We are still missing a couple of limbs from Defensor, in terms of reviews, but the smallest Protectobot of the Transformers Generations Combiner Wars line has its own clip, thanks to regular YouTube reviewer peaugh. Check out below the embedded video for Legends Groove, the leg-humping, chest-hugging motorbike in the line!
PROWL makes his move… and the galaxy will never be the same. Can WINDBLADE stand against the threat of the COMBINERS?
Enter, stage right
Close in its release to the previous chapter in Combiner Wars, taking place in The Transformers #40, Windblade #2 continues the event, by letting the story by Mairghread Scott and John Barber slide back over the table to Scott for the actual writing of the issue - where does it fare, you might ask? Read on below to find out.
Scott does her usual dialogue wonders, playing with the different characters' voices throughout the text, and airing some of the hang-ons from previous stories, especially with Ironhide and Chromia (and the Tankors). Starscream seems to shine even more in his machinations, but it's the combiners that get a lot of the scene - and their fights are not just physical.
On the other hand, there are some concerning issues taking place in the book, mostly from either script mistakes or editorial oversights, not only very early on in the book (First Aid becoming Fix-It briefly, for example; a number of typos) - I'm not keen on pointing out minor slips by Scott or Guzman, but there are quite a few scattered throughout, which should be caught by the time the trade comes out.
Nonetheless, even with the rushed feeling of some of the pages of the issue, the dialogue works well and there are some sensationally silly, but fist-pumping moments in the fights between combiners - wth Devastator finally entering the main stage, and the introduction of even more to the mix - that just I mean I just go read them, they're bonkers, fun and twistedly light-hearted.
The artwork duties are still down to Livio Ramondelli, keeping the engine running for yet another issue of Combiner Wars - and there are some really good things being done for it. There are some great facial expression moments, the characters all get their needed gravitas, and Starscream is as pissed off as ever. There are even channellings of Sarah Stone's redeveloped design for some characters.
That there's a noice Ironhide
Much of the problems with this issue, unfortunately, also comes down to what the artwork doesn't do quite right. There are panels in which characters seem to switch for no apparent reason, especially among the Protectobots. Some of the Superion fight scenes have limbs appearing and reappearing without explanation or shown process, and when it's shown (in one panel/sequence) it takes a while to identify.
Your words, Prowl
The lettering, on the third hand, does not present any difficulties or confusing sequences as last issues, and actually, Tom B. Long has a lot of fun with sound effects during the fight scenes - the many fight scenes - and the multiple voices that Scott's script develops for the characters. The covers once again lack the Hasbro Marcelo Matere credit for the (thumbnailed) RI variant, but still deliver on their quality, with the truly menacing Devastator poster variant by Ramondelli, and the Casey Coller/Joana Lafuente Defensor spotlight.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
The smattering of mistakes in script and artwork unfortunately hinder the full enjoyment of this chapter of Combiner Wars, and gives it too much of a rushed feeling to satisfy long-time readers and invested fans. However, while they do distract, they do not take away from what it does really really well, in both writing and visuals, as I hope I've showed above.
What the issue works well with is the interactions, both verbal and physical, both aggressive and positive, and between Camiens and Cybertronians, Autobots and Decepticons and all the various cogs in the machine that is becoming the beginning of a new universe-wide ..well, universe. Glamorous assistant ScottyP aptly comments that this is an almost entry-level comic for people buying the new toys, and it does more than enough to hook people in for the longer ride.
We've seen multiple video reviews by now of wave 3 Combiner Wars figures such as Hot Spot, Rook, Cyclonus and several in-hand images of Streetwise - let's catch up on the latter with a video too, courtesy of Seibertron.com member optibotimus! Check out the embedded clip below, and let us know what you think of the Protectobot team member!
With the popularity of the newest Combiner Wars figures, we thought we would take an additional look at Combiner Wars Protectobots Hot Spot and Rook. For those who wanted to see the transformation for Hot Spot and Rooks' limb modes (which the last video reviews did not feature) can be rest assured that they are featured in these videos. Without further ado, check out video reviews for Hot Spot and Rook from Seibertron member Optibotimus.
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.
. ½ out of
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