Thursday, 29 March 2018

Comic Review - Transformers: Movie Prequel

No, not something fan-wanky bridging the gap between the second series of the cartoon and the hair metal-infested guilty pleasure of the final bow of the man behind Touch of Evil, but instead IDW's attempt to get the coin of the 2007 Michael Bay blockbuster in their pocket. Of course, the first thing anyone who's seen the 2007 movie will tell you is that its' got a prequel built into the first hour with endless exposition and flashback. But you have to remember the other thing built in to IDW - not only do they love money but they realise the bulk of their readers are as thick as pigshit. Fuck's sake, they put out a comic specifically to slowly explain Prowl having character development.

So, a comic painstaking explaining every incident dealt with by the film in single words and common sense across several pages is about on their level. Depressingly 'Official Movie Prequel' is the best title they could come up with. Come on, lads, there are plenty of other words ending with 'ation' out there. Simon Furman, about a year into his numbing G1 series for IDW and still convincing much of the fandom not to look behind the curtain, was the only man they could think of to write it, though he had help from Chris Ryall because editors are always talented storytellers. One or the other of them actually inserted a Cybertronian conurbation called Simfur into the story - meaning either Furman is a massive egotist or didn't have shame threshold to ask Ryall to please fucking not. Dreamwave refugee Don Figueroa handled the pencils; again, he still had some credibility within the fandom at the time. So obviously any frames featuring any vehicles are packed with 'Easter Eggs' - i.e. trucks that look like G1 Optimus Prime, that kind of rubbish.

This is all set before the events of the first film. Not seamlessly, though - the comic ends years before the movie starts, meaning that apparently Bumblebee, Barricade and Sector 7 either chase each other around haplessly in the interval, or they all completely forget about each other. Pick whichever is the least stupid. Well, toss a coin or whatever anyway. It also doesn't sit well with the events of their own Prequel Special - both the arrival of the Decepticons on Earth (Blackout, Barricade and Starscream arrive on Earth separately here, without Brawl/Devastator or Wreckage) and Bumblebee's first clash with Barricade (which now also involves Sector 7) don't gel with how they were portrayed in the Target comics. 

There are also a few minor details that jar, like the way Bumblebee has basically the same personality as his namesake in IDW's G1 comics, despite the film version not being particularly like this - this is thanks to Simon Furman, who claimed to be quite fond of the films but doesn't actually seem to understand them and might well have been lying to get the job. A lot of this can be accounted for by the possibility that Paramount probably wouldn't let IDW anywhere near any information about the film, and maybe didn't even know the comic company exists.

Of course, this would be okay if it was was any good. The first issue lays down most of the problems with the series - Figueroa's character models don't capture the complexity of the live action visuals, looking more like stripped-down Gundam mechs. They're almost impossible to tell from each other. Thankfully, Furman has an answer - characters call each other by name frequently enough. Once more, the problem is that the writer's talky style is at odds with the universe, and everyone makes big, clumsy speeches when in the middle of pitched firefights.

It doesn't help that with rare exceptions (Megatron's dialogue at the start of the second issue does fit the film character, for example) the characterisations are pulled from two stock archetypes - Autobots are determined and brave; Decepticons are cruel and petrified of Megatron. No-one really moves from these parameters - thus meaning that an 88-page comic by a man with twenty-odd years experience has worse characterisation than a film by Michael Bad Boys II Bay. The comics are also ruthlessly humourless - witness the ultra-serious Simmons and emo fallen Bumblebee (whose 'communicating via the stereo' quirk is portrayed by an incredibly annoying series of snatches of coincidentally relevant song lyrics).

Much of the prequel is taken up by incredibly dull exposition on Sector 7's origin and Archibald Witwicky that'll only be of interest to obsessives - all the relevant stuff is covered in the film, this is just boring pulling at threads. Plus Figueroa simply can't draw people. It all adds up to a messy, fractured comic that fails to become a coherent story in its' own right, only interesting to those who need every irrelevant fact behind the back story spelt out to them in lieu of using their imagination.

1 comment:

  1. The one mitigating factor this has over the film stuff that followed is it would have been done from early drafts of the final film rather than having seen it, which at least here excuses the fall back stock G1 and Furmanisms. They may even have been representative of the work in progress that was the script at that point.

    Of course, Furman did a lot better under similar circumstances on T:2006, though I suppose it's easier to get the tone of a film based on a two year old property than a page one relaunch.

    That's if Furman actually wrote any of it mind, I always took Simfur getting through as meaning he maybe did the (fairly generic Furman) outline so there'd be a known writer's name on the front and everything else way Ryall.

    It's a damn awful series regardless, so failing in its task of connecting to the films it often gets championed by people who hate the films.