By far the weirdest first impressions I’ve done. But then, what can one expect from a series returning to publication after twenty one years?
Back in the eighties, Transformers was the best thing around so far as kids were concerned, except maybe GI Joe or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or My Little Pony. And how times change. Not it mattered much to me, since I grew up in the nineties after that whole curve finished off and our cartoons got less awesomely violent. But while I was never around during that period when the robots in disguise were popular, I do see why kids loved them so much.
So naturally, coinciding with the television show, there were comics about the Transformers. Specifically an eighty issue run published by Marvel. This was back when the main two of DC and Marvel cornered the market for a large part, and a great deal of licensed comics came from them. The run ended in 1991, right in the thick of the Dark Age of Comics, on a relative high note. The Autobots had returned Cybertron, the Transformers home world, into a new utopia after eons of internal strife and battles with cosmic horrors voiced by Orson Welles. From what I understand, it was a great end to a great – if often goofy – comic series.
So two years later, it’s no surprise a new series began to market the “second generation” of Transformers toys. Transformers: Generation 2 can best be described as the old series, but horribly tainted by the very worst aspects of the early nineties. Faux gritty realism, impossibly massive guns, overdrawn character designs, perpetually scowling characters (even when said characters were robots and thus couldn’t logically scowl), and plots centered around shooting wildly and being depressed. As one might imagine, this wasn’t the best successor to the first generation of Transformers.
Over the years since, multiple attempts were made to create new Transformers comics series, all trying to restart from the end of the first series, with limited success. It’s also worth noting that Marvel comics lost the rights sometime after Generation 2 ended, and was picked up by Dreamwave Productions in 2002. Shortly afterward, Dreamwave went bankrupt, and eventually IDW obtained the license, and holds it to this day. IDW even reprinted the entire original Marvel series, so anyone interested in that old series can obtain trades with a little digging around.
And so we come to the current situation. In July of this year, IDW intends to continue where the original series left off with Transformers: RE-Generation One. It literally starts at issue 81, and IDW released an issue bridging the two together. That’s what we’ll be looking at today.
I don’t know how to feel about TRANFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #80.5. This came to me as a reprint on Free Comic Book Day, so I hardly feel compelled to judge it harshly given the fact that I got it for free. On the other hand, only about half of the sixteen page comic has a coherent narrative in it. The rest uses a bizarre framing device that shows moments from various points in the Marvel series run, briefly explained but without any solid context. As a means to catch people up to the events of the old series, it’s largely convoluted and vague. I only recognize a good portion of what it was trying to talk about because I’d researched some of it in the past.
The moment with Magatron and Galvatron punching each other still confuses me. Aren’t they the same person? Then again, the previous series also had an issue with a Carwash of Doom. So I probably shouldn’t think about it too hard.
The remaining parts actually do form an understandable narrative, though. It concerns the Autobots dealing with their new found peace, and with a growing Neo-Decepticon movement that’s planning to strike against new Cybertronian order. And also Optimus Prime is reluctant to fight against the movement, lest it fuel the fire of insurgency. We’re dealing with some pretty complex robot politics here. It’s just a shame the parts recapping the old series don’t flow or give context to past events.
This issue should and could have been better. Mainly the fault lies with the haphazard way it talks about past continuity. Could we just have a monologue by an Autobot, explaining the history of the series in a linear fashion? Maybe spliced here and there with more current scenes? Why do we need to deal with all this “Zero Space” malarkey?
On the plus side, apparently most of the original team behind the Marvel series came back to work on this. And perhaps because of this the book looks nice.
Personally, I’m going to skip out on this series when it comes out. I might do another First Impressions on issue 81, just to judge how the actual relaunch is working out when it has time to tell its story. But I think based on the enormity of the series it’s coming off of (not to mention my already swamped pull list), I’ll take a pass on following Regeneration One. By all means, check it out if one loved the old series and always wanted a proper followup.
As for me, I’d probably read the trades for the old series before getting into this one.