Monday, June 30, 2014

Fanholes Figure That! (MAFEX The Dark Knight Rises Batman)

Probably not news to anybody who follows this blogspot, but MAFEX/Medicom Batman is awesome! MAFEX actually stands for Miracle Action Figure EX. While I'm not 100% certain, I would imagine the EX is short for extreeeeeme!!!!!!

He is certainly extremely poseable.

"Hahahaha! Awesome. Batman defends your hooch from Deadpool." - Ben a.k.a. fishmilkshake (Action Figure Blues Podcast Host and Forum Administrator)

This figure is more closer in scale with DC Universe Classics and Marvel Legends than the Mattel Movie Masters version. It has all the articulation of Marvel Legends and better, without any of the drawbacks. In my opinon, he doesn't look ugly and the shoulder pads cover up any weird tomato-looking ball joints. In addition, he is easy to pose. With Marvel Legends it feels like it's either a marionette and loose as hell or so tight that if you try to move an arm you might break it. Here, the joints are not loosey-goosey, but they are not super-tight either. To me, they move like butter and hold that pose like butter in the fridge. Or as Goldielocks might say, they are juuuuust right. He comes with enough accessories to be awesome. There is a grapple gun, a sonic rifle, swap out fists (a.k.a. punchy-hands), open hands and one right-trigger hand). However, there are not so many alternate hands that one becomes overwhelmed with options.

I'd like to address the two major drawbacks I'd heard about up front, and simply state I'm completely fine with both. One, the figure can stand just fine and does not require the stand he comes with to be stationary.

Two, yes his arms do pop off at the drop of a hat. But to me, that's better than breaking off while the ball joint stays in the socket if you get to overzealous with your poses.

I've also heard that some folks thought the cape should be wired. Speaking as a collector who has a wired Mattel Adam West Batman from the two-pack with Robin, I can safely state that it doesn't really help pose the cape very well anyway and the non-wired cloth version makes either Batman figure easy to sit down in a Batmobile.

In the final analysis, MAFEX The Dark Knight Rises Batman is honestly the best 6" movie Batman ever.

- Derek

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mike's Top Ten Favorite Beast Wars Episodes

Beast Wars is my favorite Transformers cartoon.  Most Transformers fans who have viewed it would probably agree, or at least recognize its relatively-consistent quality on all levels.  It isn't perfect, but it is certainly of a high caliber in terms of Western cartoons.

Those who actively dislike Beast Wars are probably on crack, or never gave it a proper chance.  If you are one of these people and are offended by what I just wrote, then come at me, bro (or bro-ette).

Anyhow, these are my top ten favorite episodes of Beast Wars.   As with the G1 episodes, I limited myself to only picking single episodes, and not lumping multi-parters together.


10. Spider's Game  (Season 1, Episode 18)

Another well-adjusted individual joins the Beast Wars.

Being a big Spider-Man fan, I naturally gravitated to Tarantulas as one of my favorite characters on Beast Wars very early on.   He was cool-looking, had a unique voice, and awesome weapons.  While previous episodes showcased his creepy and vicious sides, this episode was the first time that his scheming side came to the fore.

Tarantulas had been portrayed as Megatron's chief inventor/scientist up until this point, but “Spider's Game” showed that he also had a separate agenda from Megatron.  This rogue element in his nature would carry him throughout the rest of the series, and it made him even cooler to me.  The viewer didn't even have to wait that long at all to find out what Tarantulas' current agenda was, because he drops his bombshell at the end of this episode about the impending destruction of the planet.  While there had been previous underlying subplots in the show, this was the major one in the first season, and it certainly made me anxious for each and every of the following episodes.

This episode also is the debut of Inferno, who would go on to be an extremely memorable (if one-note) character.  I remember being excited to get Inferno's toy, then being let down that it didn't come with that giant cannon/flamethrower he used in the show.  Ah well...

Favorite line-

(Blackarachnia and Tarantulas go their separate ways.)



9. Other Victories  (Season 3, Episode 11)

Tommy and Jason finally have it out for leadership of the Power Rangers!

I'm not a big fan of the third season of Beast Wars.   I think it suffered greatly from “sell toys-itis”, had far too many subplots and elements introduced that went absolutely NOWHERE, and was by far the weakest season overall. 

Still, I think this episode is one of the better-balanced episodes of Season 3, insofar as closing off plot threads, selling the toy of the week (Tigerhawk), and well...being entertaining in general.  The bevy of plot threads to be addressed in this episode include the fates of Tigatron and Airazor, the Vok, Tarantulas and of course, there's the matter of the Predacon base too.   Larry DitTillio does his best and manages to do pretty well at tying these loose threads off.

The episode definitely has an epic feel to it, and you know things will never be the same after Tigerhawk destroys the Darksyde.  He then proceeds to have a pretty cool battle with Megatron, successfully hawking (haha) his toy to the audience.  I thought Tigerhawk was a neat concept and it would have been great to have gotten him into the show earlier in the season to explore his character and the implications of his “binary spark”.

The Vok also take their final bows here, and like Tigerhawk, there is a sense of “more could have been said”.  Heck, this episode is the first time we even learn their NAME.  These mysterious aliens had been observing and manipulating the Beast Wars since practically the very first episode, and we still didn't really know a whole lot about them.  Later stories in the comics would further address and elaborate on the Vok, but it would have been nice to have that in the show.  Alas, we have to settle for at least seeing their “physical” forms at last in this episode.

Finally, Tarantulas gets a pretty memorable death scene as his schemes undo him beyond repair (again, unless you count the comics).  At the very least, my favorite character in the show exited in a particularly flashy fashion.  And his legacy would be still be felt in the very next episode and series finale.

Favorite line-

TIGERHAWK:  You're insane...

TARANTULAS:  So they saaaay!  Bllll-urrrrrgh-raaaaah!

8. Dark Designs  (Season 1, Episode 13)

I bet it'd be funny if I just snapped and murdered them all in their sleep tonight.

If Tarantulas is my favorite character on the show, then Rhinox is certainly my second favorite, and this is certainly an interesting spotlight episode for him.  After being reprogrammed into a Predacon, Rhinox proves to be a better bad guy than Megatron himself!

Rhinox is so ridiculously good at everything that one could almost consider him a Mary Sue, but his affable and low-key nature usually prevents the viewer from doing so.  He's so humble and down on himself sometimes that you forget that he is a literal miracle worker when the chips are down.  But here, we get to see that humbleness tossed aside and his ego unleashed as he expertly pits the Predacons against one another and nearly steals Megatron's own organization out from under him.

There's a lot of great humor in this episode, especially focusing on all the creative ways Rhinox takes out the various Predacons.  Lots of good fight scenes and action as well, with the director experimenting a bit with some shaky cam and strobe effects.  The ending always amuses me, with Rhinox and the gang making fun of the Predacon mindset and laughing together while a frustrated Dinobot looks on in indignation.

I always played it in my head that Rhinox secretly didn't like Dinobot very much, but was always too pro to show it, except in times of extremely high or low tension.  The fact that he's basically demeaning the entire Predacon faction in clear earshot of Dinobot certainly speaks to this.  And if you think about it, there are several examples in the show of Rhinox openly threatening or being quite passive-aggressive with Dinobot, but I am getting off on a tangent here.

I suppose you could point to this episode as sort of a precursor to Rhinox's turn as Tankor in Beast Machines.  I do think it fits and is consistent with a mind-altered Rhinox being a dangerous adversary and all, but I'd rather not think about Beast Machines anymore than I absolutely have to.

Favorite quote-

CHEETOR:  Better dead than Pred!

DINOBOT:  Some of us have survived the experience...furball.

7. Transmutate  (Season 2, Episode 10)

"I did naht hit her!  It's naht troo, it's bowlshet!  I did naht hit her!  I did nahhht.  Oh hai, Maximals."

This is an episode that is probably on a lot of people's favorites list, but is almost never number one.  It kind of gets overshadowed by “Code of Hero” and “The Agenda” most of the time, but it is still a very solid tale.

The tragic nature of the Transmutate is explored nicely, and the contrast between Silverbolt and Rampage is also handled well.  Rampage in particular gets some nice spotlight, with the viewer seeing his sympathetic side and perhaps even empathizing with him.  Silverbolt's never really been a favorite character of mine, but he does get to display what a compassionate individual he is here and that his somewhat-daffy heroic persona is not just for show.

Other than that, there's not much to say, as this is simply a generally-excellent episode that deserves all the praise most people give it and perhaps more.

Favorite line-

(Transmutate's last words to Silverbolt and Rampage.)

TRANSMUTATE:  Friend...good.  Friend...dark. hurt.

6. Other Voices, Part 2  (Season 1, Episode 26)

"Farewell, Bob!  Mainframe is mine now!"

As the first season's finale, this episode is appropriately high on drama.  The Maximals and Predacons struggle to avert the destruction of the planet, and things feel deservedly tense at all times.

Blackarachnia gets to strut her stuff, both physically and mentally.  She takes out Inferno on her own and proves she's no dummy by choosing to aid the Maximals in saving the planet.  Also, Tarantulas taking up residence in her mind was a nice emerging plot point and served the climax of the episode well.

Oddly, Alec Willows provides his usual talent in voicing Tarantulas for that final line, but Scott McNeil noticeably fills in for him just before the confrontation with Inferno.  Maybe the original performance was lost in editing?  Who knows.

Optimus Primal showcases his inherent self-sacrificing nature and follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, with a cliffhanger that left me worried that Beast Wars wouldn't be back.  But thankfully, it did come back and “Other Voices” is a fine closer to the first half of the series.

Favorite line-

AIRAZOR:  Cheetor and Tigatron are coming!

RATTRAP:  Aw terrific!  Now we can all get reduced to hot, burning slag together!


And also-

MEGATRON:  Brilliant!  They're causing a chain reaction which will rip this planet to atoms and destroy all traces of them...simply to deal with us!  Such sheer ruthlessness!  Such disregard for sentient life!  ...I rather like these aliens.

And also again (this episode has tons of great lines!)-

(After the rest of the Maximals offer to take Optimus Primal's place in the stasis pod, he looks to Rattrap expectantly.)

OPTIMUS:  What about you, Rattrap?

RATTRAP:  (Shrugs)  Eh, suicide ain't in my job description.

OPTIMUS:  (Resignedly)  Hm.  Or mine.

5. Victory  (Season 1, Episode 12) 

Great, that's gonna smudge.

This episode always seemed something like a “mid-season” finale to me, what with the Predacons apparently vanquished and the Maximals possibly on their way home.  There is definitely a more epic tone to this episode than many others in Season 1, and much higher stakes.

Sure, there is a bit of a plothole in that Megatron and the Predacons could have very well missed the launch of the Axalon had they not discovered Dinobot spying on them, but I find it pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

Some nice characterization for Dinobot as he mourns the loss of his former comrades and struggles with returning to a planet where he's not welcome.  There's also some great fight scenes and action, and yet another opportunity for Rhinox to show why he's the man when he literally boots Megatron off the ship at the end.

One of my favorite comedic scenes in Beast Wars is also in this episode- that being when the Predacons are hiding out in the narrow canyon after faking their deaths.  Tarantulas and Waspinator arguing in the claustrophobic space and Terrorsaur completely losing his wits always makes me laugh.  The whole “Optimus as Superman” bit at the end is also quite amusing.

Favorite line-

(After Dinobot declares he will remain on Earth.)

OPTIMUS:  I understand.  Nonetheless, let the record show that I advise against this action.  It will eventually lead to your destruction.

DINOBOT:  Eventually...eventually can be a long time, Optimus Primal!

4. The Agenda, Part 3  (Season 2, Episode 13)

If this were Sunbow Megatron, he'd probably miss.

Here's another season-ending crowd-pleaser.  Above and beyond the G1 references, you have a solidly-written episode with all the right ingredients.  The battle that opens the show is one of the series' best, and that's only the first seven minutes.  Our guest-star Ravage gets to exit in epic fashion, although it is a shame that beyond a cameo, he played no part in Season 3.

The reveal of the Ark and Megatron's journey inside is probably what most people fondly recall from this episode.  I certainly remember being excited, although the fact that it and its occupants would be a presence in this episode was spoiled for me because the accursed Internet had recently entered my life.

The last five episodes of Season 2 aired on Cartoon Network, a channel that I did not get at the time, long before they aired in the usual syndicated spot I watched Beast Wars in.  So of course, information about these episodes was readily available for some time before I could actually view them.  I managed to resist a little, but the concept of SPOILERS was still a little new to me, and once I saw a screenshot of Megatron hovering over Soundwave's body, I had to read and see what that was about.

Even after being spoiled, this episode was a thrill to watch, and I think the best of the three season finales.

Favorite line-

(The Axalon's shields are about to collapse.)

COMPUTER:  Shield power critical.  Failure imminent.

RHINOX:  Well, that's just DAN-DY.

3. The Web  (Season 1, Episode 3) 

Life goes up, life goes down, life goes up, life goes down...

I had seen the opening two-parter of Beast Wars about four or five months beforehand when it aired as a “preview” special and thought it was pretty decent, but I was still a little apprehensive about the series.  “The Web” eliminated these apprehensions and made it a priority for me to wake up and watch Beast Wars every morning.

The fact that Cheetor, the “kid identification character”, nearly gets slagged before the first commercial break, seemed pretty hardcore to 12-year old me.  My appreciation of Tarantulas also began with this episode, as he gives lip to Scorponok early on and then ditches him.  Oh, and then later, he tries to EAT Cheetor.  I don't have anything against Cheetor, but let's face it; I wasn't really in the right age range for such a character to appeal to me at the time.  

However, Rattrap and Tarantulas certainly appealed to me, and their fight in this episode was a pretty memorable one.  I dug Tarantulas' “Predator” thermo-scan vision and Rattrap's gadgets and sneaky way of fighting.

Another small bit that sealed the deal for me was the cameo of G1 Starscream in the dream that Cheetor had.  I couldn't really tell from the initial two-parter if Beast Wars was connected to the original cartoon, but I remember being excited to see just this two second cameo of Starscream.  Little did I know that the guy himself would show up later in the season, but by that time, Beast Wars would have clearly established that it WAS connected to G1.

Favorite line-

(Tarantulas is preparing to drain Cheetor.)

CHEETOR:  This is a dumb plan, web-face!  I don’t have any real blood, just mech fluid!

TARANTULAS:  Oh, my filters will adjust.  It is the act I enjoy more than the nourishment!

2. Code of Hero  (Season 2, Episode 9) 

"F**k you, Carl Sagan!!!"

What is there to say about this episode that hasn't already been said?  Well, I would personally say that not only is it generally the best episode of Beast Wars, but a case could be made for it being the best episode of Transformers altogether.  Just well-constructed on all levels, and one of the most touching half-hours of animation I've ever seen.

Yes, like with The Agenda, I knew going in that Dinobot was going to die, but it really didn't diminish the impact of the episode.  To top it off, my grandfather passed away a very short time before I got to see “Code”, so I guess I was really in the right state of mind for it (or possibly the wrong state of mind, because I really wept my eyes out at the end of the episode).

Aside from the tragedy and drama, it's also got one of the best fight scenes of the series, as Dinobot plows his way through the entire Predacon team, gets a one-on-one rematch with Quickstrike (and trounces him again), and finally sacrifices his life against Megatron.  It's all very epic and violent and tragic and so very well done.

So basically, you've got a heart of stone if this episode didn't affect you in some way.

Favorite line- 

(Megatron admires Dinobot's last stand from afar.)

MEGATRON:  One lonely turncoat, battling on against impossible odds.  I'm almost touched! ...Fortunately, such moments pass quickly.  Quickstrike, scrap him.

And also-

OPTIMUS:  Well fought, my friend.  You saved the valley.  You saved the lives of those who live here...and of those who are still to come.

DINOBOT:  Then...there is nothing to regret.

1. The Agenda, Part 2  (Season 2, Episode 12) 

"I'll say this once, Silverbolt.  Bots before slots."

If you've read any of my lists before, you might notice that I tend to favor the “penultimate” part of a story over its conclusion, and this is no different.  It seems like more often than not, the next-to-last part of serialized stories is always the most dramatic and jam-packed full of cool things for me.

The second part of “The Agenda” starts off with one of my favorite scenes in the series as Optimus Primal confronts Silverbolt over his relationship with Blackarachnia.  Great acting from both Garry Chalk and Scott McNeil, and what I felt was a rare scene amongst the good guys.  Primal's reprimanding of Silverbolt felt like something that would have never shown up in the original G1 cartoon.

Every scene with Megatron and Ravage chatting is pretty riveting as well, and Inferno's death scene (and don't deny it, it was clearly supposed to be his death scene) is wonderfully-staged.  The bit when Silverbolt addresses Blackarachnia as “citizen” always makes me smile, and of course, this is one of the best cliffhangers of the series.

It is a shame that they couldn't get Frank Welker to voice G1 Megatron again, and also that Ravage didn't play the original cartoon's theme song when he transforms at the end of the episode, as the creators intended.  However, just hearing the classic transformation sound as he turns into a cassette was a fanboy squee moment, and I can't fault the creators for trying their best.

So yeah, this is definitely my favorite episode of Beast Wars, and that's not to take away from “The Agenda, Part 3”, or even the first part.  I simply feel like I enjoyed this episode the best out of all three parts.

Favorite line-

(After Silverbolt catches a falling Blackarachnia.)

BLACKARACHNIA:  Oh no, you're not saving my life again!  Even after I shot you?

SILVERBOLT:  It's my duty, ma'am.  As a Maximal...and as a heroic character.

And also-

RAVAGE:  So, it was a trap.

MEGATRON: (The most dickish delivery imaginable)  Oh, nooo!  Really??


And that's that. I will accept your judgment now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mike's Top Ten Favorite G1 Transformers Episodes

While I'll always look to the original Marvel comic first as “my” G1, the Sunbow cartoon holds a very special place in my heart as well. 

These are my top ten favorite episodes of the original Transformers cartoon!

10.  The Autobot Run  (Season 2, Episode 7)

Chip Chase is a FRAUD.

This episode is really only here as a sentimental favorite.  It was the first episode I got to see on TV.  Up until that point, I had only watched the Transformers cartoon on VHS tapes rented from my local Major Video, as I had been too young to see the original broadcast of the series.

Unfortunately, it was the Generation 2 version of the episode, so I was also introduced to the “magic” of the Cybernet Space Cube.  Still, it remains a sentimental favorite because I remember being excited that Transformers was finally on TV for me to watch right after school.

The episode itself is...not great.  As one of the infamous AKOM-produced episodes from Season 2, its animation quality is quite poor.  Still, at the time and even now, I find a certain charm in their simplistic style.  And the bit where Devastator throws Optimus Prime and Ironhide into a row of houses, yet leaving the one marked “Glass” undamaged always makes me chuckle.

Favorite line-

HUFFER:  I knew the racing bit was bad news, but would anyone listen to me? Oh, nooo.

(Huffer suddenly cries out as Brawn assails him.)

BRAWN:  Stifle it, Huffer!  Or I'll put my “footio” in your audio!

9.  Dweller in the Depths  (Season 3, Episode 22)

"Paul Dini wrote this episode?  I don't knooooow, Mistah Gee!"

Written by Paul Dini of Batman the Animated Series fame, this was a nice “horror” episode of Transformers.   In keeping with the more mature tone of Season 3, there's a lot of heavy material, high stakes, and disturbing images in this one.

The Transorganics and the Dweller are legitimately-horrific creatures.  The scarred face of the Quintesson scientist who created the Dweller really unnerved me when I was younger.  And of course, everyone the Dweller drained becoming energy vampires/zombies was quite creepy.

Under the talented Mr. Dini, everyone is naturally blessed with on-the-spot characterization.  Galvatron continuously sacrificing his own troops to the Dweller in order to escape, only to hesitate when ever-loyal Cyclonus is ensnared remains a choice moment.

Favorite line-

GALVATRON:  Quintesson!  You have betrayed us to the Autobots once before.  Why should I trust you?

QUINTESSON:  Please, Galvatron, you can't lay one bad experience on the doorstep of the whole Quintesson race.   Besides, how can you be so certain that we were the ones who betrayed you?

GALVATRON: all do look alike.

8. Heavy Metal War  (Season 1, episode 16)

"Prepare to empty your wallets, human parents!"

Okay, I admit it.  As a kid, I only watched this episode so much because OH DEAR GOD BUY ME THESE TOYS SOMEONE.  I mean, it's the debut of the Constructicons, and they fight the Dinobots.  I would watch that fight over and over again after I had the episode on tape.  Since this was in the nebulous time between G1 and G2, those particular toys were no longer available to me no matter how hard I wished, so I had to get my fix visually, if not tangibly.

The episode also has a pretty good battle between Optimus and Megatron, but honestly...I was never that big into either of them.   But the animation is certainly an all-around high point in this episode, having been done by one of the better studios.   Just don't watch the “Rhino” DVD version of this one...they used a rougher cut of the animation, with is riddled with coloring and layering errors.

The “flanging” effect on the Dinobots' voices seemed especially pronounced in this episode, to the point where they all sound a little...flemmy, I guess.   But for some reason, I find that kind of memorable.

Favorite line-

(As the Dinobots drive the Constructicons out of the Ark.)

SLUDGE:  Sludge not see these Decepticons before.

SNARL:  Not see again either, because we dynamite them to pieces!

7. Desertion of the Dinobots, Part 1  (Season 2, Episode 22)


This episode is probably the last time in the cartoon the Dinobots function as the dumb, but rebellious powerhouses they started off as.  After this point, they mostly become comedy relief in Season 3, where they apparently forget they can transform to robot modes.

While the second part is also a solid episode, I think this initial part is the stronger of the two, both from a dramatic standpoint and a humorous one.   Having faced their own mortality when Megatron nearly destroys them, the Dinobots angrily abandon the Autobots.  Unlike previous episodes, where they were just defiant and difficult for no real reason other than being a little dim, it rings a lot truer this time.

On the comedy side of things, the Autobots and Decepticons have begun suffering various malfunctions as they face a mass-depletion of Cybertonium- a critical element in their natural functions.  This leads to some really amusing stuff, like Ironhide freezing himself with his own liquid nitrogen, Megatron briefly developing a speech impediment, and best of all; the Decepticons losing their ability to fly in robot mode. This facilitates a great bit where they all try to leap to the sky and take off, only for all of them to just flop helplessly to the ground.  Megatron's attempts to fly are particularly amusing, as the above GIF demonstrates.

Favorite line-

(Wheeljack attempts to convince the defiant Dinobots to aid them.)

WHEELJACK:  We really need your help.  Why won't you give us a hand?

GRIMLOCK:  (Rubs chin thoughtfully) Me don't know why not.   So we help.  This time.

And also-

(Everyone is starting to feel the effects of Cybertonium depletion.)

MEGATRON:  It's the Auto-burrughr!   The Auto-BURRRRRRUGGGGHRR!!!

STARSCREAM:  Too bad!  He's blown his vocal components.  I guess that makes me the new leader!

(Starscream transforms to jet mode, takes off, and immediately crashes to the ground.)

6. Call of the Primitives  (Season 3, Episode 26)

All the pretty drawings in this episode and what I remember most are Abominus' antennae flicking out.

Anyone will tell you that “Call of the Primitives” is the best-animated episode of Transformers.  I'm...actually not so sure.  Sure, the individual drawings and character models are very pretty, heavily-stylized and somewhat anime-esque.  And there are some wonderfully-animated scenes, like Grimlock falling down the cliff after Tornedron baits him.  But if you really pay attention you notice there are a ton of typical “shortcuts” taken with the animation as well and some things, like Predaking disassembling after receiving “the call”, look absolutely horrid.

But I do like this episode on its own merits; it kind of falls into that “one-off where everyone dies” category that I enjoy.  The action is intense, the stakes are high and as always, the reliable voice-acting sells it.  Grimlock is particularly dopey in this one, but it is a hilarious kind of dopey, and he ends up saving the day in the end.  Kind of funny that he and the other Dinobots have so much screen time in this episode, when their toys were probably long gone from shelves by this time.

I don't think I've ever bought into the “Unicron was built by a little monkey-scientist” explanation, but it was nice that they tried to give an origin for Unicron in the actual show.

Favorite line-


SKY LNYX:  No!  Grimlock!

(Grimlock runs by Sky Lnyx in the most hilarious manner possible to attack Tornedron.)


5. The Burden Hardest To Bear  (Season 3, Episode 28)

I lost mah I go to a dojo!

The quintessential “Rodimus Prime doubts himself” episode.  Although he does flirt with self-doubt in various other episodes in season 3, this is by far the most acute example, and probably what some fans point to when they accuse Rodimus of being whiny or a poor leader.

Not me, though!

I've always thought Rodimus was a more interesting character than Optimus Prime, and much more relatable to me as a character.  And I found that I could certainly relate to being unable to measure up to someone else or being expected to be perfect in a job that I didn't even want to do, especially as I got older.

Above and beyond that, this is a well-written episode and a nice spotlight for Rodimus Prime and Scourge.  While I had read “Matrix Quest” in the comics before seeing this episode, I had always thought the concept of a Decepticon using the Matrix as a weapon was a cool one.   And while Scourge doesn't really get to effectively use it as well here as Thunderwing did in the comics, it was still a frightful image when the Matrix mutated his body.

It's just too bad that the episode where Rodimus Prime seemingly FINALLY gets over his self-doubt and embraces his role as leader of the Autobots is near-IMMEDIATELY followed up by “The Return of Optimus Prime”.  That always struck me as odd and something of a shame, even as a young man.

Favorite line-

SENSEI:   You are troubled, Autoboto-san?

HOT ROD:  Who, me?   Nah.

SENSEI:  You are lying, Autoboto-san.

HOT ROD:  Yeah. I am.

4.  Five Faces of Darkness, Part 1  (Season 3, Episode 1)

"Yay, they're gonna go rescue me!  Waitaminute..."

Five Faces of Darkness was basically the sequel to Transformers: The Movie for me.  As another VHS rented as a child, I remember the somewhat-incongruous cover that showed Mainframe, Cloudburst and Powermaster Optimus Prime posing dramatically as a giant Quintesson face loomed ominously in the background.  Of course, none of those characters were actually IN Five Faces of Darkness, aside from Optimus Prime if I'm being charitable.  But I don't think it bothered me too much as a kid since the content was so memorable.   It is an AKOM episode, and thus is mostly quite poor in the animation department, but they do their job and even create some memorable images (and gaffes, as the picture above shows).

This episode was the start of Season 3, and it performed admirably in that capacity.  Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Arcee, Springer, Cyclonus, Scourge, the Quintessons...all fixtures of Season 3, are ably established here.  And there were plenty of speaking roles and cameos from characters from the previous two seasons as well.  It really was something of a drastic departure from Transformers as many had known it up until the movie, but I don't think I had any trouble following along or accepting the new cast.

The pathetic state of the Decepticons is portrayed extremely effectively and Cyclonus, after having virtually no lines in the movie, emerges as one of the most compelling characters to watch for the rest of the season.

Similarly, Rodimus Prime quickly showcases how different a leader he is from Optimus Prime, and as I've said before, I found it much easier to relate to him.   And laugh with him too, as Rodimus had a dry wit that contrasted with Optimus Prime's “safer” sense of humor.  While many fans, including myself, may hear Judd Nelson's voice when they think of Hot Rod, I think it is safe to say many hear Dick Gautier for Rodimus Prime.

Finally, one last thing about this episode...

“Munka Spanka”.


Favorite line-

(To officially open the Galactic Olympics, Ultra Magnus turns things over to Rodimus Prime.)

RODIMUS:   Let's do it!

MAGNUS:  Didn't you want to say something about “concord” and “tranquility” in the galaxy?

RODIMUS:  Aw, gimme a break. START THE GAMES!

And also-

(Rodimus and Grimlock observe the poor state of the Decepticons on Charr.)

RODIMUS:  These guys are hurtin'.  I never thought I'd feel sorry for the Decepticons.

GRIMLOCK:  Me Grimlock not feel sorry.  Me Grimlock laugh! (Does so)

3.  More Than Meets the Eye, Part 1   (Season 1, Episode 1)

Flying Autobots are the "Spider-Man's marriage" of the original cartoon.

The first episode of Transformers that I personally ever watched was “Fire in the Sky”.   It was a VHS rental and I guess it is a little odd that I never “imprinted” on Skyfire or any of the characters that were given a lot of screen time in that episode.   But the cartoon's debut three-parter, “More Than Meets The Eye”, was probably one of the very next things I got to see, and thankfully the VHS contained the entire story.   I must have found it much more riveting than Fire in the Sky, because I often re-rented MTMTE to watch many times when I was younger, whereas I seldom if EVER rented “Fire” again.

While I had read some of the comics before seeing this episode, I don't think I had gotten to read the first issue of Marvel's Transformers yet.  So this was my default “origin” story for Transformers as a lad.

The debut episode does a good job at establishing the rules and feel of the cartoon continuity.  Re-watching it nowadays, it does seem a little by-the-numbers and simplistic in its aims.   And the leaden dialogue is only saved through the wonderful voice-acting.  The animation at least is very nice and clean, particularly evident in the transformation sequences during Jazz's roll call towards the end of the episode.

For pure nostalgic value and historical significance, this episode kind of had to be here.   Even turning a critical eye to it, I always enjoy a re-watch.

Favorite line-

(Wheeljack and Bumblebee are under attack.)

BUMBLEBEE:   Prime told me there'd be days like this!

WHEELJACK:  And you didn't believe him?

BUMBLEBEE:  I do now!

2.  Dark Awakening  (Season 3, Episode 8)

"I'll be back.  Unfortunately."

You can kind of take this episode as a sign of how little Hasbro and whomever was managing the Transformers property was aware of how much Optimus Prime meant to people at the time.  If this episode had come later in the season it might have well been scrapped.  For the two previous seasons, Optimus Prime was a hero, a beloved icon, and even a father figure not just to the Autobots, but to the kids watching him every day on TV.

This episode brought that beloved icon and father figure back as a horrific walking corpse that betrays and attacks his loved ones, before sacrificing himself again for the common good.  That's pretty ballsy for this or any cartoon aimed at kids and like I stated; it might not have been approved if anyone had any idea at the time just how much Optimus Prime's death affected people.

As anyone familiar with Transformers knows, parent and kid outcry over Optimus Prime's death forced Hasbro to bring him back.  And in subsequent re-airings of this episode, clumsy narration was placed over the touching final scene.  Our imitable narrator Victor Caroli, without a shred of irony, proclaims “Is this really the end of Optimus Prime? Find out in tomorrow's exciting episode, “The Return of Optimus Prime”!”


Still, taken on its own, this is one of the best episodes of the series, despite the fact that it is yet another AKOM effort and has piss-poor animation.  Even so, there is some unforgettable imagery in here, and Peter Cullen gives a haunting, touching, and even inspirational “final” (hahahahaha) performance as Optimus Prime.

Favorite line-

(Optimus comes back to his senses and returns the Matrix to Hot Rod.)

OPTIMUS:  Monsters.  They made me a weapon, to destroy the very ones I loved in life.   But you will save them...Rodimus Prime.

1. Webworld  (Season 3, Episode 16)

"She was a real pistol!  NYAAAAAAGGGGH!!"
"My mother was a real pistol!  NYAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!"

As a kid, this episode was pretty dumb.  As as an adult, it's probably the funniest episode in the entire series.

Not just funny; this episode is a stellar bit of characterization for both Galvatron and Cyclonus and is my favorite episode of the original cartoon.  The premise sounds goofy and simple enough; Cyclonus checks Galvatron into a mental institution.  But everything from that point on is alternately very amusing or surprisingly heavy for a kids' cartoon.

Bits like Cyclonus having to fill out a ridiculous amount of forms to admit Galvatron are clearly aimed at an audience above the usual fare.  And when the Torkuli finally decide that the only cure for Galvatron's madness is a complete lobotomy, things becomes deadly serious.

Cyclonus' loyalty and...uh...affection for Galvatron is never more apparent in this episode.  Conversely, the fact that Galvatron does not immediately kill Cyclonus after being released speaks volumes.  Some part of Galvatron recognizes that Cyclonus just wanted what was best for him and is possibly his only friend.   And Cyclonus learns to just accept Galvatron for who he is- “He IS crazy!”

It is actually kind of touching, which is weird for a near-totally Decepticon-centric outing.  Of course, the episode ends with Galvatron's madness decimating the entire planet of Torkulon and things going back to normal as they gleefully go off to hunt some more Autobots down.  It's a happy ending!

I think my favorite bit, as evidenced by the GIF above is when Galvatron is undergoing therapy and is given the chance to assemble something physical to “aid in reconstructing his damaged psyche”.  Of course, Galvatron (somehow!) builds a GUN and starts shooting the place up.   I love that scene for all its absurdity.  How did he build a gun?  Why wouldn't he just use his arm cannon, which is still attached for no logical reason?   How did they get Galvatron to even comply with the treatment?  It is hilarious and ridiculous and makes me laugh every time.

Favorite line-

CYCLONUS:  Mighty Galvatron, please!  We must use strategy!

GALVATRON:  Strategy is for COWARDS!

And also-

(After decimating Torkulon.)

GALVATRON:  This, Cyclonus, is beauty.   Devastation wrought with precision and care!


And those are my favorite episodes of the original cartoon!  Comments?  Questions?  Kudos?  I'll accept 'em all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mike's Top Twenty Favorite Transformers Comics

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Transformers and the release of Age of Extinction, Fanholes is doing a month of nothing but Transformers-related material.

This is a list of my top TWENTY favorite Transformers comics of the past thirty years. I did a top fifteen list some years ago, but I've revamped, restructured, and rewrote it for the world of tomorrow! Or today. Whatever.


20. Beast Wars: The Gathering # 1

Just before Dreamwave imploded, they had promised a Beast Wars comic, written by Simon Furman and drawn by Don Figueroa. At the time, it seemed like a dream (ha!) come true. Beast Wars was less than a decade old at the time, and everyone was itching to return to that era. Furman and Figueroa were the A-team as far as TF comics were concerned at the time. Tantalizing hints of the story-to-be were dropped, and preview art began pouring in. I was excited. Everyone was.

Of course, before anything could be released, Dreamwave died and the dream (ha!) died with it. Flash-forward a few years later, and IDW has the Transformers license. And they announce Beast Wars: The Gathering, with Furman and Figueroa still at the helm. We got a second chance at that promised awesomeness that slipped away.

The story was altered somewhat from Furman's original treatment (the first script of which IS available somewhere on the net) to mostly excise the show cast and focus on the Beast Wars characters that had existed as scarcely anything but toys and bio cards up until this point. And a great many would agree that The Gathering and its follow-up The Ascending certainly did not live up to the hype.

Still, this first issue of The Gathering makes it onto the list because the promise of a Furman-Figueroa Beast Wars comic was dangled in front of us...cruelly-snatched away, and then returned to us. Perhaps lesser than it would have been, but still finally ours to behold.

And don't get me wrong either; for whatever else IDW did with Beast Wars, this is a pretty good inaugural issue. Don Figueroa showcases his reliable talent and really makes those toy-only characters come alive on the page. Furman crafts a competent and menacing villain in Magmatron and an unlikely protagonist in Razorbeast. Who'd have thought that ugly little warthog toy that everyone passed by would be so compelling under Simon's pen and look so dynamic under Don's pencils? I myself took from these books another new favorite character in Razorbeast. He seemed to me to be “Bumblebee done right”- an espionage agent too focused on being damn good at his job to worry about being anyone's “little brother”.

So yeah, The Gathering # 1 makes my list. For being a solid issue, for introducing a new favorite character of mine, and most notably...for returning from the grave.

19. “King of the Hill!” (Marvel US # 27)

What kid doesn't like dinosaurs? Let's take that a step further; what kid wouldn't like ROBOT dinosaurs? Okay, one more step...what kid wouldn't like robot dinosaurs fighting an even LARGER ROBOT DINOSAUR???

Basically, that's what the cover to this issue promises, and it delivers. We get Trypticon's debut, and he fights the THAT'S marketing! This was my first and strongest impression of Trypticon- not as the clumsy Godzilla-like dolt from the cartoon, but as an intelligent, sadistic war machine who actually is quite charming in how he goes about his destructive business. I'm happy this take on Trypticon was retained for War Within: The Dark Ages, and the War For Cybertron video game.

This issue is also a nice character piece for Grimlock, who undergoes a convincing change of heart regarding humans and the Autobot cause in the end. Unfortunately, all that growth is thrown out the window in the very next issue, but contained just within this story, it is very nice.

18. Stormbringer # 3

This is mostly an action issue and I love it because the action is very well-executed.

We get Thunderwing totally ruining the Decepticon infiltration unit on Nebulos, Darkwing and Dreadwind’s amusing and totally in-character self-preservation plan aside, and the Wreckers clearly being the team of professional badasses they are always sold as for about…oh, the very first time ever.

There’s also Bludgeon’s new clothes, Prime and Springer’s “Picard and Riker” back and forth, and a very nice, understated moment where Prime offers a hand of comfort to the dying Iguanus.

And top that off with a jolting cliffhanger. All bagged and tagged with beautiful “Classic” Don Figueroa art.

17. “Chaos Theory, Part 1” (IDW Ongoing # 22)

This issue was eagerly anticipated as James Roberts' first solo work on a Transformers comic. I was already a big fan of his epic “Eugenesis” fan-novel, and his work on Last Stand of the Wreckers with Nick Roche was also greatly appreciated. The fanbase was decidedly-split on Mike Costa's then current run on Transformers; some liked it, but I'd say the majority were quite dissatisfied with it. We all hoped Roberts, whose enthusiasm and love for the property was all too apparent, would “rescue” the book from itself. Heck, even Mike Costa later claimed that he assumed the more verbal fans would “have to like it” because Roberts' name was on it.

And we did. This is a great first part to a great two-parter, and a nice tease as to the level of quality and depth we would come to expect from Roberts on Transformers: MTMTE. I've never been a huge fan of Optimus Prime or Megatron as characters, but Roberts explores their relationship here in a way that is very compelling. He also seeds a bunch of plot elements that would later become important in MTMTE and fleshes out the IDW Transformers universe in so many ways in the span of just one issue.

Alex Milne also makes a strong showing handling the art duties here. While I had felt his previous IDW work on Megatron: Origin and the Drift mini-series had been kind of weak, he began showing marked improvement in my eyes, starting with his work on the ongoing. He would go on to become one of my personal absolute favorite Transformers artists for his work on MTMTE, showcasing an adaptability that he had perhaps not been allowed to fully-exercise until that point.

So this issue is important and on the list for not only being a great issue, but for formally solidifying Roberts and Milne as the “team-to-beat” on Transformers comics for the following few years.

16. “Rhythms of Darkness” (Marvel US # 67)

I love “alternate universe” one-offs where everyone dies. And this is pretty much the quintessential Transformers one.

Awesome cover by Jim Lee (Yup, THAT Jim Lee) and what is probably Jose Delbo’s best interior artwork on Transformers all-around. Galvatron strutting about narrating to himself and screaming at Rodimus Prime’s corpse like a loon as the Pretender Monsters nervously walk on eggshells is a treat. And of course, the doomed final attack by the resistance where near everyone gets killed and which is essential to every alternate universe one-off tale. But hey, my main 'bot Prowl lives through it at the end!

It also ends on a somewhat hopeful note, although one wonders what three Autobots and a pack of humans are going to do now against the rest of the Decepticon army.

15. War Within (Vol. 1) # 5

Lots of great moments packed into this issue; Grimlock’s infamous “Me Grimlock badass!” discussion with Kup, Shockwave downing two Omega Sentinels with one shot, Prowl giving an actually GOOD and rousing motivational speech to the troops, and Optimus and Megatron’s realization that they’ll be dancing their dance for a looooong time to come.

An excellent penultimate chapter to War Within by Simon Furman and Don Figueroa. Furman always excels at “penultimate”, in my book, even if his record of conclusions is a bit more spotty.

14. “Interiors” (More Than Meets The Eye # 6)

More Than Meets The Eye had already proven itself as the Transformers comic every fan never knew they wanted by this point, but issue # 6 is what I think is the best representation of it and James Roberts as a whole.

One of the opening scenes in Swerve's bar, focusing on many of the main characters simply...chatting over drinks showcases Roberts' particular brand of humor. The mood swiftly turns to shock and terror as the unhinged, PTSD-suffering Fortress Maximus goes on a shooting spree. We then get possibly our first take on a Transformers hostage situation as Max barricades himself in Rung's office, holding the psychiatrist and Whirl at gunpoint.

Whirl had always been a character I liked even before Roberts began writing him, just based on his unique design. So it was very nice to see his backstory to be fleshed out further here and to show that he was more than just “quirky psychopath”. And of course, Rung gets to shine as he gets to the root of Fort Max's problem and acts as the voice of reason and compassion.

Proving twice in the same issue that he's the master of mood whiplash, Roberts ends the hostage situation in the most tragic way possible- with the accidental and apparent death of Rung. By this point, we know Rung managed to pull through, but when the issue ended it seemed to everyone who had read it that he was irreparably dead. I was initially impressed that Roberts killed his “own” character off after building him up as one of the main cast. And even though it turned out to be a big misdirect, I couldn't really hold it against Roberts, because Rung had already become a likeable and developed character in a short time. The fact that Rung would be sticking around totally outweighed any possible “cheated” feeling I may have had. That's what I call good writing.

And of course, this issue ends on quite the cliffhanger, with Red Alert discovering the monster in the Lost Light's basement; Overlord. And things would only go on to get crazier from there. This issue is the best representation of James Roberts' solo pro work in my opinion, and another winner in the art category with Nick Roche's signature pencils and Josh Burcham's vibrant colors.

13. “Starting Over!” (Marvel UK # 261)

I love this little story that kicks off the “Earthforce” era.

We’ve got Prowl and Wheeljack walking around in the desert, complaining about how complicated the war has become and listing all the dumb gimmicks that have come to prominence since they’ve come back online. Then they are attacked by Long Haul and Mixmaster, and are completely elated to realize “We know these guys!”, before defeating them.

While wondering what the Decepticons are up to at the top of a mountain, Wheeljack speculates that a “Microheadtargetmaster with a Pretender shell” is behind it. They find out it is Megatron, who gleefully explains to them his extremely overwrought plan to launch a rocket into the sun to accelerate the polar ice caps melting, which will help create more Energon. Far from being horrified, Prowl and Wheeljack are simply glad things are “back to normal” and leap into action.

Classic. Pun intended.

12. “Totaled!” (Marvel US # 41)

This is one of those issues that I loved as a kid just because there’s a massive battle with dozens of toys being thrown at each other. It still remains a sentimental favorite to this day, and there’s a lot of good stuff in it anyhow.

We get the first meet-up between Fortress Maximus’ Autobots and Grimlock’s Autobots, the return of Blaster, Grimlock’s hilarious and continuous mangling of Fort Max’s name (Fruitloop Multipuck!), and two favorite characters of mine- Prowl and Onslaught, getting minor but visible moments of coolness.

Also, there was the long awaited fight between Blaster and Grimlock, and a dramatic ending line from Fort Max that always stuck with me- "For amid the smoke of the battlefield, it suddenly became clear to me that whatever future the Autobots have...lies encoded on a single magnetic disk labeled 'Optimus Prime'.

Just a fun issue all around, and Jose Delbo’s art wasn’t even that shabby.

11. “Worlds Collide, Part 3” (DW Armada # 16)

Another Furman-Figueroa classic, another dense action issue with some nice quirks tossed in.

The centerpiece of the issue is the fight between (Armada) Megatron and (G1) Galvatron, and it is pretty intense. Megatron had just steamrolled over the Autobots easily and suddenly he’s on the losing end of a fight, with Galvatron relentlessly, remorselessly coming at him. The intervention of the Air Defense Team, giving Megatron an edge in the form of the Star Saber was a great moment, and one I didn’t expect upon the initial reading. Most readers had assumed that with the Armada comic transitioning into Energon soon, Megatron was on his way out. So it was a legitimate surprise ending when, with the Star Saber on his side, Megatron managed to kill Galvatron.

We’ve also got Jetfire’s Autobots on Cybertron versus Bludgeon, which was a pretty neat fight. Plus, there’s the amusing “This is bad!” joke that runs through the issue.

Simon, you are just a cutup.

10. Last Stand of the Wreckers # 5

Obviously, Last Stand of the Wreckers was an oasis of depth and quality during a time when most were dissatisfied with IDW's Transformers output. The Costa ongoing and Bumblebee mini-series garnered a lukewarm response at BEST. Those books seemed more concerned from the get-go to grasp at the mythical “new” readers, ignoring previous comic continuity and borrowing elements from the then-popular first Bay movie.

But Last Stand was aimed directly at the diehard fan, not just of IDW- but Transformers comics in general. Nick Roche was already a reliable and fan-loved entity at that point, and James Roberts being brought on as co-writer excited those who were familiar with his fan-works. And you know what else worked in its favor? The fact that Last Stand of the Wreckers ended up being a GREAT COMIC SERIES. Its conclusion sealed the deal, providing both a sterling ending to the immediate story and filling fans with hope for stories to come.

Pyro's denouement, the TRUE story of what happened on Pova, and Overlord's three-tiered defeat by Ironfist, Verity Carlo, and Impactor are all standout moments. But the aftermath of the story really sticks with you too, particularly when you learn that Ironfist died on the way back from Garrus-9. This was quite the gut-punch, considering that the page before made it seem that the likeable audience-surrogate had managed to survive the entire harrowing series.

The final scenes, which revealed the real reason for the Wreckers' mission and the extent of Prowl's involvement also work perfectly. While he had only been mentioned in passing and limited to a brief cameo before the last three pages, Prowl suddenly seemed like a part of the proceedings from the outset, simply having remained in the shadows. How utterly right for the character- especially as Roche and Roberts tend to portray him.

In the final summation, a great conclusion to a great story and well-deserved of its accolades.

9. “Primal Scream” (Marvel US # 61)

This is a fairly significant issue; the first US comic to introduce the Primus/Unicron mythology. It was also the first time I saw Geoff Senior’s art, and was duly impressed by its simple expressiveness and dynamism. Not that the man can’t do detail- the design for the Keeper is awesome, and the whole Primus/Unicron tale is illustrated and told with appropriate weight.

Plus, this is a great issue besides all that. Great fight between Bumblebee and Bludgeon’s teams in the Primus chamber. Grimlock’s utter refusal to believe the Keeper’s story, Bumblebee overcoming his doubt in his abilities as a leader, Bludgeon being schooled by Jazz, then Bumblebee, then Seawatch in short order, and finally Primus’ explosive reawakening and the subsequent reveal of Unicron...

So much awesomeness. And Furman was really just getting started at this point.

8. Spotlight: Shockwave

The Spotlight series has always been one of, if not THE best idea IDW’s had for their Transformers comic line. And it started off cracking with this “everything old is new again” style story.

There are some really familiar beats here- Shockwave fighting the Dinobots on a prehistoric Earth being the most obvious one. But Simon manages to make it seem just as fresh as it was when Budiansky wrote it a few decades before. This issue also formally introduced me to the art of Nick Roche, who rapidly graduated to my second-favorite Transformers artist of all time. This issue also pretty much sold me on IDW’s Transformers universe in general, and for a long time after it, they could do virtually no wrong with me.

A scene I’d like to highlight is when Shockwave is traipsing around Earth, seeding ore for his Regenesis project and noting the plight of the indigenous species that are just coming out of the Ice Age. A wooly mammoth keels over and dies, and Nick Roche actually makes me FEEL SORRY for it with his art. Amongst all the classic Transformers stuff in this issue, the fact that this scene sticks with me is a testament to Nick’s talent as an artist.

7. “Time Wars, Part 5” (Marvel UK # 203)

This issue has some sentimental value for me; when I was about ten, my older cousin had procured for me a few of the original large Marvel UK Transformers comics and this was one of them. I didn’t get to read the whole Marvel UK series properly until much, much later, but this little bit of Time Wars impressed on me the need to somehow find the rest of the series some day.

We’re right in the middle of the action here and as a kid, the thought of Megatron and Galvatron teaming-up was mind-blowing to me. Even though I didn’t quite understand it at the time, having no access to the surrounding issues, comic book violence is a universal language for ten year olds. And this is a pretty violent issue (although ironically not as violent as the previous and following issue).

We get Sandstorm being blown to pieces by Galvatron, Roadbuster shearing off half of Galvatron’s face with the Pathblaster before dying in an explosion himself, and Cyclonus’ desecrated corpse hung on a wall. The opening scene with Scourge confronting the shattered and gibbering Shockwave is great, as is Carnivac’s change of heart regarding Springer.

Dan Reed will never be my favorite Transformers artist, but his style was essential to convey the grit and violence of this issue and sear it firmly in my mind. And even though Roadbuster died in the attempt, his Pathblaster shot on Galvatron cemented him as one of my personal favorite Transformers characters.

6. “The Worse of Two Evils!” (Marvel US # 6)

One of the first issues I ever received as a kid and some of the earliest Transformers fiction I’d ever read. This issue made me a lifelong fan of Shockwave and Transformers in general.

Shockwave totally owns this issue, destroying G.B. Blackrock’s oil drilling platform in the beginning. A convalescing Megatron can only fume as Shockwave proves more adept at leading the Decepticons than he is. It culminates in the centerpiece of the issue- Shockwave and Megatron’s first and best fight with each other. Kicks off with an excellent moment (“Shockwave, you are relieved of command.”) that sends Shockwave hurtling out of Mount St. Hilary by way of fusion cannon. And the way that Shockwave easily and coolly takes advantage of Megatron’s still-healing wounds, earning him the victory firmly made him one of my favorite characters.

And great art from Alan Kupperberg and a good cliffhanger to boot!

5. “A Rage in Heaven!” (Marvel US Generation 2 # 12)

The conclusion of the short-lived but excellent Gen 2 series, I just wish so much of it wasn’t drawn by Manny Galan. But even he manages to put in a tolerable performance, even if that just might be a knock-on effect of Geoff Senior’s pages dragging his up a little.

Anyhow, this is an epic conclusion to the series, and Simon has always had a bit of trouble with conclusions. There’s no faltering here though; the stakes are appropriately high, no one is safe, and boy does Furman run with that. This issue hits almost all the right beats (except for Nightbeat; he’s killed off rather unceremoniously for such a memorable character) as the Transformers fight for their very existence against both the Cybertronian Empire and the encroaching Swarm.

Geoff Senior’s art is as always, a pleasure to behold. Optimus Prime being consumed by the Swarm is one of the most beautifully-rendered scenes in Transformers comic history. And the ending, with the Autobots and Decepticons apparently on the verge of actual sustained cooperation and possible peace was rather appropriate and satisfying.

Of course, IT NEVER ENDS, and Simon covers his bets with another cliffhanger epilogue, introducing the Liege Maximo and teasing the reader with what could have been. It's a shame the comic finished here, but at least the conclusion was a great one.

4. “All Fall Down” (Marvel US # 66)

The conclusion of the Matrix Quest storyline, and yet another strong Geoff Senior-drawn issue.

As a kid reading this, the idea of a Decepticon using the Matrix as a weapon was pretty darn awesome to me. And I hadn’t seen “Burden Hardest to Bear” yet, so Thunderwing was the only one who I thought had done it at that point. This made Thunderwing distinctly awesome to me and he remains a sentimental favorite character to this day (obviously).

Beyond that, this is a great issue anyhow and another suitably-epic conclusion on Furman’s part. Lots of great moments- Landmine’s horrific death, Prime’s verbal and physical thrashing of Thunderwing, Thunderwing’s struggle for control with the corrupted Creation Matrix, and Nightbeat being generally awesome in word and deed.

3. “War Without End!” (Marvel US Generation 2 # 1)

This is not your father’s Autobot! Hoo-boy, they weren’t kidding!

Around the time this issue was released, I had been making regular stops to the comic shop and buying up handfuls of Transformers back issues. Then one day I notice there’s a NEW Transformers comic on the rack! It was this issue and I think I may have had my first fangasm that day. Above and beyond that, this is a great start to a great series.

While it took me awhile to get used to it, Derek Yaniger’s art has stuck with me (joints made of wires!) and there’s a lot of iconic imagery to be found here. We’ve got Sideswipe being an actual badass and not an imaginary one, Grimlock being consistently awesome (as per usual Furman Grimlock), the introduction of Jhiaxus and the Second Gen Cybertronians, and the overall set-up of some really cool stuff that will actually pay off in the next eleven issues.

Of course, the 90s grit and EXTREME!-ness is on full display here, but it actually makes sense in context of the story. At the time, Gen 2 # 1 showed me that Transformers were still alive and kicking and that’ll always make it a personal fave of mine.

2. “The Pri¢e of Life!” (Marvel US # 70)

This issue has one of the most memorable covers in Transformers comic history. Maybe not as memorable as “All Are Dead”, but in all likelihood it is the second most. The sight of a horrifically-fused Megatron and Ratchet, holding up a simple sheet of notebook paper that reads “Help Us”, actually gave me nightmares back in the day. Hell, I can recall being wary of actually opening this issue and reading the contents! But I’m glad I did, because this issue is a gem.

Grimlock’s hunt to find the Nucleon well on Hydrus Four is an entertaining side-quest, but the meat of the issue is the Megatron/Ratchet situation. Back when Optimus Prime’s moral hand-wringing wasn’t tiresome and played-out to me, it was rather gripping to see him struggle with what to do about the Ratchet/Megatron creature. As a great counterpoint, we get Kup up in Prime’s face about the danger the creature represents. And an amazingly-intense scene where Kup tells Prime that he’ll relieve him of command if he doesn’t do something about the creature immediately.

The scene where Prime is about to execute the creature, only to back off yet again always gets me. Particularly the part where the creature grabs Prime’s gun and press it to its forehead, pleading for Prime to kill it. Of course, Prime doesn’t and makes another decision of dubious merit when he tells Fixit to save both Ratchet and Megatron’s lives. But this was very consistent with Marvel Optimus Prime’s character, a dude who killed himself over a VIDEO GAME.

This issue is also what I personally think is Andy Wildman’s very best work on Transformers- he completely sells both the horrifying and piteous nature of the Megs/Ratchet beast, Kup’s anger, Grimlock’s frustration, and Prime’s inner conflict and anguish.

1. “On the Edge of Extinction!” (Marvel US # 75)

The most epic battle ever portrayed in a Transformers comic book and easily the best depiction of a battle with Unicron that has yet been portrayed in Transformers fiction.

While the sense of scale is never quite consistent from page to page, everything is so full of impact and weight that it barely matters. The Transformers initially react appropriately to a giant planet-sized robot attacking them; they crap their collective robo-pants. Then when they finally find their bearings, they begin throwing themselves at Unicron in earnest, trying to topple this seemingly unfathomable foe.

Many moments of awesome here; Unicron redefining “finger food” with Brainstorm, Shockwave’s inability to logically comprehend the situation, Galvatron’s ballsy attack on his creator, “Blasted youth element!”, Highbrow’s doomed charge, Scorponok’s character arc ending beautifully with his very touching death scene, Grimlock punching Unicron in the face with the Ark, the corrupted Creation Matrix versus Unicron, and finally Optimus Prime’s ultimate (well, second really…well, not ultimate really…) sacrifice.

Even the Neo-Knights feel like a key part of the story, although Circuit Breaker giving Unicron pause is a little hard to swallow for some. Geoff Senior’s art is perfectly suited to the story and Furman caps what he’s been building to for the last fifteen or so issues off perfectly. And then once again, because IT NEVER ENDS, he gives us a cliffhanger epilogue to keep us around. Heh-heh.

While there may be more satisfying endings to stories in Transformers, maybe more dramatic ones…this is by far the most epic. And it is my favorite Transformers comic of all time.


Mike P.