Top 5 Worst IDW Transformers Stories
Sunday, April 4th, 2021 12:44am CDTCategories: Site Articles, Editorials, Top Lists
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Top 5 Worst IDW G1 Transformers Stories
For many years, the IDW Generation One comics have been a gift to its readership. Entertaining battles and interesting new spins on old characters are a standard of any good Transformers series; but the IDW comics stand out in particular for being aimed at an older audience than usual - hence we've been challenged with darker material, philosophical questions, political allegories and deep character studies the likes of which we have never had in the franchise before. Among all this sophistication, however, it's sometimes easy to forget that the company has unfortunately put out some very, very bad stories in its time. Let's count down what are arguably the 5 worst IDW Transformers stories!
5. Combiner Wars
As time has gone on, my opinion on this crossover has lightened up a bit as it does have quite a few good points. We have some fantastic action courtesy of a very unique style of combiner battles, we get to see Starscream's political machinations behind the scenes continue to wreak havoc on society, and this arc did provide the true beginning to the Colony Worlds story that makes the Windblade books and Till All Are One so good.
However, these are not enough to save this crossover - only enough to put it at the top of the list rather than the bottom. This was a scary event from the outset as it put interference from Hasbro at an all-new high - while IDW did advertise some of Hasbro's Universe/Generations toys before, generally it was at a much lower rate compared to the usual amount of salesmanship Transformers fans are used to and they were allowed to continue their stories with only a couple new bodies or background characters to show for it. However, Combiner Wars saw fit to shove in as many toys as it could at an alarming rate, even to the expense of interesting concepts like the Prowl-controlled Devastator getting shelved for the sake of showing off the new £150 Titan-Class toy. An attempt at focus in the storyline seems evident but we can barely keep up as the titular gestalt scuffles rage not once, not twice, but three times over the course of but a few issues when the political and religious ramifications of Cybertron coming into contact with Caminus should be at the forefront. 'Combine' that with an unprecedented amount of scripting and art errors and it's easy to see why many fans at the time took to calling this the worst arc of the post-Death of Optimus Prime era.
This is a bit odd because it technically isn't a Transformers story - well, it is, but the actual Transformers part is just one aspect of it. The actual story is based around, as far as I can tell, two of IDW's original franchises - CVO: Covert Vampire Operations and Zombies vs. Robots. A prelude of multiversal nonsense has zombies invade multiple universes in what was at the time billed as the biggest crossover event of IDW as a company, with zombies infesting various of their licensed universes - G.I. Joe, Ghosbusters, Star Trek and, of course, Transformers. This isn't the first time IDW Transformers has done a cross-continuity crossover, but it is notable for being the only one of the two that stayed canon and had effects on the universe going forward.
And as one might have guessed, the two-issue segment of Infestation containing the Transformers is pretty bad! Transformers does not lend itself well to the threat of undead flesh. The whole point of zombies as a horror trope is that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try to stop it; it is slowly coming for you, it will get you, and everyone who falls in its path will be added to its ranks. It's very chilling, and while in recent years Zombies in horror movies have arguably not been used to their best potential - that's a top 5 worst list all on its own - it's still very possible to make them very scary with a human element. Not with a giant-robots-from-outer-space element. You can't possibly fear for the Autobots here as the best the zombies can do is weakly slap their metal before getting kicked away or obliterated by a photon blast, and even in the story Wheeljack uses their advanced technology to make sure they can't even get to the humans beyond a small portion of Las Vegas! But even beyond that faulty premise the story does not inspire confidence. Galvatron and Prowl are both wildly out of character, very weak "it's magic, we don't have to explain it" reasoning is used for the main villain to pose a threat to Cybertronians, and a potentially interesting look at Kup's mental health following Everything in its right place (a very good Transformers story I can recommend) is pulled out of nowhere by trying too hard to link the undead to what happened in his Spotlight and resulting in a rather pointless sacrifice to stop villains we don't care about from a universe we don't care about. Maybe CVO and Zombies vs. Robots are interesting franchises, I don't know; but it really had no business being here.
3. 2019 IDW Reboot Series
You know what's worse than something bad? Something boring. And this series is the most boring piece of Transformers fiction I ever read. At any point that it picks up an inkling of momentum, it then shifts into an all talk issue leading to absolutely nowhere. I swear I never read a comic with so many panels of Transformers just talking while walking up or down some stairs.
Here's a shot from issue 7
Now one from issue 8
By 10 we at least get to see some actiOH My God STOP!
And this was supposed to be a bold new era of Transformers fiction. Give me a break!
2. All Hail Megatron
Ah, All Hail Megatron. Now we're getting to the big leagues. For those that have only started reading IDW in the past few years, a quick history lesson - when IDW first got the license to Transformers back in 2006, the infamous and well-loved among the fandom writer Simon Furman was given full reign to create whatever story he liked with nothing to hold him back. And it was, in fact, rather interesting and a Transformers story unlike what we had seen before. Full emphasis was put on 'robots in disguise' as Autobots and Decepticons alike made sure to hide themselves from humans at all cost. Darker, more complex morals for the Autobots were introduced with an Optimus jaded by the war and implied to not have the matrix. Megatron played the long game with an infiltration protocol that had the Decepticons pervade a world's politics and society before destroying it and taking over. Lesser-used characters like Hardhead and Doubledealer became big players alongside new concepts like Sunstreaker being a Headmaster. This was no Shakespeare, but it was a great breath of fresh air for the franchise.
So you can probably understand why the fans who loved this little era were not appreciative when All Hail Megatron came around. Suffering sales forced IDW to bring in a whole new direction and soft-reboot for the title as Shane McCarthy took over writing duties. So what was this fresh new direction? What wellspring of new ideas came from a writer new to the series? Well, the Decepticons abandon all subtlety and take over Earth. And suddenly have technology that in previous stories was stated to be extremely rare and lost to the ages. And then the Autobots come and defeat them. Oh, and Optimus has the matrix and there's an original character who is a samurai Decepticon turned Autobot in there somewhere. Disregarding the AHM: Coda series which attempted to patch this up - and in some parts was rather good - this plays out essentially like a bland, standard, by-the-books G1 episode or action movie with a superficial gritty overlay. Little characterisation is given or focused on beyond Ironhide's newfound want for punching everyone and everything, and I constantly ask why I don't stop reading this and put on the 1986 movie instead. At least that one had the bravery to actually kill off important characters to increase tension! Oh sure, it was purely to sell toys, but it's a heck of a lot better than this! At the end of the day, this is a story that tries to pretend it's mature and gritty but instead has no new ideas, nothing important to say, no risks to take, and comes off as a watered-down version of an 80s movie whose express intent was selling toys.
It was a little difficult for me to put this ahead of things as cynical as All Hail Megatron, as you do feel a real passion here. One of the great things about all the creative teams on the modern IDW Transformers comics is that you can feel a true love for the franchise and the series they're writing for - this isn't just a day job for them, this is something they want to do and something they adore doing. And as an aspiring writer myself, I can kind of see how they thought this could be a fun idea - much as the concept has arguably been overdone after Marvel's movies proved it could be successful, an expanded shared universe does bring in a lot of positives. You're able to explore a lot more areas of your world and universe and focus on a lot of different things at once without getting in the way of each other all the time. Your franchise can bring in a lot of different readers looking for a lot of different things. You can have some great crossovers with some entertaining team-ups and history if you really work well at it!
But it's hard to see how one could start up a shared universe worse. I'm not entirely sure how much I have to criticise this here - of the six franchises involved, four of them have no history and have either just started up a few months prior or are starting in this very book. It... the premise speaks for itself. This is probably not going to go very well. Between having to start up MASK, restart G.I. Joe and show what exactly is going on with the Transformers; Micronauts and Action Man barely get to show up at all in the crossover while ROM does show up... and acts completely out of character in the first issue by killing someone without trying to explain why (trying to explain being something he had consistently done in his own comic up until this point) to set up artificial drama and conflict in the second. As crossovers go, this is badly thought out. While the focus has to be on some group and you can't be perfect in your distribution; you should at least try and give equal focus to each party involved in the crossover and make sure to represent them correctly. Instead we got a trigger-happy moronic G.I. Joe randomly shooting at the Autobots in what is... probably the 1,673th time in this franchise humans don't understand there are good robots (despite their predecessors in the EDC making such a distinction and going about things far, far better in more interesting ways for the story), ROM being an idiot, a bulk of focus being given to MASK characters who at the end of the day don't really contribute anything to the story, and Action Man and the Micronauts only arriving at the last second to give too little joy too late. The final battle should be an awesome sight to behold - all these iconic characters people have grown up with over the years banding together for the very first time to fight a threat none of them can hope to face alone. But the actual action panels are a mess with too much happening to make out anything that's going on - not helped by the art which is decent at best, and distorts characters like Victorion and Arcee beyond recognition at worst - and even if they were good by the time you got to Issue #5 you're so exhausted from the terrible quality of the preceding issues and trying to make sense of what I can only generously call a plot that it's difficult to feel any investment or care.
I really did try to like Revolution. I really did. And you know what? I like the shared universe! The miniseries Revolutionaries alone has proven its merits, some of the books (especially Micronauts) are pretty damn good, we've got what looks to be a decent, small-scale crossover between Transformers and ROM coming up, and despite the fears many fans had; the Optimus Prime ongoing has had minimal effect on its stories by the shared universe while the other two ongoings (Till All Are One and Lost Light) go on as if it never happened. The shared universe is working out fantastically, and if any readers left because of Revolution - something I can't be surprised by and something I really can't blame you for - I absolutely urge you to pick up these ongoings you loved again, because they're still great and Revolution has not hurt them in the slightest.
But as a comic? As a story? As a crossover? As something I can pick up to read and try and enjoy and have fun and hopefully get invested in some new characters and comics? Revolution is an objective failure in almost every area, and I am sorry to say that it is the worst story in the IDW G1 continuity that at the time of writing has ever been put out.
Dark Cybertron is yet another unfortunate example that shows IDW sadly, for whatever reason, can't make a good crossover. It wasn't awful and I would certainly recommend it to you over anything on this list, but it was a very long very boring story that, contrary to a lot of modern IDW's strengths, required you to know a lot of backstory and seemed to exist for the pure purpose of tying up loose threads from when Furman left the series. Still, it does provide some good lines, some good team-ups (Whirl and Arcee, Rodimus and Optimus), and managed three incredible twists at the end - two of which it seemed like Hasbro would never let IDW do - that paved the way for amazing stories and have not been undone since.
New Avengers/Transformers, on the other hand, is so stupendously bad it almost got a spot on this list. I decided against it as Infestation is one multi-continuity crossover enough for the list and unlike that one, this has the good grace to be non-canon to both franchises involved. But it is still a mess. Some cool ideas like Iron Man getting a bigger suit to be on-par with the Decepticons and a neat homage to Marvel Transformers #3 aside there are almost no good points to be found here; the art isn't particularly outstanding, character motivations seem to come and go (ESPECIALLY with Dr. Doom), the plot is standard and boring and almost nothing interesting comes of the team-ups. But hey, I got to mention Dr. Doom and Iron Man in a Transformers list, so I'll give it that.
Also, while the Heart of Darkness limited series is related to the Infestation event that is already on the main list, I wanted to make special mention of it here for adding terrible art to an already completely uninspired story.
This article was last modified on Monday, April 5th, 2021 12:17pm CDT
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Posted by Supreme Convoy on April 4th, 2021 @ 1:15am CDT
Posted by SG Roadbuster on April 4th, 2021 @ 1:37am CDT
I'd say Heart of Darkness belongs on this list more than Infestation.
I'll give Revolution credit for the sheer ambition of trying cram everything into the toybox. The real turd though was First Strike. Started off as a decent enough "Supervillains invade Cybertron" plot with a side order of Scarlet's relationship to Joe Colton. But then the book shits the bed by bringing in Visionaries.
Tf vs Visionaries, there's another absolute stinker of a book. Probly deserves to be here more than All Hail Megatron.
(BTW, i don't hate crossovers, Revolutionaries and Tf vs Rom were both astounding reads)
Posted by starfish on April 4th, 2021 @ 3:13am CDT
As well as being another piece of evidence showing how Furman struggles to write female characters (following the prior lows of Space Pirates and Prime’s Rib), I believe it’s the only IDW issue to be so bad that it prompted another writer to publicly slag it off.
Thankfully a lot of it was later retconned; no other single issue was more idiotic and ill-advised than that one.
Posted by angtre on April 4th, 2021 @ 4:07am CDT
"All Hail Megatron" was bad, as most stories set in its aftermath, apart from "Chaos Theory" (awesome title btw, given the imminent "Chaos" event - yet another stinker IMHO).
"Combiner Wars" wasn't so bad given its toy-selling premises, yet I don't share the appreciation towards the following "Windblade" comics, which pale in comparison to other comic books from the same age.
Posted by lowman_x on April 4th, 2021 @ 5:32am CDT
Posted by AllNewSuperRobot on April 4th, 2021 @ 5:45am CDT
Posted by ausbot on April 4th, 2021 @ 6:52am CDT
Posted by AllNewSuperRobot on April 4th, 2021 @ 6:58am CDT
Posted by Moody magpie on April 4th, 2021 @ 7:33am CDT
Posted by Quantum Surge on April 4th, 2021 @ 8:30am CDT
Posted by Nexus Knight on April 4th, 2021 @ 9:34am CDT
william-james88 wrote: As such, with my only ground rule being that it has to be from the main IDW G1 continuity (and hence no Deviations, Hearts of Steel, Dawn of the Predacus etc.),
Soooo, technically, a version of Hearts of Steel exist in the 2005 IDWverse. The X-Files one-shot crossover isn't, but the original series and the Infestation 2 both do exist in this time-line (for those that don't know how that worked, short of it was Shockwave crashed some lookalikes on Prehistoric Earth and used them as a wargames experiment).
Posted by Rodimus Prime on April 4th, 2021 @ 9:35am CDT
Posted by AllNewSuperRobot on April 4th, 2021 @ 10:07am CDT
Also, if we were to include the secondary books, Deviations would easily be No.1.
Posted by starfish on April 4th, 2021 @ 10:35am CDT
AllNewSuperRobot wrote:Last Stand of The Wreckers and the Furman run (Megatron: Origin to Maximum Dinobots) I'd say hold up really well. The rest, doesn't. Especially latter elements that humanise the Transformers far too much IE heavy emphasis on relationships and the sexuality of Alien Robots. Clearly more fans grew up with Kiss Players than you would imagine, I guess.
Writer James Roberts (the only writer to win an industry award for their Transformers work) grew up on the U.K. G1 comics.
There’s a world of difference between the focus on love and relationships in the IDW run, and the smutty innuendoes of Kiss Players. But of course you know that, and are fatuously comparing the two for some cheap point scoring.
Next you’ll be comparing Romeo & Juliet to the American Pie films... I mean, both works focus on teenage relationships, after all...
Posted by Gauntlet101010 on April 4th, 2021 @ 11:32am CDT
I liked a lot of the IDW stuff, even the relationships. Different strokes, I guess. I think I disliked Titans Return the most. It just stopped everything to shoehorn in a story that didn't fit in and didn't seem to advance anything. At least Combiner Wars seem to flow out of the plot somewhat, Titans Return just happened and ended.
I also didn't like anything with Optimus Prime on Earth after the shared universe started. Humans hating Prime and teaming up with Decepticons after AHM ... it just made no sense to me. But that wasn't just one storyline.
Posted by AllNewSuperRobot on April 4th, 2021 @ 12:25pm CDT
Gauntlet101010 wrote:Was the Avengers crossover rendered non-canon? I seem to recall a Seeker died in that and remained dead for the rest of the series. Even if the Avengers just stopped existing it seems like the events still happened.
Well it happened to be this story that Megatron officially adopted his Earth altmode. Ramjet was the Seeker you're thinking of. But he died due to betraying the Decepticons within the crossover, in his spotlight that followed on. Unfortunately this story has too much connective tissue to be non-canon.
Posted by Palo_zfogs on April 4th, 2021 @ 1:55pm CDT
I find Dark Cybertron to be a worthy Transformers event, there was a whole lot of crazy stuffs going on. The only thing that absolutely bothered me was the different change in art styles from various artist to artist in between. It's nothing new but still, it did broke the immersion for me. Also, don't get me wrong, most of the artist were pretty good.
Infestation wasn't too bad either as it was a fun read as I like its dark tone. But yeah, I can see that the comic didn't achieve the "infestation" aspect very well unlike Rom vs. Transformers which absolutely nailed it.
And Yep, Combiner Wars... I definitely agree that it just sucked. Despite its Machinima counterpart being quite bad, I find that much more entertaining than the comics. A lot of elements in the story are just things that I don't care about. I've only read through the arc just because I don't want to miss out on the whole ongoing stories. Though I'll say the one thing I've actually enjoyed in CW was the epilogue with Prowl and Prime going berserk with each other. That was pretty amusing.
Revolution.., I just don't like that one. I've never really cared for the whole shared universe or the other franchises so it's just another arc to slog through. Worse, it spawned multiple crossover titles that I'll have to force myself to read but at that point, I just stopped bothering to care to. Though I'll give it some credit, for spawning the gem that is Rom vs. Transformers.
I have not read the 2019 reboot, but based on the comments and some of the previews I've read, they do look absolutely boring and not appetizing to read unlike certain titles of the first IDW continuity.
But yeah, if I were to rank my personal (and very subjective) worst 5 IDW Transformers titles (excluding Deviations and the 2019 reboot), it would be:
5. The Transformers (2009).
The first two arc just weren't that exciting with the whole human relations thing and territorial politics between countries. Not to mentioned the art direction to mirror the movieverse really felt out of place.
It starts to get pretty interesting with Space Opera and then Chaos. But I didn't like the direction with the split storylines, especially with Police Action. Would've been cool if all the energy is focused on making the event on Cybertron much more crazier. Also, another factor on why I didn't enjoy the Chaos event that much was that I'm not actually that big of a fan of Livio Ramondelli's artworks. It actually took quite some time for me to get used to his artworks.
4. New Avengers/Transformers.
As mentioned, I don't care much for this kind of crossovers. I've read it once, and it's something that I would not want to read again. Also, it's flat out not memorable either.
3. Combiner Wars
Reasons already mentioned at the fourth paragraph.
2. Revolution and (most of its) spawns
Also going have to lump all these together - Revolutionaries, First Strike and Transformers vs. Visionaries. Aside from not caring about these kinds of crossovers, I don't find them to be exciting or great Transformers stories in any way either. And with TF vs. Visionaries being an extremely mediocre story, it doesn't help this case one bit.
1. Heart of Darkness.
As much as I dislike Revolutions and some of its spawns. This just takes the cake. The whole plot felt like an absolutely disappointing continuation to Revelations. Galvatron really feels out of character, he's just not himself. Not mention the art styles made the whole problem feel much worse tenfold. Oh god, the art style...one of the worst art styles I've seen in this IDW continuity.
So yeah, that's my two cents.
Posted by Quantum Surge on April 4th, 2021 @ 2:06pm CDT
I came up with an alternate storyline to go along with that shuttle fight comment: The Autobots don't die immediately and instead decide to keep the Cons with them so as to warn the Autobots of their arrival at Autobot City. Prime and his team ready themselves while then taking down the Decepticons that showed up. Afterwards they keep them locked up and are led to believe that the war is over...until Optimus senses an impending danger from the Matrix. The Cons come up with a plan to escape while the new group of Autobots are in charge, but Galvatron and his army (who would be separate characters in this universe) take on the Autobots and threaten them of Unicron's arrival to Cybertron. This would force the Autobots to make a temporary alliance with the Decepticons and make their way to Unicron, even if they deal with the arguments made between the two factions.
What I wrote may not be 100% perfect but at least it's more than just "Optimus Prime lives and to hell with the 86 movie guys AND HOT ROD RUINED MY CHILDHOOD". Oh and the writer's letter at the end of the comic kind of made me want to throw up. Very insulting.
Posted by o.supreme on April 4th, 2021 @ 2:19pm CDT
That being said, naturally a "worst" list would be too long to count, but a "best" list I'm not sure if I could even come up with 5 titles or mini-series to fill that conversation.
I do take exception to All Hail Megatron being on this list though, just my opinion, it was the single best thing about IDW in it's entire 13 year run. It was The only series that held any real interest for me, and I eagerly looked forward to each month (Issues 1-12 btw, furmans useless coda was not needed). But I get it. I'm a fan of AHM, because it was different from the dull-as-dishwater stories furman had churned out up to that point, and the closest thing to the classic animated series we would ever get. *Stormbringer I seem to recall was relatively decent also, but I digress... Also while AHM obviously has a large contingent of fans that don't care for it, it is nice to see some actual support for it in the comments I've seen so far.
Combiner Wars was a missed opportunity. I envisioned it being written similar to how DW wrote the Micromasters 4 part series (basically an entire series dedicated to the various Combiner Teams), unfortunately they were just blunt instruments used by the main characters, and a shameless way to promote Windblade and Victorion. Hopefully someday the Combiners will get their due (The toys were great, but decent portrayals in modern fiction are still to be written).
All that being said, despite the shady behind-the-scenes goings on at DW, that world-building had the best foundation for Transformers in Comics I've ever read, and it is a true shame it didn't last. Of course, it died the hero, and IDW lives on to be the villain.
Posted by Rodimus Prime on April 4th, 2021 @ 5:48pm CDT
And roberts getting an industry award is not an indication of the quality of his work but moreso the low level of the bar the industry set for him. My opinion only, of course.