Monday, 22 May 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - Dark Prelude

PUBLISHER: IDW (2012-2013)
WRITERS: JAMES ROBERTS, JOHN BARBER, NICK ROCHE
ARTISTS: STEVE KURTH, CHEE, NICK ROCHE, DAVID DAZA, MATT FRANK, AGUSTIN PADILLA

Almost forgot this one. After 2009 the Spotlight series all but ceased apart from the release of Spotlight Prowl, issued entirely to placate the title's educationally subnormal fanbase, a group largely of adult age who will actually pay triple rates to get a toy a short while ahead of other people. Then in 2012 Hasbro decided actually they'd wade full-on into the comics (later collected as a prelude to the prelude to "Dark Cybertron") and reactivating the series for pack-in titles would avoid any weirdness like Crosscut popping up and talking about himself for three pages before fucking off into the crowd. Six new issues were slung out and with careful care wouldn't involve explaining largely obvious past events to thick shitheads or forgettable peripheral cast getting shunted off in Red Dwarf rip-offs. At all.

[Spoilers Follow]
[or would if anything unpredictable was involved]

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - Dark Cybertron

PUBLISHER: IDW (2013-2014)
WRITERS: JOHN BARBER, JAMES ROBERTS
ARTISTS: ATILIO ROJO, PHIL JIMINEZ, JAMES RAIZ, LIVIO RAMONDELLI, ALEX MILNE, BRENDAN CAHILL, NICK ROCHE, ANDREW GRIFFITH

It's that time again! The big IDW big plot big clusterfuck in which the poor hapless writers again try to live up to the hype generated by the company's psychotic PR as once again the lives of the Transformers and/or Cybertron will be CHANGED FOREVER or at least for another 12 months or so. While the storyline ran through both Robots in Disguise and More Than Meets the Eye (not to mention bracketed by a pair of one-shots, like a proper comic event) with both the usual writers handling whatever they usually did "Dark Cybertron" feels much like "Chaos" did - the story of one writer (in this case John Barber) with script input from another (James Roberts). In theory this set-up should work - Barber can plot almost as well as a proper comics writer while Roberts is more suited to a smaller soap style.

[Spoilers Follow]

Friday, 19 May 2017

Comic Review: Hitman - A Rage in Arkham

PUBLISHER: DC (1995-1996)
WRITER: GARTH ENNIS
ARTIST: JOHN McCREA

By the mid-1990s Garth Ennis was well-in at DC and made his push for immortality by beginning Preacher for the company's Vertigo label. Preacher is fabulous of course, but as if it wasn't enough Ennis was also writing another book virtually alongside it - the tale of superpowered hitman Tommy Monaghan, a heady mix of action, comedy, friendship and commentary. Somehow a brilliant madman at editorial decided Hitman should be part of the mainstream DC universe rather than shuffled off into its' own little continuity because they could totally trust Ennis to not just take the piss and thus it became even better. The result lasted for sixty issues and a few assorted specials before the inevitable end, coincidentally (or not, I have no actual idea) around the same time Preacher finished, at which point DC decided that if the series wasn't running there was no actual need to finish of the series of TPBs. Thankfully it only took them the best part of a decade to realise how stupid this idea was and since 2009 the whole brilliant thing has been put back in print. However, it took some time for the series to really settle down and the opening trade is perhaps not the best ambassador.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - Robots in Disguise, Volume 5

PUBLISHER: IDW (2013)
WRITER: JOHN BARBER
ARTISTS: LIVIO RAMONDELLI, ATILIO ROJO, DHEERAJ VERMA, ANDREW GRIFFITH

As covered in the More Than Meets the Eye Volume 5 review Hasbro and/or IDW decided both of the Transformers titles should reunite for the Dark Cybertron storyline and gave the writers a seemingly limited warning to get things in place for the crossover. For James Roberts this meant compressing things; for John Barber it made for a mixed blessing it would seem. On the one hand Robots in Disguise featured most of the franchise's traditional big guns and Cybertron itself and thus such an epic would dovetail fairly nicely into his book compared to the cast and crew of More Than Meets the Eye effectively having to abandon their central plot line. The problem was Barber had just blown out a whole ton of his own storylines and set up for a second phase of his Cybertronian political drama which then had to be tweaked to fit in with Dark Cybertron. The result was the six-part Dark Cybertron Prelude which was really more a collection of Spotlight-style one-shots while Barber tried to get all the pins in position for Dark Cybertron itself.

[Spoilers Follow]

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - More Than Meets the Eye, Volume 5

PUBLISHER: IDW, 2013
WRITER: JAMES ROBERTS
ARTIST: ALEX MILNE, JAMES RAIZ

Despite everyone hating Chaos - including writer Mike Costa probably, what with him hating everything - IDW decided that a big gigantic event was what everyone really wanted from Transformers comics and thus did decree that the crew of the Lost Light return from whatever the fuck they were doing and link up with everyone else on for their planned Dark Cybertron storyline. More Than Meets the Eye, which had been just fine pottering off into space thank you very much, was spared the build-up work (handled by John Barber's Cybertron-based Robots in Disguise) but had to get its' house in order - there were even rumours early on that the book would either be cancelled or retooled. While it didn't really come close it meant that Roberts clearly decided to fast-track a couple of plot threads to be addressed before the crossover.

[Spoilers Follow]

Friday, 12 May 2017

Minifigures: X-Men, Part 2 - All-New! All-Different!

Of course, famously the original X-Men were something of a damp squib and after a few years the title turned into a reprint book. However, Stan Lee was never one to accept the unpopularity of his creations (see: Namor) and in 1975 Giant-Size X-Men #1 launched with a new-look team and would kick off an era of huge popularity for the mutants that has continued since. Sadly not all of the new team have yet been represented by Minifigures, unofficial or otherwise - the complex designs for Banshee (with so much of his classic look dependent on his unusual cape) and Sunfire (with his unique helmet) currently being impossible to find. Which leaves...

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - Robots in Disguise, Volume 4

PUBLISHER: IDW, 2012-2013
WRITER: JOHN BARBER
ARTIST: ANDREW GRIFFITH

Over the first 11 issues of Robots in Disguise John Barber had gleefully shaken the beer cans of Cybertron - the actual planet is hostile, Bumblebee's in charge of an increasingly-hated Autobots, Prowl seems to be carrying out the assassination of various technically peaceful Decepticons with the aid of Arcee, Starscream is gaining ground as leading candidate for success in the promised democratic elections, Metalhawk and thus the former neutrals are very much falling into Starscream's orbit, the Decepticons largely seem to be resisting much in the way of integration with a planned plot by Shockwave being foiled by Prowl at the cost of the Autobot's serious injury, Omega Supreme is bombed and finally Megatron staggers out of the wasteland. It's all at bursting point; the only problem is that Hasbro were at the time trotting out the largely dire Combiner Wars line and decided they wanted it featured in the comics. More Than Meets the Eye largely dodged it, with Robots in Disguise taking one for the team. And Barber decided this was exactly the time for Iacon to explode.

[Spoilers Follow]

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Minifigures: Teen Titans

Disclaimer: my knowledge of Teen Titans is basically entirely from watching Teen Titans Go! with my three-year old daughter. The comic featured a wider roster through the years as a sort-of Junior Justice League title, both in terms of the characters featured, generally the teenage sidekicks of established heroes with most of the characters two-timing with their parent books, and the intended audience. Both the 2003 and 2013 TV series boiled the group down to five permanent team members - Robin, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven and Beast Boy. There's not been a specific Teen Titans set issued yet by Lego (though Dimensions packs are imminent) but four out of the five characters have been released officially, mainly as fan bait in larger sets from the Lego Superheroes' extensive Batman subseries.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - More Than Meets the Eye, Volume 4

PUBLISHER: IDW (2012-2013)
WRITER: JAMES ROBERTS
ARTISTS: ALEX MILNE, BRENDAN CAHILL, GUIDO GUIDI, AGUSTIN PADILLA

There's a question deep in the heart of James Roberts' writing which boils down to one issue - is it worth short-term frustration for a long-term payoff? It's a difficult one; the quality of the payoff plays a big part but so does the nature of the frustration. Throughout the first three volumes (which amount to about a year's worth of comics, which is one Watchmen) it's been pretty clear that everyone we've seen far too much of is part of some grander plan and in the fourth collection things finally begin paying off. Partly. For some characters.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - Robots in Disguise, Volume 3

PUBLISHER: IDW (2012)
WRITER: JOHN BARBER
ARTISTS: BRENDAN CAHILL, GUIDO GUIDI, LIVIO RAMONDELLI

The third collection of Robots in Disguise again suffers from the difficulty IDW had from lining up trades properly with the writers; why they haven't gone for a fixed six-issue trade length with the creative teams free to divide each block up as they see fit I don't know. Money, money, money I guess, unless there was some demand for multiple pages of sketches that pushed the stories down readers' wishlists. The third trade for RID is possibly the most fractured volume yet - containing the Annual, a one-shot catching back up with Orion Pax and another part of "Combiner Wars".