Transformers: Combiner Wars

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Post by Red Dave Prime » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:49 am

So....

Dark Cybertron was a f***ing good event after all.

I cant say I've gotten near any enjoyment out of the combiner wars. There's little small gems of good ideas floating about here and it does leave us in somewhat of an interesting state with all those new words to explore but over five issues this has been real throwaway stuff to be honest.

The plot (of what little there is) has been near G! cartoon level and has damaged some characters - Windblade by this point is no longer special as the link to her homeworld looks fine, Swindle is dead (thats about as damaged as damaged gets), Starscream seems to be fixed in the "Oh I'm so manipulative I'm like glass" which pretty much takes all the fun out of him and Prowls big showdown with Prime was... well, limp doesnt describe it.

Combiner Wars is such a success, its made me feel that I might just cut down to MTMTE.

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Post by Housewife2000 » Tue Jun 16, 2015 7:07 am

There were three big problems with Combiner Wars for me.

Firstly, the threat: targeting Caminus, a world we've barely glimpsed, meant we had no real investment in what happened to it. There were no characters there we knew well enough to care about. If the Combiner battle took place in Iacon and saw named cast members flattened - building up an On the Edge of Extinction vibe - then I might have believed the WMD comparison. Or earth for that matter. Compounding this problem, the art never really sold the scale of gestalts. Sarah Stone probably did it best, but generally they only fought each other against low or no detail backdrops. It reminded me of the difference between the city-set fights in Pacific Rim where the scale and danger was apparent, and the final showdown in an abstract setting that rendered geography and scale meaningless. Devastator's appearances in AHM and pre-Dark Cybertron RID gave much more of a sense of size and menace.

Secondly, nobody was really changed by the events. Dark Cybertron may have had its flaws, but Megatron and Shockwave both went on redemptive arcs, while Rodimus was forced to confront his failings, and Optimus to realise he couldn't stay out of the picture. The closest Combiner Wars gets to having the plot affect a character is Prowl's 'redemption' - but the moment of change doesn't work. He's antagonistic to Prime's vision right up until the point that he's not, and all that seems to cause this flip is Prime, and the 'Masquerade. gang responding to Prowl's thesis by saying "yeah, we know". The rest of the main cast - Windblade, Prime and Starscream - are really no different in character terms by the end of the crossover than they were at the start.

Finally, as has already been mentioned, the gestalt process lends itself to interesting character work. Five minds needing to work together, and each individuals secrets and foibles exposed by the experience? It's like the staff away day from hell, or if the Big Brother house was inside a Megazord. We almost get there with the 'mindscape' moment in this last chapter, but it's really just Prime and Prowl having a chat.

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Post by Terome » Tue Jun 16, 2015 10:41 am

Good call - we don't have much stake in Camimus and the 'aftermath' doesn't really look like anything.

I never really felt much stake in New Iacon either although I can see where the effort was invested there. I think we were supposed to see it progress from a one-horse frontier town to a bustling city and then see Megatron and Devastator knock it all down but that isn't really what we saw. We never got the sense of where Kimia is, where Bumblebee lived, where the Alchemy-Seven was or any of that which was intended to be set up.

It's not just the case that Megatron showed up too quickly and that the timeline was nonsensical - it's a problem with inconsistency in the art. You could tell what Griffith was going for but the emphasis in establishing shots was on weird NAILs (hey, what happened to those guys?) and yellow wastes rather than building up a decent geography of the area. And not to put all that on Griffith - Barber should have picked out neat spaceships in the background in, say, issue 2 and made it a location in issue 6. Fill-in artists can really muck things up if they're drafted in at the last minute and aren't able to pay particular attention to place and geography in order to build up to a scene that happens the following year that they aren't even going to draw.

It's surprising, in a way, because one of Barber's real talents is for structure and correlation. He needs to focus that more literally on the physical space his characters live in as he does on the meta-space of the story they tell.

I tell a lie - it's just occurred to me that Blurr's bar was set up really well as a location. We saw it several times, saw it develop consistently, saw characters interact there and then saw it in a whole new, distressing context when the shit hit the fan. It's in the toolkit, it just needs to be applied more liberally.

'Big Brother inside a Megazord' is a brilliant idea and you should flag down some television producers.

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Post by Warcry » Sat Jun 27, 2015 8:57 pm

Terome wrote:Warcry is the best!
Yay me!

No yays for the series, though. Although I liked the first issue it went downhill really quickly after that. Caminus was nothing but a plot device inhabited by G2 toys I had as a kid who were used as cannon fodder (plus, er, Hot Shot for some reason?), essentially squandering the most interesting plot point from the first issue.

Meanwhile the Enigma remains completely unexplained magic, the combiners got very, very little exploration as characters and the story implies that the combined forms are their "real" selves now, taking interesting characters like First Aid, Dead End or Skydive completely off the board because it's so much more important that we have bland giants walking around referring to themselves in the third person.

Trying to get an emotional reaction from us by killing Swindle also felt hugely disingenuous, since he's almost certainly going to be back on his feet six months from now when they need to flog the new Bruticus.

(Sidenote: I look forward to Trailbreaker being Hasbroed back to life barely a year after Roberts killed him off "for real" in an attempt to shut up people like me who bitch about all the fake-out deaths he's done.)

Though on the other hand there was Scoop cosplaying as Scrapper, which was an...interesting way to get around Scrapper himself being dead, I guess. But I'm surprised Barber didn't just bring Scrapper back considering how much handwavey nonsense was flying around in CW and the leadup to it. I'm even more surprised Hasbro allowed it considering Devastator is their big toy for the year.

The teaser at the end is mildly interesting, but it would be far moreso if we didn't have random Prime, Beast Wars and Animated characters running around on Cybertron already. Seeing Tigatron and Airazor just isn't that big a deal when Rattrap and Waspinator are hanging around like perfectly normal guys a few pages earlier. I mean, it's nice to have the characters around I guess, but considering Barber has written Rattrap quite poorly and the last page as Elita One sitting on a throne of severed heads, I'm not exactly excited to see this team tackling any of my favourites from other series.

Oh, and the art is terrible.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Mon Jun 29, 2015 2:07 am

Warcry wrote: No yays for the series, though. Although I liked the first issue it went downhill really quickly after that. Caminus was nothing but a plot device inhabited by G2 toys I had as a kid who were used as cannon fodder (plus, er, Hot Shot for some reason?), essentially squandering the most interesting plot point from the first issue.
It was sort of a reverse Dark Cybertron wasn't it? In that got better as it went along after a pretty wretched start (though how much it gets better by is a YMMV thing, I thought the last few issues were really solid but not enough to help the series overall), whilst this has slipped slided away down the quality scale.
(Sidenote: I look forward to Trailbreaker being Hasbroed back to life barely a year after Roberts killed him off "for real" in an attempt to shut up people like me who bitch about all the fake-out deaths he's done.)[/quotee]

The Scoop thing suggests Hasbro might at least be a bit more flexible. Perhaps Hoist will randomly decide to paint himself black (using that stealth paint from RID that's been used as the excuse to make Arcee her new toy colours?)? Though some sort of flashbacks/dream sequences would be fine with me.
Though on the other hand there was Scoop cosplaying as Scrapper, which was an...interesting way to get around Scrapper himself being dead, I guess. But I'm surprised Barber didn't just bring Scrapper back considering how much handwavey nonsense was flying around in CW and the leadup to it. I'm even more surprised Hasbro allowed it considering Devastator is their big toy for the year.
I wonder if the pack-in version will just edit the text to call him Scrapper and remove any references (if there were any?) to him having been an Autobot? Sort of like how the Trailcutter spotlight mucked about with the text so he was never Trailbreaker.

Sure, he doesn't look much like Scrapper, but lack of resemblance to the toys doesn't seem to have stopped the rest of this giant advert.
The teaser at the end is mildly interesting, but it would be far moreso if we didn't have random Prime, Beast Wars and Animated characters running around on Cybertron already. Seeing Tigatron and Airazor just isn't that big a deal when Rattrap and Waspinator are hanging around like perfectly normal guys a few pages earlier. I mean, it's nice to have the characters around I guess, but considering Barber has written Rattrap quite poorly and the last page as Elita One sitting on a throne of severed heads, I'm not exactly excited to see this team tackling any of my favourites from other series.
The Elita thing fails especially hard as it's a reveal that depends entirely on knowing the cartoon. The other characters who show up work regardless of prior-knowledge. Tigatron is a nice Easter Egg if you know Beast Wars, but following the plot of the Space Bridge connecting to the different colonies isn't affected by not knowing that.

The Elita cliffhanger is litterally "ZOMG!!!! LOOK, IT'S THAT CHARACTER LAST SEEN NEARLY 30 YEARS AGO WITH NO PRIOR PRESSENCE IN IDW! If you're not familiar with the TV show you may need to Google". Considering the amount of new readers the comics seem to have been bringing in lately that must have been a head scratcher for a lot of people.

I mean, it's the clunkiest moment in that series, but at least the similar arrival of Impactor at the end of the first issue of Wreckers is slightly set up for people who haven't read Marvel UK with the mention of him and that he means something significant to Springer a few pages earlier.
Oh, and the art is terrible.
Hmm, I'm not sure how Hasbro signed off on some of this visually if nothing else. Either they don't give a toss about what's being stuck in with the toy or they really need to work out a way of making the deadlines more favourable.

Maybe rather than a physical comic (which seems to need to be ready months in advance of when the "Regular" comic has to be signed off on) a code for a digital download that would only become available as the normal copy did? That'd probably be more down with the kids as well.
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Post by Warcry » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:52 pm

inflatable dalek wrote:The Scoop thing suggests Hasbro might at least be a bit more flexible. Perhaps Hoist will randomly decide to paint himself black (using that stealth paint from RID that's been used as the excuse to make Arcee her new toy colours?)? Though some sort of flashbacks/dream sequences would be fine with me.
Flashbacks or the like would be hard to do if Hasbro is still pushing the combiner aspect super-hard, but who knows? It's also entirely possible that they won't bother because he's a late-run line-filler and they'll have moved on to shilling Titan Wars by the time he hits shelves.

But just the fact that it's a possibility going forward is pretty funny. The one time that Roberts actually means to kill someone off, and first people don't believe it and then Hasbro might undo it anyway to push a soulless repaint.
inflatable dalek wrote:I wonder if the pack-in version will just edit the text to call him Scrapper and remove any references (if there were any?) to him having been an Autobot? Sort of like how the Trailcutter spotlight mucked about with the text so he was never Trailbreaker.

Sure, he doesn't look much like Scrapper, but lack of resemblance to the toys doesn't seem to have stopped the rest of this giant advert.
That's a fair bet, I think. The silhouette is right even if the details are all wrong, so he'd still have the Protectobots beat.
inflatable dalek wrote:The Elita cliffhanger is litterally "ZOMG!!!! LOOK, IT'S THAT CHARACTER LAST SEEN NEARLY 30 YEARS AGO WITH NO PRIOR PRESSENCE IN IDW! If you're not familiar with the TV show you may need to Google". Considering the amount of new readers the comics seem to have been bringing in lately that must have been a head scratcher for a lot of people.
And even if you do know who she is, that context only makes it make less sense. With Chromia and Firestar being Camiens it's strange that she'd be from a different world (let alone evil), since them being a group is literally the only characterization they had pre-IDW (but then Moonracer is apparently on Velocitron so what do I know?) And teaming her up with Obsidian makes even less sense since he already has a female co-conspirator in Strika. Not to mention that the two of them don't even look like they're from the same species, since she's super-cartoony while he (if I remember right) was drawn reasonably BM-accurate.

A ship full of Vehicons actually would have been a lot more intriguing, though I suppose the ship sailed on that when they randomly tossed Tankor into Dark Cybertron. It's a shame that they didn't think through their long-term plans more thoroughly, because he, Rattrap, Rhinox, Sky-Byte and Waspinator could have been used to great effect as a lead-in to exploring the colonies if they'd actually known they were going to do that when they first had them show up. Instead some of the most popular non-G1 characters are already hanging around, dampening the impact of what really should have been a huge, universe-expanding moment for the IDWverse.
inflatable dalek wrote:I mean, it's the clunkiest moment in that series, but at least the similar arrival of Impactor at the end of the first issue of Wreckers is slightly set up for people who haven't read Marvel UK with the mention of him and that he means something significant to Springer a few pages earlier.
That was foreshadowed well, though, and I didn't even think it was particularly clunky. Everything you needed to know about Impactor was right there on the page, so when he showed up even a newbie reader knew why it was a big deal. Whereas Elita is eye-roll-worthy grimdark nonsense if you don't know who she is, or a complete non-sequitur if for those of us who know that her entire personality is "Optmus's girlfriend".
inflatable dalek wrote:Maybe rather than a physical comic (which seems to need to be ready months in advance of when the "Regular" comic has to be signed off on) a code for a digital download that would only become available as the normal copy did? That'd probably be more down with the kids as well.
That would be a great idea, actually. It would probably cost Hasbro less, and avoid the embarrassing problems that some of the Dark Cybertron pack-in issues had. Plus it would let them reach a wider audience, at least in theory, by including the download codes with the international figures and not just the US-market ones.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Tue Jun 30, 2015 8:04 pm

Warcry wrote:Flashbacks or the like would be hard to do if Hasbro is still pushing the combiner aspect super-hard, but who knows? It's also entirely possible that they won't bother because he's a late-run line-filler and they'll have moved on to shilling Titan Wars by the time he hits shelves.
I suppose it depends how bitchin' Hasbro are going to be about it.

The amusing thing about Titan wars is how the characters have gone from being obsessed with Titan's to seemingly downgrading to being obsessed with Combiners, and now will be going back to obsessing about Titans again. Make your minds up!
That's a fair bet, I think. The silhouette is right even if the details are all wrong, so he'd still have the Protectobots beat.
The sad thing is, The Wrong Protectobots are probably what's brought me the most joy out of the whole comic. They're the gag that continues to give (and helped to draw attention to the fact Rook only showed up in one panel where he'd obviously been photoshopped on afterwards).

You could forgive Dark Cybertron some of its oddities considering it was attempting something that neither IDW or Hasbro had tried to that extent before, but here it seems they hadn't learnt from any of its lessons (which I should say were "Go back to doing standalone Spotlights as the pack-ins").

And even if you do know who she is, that context only makes it make less sense. With Chromia and Firestar being Camiens it's strange that she'd be from a different world (let alone evil), since them being a group is literally the only characterization they had pre-IDW (but then Moonracer is apparently on Velocitron so what do I know?) And teaming her up with Obsidian makes even less sense since he already has a female co-conspirator in Strika. Not to mention that the two of them don't even look like they're from the same species, since she's super-cartoony while he (if I remember right) was drawn reasonably BM-accurate.
There's nothing to say Elita isn't a Camien is there? She's currently a woman on a spaceship, she could be from anywhere. Though everything else still stands as a valid point.
A ship full of Vehicons actually would have been a lot more intriguing, though I suppose the ship sailed on that when they randomly tossed Tankor into Dark Cybertron. It's a shame that they didn't think through their long-term plans more thoroughly, because he, Rattrap, Rhinox, Sky-Byte and Waspinator could have been used to great effect as a lead-in to exploring the colonies if they'd actually known they were going to do that when they first had them show up. Instead some of the most popular non-G1 characters are already hanging around, dampening the impact of what really should have been a huge, universe-expanding moment for the IDWverse.
They've also completely forgotten about the NAILs haven't they? The current fuss is all about the 13 colonies even though when the series started the Cybertronians were scattered all over the galaxy, with presumably a lot more still out there. The neutrals who came home are basically treated as either Autobots or Decepticons as default now.

That was foreshadowed well, though, and I didn't even think it was particularly clunky. Everything you needed to know about Impactor was right there on the page, so when he showed up even a newbie reader knew why it was a big deal. Whereas Elita is eye-roll-worthy grimdark nonsense if you don't know who she is, or a complete non-sequitur if for those of us who know that her entire personality is "Optmus's girlfriend".
It was a little forced in that despite being in the comic for years neither Kup or Springer had eveer mentioned this hugely important character in Springer's past until thirty seconds before he showed up. But then, considering the mini-series format and how shite the editing was at the time it could never have been done any other way really.

This has no excuse.

That would be a great idea, actually. It would probably cost Hasbro less, and avoid the embarrassing problems that some of the Dark Cybertron pack-in issues had. Plus it would let them reach a wider audience, at least in theory, by including the download codes with the international figures and not just the US-market ones.
Yeah, as I've said before I'm amazed Hasbro don't take more advantage of the fact that most of the toys target audience (or at least their parents) have smart phones that could scan those square things to bring up all sorts of easy to make added bonuses. Profiles, cartoon clips (whole episodes!), comics and so on. It always feels like a missed opportunity.
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Post by Warcry » Fri Jul 03, 2015 6:09 pm

inflatable dalek wrote:You could forgive Dark Cybertron some of its oddities considering it was attempting something that neither IDW or Hasbro had tried to that extent before, but here it seems they hadn't learnt from any of its lessons (which I should say were "Go back to doing standalone Spotlights as the pack-ins").
You're quite right I suppose, standalone spotlight issues would make way more sense both from IDW's perspective (not hijacking their ongoing series) and a Hasbro one (a lot less communication and micromanagement to worry about). They could just say "give us a story starring Vroom to go with his new toy" and IDW can just do it without worrying about the fact that he got killed off in the background of Spotlight Guzzle five years before, or trying to make sense of him being a Pretender when that gimmick seems to have been pretty well written off in the IDWverse.

And for stuff like Combiner Wars, they could still make a miniseries of it if they want to, but they could just as easily make it out-of-continuity so that they can concentrate on the characters/setting Hasbro wants instead of dancing around 200 ongoing IDW plotlines as well.
inflatable dalek wrote:There's nothing to say Elita isn't a Camien is there? She's currently a woman on a spaceship, she could be from anywhere. Though everything else still stands as a valid point.
I think she's on a Titan actually, since Metroplex's space bridge dropped the Combiners on that ship and only the Titans seem to have receivers. Which would certainly imply she's from a different colony than Caminus, which still has its' Titan.
inflatable dalek wrote:They've also completely forgotten about the NAILs haven't they? The current fuss is all about the 13 colonies even though when the series started the Cybertronians were scattered all over the galaxy, with presumably a lot more still out there. The neutrals who came home are basically treated as either Autobots or Decepticons as default now.
I've completely forgotten them too, so I can't blame IDW too much. The fact that none of them bar Metalhawk got any characterization and only a handful were even named really made it impossible to take them seriously. I guess they're all "Starscream's people" now, anyway.
inflatable dalek wrote:It was a little forced in that despite being in the comic for years neither Kup or Springer had eveer mentioned this hugely important character in Springer's past until thirty seconds before he showed up. But then, considering the mini-series format and how shite the editing was at the time it could never have been done any other way really.
Was Springer really an important character before Wreckers, though? He was around in Stormbringer, AHM and a few spotlights, but Spotlight: Kup is the only issue that he got a lot of focus in. I guess a mention of how he's trying to save Kup from himself because he failed to save Impactor could be shoehorned in there, in a hypothetical world where they planned everything from day one. But on a scale from zero to Prowl suddenly becoming an evil manipulator for no reason after five years of being a boring rulebook-lover, Impactor ranks pretty low for me when it comes to retcons.
inflatable dalek wrote:Yeah, as I've said before I'm amazed Hasbro don't take more advantage of the fact that most of the toys target audience (or at least their parents) have smart phones that could scan those square things to bring up all sorts of easy to make added bonuses. Profiles, cartoon clips (whole episodes!), comics and so on. It always feels like a missed opportunity.
You're right, that would be a great way to market the toys. Anything that ties in with the new-media stuff that kids these days are consuming would be a wonderful added hook.

I always figured that a "Skylanders" approach would be good too -- have a Transformers game (maybe even a free-to-play one) where new characters are unlocked when you buy their toys and put in the unique code they come with.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:27 pm

Warcry wrote:You're quite right I suppose, standalone spotlight issues would make way more sense both from IDW's perspective (not hijacking their ongoing series) and a Hasbro one (a lot less communication and micromanagement to worry about). They could just say "give us a story starring Vroom to go with his new toy" and IDW can just do it without worrying about the fact that he got killed off in the background of Spotlight Guzzle five years before, or trying to make sense of him being a Pretender when that gimmick seems to have been pretty well written off in the IDWverse.
Absolutely. I think the main argument against continuing Spotlights was that some of the characters were too obscure to make a comic that would see around them. Which ignores both the subsidising by Hasbro and the fact you can throw in promonet guest roles for better know Transformers (which is basically what Spotlight Hoist did, IIRC all the covers made it look like a Metroplex comic).

Plus, then you can do Beast/Unicron Trilogy/Original RID stories without any fuss or bother, it's a shame for people who really like those other franchises (though I suspect as far we we're all concerned we're just talking Beast Wars) that they've been subjugated to G1 now.

Mind, I'm still amazed IDW had the rights to do tie in comics to the most successful film of 2014 and didn't bother. It's like they suddenly hate money.
I think she's on a Titan actually, since Metroplex's space bridge dropped the Combiners on that ship and only the Titans seem to have receivers. Which would certainly imply she's from a different colony than Caminus, which still has its' Titan.
Ah, got you. I managed to completely miss that. The THRONE OF HEADS ELITA ONE IS HARDCORE thing must have distracted me.

I've completely forgotten them too, so I can't blame IDW too much. The fact that none of them bar Metalhawk got any characterization and only a handful were even named really made it impossible to take them seriously. I guess they're all "Starscream's people" now, anyway.
Maybe they're the ones who are actually happy with Starscream's rule? It's still a flaw of the comic that everyone we meet thinks he's a terrible leader but they don't just get rid of him.

But on a scale from zero to Prowl suddenly becoming an evil manipulator for no reason after five years of being a boring rulebook-lover, Impactor ranks pretty low for me when it comes to retcons.
Oh absolutely, it's worked out great in the long run. Poor old Xaaron wishes someone would pay him that level of love.

You're right, that would be a great way to market the toys. Anything that ties in with the new-media stuff that kids these days are consuming would be a wonderful added hook.

I always figured that a "Skylanders" approach would be good too -- have a Transformers game (maybe even a free-to-play one) where new characters are unlocked when you buy their toys and put in the unique code they come with.

Yeah, I'm amazed they don't do things like bringing Robot Points back so that kids can get an Itunes credit for an episode of the current cartoon everytime they buy a toy. That would help with the erratic broadcast of the series outside of the States as well.

I'm also baffled- considering it's such a big expensive (and, to be euphamistic, "Child Friendly" in its design) toy- that Devastator hasn't been stuck in the new RID cartoon. Old farts/the comics could treat it as the G1 version, but that might actually encourage children to ask for it as they're big Christmas present.
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Post by tahukanuva » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:32 pm

Warcry wrote: I always figured that a "Skylanders" approach would be good too -- have a Transformers game (maybe even a free-to-play one) where new characters are unlocked when you buy their toys and put in the unique code they come with.
The new RiD toys do exactly this. You scan their badges and unlock them for play in the app game. It even distinguishes between size classes for unclear reasons.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Sun Jul 05, 2015 7:22 pm

tahukanuva wrote:The new RiD toys do exactly this. You scan their badges and unlock them for play in the app game. It even distinguishes between size classes for unclear reasons.

Excellent, it's good they're finally listening to me.
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Post by inflatable dalek » Thu Jul 09, 2015 7:07 pm

Well somebody must have liked this as it's going to be adapted into a "Web Series" cartoon.

I know, I know. Toys.

Though considering how involved it is with the ongoing plots, presumably any adaptation is going to have to be very lose with it. Plus combiner fights should actually work in animation.

Maybe they could put the actual Protectobots in it?
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