Friday, 6 April 2018

Comic Review - Transformers: The Reign of Starscream

IDW's movie tie-in comics hadn't been able to ride the film's box office to some sort of wider casual audience or even been particularly well-received by fans but they had done decent business within context, selling in and around the same numbers as their G1 material (at the time, at least - each issue of their prequel series probably sold more copies than their combined Transformers output does now). While Transformers had done huge business at theatres a sequel wouldn't be due until 2009; IDW needed money though and decided to make their own. And these fuckwits have the word "Idea" in their name.

One of the problems faced by companies that licence other people's properties rather than creating their own is that sometimes those people take a bit of an interest. Bob Budiansky and to a lesser extent Simon Furman suffered in the eighties from the need to add new characters almost constantly to appease Hasbro, but this didn't happen to IDW - at the time there was no real G1 line so they were left to it by Hasbro on that front. Ironically IDW had the opposite problem with the films, which also included Paramount and the ever-capricious Michael Bay (apparently embarking on a disinformation campaign at this point but more likely just winding twats up) in that nobody important cared what they were doing. These parties certainly won't going to entrust some tinpot comic company with any details about their $200m blockbuster either.

The result was an awkward attempt to portray a bridge between the first film and the second that the company knew nothing about. However, while the 2007 film had only featured about a dozen toys Hasbro had produced scores more to meet the demand, including some based on generic villains in the licensed computer game and a score of recoloured figures from their then-recent dreadful lines like Energon and Cybertron. And they're all basically dropped in to this stupid plot about what Starscream apparently got up to after the first film ended.

Any molecules of hope regarding the quality of the series are annihiliated by the decision to unite the writing dream team of Chris Mowry and Chris Ryall for the script, presumably because literally no-one else wanted to - Furman was being slowly edged towards the door at this point and Shane McCarthy was picking internet fights with people. Still, it did mean the series had something of a surprise in store in that up to this point everyone thought Mowry and Ryall were the same person. Alex Milne meanwhile sighs, checks his bills and signs up for another soul-destroying 88 pages of trying to translate complex CGI models to drawn comic panels scripted by two fuckwits.

The first issue largely recaps the events of the first film from Starscream's point of view, and then the rest follows in due course. While explicit contradictions are thin on the ground, however, much of it fails to gel - despite being disbanded almost straight after the battle in Mission City, Sector 7 still have time to round up a small army of Transformers. Considerable liberties are taken with Starscream, who instead of tearing out of the atmosphere as soon as possible now apparently hangs around to check on Barricade (whose fate is changed from IDW's own Movie Adaptation - in the latter he was killed by Optimus Prime, here he appears to drive into a bridge support) and recover data from Frenzy's body. 

A couple of bits obviously also fail to gel with actual sequel Revenge of the Fallen, notably the nature of Arcee, the government having a stash of captive Autobots and, well, the non-existence of The Fallen himself. It also clashes with the Official Prequel by sticking to the Prequel Special version of the Decepticon arrival. So, this little wonder manages to basically not fit cleanly with anything else. To reiterate, this was written by a pair of editors.

It's absolute tosh. Starscream's a pompous narrator who doesn't fit with either the laconic bruiser of the first film or the pathetic punchbag of the second - basically his G1 characterisation is pasted in. The series ignores most of the rest of the established film cast in favour of focusing on the rest of the toyline, none of whom make any lasting impression - the closest things to other characters are Arcee (exactly the same personality as Bumblebee from the Official Prequel, but with pink-tinged narrative boxes because she's a girl) and Dreadwing (an unconvincing traitor lifted from the 'classic' Starscream). The rest of them make no impact - guys like Clocker and Crosshairs are introduced in a way that's meant to have us going "Wow, it's Clocker!", but they're just rubbish Unicron Trilogy recolours who turn up and do nothing.

The central plot is dull and uninvolving, while the narrative is fractured and poorly paced. Once more Milne's art struggles for definition, just being a mass of lines which make it difficult to work out who is who most of the time. The Earth-based daylight stuff isn't so bad, but as soon as there's night action and then scenes on Cybertron, it's indecipherable. Once more IDW totally misunderstand the appeal of the source material, and deliver the sort of speed-written crap that could be about pretty much anything.

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