Happy holidays Seibertronians! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Thursdays or just shrug and wave everything away, we hope you had, are having and will have a good one this season. Why not check out what Transtopia has had to offer in the past couple of weeks, as we get ready to enter 2015 with a ZOOM bang KABLAMMO? Head on below, transforming robot fans.
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ONCE A DECEPTICON! DRIFT’s past comes back to haunt him, as RATCHET tries to drag him back to the Lost Light. But alone on a far-off world, DRIFT’s honor demands he stand his ground!
You now, Drift - was Deadlock, but would rather not be reminded; was a Decepticon, see above; part of the Lost Light, then self-exiled; feels guilty about everything since pretty much forever, so heads off to be the Batman/Robin Hood of the galaxy. Why am I repeating this? We are not being allowed to forget what Drift's past is, nor his own guilt.
You tell him, Ratchet
In this second issue, though, what I am left wondering is - will the retreading of Shane McCarthy's initial pitch, with the layers of characterisation given to Drift since All Hail Megatron, actually lead to something other than unspoken guilt, unreasonable bravado and a penchant for lost causes?
Even Gigatron gets it
Don't get me wrong, there are some very good interactions in the issue, and some of characters have a fair deal of personal creation and minor development - but there is a constant feeling of something still missing in a series that is promising so much to start with, and already in the middle of its run.
I don't mind the dialogue, though I'd like to see more of it, and I like most of the characters that McCarthy is setting up in the miniseries, from the Stone whatevers to the Micromasters (mentioned in Windblade, too), the brief return of Turmoil and the magnificence of Gigatron. But it needs more to keep us in.
Now, the art is great. It was good, if not entirely apt, when the team of Guido Guidi and Steve Baskerville were working together on ReGeneration One, but it's really good in this contemporary setting - there's a sense of grit, chunky big hulks of rock in the designs of the blockier types of characters we've encountered, and that's before we even see a Stone Army.
Of course, the feeling of dust, dirt and stone would not be complete without the magnificently painted work of JP Bove. If the bulk of the rocky art comes from the pencils and inks, the layer of grit and sand is definitely in the colours. And it's tasty grit with crunchy bits thrown in for good measure, and great lighting as the icing on top.
..all the faces
And Tom B. Long gives us a double-whammy this week, by showing his fingers in the fonting, lettering and sounding of the pages of McCarthy's script, and giving some gravitas to the dialogue where needed. The two covers are also quite a thing to look at, dealing with the duality of Drift's character in the main Guidi/Josh Burcham one, and his conscience in the Alex Milne/Josh Perez variant (thumbnail).
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Much like its preceding issue, Empire of Stone is taking its time to really kickstart its proper plot, and might get on the bad side of some readers used to the tighter stories of the two current ongoings. The stories that are there don't have more than some references, but the characters' different voices ad their interactions can, for some, make up for it.
I am hopeful
On the visual side, we have a similar concentration of silent action sequences (and pretty good ones too) to the first issue in the miniseries, and probably something we should expect for the following two issues. Fortunately, the artistic team is magnificent at conveying the ruggedness of this side of the galaxy, and we can revel in the eye candy.
OUTLAWS! Before the war, Orion Pax was part of the Establishment—until a friend opened his eyes to the truth behind the lies and he vowed to overthrow the system. Now, it seems as if his newfound enemies are willing to go to any lengths to see him dead—even if it means waiting four million years...
Yup, definitely enemies (?)
You will probably remember what happened all the way back during the 2009-11 ongoing series, in particular the Chaos Theory arc that James Roberts co-wrote. You might also have in mind the continuation of that story in Shadowplay, the Shockwave/Orion Pax arc during the first season of MTMTE. If you do not, you probably want to brush up for issue 36, as Elegant Chaos continues the pre-war story.
Oh, and all of that, too
Though not exactly as we might all remember it so far (strange choice of words, I know, but you've seen what's been happening in MTMTE so fa r, right? The trousers of time have many legs, and several are unravelling at the same time). Time travel only muddles plotlines, by its own nature, and this issue is not exception.
Which, unfortunately, finds itself to come to standstill in the overall trajectory of the series post-Dark Cybertron. Don't get me wrong, the issue is a great read, fantastic interactions, good dialogue, characters and Whirl. Especially Whirl, in both his present and present-in-the-past situations, along with some amusing time-paradox musings.
But it doesn't really do much else, sadly. It reinforces old situations and concepts; it has a smirk-inducing conversation between two key players which is really a one-sided admission and reflection; it sets the stage, but only that smidge more than the last two-three issues, for Elegant Chaos. And I wanted it to do more.
As far as unintentional bottle episodes happen, however, the art brought to the issue by Alex Milne is a joy to behold - especially in its cranked up expressivity in both facial and body language, including some of the least likely to be able to do so (looking at you Whirl). On top of that, action sequences are magnificently laid out, with a proliferation of double-spreads and panels spanning multiple pages.
Whirl is BOOOOOOOOREEEEEEDDDD
Which are obviously but enhanced by Joana Lafuente's gorgeous colour approach, already from the very first panel of the very first page. And it just gets better from there, really, adding action to action, emotion to emotion, decoration to interiors, atmosphere to planets and making everything look just so good.
Tom B. Long and his lettering are not to be underestimated, either - and the title of the issue, and the arc, are an example of the font magic that man can do. The subtle sounds around the scene are also cleverly worked in, and never intrusive, but definitely still there. In terms of covers, we've seen the Alex Milne/Josh Perez Anniversary piece already, and the main one with juiced up Roller - check out the thumbnail for the moody Nick Roche/Burcham Orion Pax variant.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As I said above, the issue is not a bad read, a bad comic or a bad piece of writing. It just did not do what other issues playing around with time, or indeed, arcs in the Functionist plotlines have done previously, such as the wonderful Shadowplay. That is not to say that we may very well see this all play out fantastically as of next month or the forthcoming issues in general.
Roberts, you there?
From an artistic perspective, though, the book dazzles and deals a dizzying delight - not only because of some wonderfully executed double-spread pages, colours and composition, but as a general aid to extricate the intricacies of the potentially convoluted plot. Here's to you, visual storytelling. Make sure you track down a paper copy of this one.
DAYS OF DECEPTION! All-out war erupts on the streets of Tokyo when PROWL finally gets his hand on the one human he wants to get revenge on… and when PROWL gets revenge, it’s never pretty.
We left the Earth crew of Cybertronians, both sides, to deal with Blackrock and the, so far not entirely understood, Onyx Interface ramifications - while on the other side, Decepticons under Galvatron and Soundwave may or may not be involved with humans too, and Thundercracker is still mulling over what he saw a while back.
You weren't there man..
Linearity? Not really. But John Barber's writing, and pacing of the different sides of the storylines running through, are clear to follow, and the framing of the story in Thundercracker's dealings with Soundwave, and Prowl's official motives, are a very good introduction to everything going on, without anyone really telling us as readers what that actually is.
The rest of the issue works through bike chases, Bourne or Bond style dealings, some Terminator type of sequences and sees the return of the relationship between Prowl and Arcee, now that the latter is aware of something being very wrong with the bulked-up cop and his intentions towards Spike. Or whatever is wrong with Prowl in general.
Don't think that's it
Barber is continuing to seed both Combiner Wars and a longer game from what I can tell, tinkering with characterisation for the key players, reintroducing the human factor without dwelling too long on it, showing actual interplay between the different sides and characters. And it works, it really does work throughout the whole issue, and undoubtedly will continue.
With multiple storylines, the art was bound to playing around too, but the solution of having two distinct artist/colourist teams turned out to work even better than expected. Regulars Andrew Griffith and Josh Perez take the more-or-less main plot forward, with some fantastically executed action sequences, and great backgrounds - probably also thanks to Griffith's latest travels to Japan.
BIKECHASE with SASS
The Brendan Cahill and Joana Lafuente cooperation, however, is the big surprise in this issue. Looking after prologue, epilogue and flashbacks, the two conjure up a gorgeous sequence of panels, from storytelling, to linework, to colours to facial expressions - ranging from Buster to humans to Cybertronians alike, and it looks amazing.
The lettering, once more in the hands of Tom B. Long, adds to the already fantastic deployment of backgrounds and personal voices, with some simple and simply effective touches scattered throughout the story. To top it all off, there is an amazing collection of variant covers, from the Griffith/Perez Faireborn main one, Casey Coller and Lafuente taking over Spike and Prowl's connection (thumbnail), and a truly wonderful Alex Milne/Perez 30th Anniversary variant!
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
This was a very well-paced, nicely-framed action-packed espionage-cum-thriller science-fiction-y issue of a franchise known for its reluctance to fit into any genre box. John Barber continues to impress with his writing skills, and seems to have really found his writing stride after the Dark Cybertron event, keeping the mastery of sequential storytelling already there.
oads/1417023627_d7.jpg[/img][/url] And puns!
Visually, issue #36 is stunning. The scenes are well laid-out, Cahill and Griffith mesh exceedingly well together, and the presence of two colourists like Perez and Lafuente, who also combine so majestically just increases the enjoyment factor of the printed book. Days of Deception is not an arc to be missed.
You got TRANSFORMERS in my Angry Birds! No, you got Angry Birds in my TRANSFORMERS! ERGH, OOF, MPPHH!!! Hey! Waitaminit! This is actually pretty great! That’s right, comic lovers, two of your favorite IDW comics have morphed into one amazing new comic! When the TRANSFORMERS lose their powerful ALLSPARK, it ends up on Piggie Island and the world of Angry Birds turns robotic! Prepare to meet… the AUTOBIRDS and DECEPTIHOGS!
Philip K. Dick would be hogrified
Before time began, there was the egg. Or maybe it was the bird. The egg, or the bird, what came first..? In any case, there was an egg, and a green pig wanted to eat it. To eat all of them. As they do. Apparently. But the egg was also a cube, and the cube fell, rolled away, and became an egg. With the properties of a cube.
John Barber is having a lot of fun with the script here, letting puns rip every other panel, juggling multiple identities, continuities, storylines and characterisations that fans of the Transformers franchise of the past decade will recognise, and aiming for a fairly contemporary target (with some nods to older fans too).
Some things never change
There is very little one can do to spoil the issue, but I am not going to simply summarise the story of the comic, and I am actually quite glad something as light-hearted and - simply put - silly as this actually exists out there, reminding fans that kids are into our favourite robots too. And the transition page is really quite clever, verbally.
The comic uses Livio Ramondelli to introduce and frame the story as part of a spin-off universe of the Transformers, something based on modern iterations of the Cybertronians, from Bayverse to Rescue Bots and some added G1 highlights to please a bit of everyone. And it works.
The artists who will be gracing the pages of the series from here on, however, are a great addition to my knowledge of visual creators: Marcelo Ferreira has a great sense of visual humour, in facial expressions, character, dynamism and page layout - and the cartoon style art is perfectly apt in tone for the series.
No fowl play here
And of course, all of it catches the eye even more thanks to the wonderful colour work by Nikos Koutsis, making sure all characters jump off the page, vibrantly and energetically, and Chris Mowry's brilliant lettering work, letting himself really go on the fun aspect of the job. Plus, the comic comes with three fantastic covers, that further show off the glorious silliness of the crossover, with Ramondelli, Ferreira and Koutsis being joined by action-packed Jorge Pacheco's variant (thumbnail).
I don't believe anyone was expecting a masterpiece of storytelling or the new rising star of the comics medium, but the issue is a whole lotta fun, pleasingly funny, enjoyably silly and most importantly, never takes itself seriously - something that the IDW Transformers titles can sometimes fall victims of (though less so as series progress).
The art is also extremely refreshing, and the framing of the story by a Transformers regular sets the scene nicely for the very cartoony, series-appropriate Ferreira and Koutis approach to the illustration. The lettering is fun, the writing is fun, the issue is, overall a non-serious
We do realise we fall a little behind on keeping up the Creative Round-Up work, but lives outside of Seibertron can become heavy and busy. Nonetheless, with December just kicking off, here's the latest gathering of all the Transtopia productions in November! (Regular schedule returning soon, too.)
Days of Deception begins with… PEACE AND HAPPINESS! To be honest, there's not much we can say about this issue without giving away the life-changing events of last issue. What we can say is this: everything’s fine. There’s no conflict, no sadness, no angst. Why is this a problem?
Timelines have met each other and collapsed. Old friends and lovers are reunited, though something is obviously not quite right yet. Other friends and allies have revealed a different set of colours entirely. And as we explored some of the past events last issue, we delve once more in the days before the Decepticons were a thing - or do we?
Ah, good old days
James Roberts' script is heavy. This is an issue that will require time to spend on reading, rather than a quick skim-through. The play on the different time settings is clearly marked, and cleverly linked, though that is not the critical part of the connection between the two, as what they have in common may in fact be diverging once more, but further away than expected.
Megs channelling Roberts (and readers)
While in the present Megatron finally had a bit of a breakdown aboard the Lost Light, as the rest of the crew investigate Brainstorm's doings (and part of the yellow briefcase's secrets are sorta kinda revealed!), the past sees Rewind and Minimus Ambus dealing with Functionists, and the cunning and seditious Dominus Ambus himself.
Understatement of the Year
Does something feel off yet? It seems like something is a little off. No? Make sure you read *everything* that takes place in the issue, as details are constantly changing, for what seems to be a very good reason indeed in the grand scheme of things, and the upcoming Elegant Chaos event in particular, for which this issue a prelude of sorts.
Alex Milne and Brian Shearer, with the latter helping on inking duties, have some great visual fun, despite everything happening in the script as it already is. A lot of Unicron Trilogy body types have been spotted, without being subtle at all, already in the first couple of pages, and there may be a reason for all of it being there after all. Though character design does not stop at that, with some twisted ..er.. twists elsewhere, too.
Plus a Dredd Bot
On top of the busy script and busy backgrounds, colourist Joana Lafuente clearly had a busy time coordinating all the multiples of the same type of Cybertronian, yet marking them as individual entities (much to the ruling classes' disappointment, one might guess). I am very impressed at the result, especially with the final product in hand.
Tom B. Long keeps on keeping on with the fantastic letter work, making sure to maintain the space that Roberts does not leave to the art, and . The issue also comes with an excellent array of variant covers, on top of the ominous Milne/Josh Perez main one. In the thumbnail is the eerily appropriate Nick Roche/Josh Burcham Functionist, and make sure to keep an eye out for the Andrew Griffith 30th Anniversary special incentive art, too.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
It's mind-bendy, it's space-bendy, it's time-bendy - it just pushes the envelope and watches it bend for most of the plotlines being teased up to this point, and some intriguing social commentary to boot. Out of all of this week's releases, this is the most dense and emotionally compromising, without any doubt, so be warned before you dive into it.
Everything is fine
We vaguely know what has happened with the Functionist Council in the past. We've seen something of Brainstorm's character so far. We know what Rewind used to do in the days of Dominus Ambus, and the House of Ambus overall - be ready to have all of that questioned. Again. And again. Elegant Chaos is here.
DRIFT RETURNS! Last year, TRANSFORMERS readers were shocked when DRIFT left the AUTOBOTS in disgrace… and now he’s alone, on a mission to clean up the darkest depths of the galaxy—until RATCHET shows up to try to bring him home!
Imagine: you're an ex Decepticon, who used to kill people for fun. Then you grew a conscience. So you traded guns for swords (that famous instrument of peace). Then you grew a bit too much of a conscience, and tried burying guilt beneath it and a veil of reborn spiritualism - and by ways of redemption, take the blame for something you didn't actually do, and are exiled. That's where we are with Drift, as Empire of Stone begins.
It's been some time since we saw him in action, other than flashbacks, and readers have been wary of the return of a character who has been fairly marmite-esque (that's British for divisive). What we find with this first issue back in Shane McCarthy's hands, is thankfully not a return to the character when he first introduced it, though some will complain it can feel that way in places.
Compared to other Transformers comics coming out this week, Empire of Stone is a lot slower in terms of narrative, though it does stand up quite well with the dialogue, and the chemistry between sulky Drift and grumpy Ratchet works nicely. And, as a set-up/catch-up issue, it does what it has to do without wandering too much around.
Honestly, these guys
However, that's about it so far. It's not a bad comic, the story can go in a very interesting direction with the next three issues, and Empire of Stone is a catchy enough title for a popular enough character like Drift - but I can see how it might not be on everyone's immediate buying list as yet. Still.. read on.
The art team is really where the book, much like ReGeneration One before it, will gain traction with potential readers. Guido Guidi's linework and Stephen Baskerville's inking are a great combination, and the action sequences are very well choreographed, with the sword element added to the fights gives space to Guidi's art to play around with the space of and around the panels.
Also back from the ReGen team is colourist JP Bove, doing an amazingly dusty and gritty (in the soil, dirt sense) job of the patina covering some otherwise quite flamboyant roboformers. I will never tire of looking at Guidi backgrounds filled in with Bove's technicolour magic, and there are some excellent sets in the issue.
Drift in spaaaaaace
Unfortunately, the review copy does not fully credit the letterer or editors for the issue, and has some general technical difficulties in the credit page layouts - nonetheless, The Unknown Letterer's work is, while very very subtle, pleasingly appropriate, keeping dialogue in place and a limited amount of background noise. As for the covers, we've seen all of them by now throughout the last couple of months, from the Alex Milne/Josh Perez one to the multiple Guidi variants (including the thumbnail one).
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As a first issue, and as I mentioned above, Drift: Empire of Stone #1 is a harmless, easily paced, fairly well-dialogued and definitely good looking book, preparing a stage that so far has very little impact on the wider universe of the Transformers, but according to solicits may change everything - again.
Is it? Is it really?
It does little more than that, however, other than re-establishing the at times quite moving relationship between Ratchet and Drift, and hopefully diving into more of Drift's story from this point onwards, as well as the presence of the Cybertronians we do find in the issue. Needless to say, I remain hopeful.
Days of Deception Or: Setting Up The Chess Board (Spoiler free-ish, for the first few parts)
Days of Deception begins! PROWL and the CONSTRUCTICONS hunt the world's deadliest game-three humans with a history of fighting CYBERTRONIANS! Lines are drawn as human and machine alike are drawn into-the ONYX INTERFACE!
But does it know why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch?
When we last left Robots in Disguise, a history lesson from Alpha Trion had concluded, with Optimus Prime wondering just what, if anything, out of what was learned that he should keep as a secret to the rest of his crew. Transformers #35 drops the subtitle and picks right up where we left off, and we check in with some old human "friends".
The pink helps out with camouflage when he takes his 12 year old sister to the mall
Of course, Prime and his crew are keeping a close watch on the humans, given their recent alliances with Galvatron's earthbound Decepticon crew. The interactions between Prime and the various crew members, and between said crew members themselves, continues the subtle but deeper-by-the-issue characterization that's been prevalent in the past several issues of Robots in Disguise that was sorely lacking in the book's earlier days.
Still so sassy!
Barber's tone indeed keeps up with what we've seen out of the past several months, injecting humor where needed and the right amount of snark (or lack thereof) in certain characters. You may also be surprised to see some returning faces not seen since Dark Cybertron, but then you'd look like a fool. Transformers is, after all, written by John "Continuity" Barber himself, and in his world, characters don't just exist to sell toys. At least, not in the long haul.
Even Galvatron's got jokes these days
By the end of the issue, pieces are in place for verbs to start happening. However, in typical Transformers style, you'll be left hanging for another month to find out just what those verbs are.
This issue features regular Transformers artist Andrew Griffith, colors by Josh Perez, and lettering by Tom Long. Unlike our esteemed comics editor Va'al, I'm not a great art critic, technically speaking. That said, I enjoyed the contrast of styles between the human-focused scenes vs. the scenes with our robotic cast. The sharp lines and vibrant colors of the Cybertronian crew are in distinct contrast to the almost mushy look of the human characters. The monochrome toned clothing featured on them throughout (at least mostly) helps with this as well.
So you think KFC is still open?
If I had to nitpick one thing with the art, it's that the humans aren't always the most convincing looking. Some of them feel a little rushed. Let's be honest though, if any of us were working on a comic book about Transformers, we'd probably rush through the pencils and ink on the human cast as well. Of course this isn't a blanket statement by any means, as Griffith shows that he can not only convey emotion through our favorite giant alien robots, but through the faces of good 'ol humans as well.
Thoughts Full blown spoilers ahead
No really, full on spoilers below. This is your last warning.
This issue is very much a case of a fact that impatient readers lament on a regular basis - to play a game of chess, you have to get the board set up correctly first. While this may just be a game that leads to another game, that "another game" being Combiner Wars, it's one that ought to be played. Plot points left dangling at the end of the Costa run, and even by the transition into All Hail Megatron, may finally get addressed. At the very least, we know what's going on with Jimmy Pink and what his motivations are for siding with that darn dastardly Spike.
What a gang of pals.
By the end of the issue, we've got Prime and Soundwave moving into their places, Galvatron setting some of his plans into motion, and human characters doing things. That's really all I can say to that story arc so far, they're just doing stuff. It's very cool to see Prowl and his friends start their pursuit of That One Guy that probably deserves to be stomped by a 'bot boot, but something about this human plot feels like it's been inserted just to wrap up some old plot lines and lead the main characters to their Macguffin for the next trade paperback. I don't actually hope to be wrong on that, which may be part of what frames my opinion there. Earth based stories in Transformers are cool when they focus on Transformers with the humans as a sideshow, character building device, or symbolic element. This succeeds in that so far, so I can forgive simpler details on why said humans are doing what they're doing.
Counterpunch sent me a movie that started like this once
Also, for all the great stuff going on with Prowl, there are some hints that - get this - something's manipulating his mind. If that seems familiar, well, it should. We've seen that movie and we know how it ends. I'm hoping there's some fun and creative end game that these hints are going to lead to. The shades of grey that Prowl demonstrates, along with his foil in More Than Meets The Eye in Megatron, has been a great thing to witness and hopefully this creative team avoids going into full blown Cerebro-shell gimmick land this time. His interactions with Optimus Prime in the past handful of issues have been something to remember and didn't feel cheap, so here's to hoping that they don't end up that way in retrospect.
Me too, little buddy
It'd be hard to give this issue any kind of "right around average" score. Scores are a bit silly anyway on totally subjective reviews such as this. While I certainly have some fears for the future after reading it, these also may be totally unfounded. The actual content is very enjoyable, and if you've been reading Robots in Disguise you can't afford to miss out on Transformers #35 simply due to the amount of set up that happens.
That said, this is part one of something bigger, and it certainly feels that way. It does its job well in that regard, but if you're looking for some pay off, this month is not the time you're going to get that satisfaction. I recommend this as part of a whole, though if you haven't been keeping up and don't intend to, this is a hard one to recommend to a casual Transformers comics reader.
. out of
For the regular IDW reader, this shouldn't be missed
. out of
For the occasional reader, this is just a poke above average
Good mourning, boils and ghouls, and welcome to this month's first Creative Roundup on Seibertron.com - and a look at some fangtastic work from the Transtopia section of the boards, from zombies to Zombees, to war torn vets, dark awakenings, horrible mutations and chilling tales of robots. All below, all in one handy post for your convenience. OOoOoooOOOOOoOoooooo...
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