Comic Review: Star Trek Vs. Transformers

Published: June 12th, 2019
Written by: John Barber, Mike Johnson
Art by: Jack Lawrence, Philip Murphy
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro, Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

IDW Publishing, 118 Pages

Review:

What I found most interesting about this is that it was a crossover of the animated Star Trek series and the original animated Transformers show. When I first heard about this crossover, I wasn’t sure how they would bring the two franchises together but this was certainly the best approach and definitely better than mixing the terrible Michael Bay Transformers movies with the Kelvin timeline Star Trek stuff.

Overall, this was amusing and I enjoyed the art style.

However, the story is just decent and didn’t do much to really maximize the properties. Its also full of predictable things like the Enterprise transforming into a robot, in this case, a version of Fortress Maximus.

Also, the Decepticons team up with the Klingons, which sort of fits a trope of these IDW crossovers, which is villain team ups to offset hero team ups. I’m not saying that the trope is bad, it just makes these events predictable and formulaic.

Star Trek Vs. Transformers isn’t a bad crossover, it just falls short due to it being more of the same, despite the franchises featured. It’s like IDW has a checklist with every crossover and the writers have to check off every single box.

The truth is, I love checking out crossovers like this. Unfortunately, the output is really redundant and it’s kind of killing my interest in seeing different intellectual properties collide.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other IDW crossovers between famous franchises.

Comic Review: IDW Deviations

Published: 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various
Based on: Judge Dredd by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, The X-Files by Chris Carter, Ghostbusters by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, G.I. Joe by Hasbro, Transformers by Hasbro, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, My Little Pony by Bonnie Zacherle, Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

IDW Publishing, 356 Pages

Review:

So IDW decided to do their own version of Marvel’s What If?… series and DC’s Elseworlds tales. Except, IDW doesn’t have really any creations of their own, at least none that anyone really seems to care about. Instead, they are most known for printing comics of intellectual properties that they pay for publishing rights to have.

This series of one-shots gave us “what if” tales for Judge Dredd, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Trek, X-Files, Ghostbusters and My Little Pony.

At their best, there were a few issues that were simply, okay. But most of these were terrible. And they weren’t terrible for one reason, they had just about everything going wrong for them.

In fact, the only two of these that I would give a passing grade to are Donny Cates’ take on Star Trek, which is still a poor effort considering Cates’ caliber, as well as the Transformers one, which gave us an alternate take on the events of the original animated motion picture.

The worse one of the lot was the one I was most excited for: G.I. Joe. It was a big, lame, unfunny joke that poked at some of the franchise’s tropes but did so without the writer having a single funny bone in their entire body. I’ve never not laughed so hard.

This was something that had potential, could have given us some really cool results and honestly, shouldn’t have been that hard to write at even a passable level. IDW has lost their fucking way, man. I guess it’s no surprise that the company is up shit’s creek, now getting bailouts from Marvel on their D-list comic books.

Frankly, I’m pissed I paid for these issues.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the IDW 20/20, Infestation and Revolution events, as well as some of the IDW crossovers.

Comic Review: Go-Bots

Published: November 21st, 2018 – March 27th, 2019
Written by: Tom Scioli
Art by: Tom Scioli
Based on: GoBots by Tonka

IDW Publishing, 169 Pages

Review:

I didn’t know what to think about a Go-Bots comic book when I first heard that this was coming out. Historically, even though they beat the Transformers to toy shelves in the ’80s, they were always seen as a cheap imitation. A lot of that probably just has to do with their television show and toys being of lesser quality but Tonka did bring this idea of vehicles transforming into robots to market first. Granted, both franchises took the idea from toys that were already popular in Japan.

Since their inception, the GoBots intellectual property rights have changed and now the franchise is owned by Hasbro and the GoBots find themselves under the same umbrella as TransformersG.I. JoeM.A.S.K.Micronauts and other properties. That being said, Hasbro has been using the comic book medium to tie their properties together into a shared universe, which is being done as a test before they eventually try this with motion pictures.

So it should be no surprise that the GoBots, now spelled Go-Bots, were given the comic book treatment by IDW, alongside Hasbro’s other big properties. This also ties into those other properties but to say anything more about that would be a bit too spoilery and I won’t ruin this because I think that people need to read Go-Bots and enjoy it, as I did.

The art and the story are done by Tom Scioli, a guy whose work I’ve really enjoyed in G.I. Joe Vs. Transformers and also in the issues of Godland that I’ve read, which is the most Jack Kirby-esque comic not done by Jack Kirby himself.

Scioli writes a solid, dynamic story that moves through great distances in time but it introduces several characters and spends enough time with them all to give them real character and weight.

I adore Scioli’s art style and it was perfect for this book, as it makes it truly feel like a throwback in a visual sense. Although, the writing is better than what the standard was for these toy property books back in the ’80s, when they were all too common and usually just rushed out to inspire kids to buy toys.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this comic so much that even though I want to talk about the plot, I’d rather people read it for themselves. Frankly, this is one of my favorite comics that IDW has put out in years. Actually, the best since the Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa era of their G.I. Joe books.

I sincerely hope that there is something in the works for future installments of Tom Scioli’s Go-Bots.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Hasbro related comics from IDW, especially the Transformers stuff.

Film Review: Bumblebee (2018)

Also known as: Transformers 6 (working title), Brighton Falls (fake working title)
Release Date: December 3rd, 2018 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: Travis Knight
Written by: Christina Hodson
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Glynn Turman, Fred Dryer, Angela Bassett (voice), Justin Theroux (voice), Peter Cullen (voice)

Allspark Pictures, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Tencent Pictures, Bay Films, Paramount Pictures, 114 Minutes

Review:

“The darkest nights, produce the brightest stars.” – Memo

The first three minutes and twenty seconds of this movie are pure Transformers perfection. The opening scene hit every single note in the right way and proved to me, right out the gate, that this was not a Michael Bay Transformers movie and that the creative team behind this film, actually cared about the source material.

Then the next scene was spectacular and the opening twelve minutes or so were a hell of a lot of fun, punctuated by John Cena being awesome because he initially felt like a heel in the story.

Now the film starts to taper off from its awesomeness a bit once we meet the main, non-robot characters, and deal with teen angst and crappy summer jobs. But that stuff is far from terrible and the movie does do a good job of fitting within the ’80s. Well, except for how often it has to remind you of what decade it is with a constant barrage of random Top 40 hits of the time. Not that I dislike ’80s music, I love a lot of music from that decade, but the selections didn’t seem cohesive and it felt like some millennial giving their Amazon Echo a very generic statement like, “Play ’80s music!”

This was also the most human and emotional Transformers to date. It develops its characters well, you truly care about Bumblebee and the humans and seeing Bumblebee feeling lost, without his memory, is executed greatly. Sure, it’s a cheesy, feel good movie but what’s wrong with feeling good?

What really wowed me is that most of this film is fan service but it understands what fan service is, delivers it damn well and sort of makes up for all the other atrocious Transformers movies I stopped watching after the second one.

Also, the robots look damn near perfect. Going back to the incredible opening scene, all the Autobots and Decepticons featured there looked exactly as they should if you are using the G1 era as your source. Between Wheeljack, Soundwave, Shockwave and all the others, it felt great to see them in a live action movie the way they were meant to be seen, which is all I ever wanted from the five films before this one. In fact, when Starscream and the Seekers turn into Cybertronian jets, they look just like they did in the pilot of the G1 cartoon, with a sort of sleek pyramid shape.

Megatron is nowhere to be seen but the two main villains were really solid stand-ins. The female robot was voice by Angela Bassett and the male was very much a perfect recreation of Vortex. The two of them were also triple changes. So where the Vortex looking Decepticon looked like the actual Vortex helicopter mode, he was also able to turn into a muscle car.

Hell, Cliffjumper shows up for one scene and he looked perfect. It was great seeing him get an appearance. considering that he’s been completely overshadowed by his brother, Bumblebee, since the original cartoon started. I always liked Cliffjumper better, as a kid.

Hailee Steinfeld put in an energetic and convincing performance and was the best human protagonist in the history of Transformers movies. The kid crushing on her was pretty useless but I didn’t hate him. However, the kid playing her little brother was terrific and I wish we would have seen more of him. Also, Pamela Adlon as her mother was a very strong plus for me.

In the end, Bumblebee was the Transformers movie I never thought I’d get. It’s far from perfect but it is a great step in the right direction. While this was intended to be a prequel to the Michael Bay films, I think they should just use this as a reboot and relaunch the franchise off of the shoulders of this film. And with that being said, I don’t want this to be the last time we see Steinfeld’s character.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Transformers cartoon and animated movie but NOT the Michael Bay films, as this is so much better than those.

Comic Review: M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, Vol. 2: Rise of V.E.N.O.M.

Published: December 13th, 2017
Written by: Brandon M. Easton, David A. Rodriguez
Art by: Andrew Griffith, Drew Moss, Juan Samu
Based on: M.A.S.K. by Kenner Products

IDW Publishing, 162 Pages

Review:

I really wanted this comic to be good, as I was a huge fan of the toyline when I was a young boy in the ’80s.

There are a few reasons as to why this just doesn’t cut the mustard but the biggest is that it doesn’t know what the hell it needs to be. This is the second and final volume in IDW’s run on the M.A.S.K. property but it sacrifices the property itself by wedging in G.I. Joe and Transformers characters, essentially being a crossover with those other Hasbro franchises.

And when it isn’t focused on other franchises, it just keeps giving us origin stories and nothing with any real meat to it. There is nothing here to make me care about M.A.S.K. on its own.

I feel as if IDW didn’t have any faith in M.A.S.K. and tried to draw more attention to it by throwing these characters into a G.I. Joe and Transformers story. It reminds me of when Marvel would have a new or struggling comic book in the ’90s so they had to throw Spider-Man in it and on the cover in an effort to generate more sales. It isn’t a tactic that worked a quarter of a century ago and it doesn’t work now.

The writing is a mess, the story is all over the place and then the art isn’t very good either. There just isn’t much here worth giving a crap about.

M.A.S.K. vs. G.I. Joe vs. Transformers story could be great but M.A.S.K. needs to swim on its own first.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other M.A.S.K. comics, as well as comics for other Hasbro properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers.

Comic Review: M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, Vol. 1: Mobilize

Published: August 23rd, 2017
Written by: Brandon M. Easton
Art by: Juan Samu, Tony Vargas
Based on: M.A.S.K. by Kenner Products

IDW Publishing, 146 Pages

Review:

Man, I really wanted this to be good.

I was a big fan of M.A.S.K. when I was a kid in the ’80s. I used to watch the cartoon daily and I owned a lot of the toys, including the massive Boulder Hill headquarters playset.

IDW Publishing had also done a really good job with other Hasbro properties, specifically G.I. Joe and Transformers for several years before this came out.

The problem was that M.A.S.K. got its comic adaptation too late, as it started off as part of the Revolution crossover that saw the world of M.A.S.K. meld together with G.I. JoeTransformersROMMicronauts and Action Man. That crossover really muddled things up for me and it’s where IDW’s great G.I. Joe run ended.

I don’t blame IDW for the crossover, as it was something that Hasbro wanted as an experiment to see how their multiple toy brands could co-exist in a shared universe because shared universes are hot right now and Hasbro wants to attempt this on a larger stage: motion pictures.

While this takes place mostly after the crossover, the worlds of G.I. Joe and Transformers are still referenced here and it doesn’t allow M.A.S.K. to establish its own unique mythos and story. The tech used in this is descended from Cybertronian tech, which sort of cheapens the rich property that M.A.S.K. once was.

I’m not trying to be overly negative but I think that M.A.S.K. can and should stand on its own, at least this early into its comic book run.

The tone of the writing also didn’t mesh well with the art style. The covers were great but the interior art was a bit too kiddish for the seriousness of the story. I felt like something along the lines of Robert Atkins’ art style during his G.I. Joe run would have been more appropriate.

I did mostly like the story and how things were set up between the M.A.S.K. team and the villainous V.E.N.O.M. I liked that Miles Mayhem trained the heroes but was now their primary enemy.

But sadly, I thought that this was too light on the vehicle action. It seemed like the masks and their powers were used more frequently than the cool, transforming vehicles. The vehicles are why every kid liked M.A.S.K. in the first place. They need to be front and center in every issue and utilized in the story. In fact, I forgot that the masks actually did anything other than making a cool fashion statement.

I have the second volume and I plan to read it and review it as well. Hopefully, it finds its groove and builds off of this mostly mediocre start.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other M.A.S.K. comics, as well as comics for other Hasbro properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers.

Talking Pulp: The Death of Optimus Prime and Why It Was Great

August 8th, 1986. That was the day where everything changed.

Transformers: The Movie hit theaters and little boys and little girls had their hearts broken when they witnessed, on the big screen, the death of the franchise’s biggest hero, Optimus Prime.

I was seven years-old when I saw the movie and it had a profound effect on me. I was crushed when the film got to that moment but unlike most of the kids in the theater, I got over it as the film rolled on. Because even though I was shocked, I knew that everything changed and nothing was safe. I mean, that was kind of cool. No one had any idea where the movie could even go after that moment, which was very early on in the story.

In that moment, I knew that even though all seemed lost, the stakes had never been higher and that the Autobots faced their greatest challenge. I knew that fresh, exciting and different days were still ahead. And I may have not actually understood this with great detail but I remember vividly what I felt: shock, awe, surprise and an overwhelming desire to see the Autobots overcome adversity, hardship and evil. It also made the villains darker, which I loved.

I guess that this had a huge cultural impact because parents were so upset that they made their feelings widely known. Hasbro responded by having G.I. Joe: The Movie altered so that Duke’s death, the G.I. Joe’s beloved field commander, was rewritten so that he just fell into a coma for the rest of the film. It doesn’t matter that you saw a venomous snake bite him through the heart with actual blood splatter, he lived to be okay.

Hasbro certainly didn’t want more backlash from angry parents with kids that had their hearts crushed like Duke’s in the snake’s mouth. But really, Duke’s “death” was more violent and shocking to see than Optimus Prime’s. I mean, Duke was human, there was blood and his human facial expression really sold the moment. But I’ll probably save this whole topic for an article at a later date. I just wanted to shed some light and add some context on the Optimus Prime death situation from a cultural perspective.

Anyway, Transformers: The Movie moved forward past that tragic scene. Optimus Prime’s Matrix of Leadership was first passed to Ultra Magnus but by the end of the movie, it found the one Autobot truly worthy of carrying it into the future: Hot Rod. Hot Rod unlocked the power of the Matrix and evolved into Rodimus Prime, a sort of hybrid between himself and Optimus, as he grew taller, broader and went from being a cool hot rod to a hot rod mixed with a semi truck.

Rodimus (with the Matrix) defeated the Decepticons and their new leader Galvatron (a suped up version of the former leader Megatron). Rodimus also helped destroy Unicron, who was basically the Transformers version of Marvel’s Galactus but actually cooler. By the end of the movie, Rodimus Prime rose to the occasion and the Autobots that survived this nearly apocalyptic event would go on to protect Earth from Galvatron and his minions in the future.

When the later seasons of the Transformers cartoon hit the airwaves, it took place after the movie and things were very different. Many episodes were dark and bleak and while this probably didn’t appeal to parents looking out for their kids’ best interest, as a kid, I really liked these episodes.

It was the first time that I experienced something I love in entertainment, going darker and getting grittier. As a kid, I thought it was cool as hell and it made this show about cartoon robots seem more real and more mature. In a way, the show was growing up and evolving with me. People look down on this era of the show but if I’m being completely honest, I preferred this era. Plus, the feeling that no one was truly safe, carried over from the movie.

I also preferred the characters and the toys that came out that tied into this post-Movie era. The toys got more elaborate and creative. You had Headmasters, Triggermasters, more creative and futuristic vehicles and Hot Rod was always f’n cool to me, even as Rodimus.

On the Decepticon side, as much as I loved Starscream and his Seekers, I really loved Cyclonus and the Swoops. Megatron is my favorite Transformer of all-time but Galvatron was less bumbling and seemed like he was a more capable madman. Also, Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe even shows up in an episode with the name “Snake”. It’s obvious that it’s Cobra Commander and he is there to assist the villainous Decepticons, years after Cobra has ceased to exist.

You also got really cool Combiners like Predaking and awesome battle stations that transformed into massive robots. I owned Fortress Maximus and it was probably my most beloved toy in the ’80s. It was also a sign of pride for me, as I saved up over $100 to buy it with my own money. I also bought Skorponok and Trypticon because they were two of the coolest f’n toys ever made.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love so many of the original Transformers, as well as the earliest episodes, but there was just something more grown up about the show after the death of Optimus Prime.

If Optimus Prime didn’t die and the show didn’t take a darker turn and get more mature, I probably would have lost interest in it. There were already 65 episodes before The Movie. The formula had run it’s course and change was needed to make things fresh and interesting again. Plus, Hasbro had all these new toys to sell and the old robots were just in the way of the new ones. This is the same reason why the G.I. Joe and Cobra teams changed so frequently on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

But then, like a beacon of light and hope at the end of the dark tunnel, Transformers did something really amazing. The show found a way to resurrect Optimus Prime.

I remember seeing the ad for the Return of Optimus Prime and it’s like the world stopped. After truly enjoying the post-Optimus era, absence made the heart grow fonder and it’s as if I didn’t realize how much I wanted him and needed him during his absence. Optimus Prime going away for awhile made the character stronger. Everyone I knew, back when I was in second grade, was glued to their television sets on February 24th and 25th, 1987 for that two-part story that closed out Season 3.

And what a story that was! Optimus Prime took the Matrix back, Rodimus stepped aside and everything was restored. Plus, the Autobots now had the edge over the more sinister Decepticons.

The point here, is that Optimus Prime dying created backlash and made children cry but it was necessary in making Transformers survive. It enriched the mythos, it paved the way for new characters, new toys and it opened the door for riskier and more interesting storytelling. It changed the tone of the franchise, which I feel was needed after the 65 episodes before The Movie.

I think Hasbro was smart in doing what they did. Without the death of Optimus Prime, we might not have Transformers today. The sacrifice of the franchise’s most popular hero gave that franchise meaning beyond just being some cartoon made to sell toys.

Also, no matter how much money they dump into these modern Transformers movies, they have yet to come up with a story that can even exist in the same orbit as the original animated film. Without the death of Optimus Prime, what was that film? It probably would’ve just felt like a normal multi-part episode like G.I. Joe: The Movie did because they didn’t commit to the bit and kill off Duke.

With Transformers: The Movie, Hasbro did everything right.

And now I leave you with Stan Bush’s “The Touch”. Drink it in, bathe in its glory.