Sunday, 23 August 2015

Transformers - Spotlight: Soundwave

I've not always been a huge fan of Simon Furman's contrivances but for this one I'm prepared to tip my hat in his general direction. This comic basically exists to get Soundwave into his iconic cassette player (yes, we all know the toy was a Dictaphone, no-one cares) mode, even moreso than Spotlight: Shockwave was built to make the Dinobots made into dinosaurs, but there's so much fun stuff thrown in that the otherwise-arbitrary decision to set this in the eighties is totally forgivable.

Soundwave himself, a notable absence from the opening months of IDW's work, is superb. There have always been two well-known versions of Soundwave vying to be used in any revival; the loyal, calm lieutenant of the cartoon and the ambitious scheming sod of the comic. Furman has a fair crack at blending both, with the loyalty an immaculately maintained facade to keep in Megatron's good graces, a status he seemingly abuses when the right opportunity comes up. The story also shows off his technical skills well, even if there's a showing for one of the more amusing IDW/Furman traits - someone deciding that the most subtle way of covering tracks is to explode a building or two, because no-one follows up on that sort of thing, right?

In this case the opportunity if from monitoring Bludgeon's little cult as they go through the missing Shockwave's data and use it to plan their resurrection of Thunderwing after a visit to Earth, cutting a fine line between smart backstory and forced contrivance by pulling a curious Soundwave after them. It adds a little to Stormbringer by explaining how exactly they found and resurrected Thunderwing, but also gives the chance for a nice bit of development for Soundwave, who surprises himself by realising that his opportunism has limits - the moment when he belatedly realises the insanity of the group's plan and its' danger to his species and decides he must stop it with only Ravage and Laserbeak as back-up is a fantastic, unexpected twist.

There's then the typical coda bringing the trio into the present day which sadly includes foreshadowing Furman's obsession with secret human conspiracy organisations, in this case Skywatch. But never mind, the meat is satisfying enough to make this a decent issue.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Transformers - Spotlight: Hot Rod

One of the more interesting "prequel" Spotlight issues, this gives a bit of backstory for Hot Rod while laying a couple of seeds for future stories. 

The lead's trademark rashness is examined in light of a raid for a MacGuffin called the Magnificence on an alien planet; however, it's only a qualified success - Hot Rod gets out with the object but apparently the rest of his team don't after a series of unpredicted mishaps. As team leader he blames himself despite evidence pointing to simple bad luck and jumps at the news that one of his troops - Dealer - apparently survived, setting off on a solo rescue mission.

While his motivation is simple stuff - he's trying to redeem himself - Furman plays a little with the predictable twist of Dealer actually being Decepticon undercover agent Doubledealer and rather than playing the cause of failure for impossible suspense tags on a coda where the true reason for the mission going wrong and the whole rescue being a complicated way of getting Doubledealer to infiltrate the Autobot ranks are laid bare. 

It's not a bad little story due to its' willingness to play to how obvious this all is to the reader while convincingly showing that Hot Rod himself could have no idea without making the Autobot look like an idiot, as his blinding desperation to make things right comes across well. The only problem is there's really not 22 pages of interest here - the actual rescue comes across as strung-out padding and if the format had required it to be closer to 15-16 it would be an easy job to cut this part down. However, it's a good read and Nick Roche's art once again excels, catching the bouncy enthusiasm of the more naive Hot Rod on the original mission and the grittier version breaking into the Decepticon prison.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Comic Review - Transformers Spotlight: Sixshot

Published third in the Spotlight series but set an undetermined time before the 'present day' of Infiltration, Sixshot is something of a lightweight piece. It's basically the title character - a "Phase Sixer" sent in by the Decepticons to level worlds at the end of their use, and his meditations on whether he can retain some sort of individuality or if he's simply a living weapon. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Comic Review - Transformers Spotlight: Cliffjumper

IDW never quite seemed to work out how to best use the Spotlights, which generally tied into the main continuity but also had to function as standalone comics. Some efforts gradually saw more of the main storyline seep in to the point where the featured character felt like a sideshow but the only real alternative was to have stories like this that didn't really go anywhere.

Comic Review - Transformers Spotlight: Shockwave

Simon Furman's IDW run was never afraid to stick to safe old favourites and even whole dynamics and that's something which marks out Spotlight: Shockwave like few other titles. The plot is slight, covering Shockwave's attempt to independently seed prehistoric Earth and other planets with Energon after foreseeing Cybertron's energy crisis, neatly providing a good excuse for the present day stuff revolving around our home planet.

Comic Review: Transformers - Drift


Drift is - or at least was - one of the most reviled Transformers characters ever and a lot of the blame for this was down to the obnoxious promotional push IDW comics gave him, though creator Shane McCarthy's prickly side didn't exactly smooth the path. In general the actual character wasn't quite as much of a Scrappy Doo as expected. However, a four-issue mini-series exploring his crazy mysterious backstory was hardly warranted and is every bit as terrible as these elements would suggest.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Custom DVD Cover: Magnolia

Entertainment in Video have handled some of the best independent cinema of recent years but their sleeve design ethos is tacky, tabloid-style rubbish. And Magnolia deserves better than that, even if the design required minimal imagination.

Custom DVD Cover: Union City

A much-underrated classic. Sadly the DVD release came out under Tartan, which meant a still on the front cover and that same old tiresome white and black spine. Why do that when there's a poster like that out? Simple matter to clone the skyline for a wrap cover. Not crazy about the crease on the tights but happy to go with it until I can find a better scan of the poster.

Custom DVD Cover: Two Mules for Sister Sara

Another Eastwood classic. Oddly this one hasn't got nailed by many collections but came out with just a plain photo cover despite being a standalone issue. 

Custom DVD Cover: Vengeance

One of my favourite spaghetti Westerns, this smashing Richard Harrison vehicle is still lacking a DVD release (even though 4Front put it out on VHS here twenty years ago). It was hard getting a good scan of the poster but I managed it and the rest was fairly simple. Quite proud of this one.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Custom DVD Cover: THX-1138

Warners are usually one of the better labels for bringing out vintage films in decent covers but the one for THX-1138 featured a Criterion-style cover of the title character's ear, so off that came.

Custom DVD Cover: To Catch a Thief

Spoilt for choice for vintage posters for this one, easily squeezing out Paramount's "random picture of Cary and Grace" original.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Custom DVD Cover: Transformers - The Movie

One of my guilty pleasure films; I love Transformers and even though the original animated film is objectively tripe it's a big part of my childhood. As was the original UK movie poster, a version of which cut from a comic adorned my bedroom door. Merging that (already used for the cheapo Sony Wonder release) with the contents of Metrodome's two-disc Ultimate Edition with some cleaner rear cover artwork was simple but satisfying.

Custom DVD Cover: Straw Dogs

Cursed with several low-budget releases in the UK; instead I wanted to use the broken glasses poster as to my mind it's a classic. Dropping it into the MGM template made sense as they handled the US DVD release.

Custom DVD Cover: Sunset Boulevard

Not sure whether carrying the strip of film onto the spine works or not; it looks too dull otherwise.

Custom DVD Cover: Royal Space Force - Wings of Honneamise

Another one where the source material made it more of a challenge; so much of the promotional art for the original film was quite abstract and media releases since have featured a whole hotch-potch. The front cover was eventually taken from (I think) the Chinese Blu-Ray but overall I consider this one a bit of a placeholder until I find some artwork that really sums up the film.