Monday, July 24, 2017

Lost Light Leads the Way for Transformers Comics

A little over a week ago I talked about some of the old Transformers comics I read.  I also read a bunch of the newer ones.  The continuity of them all is a little confusing to me because I wasn't paying attention for the last 20 years really.  It would probably help if I read them all in chronological order, but oh well.

Stormbringer:  I'll admit I only bought this because Jetfire was on the cover of the first issue.  For whatever reason Jetfire doesn't get that much love in the comics, but this 4-issue limited series starts with Jetfire leading an expedition to the Transformers homeworld of Cybertron that was thought to be barren, but there's something still down there!  Soon there's an evil threatening the universe and the Autobots have to stop it.  (3/5)  (Fun Fact:  The Jetfire in this is the 2000s version that I have on my shelf next to the original.)

All Hail Megatron:  The Decepticons have triumphed!  Optimus Prime lies near death and the Autobots stranded on the barren Cybertron (see above), leaving the Decepticons on Earth.  They soon start to stomp the human race, which has almost no answer for the giant robots.  Of course New York is one of their primary targets.  Eventually Prime gets fixed and saves the day.  What's kind of annoying is the first 12 issues are the whole story but they have 4 additional issues that seemed to come along later and deal with some side issues and fill in some gaps.  They weren't really all that essential. (3/5)

Sins of the Wreckers:  This is a sequel to the miniseries Last Stand of the Wreckers where the Autobot special forces team (and a human girl) raided a Decepticon prison to steal some valuable intelligence and free the prisoners.  In the process several characters made heroic sacrifices.  Like many sequels, this disappoints in living up to the original.  There's more metaphysical bullshit and lots more moping this time around as the Wreckers are reunited to save everyone's least favorite Autobot--Prowl. (Sorry Chris.)  Prowl's run into someone as treacherous and brilliant as he is:  Tarantulus!  It was interesting how they used animal characters from the original series, Beast Wars, and some other series to form a sort of all animal faction, but otherwise it was not nearly as good.  (2/5) (Fun Fact:  The way Prowl and Tarantulus make a "son" is similar to what I did all the way back in 1997 in my fanfic novel Xenophobia.  Not the first time IDW has ripped me off.)

Titans Return:  There's a line of toys labeled Titans Return so I thought it would be a big deal but this volume doesn't make it seem that way.  Somehow the evil Sentinel Prime has returned to life after 4 million years and raises an army of giant Transformers known as Titans.  And he sends them to Cybertron.  That's all that's covered here.  I guess it picks up later in the new Til All Are One series, which made this a nonevent. (2/5)

Revolution:  This was the brainchild of Hasbro to connect a bunch of toy properties together:  Transformers, GI JOE, MASK, Micronauts, ROM Space Knight, and Action Man.  I only ever played with the first two.  I knew of MASK but the rest I hadn't really paid much attention to.  Anyway, the setup is that Optimus Prime has essentially made himself ruler of Earth to protect it from other alien races.  Humans don't take kindly to that and so GI JOE is brought out of mothballs and using a captured Transformer they also create the MASK vehicles.  Action Man is a British agent who works with the JOEs and Rom and the Micronauts show up later.  While at first it's humans vs. Cybertronians, soon a new threat rises.  It was OK but like I said I didn't really follow most of these properties so I didn't get some of what was going on.  It would probably help to have read all the side issues for the individual properties.  Anyway, I think Hasbro has their sights on doing something similar with the movies, or they were until the latest Transformers movie did kind of meh.  And the GI JOE movies sucked.  They really might want to reconsider things. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  MASK stands for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand; as a Robot Chicken song asked, Do they know Command isn't spelled with a K?)

More Than Meets the Eye/Lost Light

A while back I read the first 4 or 5 volumes of the More Than Meets the Eye series.  The basic premise is that former Autobot leader Rodimus Prime goes looking for the mythical Knights of Cybertron and brings a bunch of wacky characters with him on a ship called the Lost Light.  The actual quest plays only a small role though as there's more of a Star Trek-type feel where they visit different planets and face some internal struggles and such.

In my A to Z Challenge I wrote about some of the characters in the series like Chromedome, Cyclonus, and Whirl; many of these characters were pretty useless in previous incarnations of Transformers comics and TV shows but they were given new life in this series because they're given actual personalities and histories.  The camaraderie between the characters is largely what propels this series.

Recently I picked up where I left off.  Following the Dark Cybertron miniseries, the evil Megatron has switched sides.  He manipulates events to get assigned to the Lost Light as they resume their quest.  Optimus Prime makes him co-captain with Rodimus so that Megatron will be so busy he'll stay out of trouble.

Instead of the megalomaniac we've come to know and love this Megatron started as a political writer battling against the "Functionalist" regime that decreed because you turned into a mining machine, mining was all you'd ever do.  Megatron's at first peaceful movement eventually turns violent and he basically got lost in the monster he created until Bumblebee's sacrifice in Dark Cybertron woke him up and now he's decided to try to make amends for murdering billions of beings across several planets.  It does make him a lot more three-dimensional than previous versions of the character.

Soon the ship runs into some trouble when they find another Lost Light, one that's destroyed and the crew dead--except for the diminutive Rewind, Chromedome's life partner; the original Rewind was killed a while back.  This is a quantum duplicate who also reveals that Autobot weapons engineer Brainstorm is actually a Decepticon agent.  At that point Brainstorm uses a time machine he built that looks like an ordinary briefcase to go back to the early days of Cybertron.  Rodimus, Megatron, and some of the crew follow using the quantum duplicate on the wrecked version of the ship.  They jump back through a few crucial events in the past until they reach the moment of Megatron's creation.  Brainstorm's aim is to kill Megatron and prevent the Great War from ever happening.  But with some cajoling he gets cold feet.

Later they visit a former Autobot leader Thunderclash who has some information to help their quest, except he's comatose.  Soon other bots start going offline too.  Eventually the cause is traced to personality ticks.  As in alien bugs that are attracted to personal magnetism, especially charisma.

Another fun issue has the bartender Swerve going into a coma of his own and projecting an Earth that's cobbled together out of old human sitcoms.  His comrades adopt human guise to search the imaginary planet for him.  Which part of the fun is seeing what form each character will take.  Some like Ultra Magnus, Cyclonus, and Bluestreak actually take on female forms while Megatron kind of looks like Magneto.

The final arc of More Than Meets the Eye has the crew visiting the "Necroworld" that's the home to the Transformers version of the Grim Reaper.  As they investigate the planet, a whole army of Decepticons show up to try to slaughter them.  Meanwhile, former Autobot spy Getaway (whose toy for some reason had its name changed to Breakaway) has commandeered the Lost Light, making it impossible for Rodimus and crew to escape the planet.  With a lot of trickeration they make their final stand and destroy the bad guys.

From there the series name changes to Lost Light, which really makes more sense.  It makes it easier to differentiate between that series and the series set on Cybertron, that used to be called Robots in Disguise, but is now Til All Are One...I think.  I haven't really gotten into it because it's a different dynamic.  It's more of a traditional series while More Than Meets the Eye/Lost Light is a lot more fun with its focus on the ragtag band of misfits.  And like I mentioned there's a Star Trek feel that I like.

Another great thing about it:  no humans!  I mean except when the robots use their holographic human projections.  Otherwise there are no humans in the crew and they don't spend any time on Earth.  Which one thing I've never really liked is humans getting involved in Transformers stuff.  It's OK if they tag along like Spike in the old cartoon but when they fight Transformers directly like Circuit Breaker in the US comic or GI JOE in a miniseries (and Revolution above) it just annoys me because the idea of humans being able to stop giant fucking robots is laughable.  It's like fighting Godzilla or King Kong.  And really the focus of Transformers should be on the robots, not on humans, which is one of the many reasons I don't like the Bay movies.  Yes I know we need humans because some dopes won't go watch the movie otherwise, but the idea that human soldiers can blow up sophisticated alien robots with a rocket launcher is too fucking ridiculous for me to buy into.  So not having humans around keeps the focus solely on the Transformers, which is a good thing.  You don't have 5-foot squishy beings inexplicably blowing up 50-foot metal aliens.

(As an addendum to my rant in the last paragraph, what was so brilliant in Robotech is that humans built their own kind of Transformers so they could fighting giant alien invaders.  Now in the Bay movies if humans made their own Veritech-type machines that would be one thing, but just shooting a "sabot round" and blowing up a goddamned alien robot that's 5 million years old?  Not buying it.)

I suppose some readers wouldn't like the homoeroticism between some of the Transformers like Chromedome/Rewind and Tailgate/Cyclonus; even I find it a little annoying at times when they're bickering like old married couples.  But like Star Trek--or a sitcom as that one issue compares it to--it's the bond between the core group of characters that makes it worth reading.  I'd really love for this to become a TV series because it's just so damned much fun.

BTW, this has the unique distinction of being the only ongoing series I've read from start to its most current issue.  If I had the money to spend I'd subscribe to it; maybe I'll decide to pony up the $4 a month.

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