. We all know dark is not a necessity for the horror genre, but often times is used. There is plenty of blood red to go around (making this title a mature rated title, I believe). Would I have liked a more horror-inspired style...I think I would, but anyway.Without further ado, we now move to the events of this issue.
Letter (A) in the confusing things list.
Optimus Prime, Prowl, Kup, Bumblebee, Wheeljack, Drift, and Spike’s Skywatch mechsuit team are all present. But based on the events in Transformers Ongoing up to this point, they shouldn’t be. Bumblebee was mortally wounded, but is in his ‘upgraded form’ from after his self-named mini series. The Skywatch team, Prime, Prowl, and the other bots are lost, supposedly blown up after the events in the ‘International Incident’. So right here, we need a disclaimer for when these events are supposed to happen. It seems as though they are happening after Bumblebee is made leader, but prior to events in ‘the international incident’, which if it was stated somewhere, I didn’t catch it.
This little debacle is actually not the first in the sequence of story events. The story is introduced when Galvatron crashes to Earth in a huge ship, bringing Scourge, Cyclonus, Bayonet, and a hella’ of a lot of zombified humanoids and robots. Who is Bayonet you might ask? Good question. Since this is a violent, death filled, horror based idea--zombies-- one might assume that she is the Sergeant Redshirt
of the cons (Star Trek reference), ready to bite it in the first act. There is a surprise in there waiting for us. And it may not be what is assumed.
What is odd though, is even though they are on the same ship, Galvatron wants to destroy the zombies. Freed from the dimension from IDW’s better writing days...whoops did I say that?
... anyway, fresh from the Dead Universe, where last we saw Galvatron plotting escape with Scourge (All Hail Megatron Coda #something), somehow Galvatron’s crew bumped into one of the groups of zombie’s that the hive mind sent to the 4 other dimensions (Infestation #1)--this group was frozen in space--Galvatron intercepted them, took them onboard the ship, and then they thawed, and the cons fought them. Great idea Galvatron!
I found the writing team’s (Dan Abbnett and Andy Lanning) use of the Transformers characters to be for lack of a better word, a bit -mishandled-.
Their Optimus Prime was an over-idealistic, uncaring leader, apparently more worried about a grudge match than assessing the real danger.
When Galvatron requests, and/or orders Optimus Prime to help stop the undead, all Prime can worry about are the Decepticons, and taking them down. Seriously? And Bumblebee, the humans, and the other bots just egg him on, supporting that whole stance.
Only after they have captured Galvatron do they actually listen to him and discover the real threat. Prime has not stopped being all macho and tunnel-visioned though.
Another situation with an out-of-character Optimus Prime is in his blatantly poor treatment of Kup, and his impatience toward said grambot. Really? With one of his oldest, highest regarded mentors? I'd never treat my grandfather that way.
Granted, Kup is going insane a bit (mentioned this earlier), flashing back to his time alone with hoards of ‘creatures’ attacking him (Spotlight Kup), and losing his grasp on reality, seemingly talking nonsense to those who do not know better (hello, Prowl, jump in at any time--AHM Coda- Perceptor-).
It proves Kup is pretty sane and his rantings reveal the true evil... Britt (the undead, undead) who is there to lead the zombie hive mind’s army, and destroy this universe--I think that’s their goal anyway
Yes, it reads about as bad as it sounds when I try to summarize and be critical about it. There is some very good robot versus robot action, but the sense of it all does not seem to be there as the Autobots, who are normally so good at waiting and assessing the why’s and what’s, jump in simply with clichés and guns blazing, and looking to level the threat to Las Vegas, which they do not take time to correctly perceive.
I know it seems that due to this comic crossover we get to have Galvatron, Cyclonus, and Scourge back into the IDW Ongoing continuity (hooray?), but it certainly makes one wonder if there was not another way, a better way to get them back into the fold. Dead Universe, zombies, it seems like a great match, if the idea of re-animating machines (any machine?) with the zombie plague was better explained. At one point a mech suit is zombified, and so is the driver. So how far can the plague be transferred? Non-sentient machines? The whole idea is unclear to me, but it may be because I do not have a lot of experience with the setup characters (Britt and the other vampires in the special unit in INFESTATION #1).
Ultimately, it’s a readable issue, with more gore than normal for Transformers comics. It is a bit unstable in it’s handling of the title characters, and for me the art does not reflect the seriousness of a zombie infestation, or the amount of violence and fear that that idea usually causes one to picture. Jae Lee would have been nice to see here, but there are others as well, who would draw with a scarier, more horror setting approrpiate type of art that would better set you into the whole zombie plague epidemic. Heck, Roche could have gone closer to the darkside and used more of his Spotlight Kup style.
I know it’s zombies coming to the Transformers universe, not the other way around, so the art could make sense from that point of view. I just think a more tone setting style for this art would be better...my opinion of course.
I look forward to reading what issue #2 of TRANSFORMERS: INFESTATION brings us (February 16th
). I’m not sure that from what I have seen if I am motivated to pick up any of IDW’s other titles infested, but I’m not going to avoid the Transformers version. It’s good for something different, even if it seems a bit incomplete, and the writing of certain characters seems to be done with an unknowing hand. I’ll probably read INFESTATION #2
at the end that will wrap things up in a pretty bow.
What did you think of these books? Worth a look? Not worth the bother?
(FYI--Plenty of covers to choose from, four to be exact. The above is a piece of my favorite.)