THE AFTERMATH! The COMBINER WARS are over, and OPTIMUS PRIME faces the aftermath. Meanwhile on Earth, ARCEE confronts GALVATRON over the fate of two worlds.
Sticks and Stones, G
Combiner Wars is over. Sort of. There were many plotlines and threads left more or less dangling, some tidier than others, at the end of the fifth chapter of the IDW event. As both John Barber and Mairghread Scott were responsible for the arc, it's only appropriate that Barber takes the reins again in his view of the CW aftermath in his own title.
Not Pictured: The Aftermath
There are two major plots being explored in this issue, with the focus splitting between Cybertron and Earth once again. On the latter, Arcee and Galvatron have a not really amicable (but more than expected, really) confrontation, allowing all external parties to Prime, Prowl, and Scoop's swift defection to the newly forming Council of Worlds, to catch up and start progressing out of the crossover arc.
(Not) A Recap
The other point of focus, and a magnificently executed one, is Prowl. Prowl and whatever has been chewing at him in the IDWverse. Prowl and his problems with Optimus. Prowl facing his turmoil, and Optimus responding in kind, in an exchange which is just... really well done. I cannot say more than that really, as it has to be followed and read to be fully appreciated.
Good evening Clarice
The issue has all the excellence of early xRID stories, in pacing and dialogue, with the added emotional power of dragging the personal back into the wider scheme of things. Arcee, Prowl and Galvatron obviously take the spotlight, with Prowl above the others - but even Optimus is finally more of a rounded character than he has been at certain turns, and one which confirms the raised eyebrow from past CW issues.
The two plots are complemented by two separate art teams, with a welcome return from artist Andrew Griffith, whose bulky, solid Galvatron and Astrotrain (now with visible mass shifting) bring a good contrast to the edgier, sharper, stealthier Arcee - and which colourist Josh Perez makes sure to give suitable masterful (and toy appropriate) decos to them all, with some dusking, cold lighting surrounding them.
Beefy old man
The Prime/Prowl thread, on the other hand, keeps the continuity of Livio Ramondelli, in what is probably his best work so far on a prolonged sequence, and what a sequence it is. His cinematographic sensibilities, take on the angles, shots and choice of pacing to align with Barber's dialogue is the most suited to such a powerful exchange, that we couldn't have asked for better.
How the tables have flipped
Both the sides of the issue, of course, could not carry their voice strongly enough without the work that Tom B. Long brings to the lettering, adding extra font work where characters make more of an impact, and with D.O.C.'s adorable voice. The cover roster this month sees the established Optimus Prime by Griffith and ..Perez? Burcham? (IDW! CREDITS!), the viscerally stunning Casey Coller/Joana Lafuente Prowl vs Optimus, a maniacally beautiful Galvatron (thumbnail) by Naoto Tsutshima and Lei Kagami plus the SDCC exclusive Combiner Hunter Arcee, by Sara Pitre Durocher.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As I said, we get both a blend of what worked in older, pre Dark Cybertron xRID issues and stories, coupled with the heightened political is personal/personal is political aspects of both Combiner Wars and the general direction that IDW writers seem to be taking of recent, and no punches are held back. Or elbows. Or heads. Literally.
Oh, and these two are in it, too!
This was a stellar issue, managing to transition effortlessly from the event storyline back into Earth, the Decepticon commune and still deal with the aftermath of some of the major players from both pre- and during Combiner Wars. Transitions which worked from both the writing and the artistic perspectives, and a welcome return to the more political (and personal) side of The Transformers. You do not want to miss it.
Seibertron is excited to add to our ever expanding Gallery Section: Robots In Disguise Legion Class Fixit and Underbite! The pair of these (as you'll see in the galleries) have already been released as 1-Step Changers, but some might find these more pleasing given the scale. See these fun little fellas below, and join us for a chat in the Energon Pub. There's lots to do at Seibertron.com!
FINAL BATTLE! The last of the Combiners face off… but who is in control of the ultimate combiner? And who will emerge with the key to dominating the galaxy?
Could it be Swindle?
The final chapter, more or less, of the IDW Transformers Combiner Wars Mairghread Scott/John Barber crossover arc, takes place in the third issue of the new Windblade ongoing, with Scott taking the lead on the writing once more, and dwelling a little further on what Combiners actually are, and the ever expanding universe of our favourite transforming robots.
But am in two minds..
I'll say this immediately - I am still pondering about this issue, for a number of reasons. I like Scott's writing, and the dialogue between the multiple characters (perhaps too many for one issue?) is sharp, well-paced and placed, and gives some good insights on them. The overall script, on the other hand, feels like it suffers from similar problems that affected the middle portion of the arc, and may again be due to the sheer number of sides, plots and stories it's trying to combine together under the event banner.
Think of the press!
What does emerge from it all, though, is Good Stuff: Starscream is a questionable, but also capable ruler after all, in his own way; Optimus is a good leader, but there is something uncomfortable about his influence; Prowl is still being used, by his own self and others, but may find peace eventually; the Camiens and their dynamics are shifting, slowly but surely, and we might see further friction - just to name a few repercussions on the IDWverse.
Additionally, this ending (and the ending of the book itself, which is fabulous) leaves some extremely tantalising openings for what's to come in Windblade and The Transformers, for sure, and it does enough to show a more ominous side to characters who we'd think we'd be able to place on a political chessboard by now. And for that, it leads in nicely in what I hope the ongoings will develop - it's unfortunate that it feels attached to a wider story that could've done much more.
The art took a surprise turn, and one that also still leaves mixed feelings, as the expected Sarah Stone saw instead two new artists take her place: Marcelo Ferreira and Corin Howell. The former, working on just over half of the issue, takes a ragged edge to the art we've seen by them previously, and together with Yamaishi's colours and the inks by Brian Shearer and John Wycough, does an impressive inside job of the workings of many minds as one in a very good sequence in the book - though with some unexplained moments in character palettes.
Not Very Optimist Maximus
Howell, on the other hand, begins to show the Animated-esque work she will bring to the Windblade series, with some excellent body language, facial expressivity and interactions between the diplomatic sides of aggressive negotiations in the new, wider world(s) of the Spacebridge network far far beyond Cybertron, and her line and inks work well with Thomas Teyowisonte Deer's smooth colour skills.
In yo FACE
I have nothing to add on Tom B. Long's fantastic lettering work, nor on the selection of covers: Optimus Maximus, from Marcelo Matere's packaging art, is shown again in the retailer incentive, while Prowl takes Enigmatic centre stage with Casey Coller and Joana Lafuente, and we finally get to see the second half of Livio Ramondelli's ensemble combiner poster on cover B (thumbnail). The one thing that does not work as much, art-wise, is the sudden arrival of the very different styles that, taken on their account I have no qualms with at all (crosshatching and expressions, put me down for those any time) - but in a series dominated by sudden art shifts, feel a little jarring as a shift into the final issue.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As the conclusion of the Combiner Wars event, which has done some interesting, if wavering, things to the Transformers universe as we currently know it in IDW - this issue was not up to any expectation I had. It did some things very well, such as show the inner workings of gestalt technology, establishing Starscream's role, and some added very intriguing ramifications for the two series to continue - especially with Windblade, as we have seen practically nothing of Earth these past months. But.
Me too, buddy
I think I'm pleased that we will see a little more of what happened here, and what is starting to happen, in the Combiner Hunters one-shot and 'arcs' in the coming months, but much like the middle chapter in this particular event, there was an uncomfortable feeling of rushed, unfinished, rough script, which did not allow the two artists to shine as much as they could. I am, however, hopeful about both ongoings from this point onwards.
Here is a new gallery for you all, of Takara's version of Combiner Wars Megatron: Transformers Legends LG-13 Megatron.
In it you will find comparison shots to the Hasbro deco, showing the differences (some more subtle than others) between both figures. Generally, as per usual, Takara has chosen to go more toon accurate with its deco, replacing a lot of red parts with silver. Another interesting bit is that this is the very first Takara Legends figure to be packaged in robot mode. Enjoy!
Hello again, fans of Transformers from Seibertron and beyond! We continue our journey in the world behind the scenes of everyone's (we assume) favourite transforming robots by having a good chat with one of the latest entries at IDW - the new artist on the ongoing Windblade series, whose work we have started to see in Windblade #3 (out on 10th June, sneak peek here): Corin Howell! Check it out below, as we look at her development as a fan and an artist.
Va'al - Corin, it is an extreme pleasure to have you talk to us here at Seibertron.com - it's always great news to hear we have some fresh talent brought into the franchise! And we do hope we'll make you feel welcomed, of course. But maybe we should get to know you a little more first, too: How did it all begin for you? When did Transformers enter your life?
Corin - It's incredibly awesome to talk with you guys! Seibertron.com was one of the first sites I visited when I was starting out in my wee early stages of TF Fandom, so it's really exciting!
It really started when I was kid in the 90s, I grew up around a lot of boy cousins when I was young so I was exposed to Transformers early on (along side TMNT, ThunderCats, G. I. Joe, Batman, comics in general, etc). I think I really got into it when Beast Wars came out and I was a huge fan of Cheetor and Primal. By the time TF Armada came around, I had started drawing all these robots.
Va'al - We're delighted to hear that! More Seibertronians, even if lurkers, making into the professional lands of Transformers is always a big boost. Were you into any of the toys as well, either before the arrival of Beast Wars, of after that stage? Or was it mostly the fiction, on screen and on the page?
Corin - It was actually all of the above! I didn’t get into the toys till I was a little older, so after Beast Wars ( high school methinks, those Master Pieces caught my eye), but before that it was the fiction, the comics, TV shows -- visual media was the primary thing that fueled the need to draw giant transforming robots.
Va'al - What was it about the visuals that appealed to you, do you think? I mean, you've mentioned Beast Wars but also previous iterations of the franchise, and the aesthetics can be really quite different at times - what drew (hah!) you in?
Corin - I’m a sucker for details. I like drawing landscapes: interiors, exteriors, cars, motorcycles, etc. What fascinated me as I got older (because as a kid it was just “Giant talking robots!”) is the amount of details that go into each character -- like how did they transform, how it fit their personality, which part goes WHERE -- it was all really interesting to me. There was one thing I did like adding in, and that was making them more expressive -- after Beast Wars, I dont remember a series that included a lot of expressiveness in their facial features. At least until TF Animated came around.
Va'al - There was also a blight of 'constipated grimace' expression with the toys.. especially during Beast Wars! So was it mainly the screen media that you were interested in, or were the comics on your radar too?
Corin - It was mainly the screen media that got me interested first. However, when Armada came around I started reading the comics, especially when Alex Milne's work started popping up. Armada comic series was great, never really read Energon, and I was a huge sucker for the “Stormbringer “ series. But no Transformers series really drove me to really start pushing my Transformers drawings more then when Milne did “Megatron Origin”.
Megatron being one my favorite characters ( you can thank David Kaye and his Beast Wars Megatron for that ), the story was amazing (thank you Eric Holmes) but the art was what really caught my eye. The attention to detail, the fact that they look like they can TRANSFORM on the page was incredibly awesome and looking at my work, I knew I needed to get better to reach that caliber of work. Of course my style really took its shape when I started college, but I still look at Milne’s work whenever I draw Transformers.
Va'al - Milne has had a significant impact on fan artists, that is indisputable. What other influences, Transformers-related or not, would you say you have in your style of drawing in general? Anyone else creep in from the sidelines?
Corin - There’s actually a few that have had a major impact on the development of my style. One of the top being Glen Keane -- I grew up with all of the movies he worked on with Disney, and I've always admired his ability to really pull the characters personality out in their expressions. So when I finally acquired “The Art of Tangled”, I was able to study the way he draws expressions more and put them in my work.
Another artist is Sean Murphy - his inks and the way he draws vehicles and cities have always been something I've admired. I had the wonderful opportunity to be one of his students last year when he hosted an apprenticeship in Portland, ME. Getting that chance to finally understand how to draw and ink vehicles and landscapes using his techniques really helped me on a new approach in developing my style.
Other artists include Becky Cloonan (By Chance or Providence, Demo) , Klaus Janson (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight), Juanjo Guarnido (Blacksad), and the list just goes on and on. But these artist really influenced me on my work.
Va'al - Those are some serious names right there, and great models to work with/from! At this point, I believe, the question is: how did the transition happen? When did you go from student artist to professional? IDW isn't your first gig, is it?
Corin - No it isn't actually. My first project was actually right out of college back in 2013. The SCAD sequential department hosts a “Mini Comics Expo” after every Editors Day and I decided to table since it was my last quarter. It worked out because I met my editor from VIZ Media who right after the expo, put me on a short “Ben 10” Halloween comic. I worked well with cartoons, so after that they put me on the “40th Anniversary of Hello Kitty” anthology (which was nominated for an Eisner!) and then I worked on a few projects with "Bravest Warriors" with VIZ, doing a Seek-and-Find page and then a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.
I was still in the starting phase, but I also wanted to branch out and try new things. Then that same year, around September I think I applied for the Murphy Apprenticeship, then the next thing I knew I was working on “Cafe Racer” with the other students (Clay McCormick, Tana Ford, Jorge Coelho, Stephen Green, and Joe Dellagatta).
I guess the transition happened right after I got out of the Apprenticeship. I wanted to work more on establishing myself in different areas of comics, so I started making plans for con season. I went to Heroes Con 2014, I tabled and met with one of my first contacts with ONI Press, then came SDCC 2014 -- that's where I met John and Mairghread thanks to Marcelo Matere who introduced me (and also where I geeked out without realizing that these guys were editors/writers and possibly showed that I was biggest nerd in the universe). I basically made it my goal to meet with as many people as I could so I can establish myself, and after that long summer of traveling I was getting contracts.
Va'al - And now you're here, to the big robots! How did you actually get to the Windblade series position, after your meeting with Scott and Barber? Did you pitch something in your geek-out, or were you asked to step in?
Corin - And here I am! I actually didn't get the call till earlier this year (I think it was late Jan or Feb). I think my geek out session had something to do with it, I can't help but be a fangirl sometimes. But John knew I was a major TF fan, so when I got that email to do a test page I was like “SERIOUSLY??” and proceeded to bounce with glee. I was practically giddy when I learned that I got the part too because it's like “CHILDHOOD DREAM ACHIEVED”.
Va'al - I can only imagine the feeling coming from a call like that. If you are able to discern, at this stage, what is your favorite part of working with Mairghread Scott on Transformers: Windblade? How does it compare so far to other projects?
Corin - Mairghread is a lot of fun to work with, especially since she’s so open to the artist’s suggestions. We especially work well with grasping the character’s expression at specific moments. I also love how she’s specific on character personalities -- like when we were talking about the project, she went into detail about how characters acted and their body language, hand gestures. How Chromia as Windblade’s bodyguard, she stands tall and presents herself as a powerful individual, for example.
Compared to other projects? I’m not sure to be honest, I have fun with all of my projects because it gives me a chance to try new things!
Va'al - That sounds like the Mairghread we've come to know! And do you colour your own art, or are you joined by someone else on the series? Is Tom Long returning on lettering too?
Corin - We have Thomas Teyowisonte Deer on coloring for the Windblade issues I’m working on. I don't usually do my own colors for pages because I’m more of an inker, only with single illustrations will I color. I’m not sure who's lettering this round but we’ll find out!
Va'al - We sure will, and we're quite intrigued about the Combiner Wars aftermath already! Are there any highlights so far that you actually tell us about the series, anything you're particularly excited about yourself?
Corin - New worlds and new characters! I know it's been hinted at Velocitron in the June and July listings, so I’m excited to draw some awesome racing scenes! There’s more characters coming, but unfortunately I can't spoil too much.
Not appearing in Windblade, alas..
Va'al - That's a tease and a half, especially after all the work we're currently seeing in Combiner Wars and seeded all the way back in Windblade (volume 1) #4! But I'm sure all good things will come to those of us who can patient just a little longer..
Corin, it has been a pleasure talking to you, and thank you for taking some time out for us - any last things you'd like to mention, or plug?
I also have a book with DC Comics coming out called “Bat-Mite”, so if you’re interested you should check it out!
That is all from the Seibertron.com and IDW backstages for this time, readers. Make sure to pick up Windblade #3 for an appetiser, and Windblade #4 when it hits later this month, to see Corin's art in action, and let us know if you'd like more of this type of feature in the comments!
While there are very few lists concerning Transformers toys on the web(world), it’s a different matter for the G1 episodes, which asks for a bit more special attention. So I called upon the help of an expert, Seibertron's own Optimutt, to write this very special list devoted to the 98 episodes of the original Transformers cartoon:
The Top Ten Best Transformers episodes!
Take it away Optimutt!
Since this is an important list, I had to establish a ruling criteria. This will be the same rules for the subsequent lists I write, if this one goes well. In looking at each episode, I considered a number of important points.
- The first is Enjoyment Factor. If we can’t enjoy a cartoon, why bother watching, right?
- The second is Animation. While some of you may claim this is unfair to the notorious AKOM studio, this is an animated show after-all so I can't ignore it, but keep in mind that this is only one of the many factors.
- To this, I also add Story. Yes, this was a 1980’s cartoon. Yes, I know that campiness was a key ingredient of the stories. Indeed, this WAS a series designed to sell toys. And yes, I wholly understand that these were cartoons geared at kids. But all those factors aside, there were also some remarkably mature concepts that the cartoon introduced to the fandom. In many ways, the story-telling of G1 conceptuality set the standard for what was to come: Dinobot in Beast Wars, Cliffjumper in TF: Prime, the brutality of the movies, Furman’s run on Marvel’s and IDW’s comics, and James Roberts’ More Than Meets the Eye, among countless other examples.
- Which leads directly into Cultural Relevance. The Transformers cartoon was the one that started it all. Without the movie, would Optimus Prime be a walking phoenix cliché? I think not. So much of what the Transformers has become is owed to this cartoon series. Indeed, there are some episodes on this list that would absolutely not belong were it not for their significance to the fandom over the past thirty years.
Before the list begins, I want to make a shout-out to the fans who responded to an inquiry I posted on various fandom media. I asked YOU what you thought was the best episode. The results of that is below.
Fans’ Choice – I submitted this question to a number of different media. It turns out that of all the responses, the fandom feels that Galvatron’s descent into madness was the most fun you could have with the 22 minute time slot of the 1980’s! Congratulations Webworld!
Galvatron with Dr. Ratchet.
I also want to thank imdb.com for the episode descriptions and a whole lot of different places for the images. They’re purty.
Finally, an honorable mention. The movie was epic. Watch it, if only for this epic scene. Yes, “epic” is used twice because the whole movie blew minds. Only truly epic things deserve such epicosity of wordage.
Alright. Enough lolley-gagging! Let’s get this show on the road!
Webworld – Written by Len Wein and Diane Duane. Cyclonus is concerned about Galvatron's mental and emotional state and takes him to a planet where he can get treatment.
Galvatron proving he accepts no outside interference.
One thing to note: Len Wein is the guy who wrote Giant Sized XMen 1, you know, the first appearance of Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Thunderbird. These are some of the most influential characters in comics, and he brought them all to life. But this is only one element of his legacy. The fact that his most significant contribution to the TF Fandom is what was chosen as the favorite episode speaks volumes of his abilities as a writer.
Mutiny is no stranger in the cartoon, but in the first two seasons, we would have seen exactly that. In Webworld, that tradition is circumvented by Cyclonus’ loyalty to his leader. This element, by itself, puts this episode in a unique position in the canon.
More important than the Decepticon situation is the psychological one. The whole episode is a social observation on how emotional connection changes not just the target but also the agent. In opening itself up to Galvatron’s psychological mainframe, the planet of Torkulon contracts the same madness that plagues the Decepticon leader. Titled “Webworld,” the episode almost predicted a potential flaw in the Internet (which would not be made public for at least several years after this episode was made), which was of exploitation. Wonderful as it is, ask any artist or creator about creator rights, and you will see how much damage Galvatron’s madness actually is.
The Master Builders – Written by David N. Gottlieb and Herb Engelhardt. Grapple has dreamed of building a solar tower to collect energy from the sun. But when Optimus disapproves, Grapple finds help from the Constructicons, who are secretly working for Megatron.
Grapple enjoys his toy model blueprint.
How far will an artist go to create his art? “The Master Builders” looks right in the face of this question. In Grapple, viewers can vicariously make that judgement call that all artists must wring their hands in quiet contemplation when their ideas are rejected. Do they give up? Do they eschew traditional methods and create the art on their own? Or do they make a deal with the devil and sell out? This is the Faustian myth of blues artist Robert Johnson in animated form. And just like the “Crossroads” creator, Grapple has to pay the price of his deal: betrayal and corruption of the dream.
There is also an unspeakable tragedy of war in this: it is difficult, if not impossible to maintain anything of value during wartime. Wartime consequences will come to play a little later in the list (can you guess which episode I am referencing?) but for now, let me just say how amazing an episode this is. There is no line that is out of place, nor scene that does not work into the overarching story. And for once, Megatron (and Scrapper, and Smokescreen, and Optimus… just about everyone, really) shows how competent a leader he actually is. Perhaps it is that overall competence that we see in this episode that makes it so good. Every thread is about using your skills, and other people’s skills to benefit the populous. Ultimately, despite all the betrayal and heartache that we see, it is a sparkly feelgood episode.
War Dawn – Written by David Wise. Some Aerialbots start to have doubts about their cause, some have started to admire Megatron, and are thinking of switching sides. They get pulled into a time warp, and end up on Cybertron, before the current war began. They'll discover more about Megatron, and the origin of one of their own.
“Pax. Orion Pax. I’ll have a Tesarus, shaken, not stirred.
Who is Optimus Prime? What was he before he became the ultimate Autobot? Why, he was just another chump named Orion Pax, palling around with his girlfriend and buddy. IDW has used this idea as a launchpad for so much of their stories that I would not be able to give the company justice in this review. So I won’t. All I will add about this is that the Cultural Relevance of this episode is mind-bogglingly huge. I mean, Unicron-sized huge.
As far as a story is concerned, it’s ok. There are some serious flaws in the episode (“We must destroy the time machine to save our friends! But now we need to fix it get them back!” paraphrasing courtesy of the author). Despite this, the Aerialbots’ naivete is beautiful. Yes, they are chumps, but it makes sense! How many of us (both young and old) have fallen victim to that crush on that sexy, beautiful person only to realize what a chump they are? I have most certainly made that mistake once. Or twice. So cut Slingshot (Quickslinger) and company some slack. At least they learned from their mistake. Granted, it only nearly cost Orion Pax his life, but who’s counting? We got Optimus Prime out of the deal! Thanks, chumps!
Golden Lagoon – Written by Dennis Marks. The Decepitcons coat themselves with electrum that they find in a golden lagoon. They become impervious to laser fire and attack the Autobots.
I am Golden Supreme!
Above, if you guessed I was referencing Golden Lagoon, give yourself a No-Prize!
The 1980s were a good twenty something years into the Cold War, a period of non-conflict between Capitalist countries (especially the USA) and Communist countries (primarily the USSR, but also China) to see whose dogma is the better one. If the Cold War were ever to run hot, it would look a lot like Golden Lagoon. What begins as a mere skirmish between a handful of Autobots and Decepticons results in a capture of Autobot prisoners. To rescue these prisoners, the Autobots mount a greater force, but again are repulsed because the Decepticons find the lagoon of Electrum and become invulnerable. So the Autobots pull out their big gun, the ultimate defender, Omega Supreme! Yeah. He gets beat. Soundly. So the Autobots manage to find the Electrum and coat themselves, resulting in their defeating the ‘Cons! Yay! We won! Or did we?
See, this episode is not about how wars are won by building bigger and better weapons, instead, it is a commentary about the horrors of war. In The Master Builders, Grapple’s Solar Power Tower is destroyed not because it’s bad, but because the nature of conflict is that has no conscience. It destroys indiscriminately. In warfare, no one is innocent, and those that begin innocent are quickly stripped of it, either by outright destruction or by death. This is an idea that we are seeing more and more of in the fandom: The Battle of Chicago (TF3), Code of Hero (Beast Wars), IDW’s Transformers series (starting back in Retaliation). Sure, using Beachcomber as a narrative shows just another hippie hugging his trees and channeling his inner Disney Princess, but upon a deeper look, this allows the viewer to appreciate the beauty of life. And to mourn death’s loss. Beachcomber’s response at the end, where he looks out at the Arcadia that was now a dismal crater of smoking destruction is one of the most poignant images in the whole of cataclysmic TF images. See and judge for yourself.
The Return of Optimus Prime – Written by Marv Wolfman and Cherie Wilkerson. A group of scientists finds the body of Optimus Prime, and some spores that bring out aggressive tendencies in whomever it contacts. The scientists have a grudge against the Autobots, and use Optimus's body to lure them into a trap. As the spores spread through the Autobots and Decepticons, Rodimus orders Sky Lynx to find a Quintesson in a desperate attempt to bring Optimus Prime back to life. The spores spread across the Galaxy, forcing the newly-revived Optimus to find a cure in the Matrix, which is inside a spore-infected Rodimus Prime. Without becoming infected, Optimus must find a way to get the matrix.
Who could it be?!?
Relevence: Historic. Prime f-bomb comes back to life!
This episode sets two very recurring precedents in the TF mythos, namely that Prime is a phoenix who dies and promptly comes right back to life again, and upgrades will happen! Not just recolored toys and simple retools of previous molds, but full-on upgrades! While Optimus doesn’t get one in this episode, Bumblebee does! Which happens again. And again. And again. This is a perfect story play; especially considering this is an animated show for a toy line, it lets HasTak keep the bodies fresh. I mean, since this episode, certain Transformers have changed bodies as if they are clothes ( Starscream Prime Optimus Primal>).
This is visually one of the best episodes in the whole series. It has elements that we last saw in The Movie, but it also does things that had not been seen before. Like a white Optimus Prime? Yup. Totally original idea, there. Everyone is one color. Haven’t seen that before, either. Not even in Golden Lagoon. I jest. Really, just about every background and every render of the characters are crisp, clean, and they absolutely pop. The story is great, too. Its prime conflict comes outside of the war, forcing both Autobots and Decepticons to find alternatives to direct combat, which leads to ingenuity of story-telling that keeps the double-parter feel fresh. As the principal scribe to this episode, Marv Wolfman shows us why he is such a pillar of creativity in the world. Oh, you don’t know who Marv Wolfman is? Well, one of his biggest accomplishments was the first ultimate DC mashup that resulted in the deaths of Supergirl and Barry Allen’s Flash. Yes, I’m talking about Crisis on Infinite Earths. In addition, he created the Teen Titans, Blade, Nova, Spider-Woman, Deathstroke the Terminator, and he helped create edit/write Beast Machines, I mean, the guy is a living legend of creative genius. And we can add to that impressive resume the fact that he brought Optimus Prime back to life in style. Well done, sir!
“Give me the Matrix, Rodimus!”
More Than Meets the Eye – Written by George Arthur Bloom. As the Energon supply runs low on the planet Cybertron, the Autobots leave to find a new energy source. Their enemies, the Decepticons, follow. After a vicious battle in space, both of their ships crash land on Earth. The Decepticons try to gather every bit of energy that they can, from Earth, in order to get back to Cybertron. The Autobots, along with their new human allies, try to stop them.
Autobot group shot
This is the one that started it all and that Beast Wars copied. Overall, in these three episodes, children all around the world, and of all ages, are given a backstory that grounds the whole mythos. Not only do we get a cool story of resource acquisition and the culture shock of being in a new place a long, long, LONG time after you set out, but we also get complex characters right from the start. Each character, from Thundercracker, to Reflector, to Prowl, to Hound, to Cliffjumper, to Spike and Sparkplug, to Huffer and Gears, gets a very unique voice that is carried throughout the three episodes. And on voices: this sets the standard of incredible voice acting quality. Indeed, without Voice Director Wally Burr’s influence, one of the biggest continuously-praised strengths of the cartoon would never have come to fruition. Can you imagine Prime speaking like his Hong Kong dub of TF: Headmasters? Yeah, I just shuddered a bit, too.
Decepticon group shot
But that isn’t all! Below is only a partial list of what it establishes that Transformers media (and toys) keeps referencing: Prime’s axe. Megatron’s flail. Sideswipe’s rocket pack. Mirage’s invisibility, Skywarp’s teleportation, Ravage’s light sensitivity, Soundwave’s creepiness. Decepticons as tripod ships, Cybertron and Cybertronian forms. The need for human friends. Snarky Starscream. Windcharger’s magnetic arms. Hound’s resourcefulness. Rumble’s piledrivers. In no way can I emphasize the importance of this. Only certain weaknesses in the overall story elements and the hit and miss quality of the animation prevent this from being at the top. To be fair, some of the story elements are hindered by the toys themselves, though I will reflect upon no names.
Cybertronian forms. Sweet…
Cosmic Rust – Written by Paul Davids. The areas of Megatron that get hit by some meteor fragments begin to rust. The Decepticons capture Perceptor to find a cure for their leader. But once cured, Megatron hatches a scheme to infect the Autobots with Cosmic Rust.
An interstellar Transformers colony
This episode does not just look at departing Cybertron for new energy, but it shows that there are more to Transformers than meets the eye. In Cosmic Rust, we get actual Transformer settlements! On other planets! This adds a ton to the mythos, as it suggests that a: there are many more Transformers out there and b: colonies do exist. The next question, logically, is where are all these other Transformers? And while we get few actual answers in the cartoon (Wreck Gar, the Quintessons being exceptions to this point), it is an idea that Simon Furman plays with in his Generation 2 comic series.
The animation is well above par, with each character drawn well and where the growth and detail of the rust as it spreads over various Transformers feeling authentic and gruesome. As a story, it is another character piece, with great humor, the Stunticons shining the way they destroy best, and Starscream’s previous life as a scientist is referenced. Like The Master Builders above, this is an episode all about choice. Perceptor shows himself as being potentially dangerous, but instead of art, everything he does is in the name of science. Does that mean he is less noble for it? Potentially. His nobility forces him to heal Megatron, but in doing so, it puts the world in jeopardy. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to help Megatron out of a heroic need, but more of a scientific need. “Hey, Percy, here’s a chance to demonstrate your genius. Don’t worry about the consequences!”
Starscream’s Brigade – Written by Michael Charles Hill. After being exiled from the Decepticons, Starscream frees five Cybertronian criminals from prison and re-purposes them into his own troops, the Combaticons. With these new warriors at his command, he challenges Megatron for control of the Decepticons.
Although this boasts some of the worst animation on this list, the episode itself is just so fun that it matters little. This is the real template for sub-team mutiny in the Transformers mythos. And there certainly have been enough civil wars! Starscream is devious but brilliant, showing just how evil and duplicitous a leader he would actually make. Where Megatron rules by fear, Starscream leads by manipulation. While it is a powerful tool, it is exactly why he is forever relegated to second fiddle.
Probably the greatest thing to come out of this episode, however, is the idea of Decepticons that are so violent, so unruly, that they have been imprisoned. I wonder if James Roberts was watching this episode when he came up with his notorious Decepticon Justice Division.
The Ultimate Weapon – written by Arthur Byron Cover. First Aid quits the Autobots over his pacifism. This becomes a problem when Trypticon attacks a malfunctioning Metroplex.
Malfunctioning metropolititan mashing.
The relevance of this is cognitive. Get it? Because of transforming cogs? Before this titan of an episode, people only assumed that Transformers converted form simply because. It was never an idea of internal mecha-organs. This changed that with an excellent story that any doctor would nod at in accordance with the reality of organ transplant. The battle between the monsters (pictured above) is so fun because of the unpredictability of their malfunctioning systems. Going a little deeper under the exo-skeleton, the cogs have become of the three most important parts of a Transformer (brain, spark, and cog). In fact, what is a Transformer without its cog? Action Master? Member of the MMM? James Roberts, are you like me in that this is this your favorite TF cartoon? I only ask because it seems the foundation for a whole lot of what you’re doing with your amazing MTMtE series for IDW.
Animation-wise, this is right up there with The Return of Optimus Prime and Call of the Primitives. Everything is beautiful (just look at the chunks fall off from that contact!), even the setting in Holland! The action is brilliant, where each and nearly every single character gets a spotlight moment. This episode is also as close as the animated series comes to Scramble City. When First Aid quits the team, Defensor is left short-handed in his protecting duties.
The Search for Alpha Trion – Written by Beth Bornstein. Optimus Prime travels to Cybertron to rescue Elita One, the leader of the female Autobots.
Elita-1: LeGENDERy. See what I did there? Yeah.
For the last year or so, whenever a group of fans are given the chance to vote on what kind of character we want Hasbro to produce, we’ve said “WIMMIN!” First, Windblade. Now, Victorion, the all-female supergroup that will kick butt not just alone, but as a COMBINER! Who wants to take bets that this would never have happened were it not for the introduction of Elita-1, Moonracer, Firestar, Chromia, and the other female Autobots from this episode? Yeah. Didn’t think so. The impact of their inclusion is historic. It changed a race of totally “male” robots into something far more complex, both physically, and culturally. While The Challenge of the Go-Bots did this better, including female characters right in their first episode, with this, Transformers established a precedent that is seen in the third season, with a regular character that never got a toy (Generations Arcee FTW!), and in every series since then. While not exactly a feminist’s cry of success, as every one of the females has a male counterpart, the very fact that they are in the series is a mighty victory, indeed. What impresses me most about Elita-1, especially, is her willingness to protect Optimus Prime, even at the cost of her own life. This is not only a woman, but it is woman as hero. And she is beautiful.
In addition to the female Autobots, we also get Vector Sigma, the super-computer that “gave all Transformers life” (despite its various iterations) and Alpha Trion (another one who will get a toy later this year. Takara Legends Ultra Magnus, in case you were wondering). The animation is as good as a regular episode can get, and when Elita uses her special power, things get downright seizure-inducing, which all good cartoons from the ‘80s need. I also want to take this moment to give a special nod to the recently late John Stephenson, who did an incredible and indelible job voicing Alpha Trion. Thank you, sir.
So there you have it! The Top 10 episodes of the original Transformers series. Do you agree? Let us know in the forums!
Previous Top Transformers lists can be found here!
“Dear RODIMUS and crew… It’s my funeral tomorrow and I’d love it if you could all be there. Refreshments will be provided. Please R.S.V.P.—THUNDERCLASH”
The situation is ..tense
Switching away from Combiner Wars, and dipping a couple of weeks behind in the general timeline of the IDWverse, let us return to the Lost Light after Ratchet has left to go annoy/save/be annoyed by Drift. As they receive news that the Greatest Autobot That Ever Will Have Lived Alpha Bravo Thunderclash is currently at his final stretch, even with the Vis Vitalis life support.
Alas, poor Thunders
The issue does some really clever things, in James Robert's script set-up to the pre-wake for Thunderclash aboard his ship - we are allowed another slice of life aboard the Lost Light, with its crew interacting, clashing, bumping into each other, just ..being there and letting their voices come to the fore and speak for themselves, and Nautica, Nightbeat and Getaway getting a little more of the spotlight.
And, similarly, we get a round-up of the new characters aboard the Vis Vitalis, with new arrivals - though seemingly well established in the universe - Firestar and Velocity, plus some additional Camiens as revealed by Milne recently, playing into the wider universe of the Transformers at this stage. And how does characters clash and blend with our cast of misfitting egos.
Not much of a spark, really
All of the dancing, all of the jealousies, all of the distractions and the emotions are not what the issue is all about, however. Two more threads run under the surface, showing the closer converging parallels of Rodimus and Megatron, and their personal issues with pretty much anything. And a deeper, darker stream still..
It's always nice to see the return of a regular artist on a series, and Alex Milne does not disappoint with this issue, at all. We get new designs, multiple crowd scenes, new cast members some serious delving into body language and dynamic dance moves (willing or not) and - of course - some magnificent facial expressions for the people who *really* don't want anything to do with the whole wake do.
The addition of Joana Lafuente's colours, the element of continuity between the various artists we've had in the recent past, makes sure the party is going on both on the dancefloor and in the readers' eyes, with some great effects being played for the multiple characters and their emotional discordances or possible re-ignitions - depending on how whose side you might want to take.
Tom B. Long is joined for the issue by fellow master letterer Chris Mowry, and with their powers combined, we can actually feel the voices and hear the music from Thudnerclash's pre-wake, along with the corridors, bars, cells and some of the emotions running high among the casts. Which are easily also found in the covers, with Milne and Josh Perez' Nautica and Camien victorious main piece, the thumbnailed Kotteri retail incentive (not depicting scenes in the issue, but rather Empire of Stone), and the triumphant Thunderclash memorial by Nick Roche and Josh Burcham.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
This is not an issue to take as lightly as everything suggests we might want to. Yes, there are several lighthearted scenes, with a character focus and setting, playing on the multiple clashing egos of the cast and the new encounters (for the readers at least), and ensuring all characters are ..well, characters. They just are. With their quirks, personalities and voices.
In space, no one can etc
At the same time, though, there's a deeper, creepier story coming out of the issue, and played on the sidelines of the general merriment of the Vis and Light - and one that brings us back to where MTMTE all started, again. Space horror, dark ships, and things lurking just beyond the happiness of the circle of casts shown in the light. Genre is genre is genre.
DESPERATE ACTIONS! As the SPACEBRIDGE reaches across the stars, will anyone stand against STARSCREAM? The answer is yes—but the cure might prove worse than the disease.
Maybe he actually cares! (...)
The IDW Transformers Combiner Wars Mairghread Scott/John Barber crossover arc switches back for its fourth chapter to The Transformers ongoing, and its writer Barber, with the current playing field riddled by ruins, frustrated Cybertronians, understandably scared Camiens, ambiguous pretty much everyone else, and several schemers on the loose, of course.
Quick recap, thanks
If Starscream is made to be the most explicit in his intentions for the future of Cybertron (and its problematic status of 'homeland' or 'centre of the universe') - and he does get to play a lot with all his little, and not so little, secrets - the real focus in this issue is undoubtedly Prowl, and the enormous quantity of turmoil he carries with him.
And Bob, obviously
Baggage that he has carried for a very very long time, admittedly, and always bubbling just beneath the surface. The long conversation, the effective backbone of this book, between Prowl and Optimus Prime, is a very good example of the type of emotional level that Barber can tap into in more serious storylines, and reveals a Prowl with actual feelings, disguised under a veneer of cold calculation.
That's.. quite a list
A possibly slower issue in its first acts, with some expected combiner fights as it progresses, an entirely expected twist at the very end (though one I am very curious as to how it will play out, and well executed nonetheless) and some well staged tension between the various characters used at the centre of the story, and a very good addition to the event so far.
As Livio Ramondelli keeps to interior art duties, we see a massive difference from the previous, supposedly rushed, issue - the lines and colours for the characters, especially in their expressivity (both in body language and facial), are stunningly executed, and work really effectively for the serious tones and rising tides of the story and their interactions.
A mighty fine Windblade, right there
I will have a little moment here, as there is a wonderful chromatic game being played out in the issue, with the big opposition of darkened reds (cells and optics) and blues (Spacebridge and shadows) - with some almost unexpected yellows. And they serve as backdrop for the different scenes, ultimately exploding in a much brighter, much open landscape in the finale, under the aegis of the Spacebridge.
Not shown here - have some sky instead
Tom B. Long provides the usual masterful font and lettering work, grounding the dialogue and the locations in where the reader needs them to be, and gets some fun moments in transitions, too. As for the covers, we get the magnificent Emperor Starscream by Casey Coller/Joana Lafuente, a first half of Ramondelli's Optimus Prime poster cover, and the thumbnailed (perhaps another Marcelo Matere piece? Hasbro - credits please) Optimus Maximus.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As I've said above, the issue plays a very interesting, if initially slower, game of revealing tensions and starting to prod at them without exploding until the very very end. And it was a strategy that, for me, really paid off - it shows Prowl's inner workings in a lot of ways, without removing the build-up he has received so far, and shows just how much of Optimus' influence can sway the game (and the franchise, really).
It's.. still.. coming.
We get even more on how combiner technology may not just be a technology of combination, but something a little deeper, and the beginnings of some serious power plays on all sides involved in this sudden, strange, large-scale war. And it all plays out across some closed spaces that quickly become uncomfortable for readers and characters alike - though in a good, captivating way. Next, the sort of conclusion!
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Every two weeks, Seibertron.com brings you a Top 5 list related to all things Transformers written by me, your fellow editor. These are my opinions (just like movie or game reviews hosted by sites are still just the opinion of one person) so what matters most is what you guys think of the topic or list, and I hope to see your own lists or comments on omissions and ranking. Let's have fun! All previous lists can be found here.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was written in early January 2015.
Top 5 Celebrity voice actors in Transformers
Celebrities have lent their voice to Transformers characters in the media since the G1 era. It's always a treat regardless if it's for a few shows or just a few minutes. It's especially fun when the voice fits perfectly with the character. From Monty Python's Eric Idle to Boy Meets World's Will Friedle, we will now count down the best celebrity voice actors of all Transformers history starting with...
5. Dwayne the Rock Johnson as Cliff Jumper in Transformers Prime
Oh man, it's THE ROCK! And they totally emphasise it by using the theme of his horns referring to both the the Brahma Bull and Clifjumper's badass Prime design. Of course, a mega celeb like this could only be a guest star and this is what this role truly is even though he plays a main character of the world we are being introduced to. Using The Rock was a great way for us to fall in love with this doomed character, adding to the impact. If you don't know what I am talking about, just watch the first episode of Transformers Prime titled "Darkness Rising, Part 1".
4. Weird Al Yankovic as Wreck-Gar in Transformers Animated
Can there be a more perfect casting (yes, because this is number 4) than pairing up weird Al with this Transformers nutcase. Actually the Wreck-Gar character has had some great talent voice him, like Eric Idle. However, Weird Al tops that performance in part due to the improved speech pattern he gets to play with. He definitely helped Wreck Gar be as odd, hyper, passionate and as weird as he was supposed to be, while giving him a sweet and sympathetic side that helps from the shtick getting too annoying.
3. Orson Wells as Unicron in The Transformers Movie
This is the most solemn voice you could ever hear. It evokes power and certitude in anything it whispers and it is both the voice of the most powerful threat in Transformers history as well as the voice of the greatest filmmaker that ever lived, Orson Welles (if anyone doesn't know, at age 25 he directed "Citizen Kane" which is believed by film critics to be the best film of all time). You can't help but believe everything uttered by that voice and the fact that it speaks of tearing worlds apart can't make you see anything but doom. It was used sparingly but to amazing effect.
2. Tony Todd as Dreadwing in Transformers Prime
When I first heard Dreadwing speak, I took a step back. It was both deep and steely, it could bring a chill down your spine. And of course, it had to be by one of the scariest guys ever, Tony Todd, the Candy Man himself. His deep voice also worked with adding to the characters sense of honour, pride and determination since you knew that he meant every word he spoke. And the best part is that it doesn't take anything away from the character by being invassive or distracting. It just works. This is exactly what this no nonsense character would sound like and no one could have done a better job. But number one is kind of special...
1. Leanard Nimoy as Galvatron (not sentinel Prime) in The Transformers Movie
Was this too predictable? Firstly, the use of a different voice for Galvatron was very well done. It emphasised that this was a new version of the character with a new unhinged personality (think Doctor Who), and what we were comfortable with before had just flown out the window. Galvatron was more ruthless than Megatron ever was, and far more psychotic, to the point of even doublecrossing Unicron (WHO DOES THAT!?!?!). Leanard Nimoy conveys this transition perfectly, giving a great balance of power and insanity. This works so well in setting the tone of the film, and of the character, and it's also Leanard freaken Nimoy. Way to start the new age of G1 with a bang!
Honourable mentions: My number 5 was a hard choice between my pick and George Takei as Alpha Trion. I was so amused and surprised when I heard George Takei's unmistakable voice on the show, but that's kinda the problem. His voice was so obvious that I couldn't see Alpha Trion talking to Optimus, I just heard George Takei, hence why this guest voice wasn't the one chosen. Also, the previously mentioned Eric Idle.
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