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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

IDW Publishing
(2005-now)
Devil's Due
(2003-2007)
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(2002-2004)
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(2001-now)
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and Titles

TRANSFORMERS TITLES FROM TITAN BOOKS / MAGAZINES

Titan Transformers #9
Reviewed by Inflatable Dalek

Issue Review

Even more so than previous issues this is going to polarise the two groups of readers this comic gets, those older ones who've read Furman's work before and the new younger fans for whom this is their first ever Transformers comic (possibly their first comic full stop).

The latter will be blown away by this. The drastic tone shift after the more light-hearted first 8 issues will hit them like a kick in the guts and the whole idea of alternate timelines will fuel young minds in the same way stories like Time Wars did for us old'uns.

For those of us in the former category, though, there's no escaping the fact we've read all this before. The recycling of Rhythms of Darkness is perhaps understandable considering the target audience won't have read it, but it does smack of laziness on Furman's part. There's nothing new or innovative here, and considering we were promised a bold new direction that's a shame.

It isn't helped by some poor plot contrivances (the Moon Autobots expositioning things to each other they already know, one guard on Optimus Prime) either. Luckily Simon Williams does a top rate job on art, and it's nice to see him return after being the only artist to put any effort whatsoever into the Armada comic.

So whilst not terribly bad, it's still inessential if you don't have any youngsters of your own. The art is worth at least a casual glance.

Notes

With issue 8 the comic takes on a new direction. Not wanting to contradict either the Movie Sequel (currently about halfway through development, so nowhere near a firm final script available) nor the IDW Reign of Starscream comic starting soon, Furman moves the action over to a alternate timeline. There are lots and lots of precedents for "Dark Universe" takes on a franchise, but some of the best (and likely influences here) include the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Yesterday's Enterprise and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode The Wish. Both involve the main "good" characters suffering a severe defeat where they were victorious in the regular timeline.

Another very strong influence is close to home; the Furman written Marvel US #67 story Rhythms of Darkness has many points of similarity. It involves a alternate future in which the Decepticons have decimated America, where the Autobot leader is a trophy of the Decepticon leader (though Optimus here gets off lightly compared to poor old Rodimus strung up as a corpse), the remaining nuclear powers threaten a strike unless something specific happens (there's a symbol resistance is still alive), and a small straggling group of surviving Autobots are all that's left.

It's also worth noting that the title is taken from the American National Anthem- O! say can you see by the dawn's early light / What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

The Star Spangled Banner was written after Francis Scott Key was deeply inspired by the sight of the flag fluttering over a battlefield. Rhythms of Darkness ends with the flag being lifted over the site of the last battle between Autobots and Decepticons and inspires the rest of the world not to nuke the US.

One thing that isn't certain yet is if this will tie into the main continuity or not (by revealing this to be a changed timeline to be put right) or if all the action will take place in the alternate timeline with no links to the "real" world bar Mikeala's dream of them winning. The contents page pitches it as "Reality gets torn apart", making it sound like the former, but interviews with Furman and Editor Steve White make it sound like the latter.

Based on what we see here, the bulk of the film happened as in "Our" timeline (i.e. Blackout, Barricade and co are dead, Bumblebee can talk, etc.) with the change only coming in the last few seconds, where Sam failed to use the Allspark to destroy Megatron. Based on Mikaela's "This is for Sam" line it would seem he died in the attempt.

Swindle and Dreadwing have appeared previously in the IDW material, and have likely been summoned to Earth by Megatron. Whether the Dreadwing drones, Dropkick and the unarmed non-toy drones we see have come the same way or were built as part of Megatron's plan to turn Earth's machines into an army is unclear.

Ironhide isn't seen in the Dark Dimension, but is with the Autobots. Skyblast and his moon-based team have likely been summoned to Earth by a signal as well.

At the moment only Starscream has seen Scorponok's signal from the moon, it remains to be seen if he'll share it or use the situation for his own ends.

Bumblebee quotes Prime's "My bad" line from the film. And, speaking of the face-plated one, his fate here is of course a nasty bit of torture by Megatron, subjecting him to the same fate he suffered for millennia.

This is the first proper multi-part story Titan have done. Lost In Space may have been billed as such but each installment was relatively self-contained. Here we get the comic's first To be Continued... moment. The company's confidence in announcing a five part story (which will take us past the comics most natural end point -- when the American reprints are finished in issue 12) suggests some confidence in the title's future.

The cover is a subtle nod to the famous Are All Dead! one that adorns issue #5 of the Marvel US comic. The first issue of The Reign of Starscream makes an even more direct homage.

In our first glimpse of the dark Universe a destroyed sign can be seen reading Blac- Industries, the full word being Blackrock and a reference to the company from Marvel comics. Over the page a wrecked truck based on the original Optimus Prime can be seen (based on the frequency with which they show up in modern TF comics, one has to wonder if there's a factory in America churning out thousands of red trucks a day).

Issue 3 is missing from the back issues page -- a mistake or has it sold out?

Simon Williams provided art for the final issue of Panini's Armada comic, as well as some interior art for IDW's Beast Wars Sourcebook and a drawing to accompany a nostalgia piece about Transformers in SFX Magazine to tie in with last year's film. He's also a bit of a mad fanboy: when working on Panini's Sensational Spider-Man comic he not only gave two cameos to Death's Head, but also RID voice actor Wally Wingert, who he met at a convention.

Goofs

The only guard for Optimus Prime is Swindle. Megatron had more security at Hoover Dam. Also, Bumblebee has to be persuaded to take Mikaela with him even though the panel they need to short out can only be opened by someone of human height.

For all his xenophobia Megatron has clearly adjusted to Earth culture very well, as he has all his computer read-outs in English (luckily for Mikaela).

In Mikaela's imagining of the happy ending Sam's hair is mousy brown on the second panel. Perhaps the dark brown/black hair was one of the things she doesn't like about her reality? Then again, on the first panel neither of them have faces...

There is sound on the Moon.

The contents page builds up a big mystery over who or what Bumblebee is trying to rescue, an attempt that fails miserably due to the big honking picture of frozen Prime.

Fantastic Free Gift!

In what may be the weakest gift yet, we get Transformer playing cards. That is to say normal playing cards with a Transformers logo on them.

Extras

- A Scorponok Character Profile;
- A poster of the cover;
- How to Draw Starscream (written by Steve Marchant, drawn by John McCrea and Lee Bradley), this month showing how to draw the character in sequential comic panels;
- Top Gear has a lean month, covering the Top Trumps game, the Top Trumps book, and the Transformer Sweatbands. The same as those given free last issue.
- Starscreams has some fun pretending the Seeker used to be an F-15.

 
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