IDW Publishing: "ReGeneration One" Issue #100 Comic Book Review
Title: "The War to End All Wars" Part Five
Cover Price: $5.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: March 19, 2014
Writer: Simon Furman
Pencils: Andrew Wildman [1-10]; Geoff Senior [11-20]; Guido Guidi [21-32]
Inks: Stephen Baskerville [1-10, 21-32]; Geoff Senior [11-20]
Colorist: John-Paul Bove
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Editor: John Barber
Editor in Chief: Chris Ryall
This final issue of "ReGeneration One" brings with it a ton of extra material (and thus, a higher cover price than normal). First up are several covers, ranging from the standard "A and B" covers to convention exclusive covers and more. A couple of these covers pay homage to the past, especially Cover B, which serves to both update and replicate aspects of the cover for the original Marvel comic book. The end of the issue features a prose story and a cover gallery of every "Transformers" cover that factors into this storyline (from Marvel's original #1 to now, but no UK exclusive covers). Surprisingly, the cover of the issue featuring Spider-Man is included! There are also afterwards by Andrew Wildman and John-Paul Bove. There is definitely a sense of finality yet joy with the work put into this ad-free issue. This review will focus on the comic book story first, then talk briefly about the prose story.
Rodimus Prime and his crew return to Cybertron to find it transformed - in a horrific way! The planet is aged and tendrils of darkness wrap all over its surface. When the Autobots disembark, they are attacked! Hosehead and Slingshot are destroyed and the Autobots try to blast them with little effect. Blaster manages to use his sonic powers to trap one of the dark tendril-like creatures and Perceptor examines it - to find it used to be Iguanus! The population of Cybertron has been turned into these beasts and Rodimus realizes he will need more than firepower to fight them. He dispatches Jetfire to find the Sword given to him by Primus. The battle rages but backup arrives in the form of the Dinobots! Rodimus realizes Grimlock has an "immunity" to the beasts thanks to his brief time being possessed by Primus (or whatever was masquerading as Primus). The Dinobots were saved by their proximity to Grimlock when the wave overtook the planet. Unfortunately, they report that Galvatron has taken over the Star Chamber, deactivating all but one Space Bridge: the one linking Earth and Nebulos! Rodimus orders Ultra Magnus to retake the Star Chamber while he goes into Cybertron to where everything began.
Meanwhile, at point "Zero", Spike is being held prisoner and mentally tortured. The fabric of reality is changing, revealing other planes of reality where Transformers have taken different paths. It also reveals Galvatron has been sent to Nebulos to lay waste to the world as he had once done to another Earth!
Meanwhile, Rodimus is at The Presidium addressing whatever force is manipulating events. He understands his strings were being pulled, but also explains how he has no intention of playing along. He reveals that "Zero" is a void left over from the loss of the true Primus in this universe. Unfortunately it was easily filled by the Dark Matrix energy which has been manipulating events ever since. Part of this manipulation was giving Rodimus the Sword of Primus and a Matrix. However now the Dark Matrix wants the Matrix to conquer the Multiverse!
In the Star Chamber, Ultra Magnus make their way into the chamber and activate the bridge to Nebulos and Earth. Prowl will lead one team to Earth while Ultra Magnus will lead the other to Nebulos. A token force is left behind to cover their exit and return.
In "Zero", Rodimus finds Spike still being tortured - and Rodimus asks the Dark Matrix energy just how it became what it is now. It explains that it was on Earth with the Transformers, but when Primus brought them back to Cybertron to fight Unicron, it hid inside one of Unicron's acolytes. It began to infect Cybertron itself and used the Demons to do its bidding. It then fanned the flames of discontent to start conflict again! Destroying the Last Autobot was the final step towards beginning its domination. The Dark Matrix energy has now grown as much as it can and wishes to spread to the multiverse. Instead of facing him directly however, the creature reveals three Optimus Primes and they begin to attack!
On Nebulos, the Autobots led by Ultra Magnus exit the Space Bridge and transform into vehicle forms to find Galvatron. On Earth, the Autobots' arrival is less peaceful as they are attacked upon arrival by the humans! Roadbuster steps in, having been there recently and talks to the humans, asking where Optimus Prime is. They explain he is in critical condition after Fortress Maximus' attack and that they will help him if they can take them to wherever Spike is.
At "Zero", Rodimus tries to hold off the trio of Optimus Primes without killing them. Spike still can't hear him so he makes one last gambit. Taking the Covenant of Primus disc, he throws it into the open rift where he sees the "Transformers Animated" version of himself! Things look desperate until suddenly - an army of Hot Rods and Rodimus Primes from other realities appears to help!
On Nebulos, Ultra Magnus and the Autobots have found Galvatron. Still possessed by the Dark Matrix energies, he is nothing but a raging force of destruction but the Autobots are undaunted and begin a crippling assault to take him down.
Back in "Zero", the army of Hot Rods and Rodimus Primes manages to distract the Dark Matrix long enough that one of the Optimus Primes breaks free of its controls and tells Rodimus that this dark force cannot be destroyed but only contained. He must make the ultimate decision as to what to do.
Back on Nebulos, Ultra Magnus is taking Galvatron down when suddenly Fortress Maximus looms over him. The forces from Earth come just in time to stop the possessed Autobot as much as it pains them to do so.
Back at "Zero", Rodimus tries to talk Spike away from his emotional turmoil, explaining he is not responsible for Earth's fall and the deaths of his loved ones. Spike breaks off from the mental torture and Rodimus uses the Sword of Primus to stop the Dark Matrix! This leaves only Rodimus, Spike and a gravely wounded Optimus Prime in the now dead Primus Chamber. Optimus tells Rodimus not to grieve and that Primus' dream will now live on...before he dies.
Eons later, Rodimus Prime has aged and is prepared to die. Without Primus as a force of life in this universe, the Transformes race slowly dwindled until he was the last. He remembers the Sword's power was all used up to seal the rift in reality and put to rest the lost Sparks, but Cybertron was lost - too dark to stay on. However, Optimus' vision was fulfilled, with Nebulos and Earth working together to rebuild. The remaining Transformers, Autobots and Decepticons alike took to the stars to spread out a message of peace. Before Rodimus can finish his last thought, he passes away and slowly Matrix energy spreads outward from his body ... and new life emerges!
I had previously commented that something felt "off" about "Primus" in the last few issues of this series, and this issue revealed all. What really appealed to me about this larger sized issue is that it gave time for the layers of story an explanations to be peeled back slowly. It didn't feel like everything and the kitchen sink was being thrown at you because there was no more time to show everything. Instead, the pacing is very good and keeps you on the edge of your seat as the story builds to each critical milestone.
That is not to say I don't have some regrets about this series. While there was no "rush' to end things this time out, I did find myself wishing certain stories had been dug into more deeply (or at least continued). Fortress Maximus is one such thread. I've always had a love for the character because he was atypical in many ways. He wasn't a warrior by choice, but a reluctant one (there are a few Transformers like this, but not many) and had cool transformations to boot. It also helped that I love the toy too. His "resurrection" story was all too brief and I do feel he got short changed a bit (in contrast his arch enemy Scorponok received quite a bit of attention for one arc). Another story thread that I would've liked to see explored more are the events on Earth, which felt a tad rushed/shorter than I had hoped. To be fair, much of this is partly my own internal wish for more "ReGeneration One". I would have personally loved some "Spotlight" style stories set in this universe focusing on key characters and events.
If there were one thread I had wanted better explained, it would be the trio of Optimus Primes. I understand the were possessed, but wasn't there still "an" Optimus Prime being repaired on Nebulos? Or was that the one with the smokestack missing that had been transported to "Zero" somehow? If there were one criticism of the issue, it's that this wasn't made apparent - but it's a rather small point.
I felt the way all the conflicts played out in this story were appropriate. Rodimus was not your "typical" Transformer or Prime, he followed his own instincts and didn't "go with the flow", and thus saved the day. Ultra Magnus had his final confrontation with Galvatron, Grimlock got to help save the day one last time and Optimus Prime passed - representing the end of the "old" era. This was an issue that sought to put a lot of dangling threads to rest and it did so admirably.
The ending of the story was a dark, yet noble one for the Transformers race. By cutting themselves off from the multiverse they saved countless other Transformers but doomed themselves. Clearly races like the Nebulans and humans did well, and for a time seeing Transformers like Shockwave serve as ambassadors for peace is a fascinating concept. The last panel however made me smile as the plant-like Cybertronian descendant had a somewhat familiar form reminscent of the "Beast Machines" era Transformer Botanica. Could the death of the Autobots and Decepticons lead to the rise of the Maximals and Predacons in this alternate universe? I like to think so but that is deliberately left open to interpretation.
This story wasn't all about darkness and ending things however. There was a bit of fan service thrown in for good measure. The "army" of Hot Rods and Rodimus Primes will no doubt have fans buzzing. I was very happy to see the "G1 toy" Hot Rod, Alternators Rodimus and "Animated" Rodimus all represented. However, I was even more tickled to see Micromaster Rodimus shown as well in one panel! On top of that our first look into the "rift" gave us a look at a multiverse that included "Beast Wars", "Prime" and "Animated" (and possibly "Robots in Disguise") all in one shot. Other fan service was a bit less obvious including flashbacks to previous issues of the comic book such as Runabout's death and Powermaster Optimus Prime being attacked by Unicron's acolytes from the G1 Marvel Comic book. These moments weren't just for show, they were also a reflection of how grand the entirety of the "Transformers" universe is, and by ending this little corner while still having other parts of it continue on, it was a testament to the longevity of the toy line and fiction. It is also very appropriate that this story concludes during the 30th Anniversary of the Transformers toy line and I like to think this was not a happy accident but a deliberate celebration of the comic book series that helped start the phenomenon.
The art duties in this issue were divided amongst different artists who have had a dramatic effect on "Transformers" fiction over the years. While I absolutely love Guido Guidi's retro, Wildman-esque take on "Transformers" art, I am very happy we got to see Wildman return for one last issue. The work feels a bit more focused and strong both in terms of panel layouts and structure than some previous issues. He seems to have moved away just a smidge from the "armor on human" type look of Transformers and made them look a bit thicker, a bit more powerful and I dug that look.
In sharp contrast, Geoff Senior's style is a lot more streamlined and simple. However, "simple" means clean and crisp - not bad. He can do complex as much as any artist - just check out the panel where Galvatron is demolishing a Nebulan city. It's full of detail (down to the remnants of the statue with a globe that figured heavily into the first issue of the "Headmasters" series). Senior's style has always been incredibly dynamic and powerful. Every action scene conveys movement in striking and eye catching ways and it's one of my favorite aspects of his artwork.
Bringing things home is Guido Guidi, who has shouldered a bulk of the art duties in the last story arc and done a great job of using Andrew Wildman's style as a launching point, but joining it with his own style, focusing on the look of the characters based on their G1 Marvel character models. His attention to detail is brilliant and his action scenes are eye catching and brutal in some cases.
Normally I don't like artists being switched up in the middle of an issue, especially when their art styles aren't similar (Wildman and Senior in this case). However, the issue was a deliberate celebration of what came before, so from a thematic perspective, I didn't mind the switch up at all. It also helps that I love the artwork of all three artists. I also want to be sure the work of Stephen Baskerville and John-Paul Bove are acknowledged. The inks help bring out a lot in the pencils and Bove's colors are, as always, rich and add a ton of depth to the story. Often i find myself imagining the panels of these comics as frames of an animated television show and not necesarily panels of a comic. That's high compliment in my book!
Prose Story Review: "King of Shadows" by Simon Furman
This was an unexpected and final treat in this issue. The story is two pages and focuses on Ravage who was left behind on Cybertron. Because he has lived in the "shadows" so long he is able to dodge and fight the shadows that took over Cybertron until the day Starscream saved him, taking him away from the planet. While Starscream and Shockwave were "changed", he was not and still contains some of the darkness of the past.
This story fascinated me for a couple reasons. First, it's a nice bit of epilogue but gives us insight into the post-peace period and shows not everything was bright lights and happiness. Clearly there were still struggles ahead even after the Transformers abandoned Cybertron. Second, this ties a bit into the last panel of the comic book. If we were to interpret the "Botanic-like" robot's appearance as hints of the Maximals and Predacons rising up, Ravage remaining with his Decepticon ways intact would play into that in some alt-universe version of "The Agenda" playing out. This is a extrapolation borne of my own brain however, nothing in the story suggests this but it's interesting to contemplate.
The story includes a full body illustration of Ravage in his classic G1 form by John-Paul Bove and it's a gorgeous, painted style that works beautifully with the story.
To echo the words of Simon Furman - it's over. A saga that began thirty years ago with Marvel Comics' original four issue series finally comes to a close decades later with this story. This is not a "cancellation" or surprise. This series was always advertised as one that would end with issue #100, but now that it's here this old skool "Transformers" fan can't help but feel a bit of a lump in his throat with a touch of a smile from the last panel.
The end wasn't perfect for many of the reasons I indicate above. However, overall it was a strong finish to a series that in one form or another refused to die over the years. Even when Marvel stopped printing it and other companies took over, this is the series that continues to influence stories to this day. I appreciate the series also leaving threads for potential future stories even if this is indeed "the end". It's nice to know the Transformers of this "universe" will have a legacy even if they are cut off from the rest of the Multiverse. As with the story, the real life toy line and fiction will continue to be influenced for years to come even though this series has come to a close. This entire series and issue represents a significant point in "Transformers" history and is worth reading by any "Transformers" fan.