Site sponsor Kapow Toys brings us a review of Transformers Combiner Wars Hot Spot with a look at the protectobots' combined form of Defensor. These guys arrive in the 3rd wave of deluxe and voyager class Combiner Wars toys. Check out the video to see what will soon grace your Combiner Wars Shelves.
The COMBINERS have arrived! STARSCREAM wrestles for dominance with OPTIMUS PRIME as surprising reinforcements approach—from the Lost Light!
What, no RodPod?
As we left the Windblade title last time to start dealing with the diplomatic and political aftermath of Menasor's actions on Caminus, and the arrival of Optimus as the Thirteenth (of sorts) - we shift back to The Transformers, with the next chapter in the Combiner Wars event, co-plotted by Mairghread Scott and this issue's writer, John Barber.
No messiah complex here
Barber's writing in #40 is really quite ambitious, given that it's both an aftermath and a cranking up of the perils that the 'discovery' of Caminus and combiner technology can bring to Cybertronian society, including some older friends which had somehow escaped the wider continuity nets.
Also, he manages to use a fair good dose of humour running through the narrative, interspersing media reports of the events taking place as an unreliable device to comment upon the inner workings of whatever the Cybertron-Caminus representatives are actually discussing. Juxtaposed to some moments of clarity and bringing back to focus and otherwise Optimusisms that instead really hit home - or should.
Looking at you, complainers
Meanwhile, in all of this, not just one but a handful of characters, plot away in the background. Not everyone is happy with how things are being handled, of course, we still need to figure out exactly what Starscream's plans are, Prowl may have even more agents around than we thought possible, and I'm sure the Camiens will also have something to say eventually.
Livio Ramondelli takes again the main interiors, and will do so for a couple of chapters now - and in this issue, I had much less to pick out than, say, TF #39. The layouts are really interesting, and some character designs are expected by now (oh hey Leader Starscream). There are some really well executed more organic, or at least not full-on robotic, scenes which makes his art and style shine. Ominously.
That is terrifying
The mediatic perspective that Circuit and Starscream bring to the issue also allow for some more creative layouts, or at least an opportunity for both Ramondelli and letterer Tom B. Long to play around with how different characters speak and interact with each other, in some ways. That said, the first page and a bit can be a little confusing in setting name to character, as the order of the boxes does not appear in sync with the art.
I will take a little detour here, as out of the three covers offered with the current issue, one is the regular, Ironhide as Atlas Casey Coller/Joana Lafuente, the secondary is the thumbnailed Livio Ramondelli poster variant - and then we have a lovely take on Menasor from Hasbro's official material, including its games. But no artist credit. The only clue is from the artists themselves, in this case MarceloMaterefor the pencilwork. Hasbro, please credit somehow, somewhere, your artists. Please.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Overall, the chapter that follows a big reveal and a big fight was bound to be a little slower in pacing, but it does so fairly well in what it stops to explore and expand upon, through the art and the story. Fans of early days of RID will remember the style, with a lot of backstabbing, dry humour and snide comments - and some good continuity games, with the added touch of Barber's heightened characterisation post Dark Cybertron and Ramondelli's more visual plays on multiple screens and panels.
Shut up Prime
Superion and the underlying questions of Gestalt technology are really well done, despite offering no conclusive answer, of course. The Protectobots are introduced neatly, just like the 'new recruits' for the other teams before them, and in a self-aware nod. Ironhide is used a little more, and might play a bigger role again, along with Mirage. It's a good read, and still moving upward in the storyarc.
RETURN OF THE D.J.D.! A punishment squad created by MEGATRON to hunt down dissidents, turncoats and cowards—no one believes more passionately in the DECEPTICON cause than the D.J.D. So what happens when they discover their founder has joined the Autobots? (Clue: it’s not pretty.)
Long after their first introduction in More Than Meets the Eye issues #7-8, their brief if displaced return during #32-34, and as an almost direct follow-up to the latter we catch up with the big bad purple wolves of the Cybertronian race aboard their ship, the Peaceful Tyranny - the Decepticon Justice Division. And things have changed, quite a bit, since we last saw them all together.
The issue that James Roberts brings with #39 is a wonderful, if twisted and definitely on the creepy scale, exploration of the truths behind the masks, literal and metaphorical, of the members of the DJD, as we see their downtime between slaughters, and awaiting the possible return of Vos and Helex from the events of issue #34.
The 'personal is political' angle of Tarn in particular comes back to the fore in the issue, though much more different than previously, with some Gorbachev parallels of impeccable internal bureaucracy and the effects of Megatron's defection having significant repercussions on him as a person and Decepticon faction leader.
And then the MTMTEnet imploded
We're also brought to some listed Decepticon characters that are popping up all over the IDWverse (and Seibertron.com, in some ways!), with Deathsaurus and his crew. Plus, the introduction of Nickel, the Winry of the DJD. And that is all I have the time and space to say about her without spoiling the issue. Onwards!
The guest artist for the month in Hayato Sakamoto, who has worked with the TFCC previously, and who channels the trademark Alex Milne style, but definitely adding some of their own sensibilities (and with the collaboration of Phase6 and editor John Barber, one might assumingly add). There are some fantastic expressions for all the characters, from IDW's own to the Japanese G1 loans, and the Super Sentai UFOmaru inspired Nickel that add to this strangely contrasting issue, along with all the gore and terror and house chores.
If looks could kill. A Memoir
What Joana Lafuente brings to the table, of course, with her colours is a sense of cohesion with the wider MTMTE continuity, in terms of both aesthetics and general tone. The darker hues of the undercurrent in the story are perfectly balances by the landscape shots, wider scenes and all the optic glows that the DJD carry with them. And add all that to some great flashback, almost sepia, filters. Bam.
Tom B. Long's work in the issue is fantastic as usual, and I'm running out of ways to point it out. Just turn to later in the issue, to Deathsaurus' ship. See? There. Right there. That. That's mood setting, exemplary pacing and scene delimitation, and gorgeous fonts. On the cover front: If the DJD take the spot on the interiors, they definitely triumph on the variant covers - other than the main Deathsaurus one by Milne and Lafuente - with the glorious Tarn-centric Nick Roche/Josh Burcham collaboration (thumbnail) and the previously revealed Sara Pitre-Durocher Soviet propaganda variant.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
An issue that is going to sit on some very delicate scales for a lot of the readership, for multiple reasons and all equally valid/understandable, but one that, in my view, does a superb work of addressing criticisms of over-the-top powering of the DJD, while playing with established political grounds, franchise and IDW storylines, and set up the beginning of season 2's ending in over 11 issues from now. If anything, it'll generate a lot more talk than it already has.
Not your average reader
The art also perfectly captures the strange contrast and the bathos of the chilling, adorable, touching, emotional, terrifying nature behind what is essentially a bunch of supremacists with a cause, who lose that cause, and find another one within 20 something pages of a comic. I would not recommend missing this story, though the choice is ultimately down to the readers - it's a perfect example of what makes MTMTE, flaws, rough edges, sharp wit and all.
You might remember that exclusive sticker sheet that Hasbro Asia was promoting as a purchase incentive for Combiner Wars figures - thanks to YouTube reviewer TeamSKLeader, we get a nice look at this official add-on set, and find out its flaws and pros. There is a full list of videos showing them applied to the different figures, but the one embedded below shows the whole set, and general thoughts by our fellow fan!
THE WAR BEGINS! The first strike in COMBINER WARS is against WINDBLADE’S homeworld—and she’s not happy about it! Her long- lost CYBERTRONIAN colony is found… and the only thing that can protect it is SUPERION.
And of course, Alpha Bravo
Last week's Opening Salvo to Combiner Wars highlighted the major players and stages for the IDW event to take place, but it's with the first issue of a returning Windblade series (reuniting its creative team, if briefly) that the refuse really hits the propeller. And you can blame Swindle again, of course.
..or can you?
Mairghread Scott, one half of the plotting team behind the event with John Barber, takes the writing duties as seriously and as cruelly as she can, with death death rampage, death, destruction, no gardening, a bit more destruction and, on a different side altogether, talks of religion, diplomacy, incorporation and assimilation, politics and cultural differences - and makes both sides work really really well, if sometimes a little disjointed due to two worlds almost literally clashing.
ALL THE BACK-UP
Swindle is still pretty glorious all the way through this issue too, though the spotlight goes to Windblade unsurprisingly, and her political, diplomatic (with an edge) skills as a Camien and a Cityspeaker - as opposed to the machinations of Starscream or war-like leadership of Optimus Prime. The interactions and moments that the three have are wonderful, and at times smirk-inducing, as a result.
And some dynamics never really die
What the issues offers, then, other than some mighty fine scenes of destruction and good old fashioned imperial foreign policy, is a glimpse into how different strands of continuities are addressed as belief systems, how ex-Cybertronian societies have evolved very differently from their original soil, and how all of that, right now, holds a trepidantly unexpected set of consequences.
Sarah Stone returns to interiors, too, and shows off some more lovely digital artwork, spreads, splashes, body language and physical/facial interactions corresponding and developing Scott's script ever so marvellously. Especially with the foregrounded characters, new Camien introductions and Starscream's undying quest for the perfectly suited chassis befitting his own ego.
So haaard to choooose..
We had seen Stone's amazing work on chases and landscape type panels, and we are now also treated to bigger scale creatures that are not hanging from rafters in repair workshops - and the interactions between the big brutes. Coupled with some trademark contrasting chromatic effects, highlighting key moments in fights and heated exchanges.
Dennis the Menasor
If at times, especially in the second half of the book, you might feel a little dazzled by the locations, Tom B. Long's letters are a godsend (heh), identifying not only voices but pinpointing the scenes with needed, fontastic accuracy. A slew of covers also allows to cover the multiplicity of worlds we're encountering, slowly, from the Travis Sengaus/Josh Burcham Devastator retailer variant, the Casey Coller/Joana Lafuente established Superion cover, Livio Ramondelli's poster Menasor - and the thumbnailed gorgeous Sara Pitre-Durocher Superion/Windblade variant.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
There is a lot going on in this issue, even more than was the case in Opening Salvo. While it may not sit entirely well with some readers, the material Scott (with Barber) are covering is both established and a new take, new aspects and new introductions to the mythology, world-building and conventions of the until now Cybertron/Earth axis - with minor detours - of the Transformers fiction, thanks to the Way of the Flame and its repercussions among the governing side of Caminus. And it works, for this reviewer.
Holy Mistress of Tall Flames, Batman
It is really good to see more Sarah Stone artwork too, and the fight scenes look great - but much like the writing aspect of the issue, it's what is going on around the fighting that is really the crux of the story. And trust me, you want to get all the engines running on multiple franchise continuities with this one, and revisit and reassess some older pacts that were made in light of the ongoing arkarc.
Fellow Seibertron.com member and YouTube reviewer optibotimus has shared with us a new video review of a Prime 1 Studio Museum Masterpiece figure. Last time we saw Megatron in his Revenge of the Fallen body - today it's the turn of Dark of the Moon Optimus Prime (MMTFM-02)! Check it out below.
It is here. After all the hype surrounding the release of the Takara Tomy fan polled Masterpiece Transformer MP-24 Star Saber, the first video review is offered by YouTuber OptimusPrimeSG in slight advance of general release, and brought to us via a tip by fellow Seibertron.com member KirbyForce1. Watch it below in all its victorious forms, and remember that maybe Primus does not hate you after all!
Fellow Seibertronian hinesika, also known as DuoDuoTea over on TFND.net, was lucky enough to acquire a Takara Tomy Masterpiece Transformers MP-24 Star Saber in Taiwan, and decided to share with us all a nice look at the figure via a photo gallery/pictorial review! You can check out some of the photos below, and head here for the full sequence. Will you be getting your Star Saber too, will it be soon? Let us know what you think of this fan-based bot in the Energon Pub!
We've posted the Seibertron.com galleries for the sadly badly released (if at all) Age of Extinction Power Attacker Claw Crush Junkheap just the other day - so why not double-dip, and take a look at the embedded video review below, courtesy of our very own site owner Seibertron? Includes comparisons to the other figures in the line (such as Bumblebee and Vehicon Power Attackers), various Voyagers and Deluxes; check it out!
OPENING SALVO! The Autobots and Decepticons’ uneasy peace is threatened by the flames of war! STARSCREAM—ruler of CYBERTRON—makes contact with WINDBLADE’S homeworld—and the only defense against a new CYBERTRONIAN EMPIRE are COMBINERS—multiple CYBERTRONIANS forming together into huge, dangerous forms!
Days of Deception is over, Windblade was over a long time ago, Punishment saw both its digital and print run, and we have been really setting the stage for Combiner Wars for a long long time now. And yet, The Transformers #39 takes another small step, piecing together the various parts leading up to here, preparing the spark, the casus belli, if you will and giving it all just a gentle prod.
Oh hey random Starscream that has nothing to do with this at all
John Barber takes main writing duties for the issues, but both him and Mairghread Scott are palpably present in the plotting of story. The dialogue provides a great framework of power dynamics and hierarchy being subverted at every turn, with some further development for a lot of older faces - and Swindle, of all characters, whose perspective guides the story.
We have Windblade and Optimus and some intriguingly almost 'post-colonial' moments of perspective shifts; we get Wheeljack and Ironhide and Chromia just trying to do their jobs, and being almost entirely confused; we get Starscream being Starscream, and gloriously so; we are introduced to Offroad, and given a *fantastic* explanation for their presence; we get another addition to the chapter in Transformers fiction that is Alpha Bravo, and Powerglide.
The legend continues
As an introduction, the Opening Salvo of Combiner Wars does much more than wht it could've,and is an immensely enjoyable read, with good humour, a good establishing of the playing field and just enough references to older continuity points to keep older fans entertained while bringing in some new ones too. Kapoom.
Livio Ramondelli, as we knew, takes on the whole brunt of the artistic duties for this and the majority. And I have to unfortunately admit this time, we are not seeing the great work he provided in recent publications such as Punishment. The composition is great, and there are really good layouts in the issue, and some of the expressivity is well conveyed.
At other times, however, some of those same faces, especially the newer or less frequently used ones, fall a little short of the full enjoyment of the piece. The tone is captured, and the washed-up, grimy sense of a post everything Cybertron works well - as might Caminus - but sometimes it really does jar a little.
Not as successful
The lettering does work quite well, even so, and Tom B. Long demonstrates once more the craft of a good letterer in some great sound effects and speech modifications. And While we have seen the beautiful Casey Coller/Joana Lafuente regular Menasor cover, and Ramondelli's poster variant for B, the gem of the variants is undoubtedly Sara Pitre-Durocher's Menasor and Swindle - see the thumbnail!
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Being able to follow what is going on on Cybertron from Swindle's perspective is, in and of itself, a treat. Seeing the world how he sees it and through those purple eyes, with the cynicism, degrees of naivete and, well, Swindle attitude, is truly refreshing. We get all of that, plus some very good interactions, and a great cameo from the Lost Light, too.
If this what we are to expect from the crossover event, and the merging of Barber and Scott's plotting minds, then we're certainly in for a fun trip down six or so issues. Combiner Wars is playing on multiple angles without, so far, reaching too far out to be forced to justify the number of players, has a healthy dose of Swindle and Starscream, and is suitable for anyone under or over the age of Galvatron.
. ½ out of
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