IDW Publishing: "Transformers movie prequel" #1

in 2007, Comic Book Review, Movie (2007)

IDW Publishing

General Information:
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: February 2007
Written by: Simon Furman and Chris Ryall
Art by: Don Figueroa
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Robbie Robbins
Edits by: Dan Taylor


Bumblebee cover Black and white covers Cover B Wraparound Cover

Virgin Cover Brians Toys Cover
Sketch Cover
Virgin Cover

Synopsis:
A lone figure burns through space in a comet-like Protoform shape. Through him, we learn of Cybertron's past. Long ago Cybertron was a world at peace, its inhabitants united by one thing: The Allspark. This cube shaped artifact was of unknown origin, but the Transformers never questioned it. The Allspark brought life to Cybertron, and that was all that mattered. Ruling this paradise were Optimus Prime and Megatron. However, this peace was not to last.

Little did anyone know, Megatron had been secretly gathering an army of loyalists who would join him to form a new faction of Transformers: The Decepticons. These Transformers were built and bred for war, and Megatron led them with an iron fist - turning once great cities on Cybertron into wastelands.

One of these cities was Tyger Pax, and it is there most of the action in this issue takes place. A small squad of Autobots led by Bumblebee has been sent to the city where the Allspark had been hidden away. However, only Bumblebee has this knowledge, the other autobots in his squad believe the artifact is in fact in the city of Simfur, where a larger group of Autobots is fighting off the main Decepticon forces. The plan is simple: Bumblebee's squad is to distract the Decepticon forces long enough to execute one last desperate plan: launching the Allspark into space and out of reach of Megatron and his ambitions!

The battle is a desperate one, and with so few to command, Bumblebee's forces are taken out one by one, beaten back into the heart of the city. Soon they are overwhelmed and Megatron appears! However, between his posturing and Bumblebee's actions, the Decepticons are distracted long enough for the Allspark to be launched into space as planned! Megatron leaves Cybertron to pursue the powerful artifact, and by issue's end we see Bumblebee pursuing him - unsure of his future destination.

Story:
There is no doubt that the live action movie due out this summer will not have a lot of time to focus on all the backstory behind the Transformers of this new universe, so it is great to have a prequel series that will show us some of the events the movie will use such as the Allspark being sent out into space. The battle of Tyger Pax is also supposedly going to be mentioned in the movie, so it is cool to get a look at this climactic battle.

This story really elevates Bumblebee's role. For years he was a largely neglected character in Transformers canon, but in recent time starting with the resurgence of G1 in the early 2000's, he has slowly crept out of obscurity back into the limelight. This issue cements that, making him the front and center star of this tale. Having him actually lead a squad rather than just be the young, happy-go-lucky spy was a nice touch. This truly showed an Autobot who is capable of making fast and tough decisions on the battlefield. Having Arcee on his squad is a nice touch, making her existence in this universe canon.

I like the slightly altered take on the Transformers back story. It has many of the familiar elements from previous Transformers tales such as Cybertron having once been at peace, the Decepticons secretly gathering an army and the Autobots not being natural warriors. Having the Allspark serving as the object of Megatron's desire rather than Cybertron itself is interesting. There have been many variations over the years on Megatron's ideas (such as turning Cybertron itself into a weapon). However, chasing after an artifact like the Allspark makes sense. Why bother with conquering an entire world when you can get an artifact that creates new life that you can use to conquer a galaxy? It is also interesting to see less emphasis on Cybertron being burned out because of a lack of Energon but more on the loss of the Allspark and simple wear and tear from war. I also like the idea of Prime and Megatron having once been co-rulers of Cybertron. This elevates both their roles. Prime is something more than a servant of a council or a rebuilt young Autobot and Megatron is more than a disident who remained hidden for years.

Bumblebee's defiance towards Megatron at the end of the issue is great to watch. Despite the grand and frightening appearance of the Decepticon leader, he stands his ground and makes one last desperate attempt to complete his mission. This also sets the stage for the Transformers to begin arriving on Earth, something most likely to be dealt with in issue #2.

Another relationship creeps through, and is one we likely won't see much of in the movie: Starscream's ambition and how Megatron reacts to it. When Bumblebee is captured, Megatron's lieutenant clearly wants to hang around to gain as much information for his own gain as possible, but Megatron wisely does not allow it. Seeing the rivalry between the two was refreshing and reaffirms that many relationships in the movie universe harken to those in G1.

I am curious however how this story reconciles with the recently released paperback novel "Ghosts of Yesterday". In that book, Bumblebee is part of a crew of the Ark with Prime, Jazz, Ratchet and Ironhide. Here the story seems to indicate he is the first of many Autobots to launch independently into space to find the Allspark and Megatron. I hope this is addressed in later issues.

Art:

A challenge often faced by artists is adapting their style from something they have done for a while to a new one. There is no doubt that the visual style of the Transformers from the movie universe is very different than the traditional Transformers. They have a lot less right angles and more individual armored parts layered over inner mechanisms, making them a bit more complicated to draw. Add to that the need to create previously unseen designs and artist Don Figueroa had a challenge on his hands.

However, as fans have come to expect from Don over the years, Don delivers some fresh and amazing art in this issue. Keeping in mind we are largely seeing Transformers in their "Protoform" bodies, it would have been very easy to make them all look alike. However here you see significant differences in body forms. Arcee is smaller and has a slightly more feminine look about her. Giving her a crossbow as a weapon (a carry over idea from Energon perhaps) was a really nice touch. Other Autobots are not as easy to figure out. A couple Autobots die in the battle and we never learn their names, and their forms are a bit hard to reconcile with any G1 characters. One that did stand out appears at the end of the issue, recovering the fallen Bumblebee is Ratchet. I honestly did not have a clue it was him until I stared and realized he had the grille covers on his chest that will also be part of his form in the upcoming movie.

The Decepticons are a bit more non-descript in this story. There are generic Seeker jets, something common to many Transformers universes. In this one the Seekers take their design cues from Armada Thrust, with the nosecone becoming the back of their heads and the thrusters from the vehicle modes becoming their hands. Artist Don Figueroa explained to me that they were roughly based on the F-18 jet.

Two Decepticons feature heavily when Bumblebee is captured, but we are never given their identities. Unlike their Seeker comrades, these two appear to transform into car like vehicles. One is blue and one is red, both sharing a design that features a chest that looks like a car hood and "wings" on their arms that look like car doors. It would have helped to name the characters at some point, but they do show Megatron had more than one design in mind when he built his army. According to Don, the blue car is meant to represent an armored car and the red is more of a regular generic car.

This is the first time in print media we are really getting to see the movie-Megatron in action, and while his form is not reminscent at all of past Megatrons, there is no doubt that he is a malevolent force in this storyline. Not only do his actions speak of a cruel and powerful leader, but his appearance is frightening, like a jagged nightmare come to life.

In order to help distinguish characters from each other, speech bubbles were given a slight colored tinge, which is a nice touch (and reminscent of the G2 comic book). Arcee has a red edge to her bubbles, Bumblebee has yellow and so on.

Final Thoughts:
A good, action-packed beginning to the Transformers prequel. In a short time many characters get highlighted and we get to see more of the Cybertronian side of the movie universe. A recommended read for anyone looking forward to the upcoming movie!