With the end of the IDW Transformers: Prime - Beast Hunters comic series upon us, Seibertron.com has decided to sit down and talk to one of its creative team members, and in some ways, the face of it all: read on below for a full exclusive interview with cover, storyboard, videogame and concept artist Ken Christiansen!
Va'al - Ken, thanks for agreeing to do this. We've featured some of your work before on Seibertron.com, it's about time we got to meet the mind and man behind the artwork! Before we get into the nitty-gritty of your work with Transformers though, I need to ask: where did it all begin for you? How did you first encounter our favourite transforming robots?
KC - Well, thanks for having me! I really appreciate it when you guys post anything about my work, I've been a follower of the site for years.
The show was everything. It was the first episode which sucked me right in - I don't even remember the first figure I had, but I know it was the show that put me all in. I was 10 years old at the time of the launch, and I had slowed down on Star Wars, and was really into GI Joe toys and comics, with He-Man in the mix as well. But Transformers really took over, and knocked even the mighty Joes back a step.
Va'al - Ah, you're one of those! I admit, I like knowing that the current creators all started as fans, brings a lot more to the experience. I was going to ask which figure was your first, but you pre-empted me - so how about this: which was your favourite character or episode from the animated series?
KC - G1 Soundwave, is...and always will be...my favorite character. And he is an early toy I do remember getting, on a Christmas morning. Of course I loved his voice, and how he was Megatron's dependable commander, but the fact he had Transformers INSIDE of him really captured my imagination. And I really liked that, unlike a lot of the figures, he matched up pretty well to the box art, and animation model. I was a stickler for that kind of thing, even back then. Also, I always thought it was cool how he used Laserbeak and Ravage on the show, so they've become synonymous with any vision of Soundwave I have, I always want to try to figure out a way to include them in a figure pose, or a drawing/design I'm working on. (I figure Rumble and Frenzy can take care of themselves!)
Va'al - I think a lot of fans have a soft spot for Soundwave; he is terribly charismatic after all. You've mentioned your gateway, the toys and what it was that drew you in - but what about the artistic side? Did you read the comics as a kid, or did you start drawing based on box art and cartoons?
KC - I'll admit that I didn't really enjoy the comics, even though I still have the first 60 or so issues to this day - but yes, I did really enjoy the artwork. I loved the show and the toys, but I was always just lukewarm on the comics. That being said, I did probably draw most artistic inspiration from the comics, I remember drawing that cover corner Marvel Optimus Prime a lot. A lot. Another favorite image from those books was the reveal of Predaking, standing in a jungle. I drew that one a lot as well.
The box art images were another inspiration; I didn't have a massive collection by any means, but I did collect the trading cards, so even if I didn't have the toy and/or filecard, I did have nearly every character image from the cards. We had a project in the 4th or 5th Grade, where we wrote a story, and bound it into a book. Mine, of course, was about Autobots fighting Decepticons, carried into battle by the rocket of Omega Supreme. I designed characters back then too, usually military type vehicles, or cars that friends and family drove. I still have that little book, but I'm sure all those other drawings are long gone.
Va'al - That's some great, early KC art there. Must be worth a fortune by now! So if the comics didn't get to you as much back then, what brought you to their world later on? But I suppose, before we get to that, my question is: How did you start working for the franchise in general?
KC - I had been working freelance for about a year after leaving Disney Interactive, and I had just wrapped a series of projects for Activision in late 2005. One of the producers I had been working with asked "Hey, are you into Transformers at all?" I had heard, as did many other fans, that it was being shopped around as a movie, but I didn't know was finally happening, and Activision wanted to go after the franchise. The projects I had just finished were to lock down the Dreamworks games license for the next five or so movies, showing game play, etc. and this was going to be the same thing. Lots of storyboards and game play examples. But it just kept going and going, and it turned into character designs, and in-game production art - I was around for a lot of it, from the very beginning to helping out with marketing images.
The Transformers were a huge part of my childhood, and though I hadn't really followed the franchise overall since then, I did already have the 20th Anniversary MP Optimus Prime, and the Alternator Grimlock Mustang proudly displayed in my studio. Getting the chance to work on the franchise as a professional, really kind of blew my mind. And midway through the production, Hasbro said they were going to make some figures out of my designs... I kind of freaked out.
Va'al - That must be quite the phonecall/email! I've spotted some of the designs that made it into figures on your website - do you have any particular favourites? Which part of working with the new, movieverse, Transformers aesthetics did you enjoy the most?
KC - I was pretty honored that Hasbro/Paramount used the red car drone (AKA Swindle) in the press kits for the film. Of the drones, I think Payload (Armored Truck) and Long Arm (Tow Truck) are my favorites. Long Arm was originally to be an homage to Hoist, colored green and yellow, but was later changed to be the tow truck paint job from the film. I was glad to see the mold reused as a Hoist figure. All of those designs were done based on rough concepts I had seen at the production offices in early 2006. Not until late summer, a bit after I had wrapped on the drone characters, did I start to see marketing images and final movie models start showing up, and that's when I was tasked to do the Shockwave designs. So, that's why he's a little more in line with the film aesthetic - he's not a generic, energon created drone, he was meant to be a Cybertronian, and look more like the movie bots.
While I agreed with the design philosophy from the first movie, I thought that the bots should have shown a little more alt mode elements, so you can really see the connection between forms. With Shockwave I tried to bring it back a little bit to that, with clear iconic character details, and visible alt mode elements. And that's the design philosophy I took into my next Transformers project, the Revenge of the Fallen game.
Va'al - Those are good designs! And that Shockwave looks intriguing, but it looks like DotM Skyhammer took his mode later down the line. How did you find working with videogames, compared to the work you're currently doing on comic covers? And how did that transition happen?
KC - Maybe. To me, the transformation logic is totally different., around the canopy and fuselage. But I did work a bit on the alt mode of the Skyhammer toy, and was given direction to use a Russian Hind for inspiration, but I didn't work on the robot mode. I did three copter drawings, and when the toy came out, it looked like the designers used elements of all three.
I'm not a gamer, but when I'm into a game I like, I kind of get obsessed with it. I thought Luxoflux did a fantastic job with the gameplay of the Revenge game - especially given the short production time, notorious with movie tie-in games - and was really excited to see how they would build on the engine. Sadly, none of that was meant to be. It was the first time I felt that someone captured the essence of a Transformer, being both things at once. I know some people had issues with holding down the trigger, but I much preferred that, to the 'sit and wait to transform' style of other games. My entire career to that point was in the game industry. But after doing the games for so long, I was looking to expand out a little, I wanted to see if I could work directly with IDW and Hasbro.
I took the designs of Megatron, Optimus, and Starscream, from the DLC content of the Revenge game, and did full illustrations of them in comic cover format. I included Bumblebee, Jazz, and Soundwave designs, and pitched myself to Andy Schmidt at IDW, and for a meet up with Aaron Archer at BotCon 2009.
For IDW, Andy had me do the cover to the much-loved, revered, and indisputably go-to source of information, the Transformers: Continuum. Yikes, that one was a bit of a mess, I guess. I never kept up on the IDW relationship, maybe both sides needed that sting to heal a little. And I just got too busy following that meeting with Aaron to come back to the books. Years later, I met John Barber at BotCon 2012, and that's how I got involved with the Rage of the Dinobots and Beast Hunters covers.
Va'al - Ah, the IDW Aligned comics! As an artist who had worked on the movieverse and videogame aesthetics - though WfC and FoC are also part of the new continuity - how did you find adjusting to the sleeker, more rounded style of the two series? And how much were you involved in the series themselves?
KC - Well, doing a wide range of shape styles for what was then called 'tv show' was that first assignment I had from Archer at Hasbro, in 2009, as they were putting the studio together, and hiring the actual production team. I would call myself a concept artist before anything else, so something like coming up with new character designs/versions is what I like to do best. And then about a year later, I worked on some product ideas for the Prime line. At that point, I was working with final character design models from the production's art department. And, every once and awhile I would do some product development, or I was asked to do some character ideas for HasLabs to use as conversation starters for meetings with the show runners. So before the comics, I had a lot of experience working with the shows' aesthetic. I never was a part of the production of the actual show, with Hasbro Studios, but through Hasbro, Inc., I got to play in that universe a bit.
The Cybertron games, on the other hand, I had no experience with the art style. So that was the learning curve for me. I was asked to 'update' the FoC dinobots into a Prime style, with a heavy lean on the FoC style...visually meaning they didn't 'evolve' as much as Team Prime, for example. So I just eliminated some minor details from the FoC versions, and did a 'wrap metal' pass, in the Prime style, at the main form elements of the bots. John Barber OK'd the sketch of Grimlock I did as an example, and I was off and running.
I had nothing to do with what was inside the books; in most cases, I don't think any of the scripts were even completely written at the time I needed to have the cover done, about three months in advance. I'm sure an overview and series arc were long completed though. Barber, then Carlos Guzman, would give me their idea on what was going on in the book, and what they'd like to see on the cover. I'd do some sketches and we'd go from there. I met Mairghread Scott for the first time at BotCon 2013, and we chatted about what was coming up in #7, we pulled Carlos into the conversation, and I did a sketch of it right there at my table. For number 8, Carlos and I chatted at SDCC, and he told me what he was looking for, and Mike Johnson, through email, pretty much said what he'd like to see on the cover. I did those last sketches for Carlos to approve, and that wrapped the series when I turned in the final.
It was a lot of fun to do those covers. I loved the Fall of Cybertron game, so it was a real treat to get to draw those characters, and get reconnected with IDW.
Va'al - I always enjoy hearing stories of how creators come to join the IDW team, they never seem to be the same! So you were working on the comics covers, but still had quite a bit of involvement in other aspects of the Transformers universe. I've seen some designs for characters that never made it on the show, too. What were you doing between the comics? How were you being kept busy?
KC - Relatively, I'm a newbie to comics, with only 13 IDW covers to date. Concept art is my main source of income, since graduating from art school in 1997. Happily, now at least half my workload comes from Hasbro, covering many different brands. Mainly in that first year, it started off with early re-imaginings of core Transformers characters, mixed with some work on Dark of the Moon ideas, and then going back to work on designs for the 13 Primes, and filling out the brand bible, which had used a lot of that earlier character design work, done by myself and other great artists.
After that, HasLabs expanded into a lot of other brands and concepts, that kept me really busy, MASK, Inhumanoids, Micronauts, to name a few. Some of those ideas were teased in that NYCC giveaway comic, Unit:E, if you remember it. And as other designers move to other brands within Hasbro, I've been able to 'travel' with them, and do lot of work on stuff like Star Wars, etc. Always though, I try to stay connected to the big bots, with doing some Hasbro Inc. commissioned work, movie/tv show stuff or product design for example, or licensed work with IDW, and other publishers.
Va'al - So what you're telling us is.. you're everywhere! And we know that some of your art features in the upcoming Covenant of Primus - the result of all the concept work for the Aligned continuity - due early December. Anything you can tell us about that?
KC - Now everyone finally can see it! After years of working with Hasbro off and on, I've only been able to release a grand total of 8 Transformers images. Including Prima, of the 13, which was published previously in the Transformers: Vault. I'm so excited to see the rest of the designs coming out, along with some new art I was asked to contribute, alongside some other great Transformers artists.
Binder of Revelation - Art by Emiliano Santalucia
After working six or so months with Hasbro, they booked me to do four of the 13 Primes. By then I had a pretty good feel of what Aaron Archer was looking for from me, and I had gotten pretty tight with Eric Siebenaler who acted as my art director on previous projects. I was also then introduced to Rik Alvarez, who had sent me a giant document to work from, that he was putting together. A compiled history from the comics and games, and new stuff he had written - basically the bones of the Aligned Continuity. So, under those guys, I went to work. 4 became 6, then 8, then Eric asked if I wanted to do all 13. Of course! But then Takara chimed in, and they wanted to do some images, and they took over the designs of Micronus and Alpha Trion. So I ended up doing 11...and a second version of one of them.
I had never really heard much about it since then, other than Aaron and Rik teased some images at a couple of BotCons, but I really thought they would remain in the vault, the Brand Bible. Last November, I got an email from Tyler Freidenrich from Becker&Mayer, asking if I could do some illustrations for what would be the Covenant. I jumped at the chance, and got to contribute 7 illustrations, a new character design for Unicron, and the cover. And that's about all I can tell you about it. I know what I did, but I've only seen the same trailer for it as everyone else. I was asked to upload every Hasbro image I did related to the Aligned Continuity, beyond just the Primes, but I don't what, if anything more, was included in the book.
So, I'm just as excited as any other fan to see what's in there!
Va'al - I can assure you, a lot of us are really, really excited for this book. I'm not sure what else could hype it up more.. do you have any ideas?
KC - That's great to hear! Hmm...how about a contest for a free copy of the book? On my Facebook page, the Art of Ken Christiansen, I'll be running a 'Like Drive' contest. Participants enter their names into a drawing by making a comment in the page's Cover Photo comments section, saying they shared the page to at least five people. That Cover Photo, (containing all the contest info) signaling the beginning of the contest, will be posted on Monday, November 25th, at 9 AM PST, and ending Sunday, December 8th at midnight PST.
Monday, December 9th, (the day before the book is released) I'll draw the winning name, and announce it by 9 AM PST. That winner will receive a free copy of the Covenant of Primus... AND, I'll insert a custom black and white rendered portrait, of any character of their choosing.
Va'al - Hear that, readers? Head over to Ken's page for a chance to win what looks to be an amazing piece of Transformers lore. Ken, thanks again for agreeing to do this interview with us, we're looking forward to more of your amazing work soon! Any last words?
KC - Thank you - I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!
I do have a couple more things to add. I also put together a new website, kenchristiansen.com, which replaces to old site, badflip.com. Finally I have galleries collecting all the Transformers (and more!) work that I've done, in one easy to find place, rather than have to search through months and years of blog posts on the old Bad Flip Blog. I will keep that blog online, but it will go inactive. The new site has a blog built in, so that's how I'll continue, along with the Facebook page, to make announcements, and post new artwork. And once it's ready, there will also be a online store, to purchase original art, make commission inquiries, and get leftover convention prints and sketchbooks. It's coming very soon, but right now the only way to get that stuff is through the Art of Ken Christiansen on Facebook, or contact me at email@example.com.
There you have it, readers - we hope you enjoyed our voyage into the Christiansen world! Join the competition today, follow Ken's work and keep your eyes tuned for more exclusive content, coming soon, to Seibertron.com.
THE DEAD UNIVERSE! ORION PAX—the ’bot who was once OPTIMUS PRIME—joins RODIMUS and the crew of the Lost Light in a desperate bid to outmaneuver SHOCKWAVE—by returning to the legendary Dead Universe! Meanwhile, BUMBLEBEE faces down the biggest—literally biggest—threat he’s ever seen on CYBERTRON!
After the setting up and minor reveals in DC#1, it's time to get things going. But first - We get another brief 'Previously' page, which while nice (and bit melodramatic), did not feel as necessary this time round. We'll see if it becomes customary, and if it overstays its welcome in the next issues. The Roll Call page was nice, on the other hand, even if just to convey a sense of the cast, and its major players.
Drama! Excitement! Exclamation marks!
While Bumblebee/Goldbugfire and the Auto/Dinobots stand around on Cybertron not doing much, Orion Pax and his crew now aboard the Lost Light concoct their plan to approach the Dead Universe, to which we've been introduced for so long now it feels like that relative you always dread at family reunions - though Brainstorm seems fascinated by it.
Unsurprisingly, to be fair
It seems as though the dialogue has picked up again, and it may or may not be more of Roberts' words than Barber's this time round. But it does feel welcome. The two writers manage to approach the characters of Orion and Starscream in a good, more nuanced way, giving us a better look at what might be happening below the surface.
..that also works
It is gaining some momentum, and we're developing a much better sense of what is at stake and what may happen, with the focus shifting to other characters than the ones we're all execting (though I worry about falling back onto the same ones eventually) - but I feel it'll work a lot better in TPB format than as a single issue.
Now, the artwork. I'm having some trouble making my mind up about this. I welcome the introduction of new names into the franchise, and it's good to see variation between different styles. But having three artists (Raiz, Rojo and Ramondelli) with very different styles in the same story does not convince me as much. They all do an impressive job, though Rojo's faces can seem a little off in proportion, but I feel as though Raiz and Rojo could've been swapped, with the latter on the Lost Light and the former, darker style, on Cybertron.
Though that is a gloriously dark Starscream
The colours, however, are Perez' usual goodness. They play really well with the sources of light and shadows in the panels, and the two different art-styles, without jarring with Raiz' darker or Rojo's lighter lines. Ramondelli, as usual, colours his own art, and does an equally good job in terms of tone and mood setting. The new letterer, Gilberto Lazcano, is intriguingly light-touched, and I would like to see more from him in the future.
Red meets orange, in dim light
The three styles work by themselves, with some shining moments for each, but I have a hard time deciding whether I like their juxtaposition or not. I have nothing to complain about the colours, and even though I chose not to show any Ramondelli images in the review, his work is good and definitely well suited to the tone of that part of the story. The cover by EJ Su is also excellent!
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
The story seems to be gaining its ground, and seeding some future plot elements nicely. It still reads as a bit jumbled though, even if just because of the sheer scale of the cast and settings for the action to take place. I'm fully confident, though, that by next month, once this and RID have had a chance to settle, we'll be back to the usual, expected greatness.
There's a prophecy with PUNS!
The confusion is not entirely helped out by having so many artists work on different parts; even if it does make clear where we are, the styles don't always work with the tone. The colours, on the other hand, always suit the style. I am curious to see what will happen as this goes on, and if it is to be the new standard to differentiate settings.
With Cybertron reborn, the Dinobots have made their way to the surface. But now, the war has returned and the Dinobots are caught in the maelstrom. With old allies joining the battle, can the Dinobots take back Cybertron?
We've seen this before..
One issue left till the end of the series, and Mike Johnson has finally upped his writing game. Following directly from Mairghread's Scott arc from the previous two issues, we step right in where we left, with the Dinobots, Chromia and the other survivors back on the surface.. waiting for something to happen, apparently.
We get a much better look at Chromia and some of the other secondary characters, like Zoom, Firestar and the background nameless ones we encountered in the series so far. There isn't that much in terms of actual characterisation, but we do get some nice shots (both artistically and personality-wise) of the minor cast.
Decisive Chromia takes charge
Johnson has a much better sense of dialogue and narration in this issue, uses captions very sparely and gives some good directions for the story to tie up with the events of Prime: Beast Hunters and Predacons Rising. We might even see something bigger by the next issue, I suspect.
It's nice to finally see the series gain proper speed, but it's disappointing that it's so late in the game, with only one issue left before its end. It would've been nice to span a bit more around the cast, including more page-time for Chromia, Firestar, Zoom and even Blackout. And I'm not sure if this is Guzman on editing or Johnson on writing, but there's a glaring mistype on the final page that made my English grad self wince.
Agustin Padilla works alone this time, and still manages to keep his style a lot cleaner that earlier issues. There are some strange proportion issue later on in the comic, mostly to due with character's facial expressions, as has happened previously with Padilla's linework. But overall, I have very little to complain about. Some great panel-work as well, especially with the more action-packed scenes.
A dark tone, you say?
Priscilla Tramontano is still on colours, and she really does play around with the tonal contrasts. The colouring really suits the style of the story, and you still get a much lighter look when the surface of the planet is concerned (stars! skies!). Tom B. Long seems to have toned down the lettering in recent issues, but it makes a comeback in this one, with some excellently executed speechbubble sounds.
SHKOWs, SHKOWs everywhere
What could have been a very hard to make out issue in terms of dynamic panels, action scenes, fights and a lot of bot bashing actually turned out to be fairly clear to follow, with clean cut shapes where needed and good colouring assist, though there are some dips in the work this time round.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
A much better blend of action and narration, possibly also due to Johnson not using the caption monologue as much. The issue is still not as engaging as the series started out to be, but it's definitely building up quite a bit to its end, next month, and fans of the animated series will enjoy some plot points in this one.
The high number of fight scenes may have made the comic hard to follow, had the artistic team not done such a good job between well-defined linework and colours, separating background and foreground nicely. Really looking forward to the next, though sad it has finally gained momentum so close to its end.
THE END OF EVERYTHING! SHOCKWAVE makes a move millions of years in the planning—an ultimate plan to remake Cybertron and destroy both the Autobots and Decepticons! Bringing together the casts of the hit MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE and ROBOTS IN DISGUISE for the first time in two years!
It begins, again. After endless teasing, the two wordsmiths get together and concoct their galactic goulash. For the first time since Death of Optimus Prime, John Barber and James Robert reunite to set the stage to their Dark Cybertron event, crossing over both RID and MTMTE titles - and a lot more.
The 'Previously' section was a nice touch, I admit, re-using panels from previous issues spanning the two series up to now, and helping to bring readers back up to speed after the various character-focused RID stories slowing the pace. The 'Prologue', seen previously, is also still really good, though it messes up some previously established continuity.
He's almost swoon-worthy..
There is story advancement of course, but a lot of it almost gets lost in gathering the plotlines and making sure everything lines up together. Starscream is pretty glorious/fabulous, but doesn't do much; Optimus Prime Orion Pax keeps being misnamed and is troubled with recapping and exposition, and feels a little out place.
I'll just sit here and brood, sagely
As a set-up issue, it does what it has to. The expanded cast are all a bit corollary, and feel as though they're dragged in to remind us they're all involved. Some of the dialogue seems a little off, too, but I'm definitely curious to see were all this leads to - especially thanks to the final four pages.
The artwork is superb. From Brendan Cahill's Prologue, to cameos by Livio Ramondelli and Andrew Griffith in Previously, Phil Jimenez' layouts are gorgeously finished off by Griffith's own approach, and the result is stunning. Plus, there are plenty of splash pages and double-page spreads for everyone's eyes to be dazzled.
I mean, come on!
Add the colours to the already amazing mixture, and sparks fly. JP Bove's skills shine with Cahill's style in the Prologue, and Josh Perez does some ridiculously splendid stuff on the interiors - watch out for the multiple skies. Tom B. Long on lettering delivers once more, playing with some established techniques used in both MTMTE and Monstrosity.
Something BIG is coming
The final effect is reminds me of a Peter Jackson or James Cameron film, with stunning visuals, dazzling effects, wide-sweeping mouth-watering eye-candy. Nice to see Jimenez on some Cybertronian work, and Griffith and Perez really do help his style. It's a gorgeous book, if a little thin on story.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As the first issue, preparing everything that's to come (including the actual not-so-subtle hints in the book) it's not bad - but it's not amazing either. It's a decent read, bringing back some plotlines that were almost abandoned, and merging them more or less successfully. Definitely want to read more, but mostly because of what this issue lacked in.
Oh, the dialogue
On the other hand, I loved the multiple hands working on the artwork, from pencils to colours via finishes and letters. There are some amazing splash pages and spreads, and I enjoyed the differences between the prologue and the main story. Here's to the beginning of a long, dark winter - let's hope it picks up from here.
SOUNDWAVES! The origin of SOUNDWAVE concludes as the master of sound confronts SHOCKWAVE in the ruins of Cybertron! Will they be friend—or foe? Will the DECEPTICONS stand with SHOCKWAVE—or will they join the AUTOBOTS? It’s the moment of ultimate choice.
Er.. a hint?
Almost there. This issue finally marks the end of the long-winded, at times dragged out, pulled along, kicking and screaming prelude to the big event - Dark Cybertron. John Barber takes his time a little longer to give us more of a look at two (well, several) of the key players.
A big happy family, really
Continuing almost seamlessly and effortlessly from last month's story, issue 22 dives right back into Soundwave's story, weaving together his past with his present, his rise in Megatron's crew and his now questioning of Shockwave, whom we come to realise he never actually trusted all that much.
The early years
It's not just talk, as a lot of action takes place between the different characters, with some excellent fight scenes between Shockwave and Soundwave and their respective minions. But the real pulp of the story is Soundwave's own development. Barber has really pulled out all the writing pens on this one, just as Roberts did with Shockwave.
Yep, he's making it up
In a highly personally enjoyable Memento-with-literary-moments story, one of the most inconic characters in the franchise has finally been given a good, meaty backstory that you can sink your teeth in, revealing a whole new side to him. Top notch, I say.
As with the previous one, Andrew Griffith and Livio Ramondelli alternate art duties, with the former focusing on the present and the latter working on flashbacks from the past. Some readers have complained about the stark contrast, but personally I adored the transitions, and how the script linked them.
Or you know, a couple of months
Colour duties fall again to Priscilla Tramontano for Griffith's linework, and boy does she keep on giving. Especially compared to Ramondelli's smokey work (though still fantastic) for the flashbacks, Tramontano's work in the present is crisp, glossy and pleasure to look at.
LOOK AT IT
Shawn Lee's lettering is still impressing me, and the first image of this review shows just what a good letterer can do to a script, to make it look even better. A shout out also goes to Casey W. Coller, who provides the art for cover B, assisted on colours by Joana Lafuente.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Barber knows how to play with continuity, and it's nice to see a two-parter story with some sort of closure, even if it is moving backwards through time. We see an early Soundwave and his real powers, we see the real importance of Ravage and the bird-cassettes, we get so much good stuff in here it's unbelievable.
All together now!
A lot of people still complain about the art, but I adore it. Griffith, Ramondelli and Tramontano do a terrific job, and the lettering works really well. I'm really looking forward to Dark Cybertron next month, and these past two issues have definitely set it up even more for me.
E infine uscimmo a riveder le stelle (Spoiler free-ish)
With Cybertron reformed, the underground tunnels and caves have become unstable. It's up to the DINOBOTS to lead the underground survivors to safety on the surface. But with the waters rising and the walls collapsing, making it out alive may be tougher than it sounds?
Unless you're a CAR
After the animated series ended, we were left with some questions about what was going on on Cybertron in the meantime and after the Predacons Rising feature. The comics have been catching up to the screen story, but only had a few points of contact. This second issue in the arc continues to tease the bigger connection with the Prime storyline, with Mairghread Scott at the helm.
And Snarl in charge
We were left last month with the Omega Lock restoring life on the planet, and most characters being recharged with fresh energon and even regenerated themselves. Though Grimlock did go on a bit of a bend for a while, rampaging through one of the surviving cities. That seems to have led to further developments in this issue, though.
Or is it..?
It's refreshing though to see a story which works with the Dinobots without losing all of its focus by merely concentrating on Grimlock. Snarl gets some of the spotlight, Sludge is in there a lot more, Slug and Swoop mostly provide raw comic relief, with a serious vein streaking through. And you get Firestar, Chromia, Zoom, Blackout and so many more characters, while not losing the plot entirely.
Snarl, meet Dante
What I really really really liked, though I'm not sure how intentional it was, were the literary references throughout, as well as the addition of extra creatures and references back to previous Transformers lore and continuity. It may be my background, but I could not shake off Dante's Inferno throughout the issue. Anyone else?
Agustin Padilla is still on art, this time accompanied by Atilio Rojo. There are still, however, moments of contrasting styles, alternating seemingly at random between the cleaner, sleek versions of the panels, and the sketchier, rougher lines in others. I don't mind either, but it's the inconsistency that puts me off at times. This used to be a problem limited to Padilla himself, but I wonder what
Chromia is worried too
As for colours, Priscilla Tramontano does a tremendous job with lighting and shading, especially considering that most of the issues, like the previous ones, still takes place underground. The comparison with later panels makes it even more obvious, as everything lightens up - but the shadows is where things happen. And lurk, of course.
Tom B. Long still shines in his lettering work, never getting in the way of the artwork, but always complementing with Scott script's sound effects. He really has a feel for the more bestial of characters, and is perfectly suited for the series. All in all, the artwork is good, though a little conflicting in places.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Scott definitely has a better writing style, especially for dialogues, than Johnson. For some reason, however, these later issues still don't live up to the excitement of the first two. The story isn't bad, at all, and there are some good parts and good character development and interaction. But it did not drag me in straight away.
But more Sludge time is good time
As for the artwork, Padilla and Rojo's styles seems to have swinging moods in clean versus sketchy, and the contrast can be jarring at times. I have nothing against the colours and lettering though, and the whole thing does look good in the end. I'm interested to see what will happen in the next, final arc of the series, but not desperately so.
AND ONE SHALL RISE! Yep, a there’s a new Prime on the block (and the old one isn’t gone yet), and just in the nick of time too, as Cybertron shudders and reels under the dual assault of BLUDGEON and his WarWorld and a spitting mad GALVATRON. But is the advent of RODIMUS PRIME a boon for Cybertron or one more dark domino falling in the headlong rush to universal armageddon?
That's ..a good indication of it, yeah
So here we are, final issue of the second-to-last arc 'Destiny', Bludgeon's mighty plan to take down Cybertron's dwellers, concocted with Soundwave and the remaining Decepticons on the planet. They've all been fighting all along, now Hot Rod is back as Rodimus Prime, Grimlock is back as, well, Grimlock, and here's where it ends.
Unless... it never ends
Rodimus Prime became his proper self in ReGeneration One #0, revealing a glitch in the time-space continuum bound to destroy everything if not rectified. Though it seems here that his newly found power may have deeper ramifications, and the end of the series will truly be eventful.
Among the returning cast, Grimlock retakes his spotlight on the main stage, commanding the primal creatures from the planet's core, clearly due to the brief experience with Primus' possession. Furman seems keen on dragging every character introduced to far into the issues that remain - not that we're complaining!
There is a lot going on in here, though most of it is fighting, bashing, thumping, fighting and hinting at 'there is more'. And yes there definitely will be more, but for now, it's extremely enjoyable to see a Rodimus in action, Bludgeon's deluded speeches and a Grimlock worth of Furman's deepest desires.
The artwork duties are still taken on by Guido Guidi, at least on the pencil side of things. And whoah. There is so much going on in this issue, in terms of action and fight scenes, that it can be really hard to figure out what is going on - but it isn't, because it all looks so fluid, also thanks to Baskerville's inking work.
..as a coarsing river..
JP Bove is still at it with his rainbow of magic crayons, making everything look so crisp yet with that throwback feeling about it. Some of the action scene renderings in colour are just stupidly amazing, with motion blur added to the already highly dynamic linework.
The lettering doesn't get in the way of the artwork, but does complement it nicely - Shawn Lee really has stepped up quite a few notches in his work since the beginning, and it's a pleasure to see him working on Furman's effects so.. effectively. As always, the artistic team are a bundle of pretty pretty joy. (And the covers are worth a look at too! Wildman and Cardy and Senior and Burcham keep doing some magnificent work.)
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Furman has a lot of fun playing with two of his favourite characters, and his baroque prose in Bludgeon's speeches just shines through. There isn't too much in terms of story or depth in this particular issue, but it does give a satisfying end to the arc, whetting our appetites for more.
It'll be so epic, even the explosions go DOOM
Artistically, it's hard not to adore what Guidi, Baskerville, Bove and Lee have been able to do in this final issue of the penultimate arc. The sense of frenzy, hectic buildup to climactic scenes and the confrontation between Rodimus and Bludgeon are the perfect sauce for Furman's (vast) eloquent (predatory) script.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: THE MOVIE! When the Autobots set off on their mission to find the Knights of Cybertron, RODIMUS gave REWIND a simple instruction: film everything. The result is a documentary that will forever change your perception of life on board the Lost Light. Discover RUNG’s secret! Meet the greatest Autobot of all time! And learn what SKIDS really got up to on Hedonia!
Remember him? Remember?!
We were told by the solicits and various interviews with James Roberts that this would be a breather issue, an actual 'filler' comic (for those of you who love throwing the word about), and it definitely does do that. But it does a little more too, both in terms of looking back, fleshing out and dropping some hints at what Dark Cybertron might bring.
JUST OPEN THE DAMN BRIEFCASE
Roberts has plenty of time and space in this issue to work his humour and dialogue, without falling into the tonal discordances that occur during big emotional moments or fight scenes. Setting the story mostly during downtimes allows him to just play around with characters and episodes we've seen so far. And the individual panels format really brings out the more idiosyncratic lines by the Lost Light crew.
But, as I said, there's a little more to that. We're introduced to an (apparently) even more advanced and belligerous mechanical civilisation, the Ammonites and the Terradores, which seem to be multiple combiners of adorable little minicon-sized robots. Or are they? Are they hiding anything? Is there.. more than meets the eye?
Yep, we'll definitely see ultra-biners
The issue overall is definitely a recap and a pause, but there are two moments that make it fit even better in the path to Dark Cybertron. The Thunderclash episode and the Hedonia expanded story were actually blended together fairly well, while still having the 'these are just two things that happened' feeling about them. And find out Rung's altmode.
As mentioned, teased and prodded at for quite a while now, this issue marks the return of James Raiz on artwork duties, and it's definitely different from Milne or Roche's approach. Raiz has a darker, heavier touch to his lines, while still not losing in details. Some readers will complain, but I personally like the different style.
So was I, Cyclonus, so was I
Josh Burcham works quite nicely with Raiz's darker style, bringing a light touch and a touch of light to the heavier lines in the pencils and inks. He works particularly well with the different camera perspectives, shifting tones slightly for the Rewind vs Lost Light security camera shots.
Red Alert's presence/paranoia is *everywhere*
The lettering doesn't have to do too much in the issue, but Tom B. Long still has some nice moments, in the style I've come to expect from him. All in all, I like the different texture of the artistic side of the issue, and don't think it detracts anything from the story or its details.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As I mentioned above, we get to delve a little into the life of some of the major cast members of the Lost Light, expanding on some episodes, almost answering a couple of questions and preparing the stage even if very briefly, for what is ahead. And Rung's altmode. And be prepared for some really, really silly humour.
The art might not appeal to all readers used to the Milne or Roche approaches, but I would still suggest considering it as how Rewind sees the world through his camera - Raiz does a great job in picking up on the artistic qualities of the entire run, and reproduces them perfectly, in his own style.
A final comment, though, to this final issue of what Roberts calls Season 1 of MTMTE. I can't shake off the feeling that this and the prose extract from #21 could have somehow been shrunk together, allowing for some more light on the Tyrest situation. In any case, it's a good issue, and one I think we'll need once we lose cast members (as Roberts has, as per usual, teased).
With the animated series of Prime: Beast Hunters now behind us, and Predacons Rising almost here, we are very happy to welcome show and comics writer Mairghread Scott for another interview with the minds and hands behind IDW!
Va'al - Thank you for agreeing to do this, Mairghread - you have the honour if being our first writer! My first question, before we jump into your work, is about origins: How did you first become a fan of Transformers?
Mairghread - I actually grew up on Beast Wars, which makes me a bit odd because I never really saw Optimus turn into a truck (although I knew he did) until the Michael Bay films. But in some way, I think Beast Wars really was the best place to start when I worked on Prime. The idea of being outmatched and outnumbered, the shifting alliances; these are all important elements of both shows. Plus, even though our CG technology has come a long way, we still face a lot of the same challenges in terms of characters and sets.
Va'al - At last, someone else who grew up in the Beast era! I thought I was the only one, by now. How involved were you with the franchise back then? Did you collect the toys as well as watch the show, or branch out into other aspects of the Transformers like comics or other cartoons?
Mairghread - Neither. Comic books and action figures were 'boy things' and as a little girl I just sort of knew (and I'm sure my friends re-enforced) that I wasn't supposed to have either. I remember I looked for Airrazor a few times, but I could never find her on the shelf. On the bright side, it meant I got to play Beast Wars a lot with just my sister. I was an Osprey (until Jurassic Park, then I was a 'raptor for a while). I upgraded to puma-osprey with rocket launcher wings when everyone went all Fuzor/Transmetal. I feel like my sister was an orca because she was really into whales and I was always harrassing her about how she couldn't do anything in Beast-mode then. I wasn't the best sister.
Va'al - At least you played with her, though! I have to ask - were you ever able to track down an Airrazor figure later on in life? A lot of Transformer fans have their personal 'holy grail' toy, or so I'm told; would you say that was, or still is, yours? Or did you just outgrow the toy stage, and never really bothered?
Mairghread - No, although I would take one if I came across it. I tend to collect characters I've written for, so my Holy Grail is a modified Rip Claw made to look like Ser-ket. I just picked up a G1 Sludge at BotCon and would love to give him a sister to play with.
Va'al - You heard that, customisers. Be ready to be inundated by offers now! Speaking of writing characters - you're a writer for essentially two parallel stories, one told in the animated series, one in the comics. How do you juggle the different approaches, if they are different? Are there similar challenges in the two media? Do you have a preference between the two?
Mairghread - Well it does help that we have two different casts in each book and that they are both tailored to their medium. The Dinobots aren't nearly as talkative as, say, Optimus, and that works much better when you have the ultra-limited space of a comic. Since the Dinos don't do well in close-up or just talking, I try to think of the comics almost as an 80ish panel haiku instead of a TV script. I'm trying to pick out the best possible moments to suggest the movement, drama and staging that make Prime what it is instead of just transcribing an episode onto the page. When it comes to which I like more, I think I'd have to say comics, if only because I get to really interact with the fans in a way I never could if I just wrote TV. Talking to people who are passionate and nerdy about what you're passionate and nerdy about...it's the best.
Va'al - Communities of fans like the one for Transformers are indeed a gathering of multiple backgrounds and views with an extremely passionate dedication to the common interest! You're obviously welcome to join us on Seibertron any time, I know you write on other fansites at the moment. Speaking of fandoms, I was wondering about something. You've always been pretty determined and vocal about the female presence among the Transformers fans, but there are only a few named women creators in your position (alongside colourists Priscilla Tramontano and Joana Lafuente) - do you think the franchise is still a bit of a boys' club, or is that a misperception? Have you ever received criticism, from fans or peer creators, which was more about you as a woman than your work?
Mairghread - It's funny, I used to be really worried about the role my gender played when it came to my writing and how others saw it. So much so that once I was brought in on a non-TF show to write an episode that had a lot of female characters in it and I actually asked point-blank if they'd picked me because I'm a woman. The response was they'd seen Hurt and they picked me because I could write revenge. So 'no' I've never felt that people see my gender as anything other than another aspect of who I am.
That said, Transformers is still thought of by the public, the media and the industry at large as being a male-oriented brand. It's not surprising: the industry category for Prime is called 'boys action,' the toys for Transformers are in the blue-colored section at toy stores and in several TF comic books there are no female characters at all. This obviously makes it harder for women to feel like we want them to be involved in our brand and I want to change that. Everyone should feel allowed to like Transformers. If seeing my name on a comic makes a woman in the store give it a try, that's great. If writing Firestar means someone's daughter will read his Beast Hunter's issue with him -- awesome! But most importantly, if some little girl out there wants an Arcee as badly as I wanted an Airazor toy, I want her to know that she's not weird, or silly, or alone and if my work does that for her, that's the best thing of all.
Va'al - That's a great goal, and I agree wholeheartedly with your mission. It's also nice to read that the industry is changing its attitude towards pre-existing ideas, even if slowly. This is a franchise that, as you said, starts by being aimed at a young male audience, even though, in fact, there is a fairly big adult reception already - showing how there is also a good female reception should be next! You mentioned Firestar, a character who for now only shows up in a couple of issues of Beast Hunters - was that entirely your idea (with Mike Johnson), or was it suggested by IDW/Hasbro? How did she come about? And for that matter, how was Zoom introduced too?
Mairghread - Bringing back Firestar was my idea. As soon as we got picked up I decided to start adding female characters until someone told me to stop (and, actually, a lot of the background characters are also female, even though it's not obvious). So far, Mike, IDW and Hasbro have all been fine with it, so I press onward. I'd love to bring back all the pre-existing TF ladies, but we'll see how many I can squeeze in before the end.
Zoom is Mike's creation and another good example of IDW and Hasbro giving us a fairly free hand. I'm sure if we tried to remake the book as the Firestar/Zoom show, they'd say something, but when it comes to adding more minor characters, we get a lot of control.
Va'al - I did notice some of the remains in Last Spark were mentioned as being female, actually, yes. You don't seem to have been told to stop bringing in characters so far! Are we to expect any other ones before the series ends? I realise we're only half-way through, and that leaves us with two story-arcs worth of potential new faces.
Mairghread - Well, we just got preview images from Issue 5 and, I don't know if anyone's picked up on it, but they reveal Chromia, the blue Autobot next to Grimlock telling everyone to get under their beds (for protection in an earthquake). But don't worry, she does a lot more than that, but it's been fun to see her sneak into the sneak peek.
Va'al - Yes, I did spot Chromia, and I mentioned her (and Scrounge) in the review for issue 5. And speaking of issue 5, we now have the announced point of contact between the animated series and the comics, and we're very close in its placement with the end of the TV series. Will the comics cross-over or spill into the upcoming Predacons Rising epilogue?
Mairghread - While the two lines will merge in 7 and 8, the timeline between TV and comics means that we are following the show and not the other way around. That said, I've very excited at what Mike's cooking up, so you'll have to wait and see.
Va'al - Really not letting anything out of the bag, huh? Well, I think that moment of suspense is actually a good place to stop this time round. Mairghread, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you, thanks again for doing this! Do you have any last words for the readers on Seibertron.com?
Mairghread - Only to thank them for the chance to play with characters they know and love. Hopefully, we can bring more fans to planet Cybertron. And if anyone has any more burning questions, you can reach me on Twitter at @MairghreadScott or Tumblr at mscottwrites.tumblr.com.
You heard her, readers - head over to the social media to ask your questions, or post them along with your comments in this thread! Stay tuned for another interview soon, we have some really interesting guests coming up.
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