Monday, November 1, 2010

Transformers: The Last Stand of the Wreckers

Believe it or not, there are people who are into Transformers in the same way that Trekkies are into Star Trek. Walk into my room, and you’ll soon realize that I am one of these people.

Yes, that is Dreamwave’s “Transformers: War Within” volumes 1 and 2 and a bit of “Transformers: Armada” up there on my wall (and yes, I really need to make my bed). It was the non-terrible Transformers comic that was produced back in 2002. After Dreamwave’s bankruptcy in late 2004, Transformers comics went into limbo until mid 2005 when it was picked up by IDW Publishing. They’ve been producing a steady stream of decent Transformers books since then, and the pinnacle of their work is the mini-series “Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers,” now out in trade paperback.

TLSW is a bit tricky to follow at times, but here’s the skinny: Three years ago there was a jailbreak on an Autobot prison, Garrus-9, and all communication has been cut off since. After the fall of Megatron, there’s finally time and resources to investigate this mystery, so the Wreckers are called in. The Wreckers are Autobot commandos with the reputation of being the toughest strike team to come out of the Great War.

A neat thing about the Wreckers is that when they originally appeared in the 80’s in the United Kingdom’s Transformers comic book they were made up mostly of unimportant toys or non-toy characters. This was odd to find in a licenced comic meant to sell toys, but it meant that any of the Wreckers could be killed off without Hasbro (the company that makes Transformers) caring. So while you knew that Optimus Prime or somebody popular was safe from a gruesome demise, you were never quite sure which Wrecker was going to bite the big one by the end of each issue. Because of that, the book had a tension there that you couldn’t find in the US 80’s comic. That feeling carries over to this new continuity of Wreckers.

IDW’s “Last Stand of the Wreckers” is an example of a great Transformers story done right. Nick Roche is on art and story (with James Robert as co-writer). It’s a story about loyalty, morality, hero-worship, and propaganda. It focuses on developing rounded out characters, and then getting half of those characters brutally killed in a gut-wrenching fashion. Of course, these characters are robots, so seeing them tortured or shot (executioner style!) isn’t as repulsive as it is heart breaking. Roche draws the living Hell out of these Transformers, and manages to get believable emotion out of robots with full cover face plates by using body language and expressive eyes. Also, it includes my favourite Transformers brand Cybertronian style censored insult:

If you’re a fan of Transformers, you NEED this book. If you haven’t watched transformers since the 80s and want to see what’s happened since then, you NEED this book. If you like sci-fi action, you NEED this book. If you don’t like Transformers, science fiction or action, you... shoot. I dunno. Go read Marvel’s Illustrated adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. You girl.

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