IDW Publishing: "Regeneration One" Issue 805 Comic Book Review
Cover Price: $0.00 (Free Comic Books Day)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: May 2, 2012
Writer: Simon Furman
Penciler: Andrew Wildman
Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Editor: John Barber
Editor in Chief: Chris Ryall
In the beginning there was Primus and Unicron, two representations of universal order and chaos respectively. As the universe formed, they continued their battle. Unicron took on the form of a hungry planet devouring everything in its path as Primus took the form of the planet Cybertron, forming an army to confront Unicron: the Transformers!
Twenty one Earth years after the reoccupation of a newly rejuvinated Cybertron, the Transformers are at relative peace - or so it seems! In the ruins of Polyhex, the Decepticons secretly plot against the Autobots once again, believing themselves to be the true stewards of Primus' vision of universal order!
Millions of years after the Transformers arose, their war extended to the planet Earth!
At the Iacon Hub-Capital Nova Point, Ultra Magnus and Kup visit their leader, Optimus Prime. He has been working with Hot Rod on learning the ways of leadership. When the two approach they explain the Decepticons are starting to stir again, but Optimus Prime tells them to do nothing, and that their threat will go away.
As the war escalated across different worlds, the Transformers began to develop new technologies including Headmasters, Combiners, Targetmasters and Pretenders. The war never died down, it just escalated!
Cybertron, present day
The Kalis-Baird Beaming Transmitter is under attack as the Decepticons make their move! Soundwave takes control of an orbiting satellite, redirecting its destructive power towards the planet!
The Transformers overcame extreme odds to fulfill their destiny: the destruction of the Dark God Unicron! Afterwards their conflict resumed, but this time through the miracle of the Last Autobot's return, Cybertron and Optimus Prime were both revived!
Cybertron, present day
Soundwave's control of the satellite is complete! He carefully takes aim at the most potent symbol of the Autobots: the Last Autobot himself! With one blast he destroys the Autobot as Ultra Magnus, Optimus Prime, Kup and Hot Rod all witness the horror!
It's worth prefacing my review for "Regeneration One" by saying that the day the Marvel Comics "Transformers" title ended was one of the sadder days of my young life as a "Transformers" fan twenty plus years ago. While the television show had ended years before, the continuing adventures of the Transformers in Marvel Comics' "Generation One" title (just called "Transformers" back then) was the only way for me to see the adventures of my beloved Robots in Disguise continue with new characters such as Pretenders and Micromasters. When that title ended, it would be a while until the short-lived "Generation 2" title would pop up, and much longer til a brand new television show would pop up on US airwaves.
It is in that spirit that I was ready to embrace "Regeneration One" before I had seen one line of art or read anything about the series. The idea is daring and uncommon: take a series that ended over two decades ago and continue its story, ignoring its very own sequel series that followed it well over fifteen years ago! This has of course been done before by the Transformers Collector's Club in their "Classics" series, but this had one thing that series didn't: the original writer and artists behind that book! Returning were writer Simon Furman, artist Andrew Wildman and inker Stephen Baskerville. The proverbial bad was back together and this Transformers fan was ecstatic about it!
Now, this issue is not a full blown issue. Instead, it's a bit of a mini-preview of what is to come with the full "Regeneration One" series released for "Free Comic Book Day", an event where comic book companies help bring attention to select titles by releasing either original short stories set in the univierse of those titles or reprinting select sections of existing comic books. "Regeneration One" 80.5 represents the former, whetting fan appetites before the July 2012 release of the regular title's first issue.
The story does a good job of summarizing elements that Furman originated but are now taken for granted. Transformers story essentials such as Primus, Unicron, the Transformers being the "children of Primus" and the Matrix are all concepts that have made their way into modern day "Transformers" lore, most recently featured in the "Fall of Cybertron" video game and "Transformers Prime" animated series. Seeing how these elements all originated is fantastic even if you have seen it all before. Many of the art panels were inspired directly by panels in the original comic book such as Primus and Unicron facing off and Optimus Prime throwing an engine right into Megatron's face! Seeing these panels brought a huge smile to my face and showed how much this issue was trying to honor what came before.
I found some of the story elements here quite refreshing. While set in a familiar universe, it was cool to see not everyone playing the roles we expect. You'd think Optimus would be out leading his people and making grand speeches. Instead he's holed up with Hot Rod tutoring him about Primus knows what (though the hinting at a possible Rodimus Prime appearance is one way you could go with this). I also find it funny that Optimus is once again his grumpy self. See, unlike "Transformers Prime" or even the G1 cartoon, Optimus was frequently in a less than happy mood in the G1 comic. He could be inspiring and win battles when he needed to, but often he was moping about something and it seems he's gone to the dark, contemplative side again. His greeting to Magnus and Kup was far less than cordial and his choice to do nothing about the Decepticons was interesting, and will no doubt cause heat between him and his Autobots in future issues.
Meanwhile the Decepticons are gathering to start up trouble again - but now they're doing it under the banner of "universal order" as determined by Primus, twisting the legend of Primus in the same way Bludgeon twisted the tale of the Last Autobot as a legendary "Great warrior" that inspired him.
Seeing things we generally take as "truths" and then twisting them around a bit has always been one of Furman's coolest tricks and he pulls it off well here. I'm really curious to see where the story goes from here!
The artwork in this issue was nothing short of nostalgic and wonderful all at the same time. Instead of the over-complicated designs of many recent comic books (inspired by the "Bay-verse" live action movies) these Transformers are fairly simple, modeled slightly after their animation models and/or toys. Wildman's very fluid designs are present. Even with more blocky Transformers like Ultra Magnus and Optimus Prime wind up looking smooth and fluid rather than blocky and awkward. Baskerville's inks are strong and help bring out Wildman's line work and the Bove's coloring does a great job of evoking the lighter color palette used towards the end of the Generation One comic book, especially in the backgrounds on Cybertron. Some fans may be a bit turned off by Wildman's less than "100% accurate" proportions. In a couple panels things are outright wonky such as the "Taxi" cab and Hot Rod's side view as he leads Magnus and Kup to Prime. Such stylistic choices were a mainstay of the G1 comic and I found their inclusion charming (and they weren't in every panel, which would have been bad).
Some credit should also be given to the overall design of the issue. The paper is a thinner, lighter stock than your typical IDW Transformers comic book, reminscent of the old Marvel comics in texture and appearance. It's a big glossier, but that's about it. I do grant however that other "Free Comic Book Day" titles shared a similar material design, but here it seems more special somehow. I also noticed they created a rectangular, vertical logo in the upper left hand corner of the cover (a staple of the Marvel comics for years) and on the first page the credits are all laid out in a horizontal bar at the bottom, even using classic titles such as "Writer, Editor in Chief" etc., titles which aren't generally used by comic books by IDW. I found this wonderfully charming and cool at the same time.
At Botcon 2012 Simon Furman revealed that this was an unexpected "add on" for "Free Comic Books Day" and was written after severa lissues of the title were already in the proverbial can, so kudos for whipping up something together that is engaging, cool and reminscent of the comic books of old. If you can get your hands on this, go for it!