Monday, 2 April 2018

Comic Review - Transformers: Movie Prequel Special

 As part of the promo push for the 2007 Transformers film there were a couple of freebie comics put out with support from Target - one, later titled "Interlude", was handed out in cinemas and the other (which would become "Planetfall") would later be issued with the DVD at the chain's stores. However, never short of a cash-grabbing wheeze (remember when they "found" all those limited edition convention covers in a warehouse?) IDW wrapped them in a new cover and charged four dollars for the two free comics.

 The two seperate stories more or less link together despite having a different focus. "Planetfall" (printed first in the special, despite originally appearing second) shows the Decepticon team led by Blackout and Starscream following Megatron to Earth and having a scuffle with some military personnel. It manages to contradict IDW's main Movie Prequel by including the non-film Wreckage, who dies in a stupid fashion but did have a toy out, and just generally having their arrival happen differently. Amazingly this is the work of a professional editor in the form of Chris Ryall, also editor and co-writer of the Movie Prequel series. 

"Interlude" was written by Simon Furman, still at the time the only Transformers writer as the others all had proper jobs and IDW hadn't asked anyone else; to show how much imagination was put into this work he was able to hire lackey of old Andy "Andrew" Wildman. The latter got to eat people food for a whole month by also writing half of "Planetfall" before getting bored and handing over to Don Figueroa. It's a fun thing trying to work out which is the most unsuited to the designs' aesthetic.

"Interlude" covers Bumblebee's arrival on Earth and an encounter with Simmons and Sector 7 (and then Barricade). While it doesn't directly contradict anything else, it seems highly unlikely that Sector 7 would track Bumblebee in the comic and seemingly just give up by the events of the film. "Planetfall" starts off rather nicely, carefully building on what little we can draw from the Decepticons seen in the film, especially the characterisation of the loyal Blackout. On the downside, they talk more like the characters from any other IDW comic, just bouncing lines off each other in a verbose fashion that's wildly out of sync with their screen portrayal. With the exception of Starscream, their Cybertronian robot modes are nicely done, retaining the overall look without having Earth vehicle bits hanging off everyone (Starscream is just a rusty brown robot, though identification is helped by the characters calling each other by name every line or so - which makes IDW's recurring inability to get speech bubbles to point at the character they belong to hilariously obvious). 

The second half is poor, though - the attack on the base has no drama to it whatsoever, and seems to be there to pad things out. It generally falls flat, be it the limp death of Wreckage that serves little purpose, or the brief bluff Barricade indulges in that must have seemed really funny when Mowry wrote it down. "Interlude" suffers from similar problems - it starts off as a nice enough solo outing for Bumblebee, even if again the flowery writing of his personality clashes with his behaviour in the film, but then gets needlessly complicated by throwing in Sector 7 attacking him - it's like Furman's unable to write Transformers comics anymore that don't feature a set of spooks chasing Autobots down desert highways. Sure, S7 are an important part of the film that already existed, but did we need to have them here?

And the ultimate question is do we need these comics? And the answer is no; a prequel to a prequel of a film that spent an hour telling us its' backstory, written by a man who doesn't understand narrative technique. Imagine someone doing a prequel comic telling us all about how Dollar Bill died in Watchmen, then imagine someone doing a prequel to that. This is what this is.

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