The first collected edition from IDW Comics' TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE series collects issues 80.5 - 85 of the continuation series which follows from Marvel's original TRANSFORMERS comic. Issue 80.5, a contribution to the "Free Comic Book Day" event in 2011, serves as a bridge between the classic series and the new, presenting a series of flashbacks interspersed between pages set in the modern day.
Writer: Simon Furman | Penciler: Andrew Wildman | Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove | Letterer: Chris Mowry | Editor: John Barber
Editor-in-Chief: Chris Ryall
The Plot: Twenty-one years have passed since the Autobots' return to Cybertron in TRANSFORMERS #80. A series of flashbacks reminds readers of what has gone before, while in the present, Optimus Prime, living in seclusion, has taken on Hot Rod as his apprentice. Meanwhile, a group of Decepticon terrorists, under Soundwave's leadership, destroys the Last Autobot, beginning the war anew.
G1 Continuity: This story is filled with it. Among the flashbacks are: the origin of the Transformers via their gods, Primus and Unicron (TRANSFORMERS #61); the Ark's crash-landing on Earth (TF #1); Shockwave's imprisonment of the Autobots (TF #5); the Dinobots vs. Megatron (TF #8); Defensor vs. Bruticus (TF #35, among others); Scorponok vs. Fortress Maximus (TF #38); Starscream possessed by the Underbase (TF #50); Thunderwing with the Creation Matrix (TF #66); Unicron devouring Cybertron (TF #75); Optimus Prime -- dead -- again! (TF #76); Megatron vs. Galvatron (TF #78); the Last Autobot (TF #79); Optimus Prime vs. Bludgeon (TF #80). Body Count: The Last Autobot bites the dust, courtesy of Soundwave's "Neo-Decepticons".
My Thoughts: I like it. As a review of the original Generation One comics, this hits on all the important bits. As the first chapter of a new saga, it serves to set things up quite nicely. Kup knows the Decepticons are up to something, but Optimus Prime refuses to believe him, setting up a plot thread wherein Optimus has apparently become detached from his world and his people. Then -- Soundwave strikes, and we're left anxious to see exactly what this means and where the story will go next.
Furthermore, Ultra Magnus makes his very first appearance in the U.S. version of this continuity as a welcome addition to the cast, filling out the classic triumvirate of Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime, Magnus, and Kup. Magnus had of course existed in the continuity previously as a major character, but only in the U.K.-originated tales. Furman never brought him into the U.S. series. Kup also makes mention of the Wreckers, Furman's elite Autobot commandos, who figured into a number of U.K. stories but never made it stateside either.
Preview art originally posted by IDW in 2011
The artwork is mostly excellent, too. Andrew Wildman can be a slightly polarizing figure among Transformers fans, depending on whether or not you like your robots with teeth and spittle flying from their mouths. While I find those traits a little silly on Transformers, that never stopped Wildman from being, hands down, my favorite Transformers artist on the G1 series. His character poses are dynamic, his action is very kinetic, and he sticks religiously to the Sunbow Animation model sheets when illustrating characters. And my number one criteria for judging a Transformers artist is always: Do these robots look like the old cartoon? The answer in Wildman's case is: Absolutely.
Wildman is abetted by his old partner, Stephen Baskerville, on inks. If I'd had my way when I was twelve, Baskerville would have inked every comic in existence. I've since come to realize that his style would likely be incompatible with many of my favorite artists, but on Wildman it looks... right. Like it was meant to be. The characters are hyper-detailed and slick without being overdrawn. It's a difficult balance, but Baskerville strikes it perfectly.
Behind that, there are the colors and letters. Colors were a big problem in the original TRANSFORMERS series. Nelson Yomtov did the best he could with a cast of hundreds, but his efforts were... workmanlike, to say the least. And his Soundwave was purple! Thankfully, John-Paul Bove seems to put a bit more care and effort into his colors. Aided by modern technology and printing, the colors are vibrant and deep and work perfectly to complement the Wildman-Baskerville art team. And his Soundwave is blue!!
My only negative note on the colors is that Bove hews a bit too close to Yomtov in some areas, such as unusual shades of blue instead of what should be black on certain characters, and the fact that Ultra Magnus and Soundwave have yellow optics (on the plus side, Optimus Prime's eyes have gone blue where they were previously red, of all colors, the last time we saw him in G1). Call me crazy, but I feel that when you're working with characters drawn faithfully from the classic animation model sheets, they should be colored just as faithfully. I don't think anyone would complain if the characters were colored differently from Yomtov's original palette -- which was limited by necessity due to the printing methods of the time. Heck, as noted above, he's already deviated from Yomtov's colors with Soundwave.
This is what a Transformer's voice looks like!
For the letters, I'll simply say: they look way better than anything coming from either of the Big Two these days. Dialogue and sound effects alike are bold and pop off the page without overpowering the artwork, as they should -- and it's great to see the Transformers speaking with those good ol' rectangular "sparky cornered" word balloons. This is how all Transformers speech should be depicted.
All that said, I will toss out two negatives I found in this issue. One is the time skip. I know it's been twenty-one years for us, but it seems an odd choice to start a continuation series by jumping this far ahead. However, two decades is nothing for robots who count their lifespans in millions of years, so I'll give Furman the benefit of the doubt and see where he goes with this.
The other relatively minor gripe I have is the characterization of Soundwave. He's presented here as an ambitious, scheming villain. I realize his original toy bio described him in pretty much exactly that way, but I have trouble buying it. The Sunbow cartoons will always be my first preferred Transformers continuity, and as such, I prefer the loyal, obedient, Soundwave we saw there (one might even describe him as "an uncharismatic bore"). However, I know the comics never went that route with Soundwave and I lived with it as a kid, so I'll continue to live with it today.
Final Opinion: Like I said, I like it -- tentatively, at least. The art, colors, and letters are outstanding, and Simon Furman has earned enough goodwill from me that I blind-purchased the first two trades. Can't wait to see what happens next.