A Humble Bundle That You Need In Your Life (Really)

Transformers comic

If you’ve followed this blog or have known me in real life for any significant amount of time, you know that I love me some Transformers. That baffles people, mostly because the Michael Bay films are all they know. Even if the last one was comparatively decent, that’s still a shame for this multi-layered, multi-faceted science fiction franchise (which obviously exists to sell toys, but it does so because it gets us to care about the characters).

The biggest slap in the face to what Michael Bay has done to the franchise is the comics IDW Publishing has been putting out since 2006. Taking place in a new iteration of the Generation One continuity (that’s the original ’80s cartoon, comics and toyline), the line was initially a succession of connected miniseries and one-shots written by the Major Domo of Transformers writers, Simon Furman. In 2008, the maxi-series All Hail Megatron which had the Decepticon leader formally conquer Earth was released and kicked off events that led to an ongoing written by Mike Costa that, after three years, ended with the most daring storytelling anybody had done for Transformers yet.

The Great War between the Autobots and Decepticons–y’know, the thing THE ENTIRE FRANCHISE is based on–actually ended. Cybertron was restored to life after eons of barrenness and loads of NAILs (Non-Aligned Indigenous Lifeforms, those who left the Great War) arrive back home. From there, the franchise split in two directions in 2012, with IDW’s Transformers editor John Barber writing and Andrew Griffith drawing Robots In Disguise, about the efforts to unite the new Cybertron, and fan-favorites James Roberts and Alex Milne writing and drawing More Than Meets The Eye, where a bunch of characters, led by Rodimus (aka the guy who became the new Prime in the 1986 movie), leave in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron to help restore the planet and…well, pretty much everything but that happens.

It’s those two series that are the focus of Humble Bundle’s new Book Bundle, which started last week and concludes on Wednesday. Like all Humble Bundles, the focus is towards charity–here, it’s the Hasbro Children’s Fund–but the staggering greatness of the deal offered here is incredible.

For as little as you want–yes, even a penny–you get 37 issues of More Than Meets the Eye–that’s every single issue ever published but the current one. That’s an astonishing deal. If you pay more, you can also get nearly every issue of Robots In Disguise (which has been renamed to avoid confusion with this) as well as the “Dark Cybertron” crossover, which bridges the gap between the first and second “seasons” of both comics (but really isn’t required reading). But if you can’t pay that much, just get MTMTE.

Roberts, Milne and colorists Josh Burcham and Joana Lafuente are the most underrated storytellers in comics today. Yes, even if they’re working on a licensed book put out by a Top 5 comic book publisher, they’re still written off. It’s a branding thing, obviously. Because the public perception of Transformers has come to be “shiny shit blowin’ up REAL good” for four films now, other media gets written off as similarly stupid.

More Than Meets The Eye is the complete opposite of that. Milne’s gorgeous pencils are distinctive and emotive; you clearly know and feel for these characters. Burcham and now Lafuente compliment that with astonishing colors. And Roberts–himself a long-admired figure in the fandom–leads the way with absolutely incredible scripts that either redefine old characters or define characters who never got much or any backstory in the first place.

The series is full of wit, humor, Big Ideas, dysfunctional personalities, epic space-faring adventure and small-scale introspection. In short, it’s everything you can get in great science fiction. The fact that this has a lot of firsts like, say, the franchise’s first canonically gay married couple (really), only is more points in its favor.

This is an incredible comic that is only going to get better. If you don’t believe me, read Lindsay Ellis’ take on it. Then get your butt over to Humble Bundle, donate and download. Even if you don’t like Transformers–hell, especially if you don’t–read this. You’ll be so glad you did.

LAST STAND OF THE WRECKERS (Review)

(thumbnail) (TFWiki)

So this past weekend was Botcon, the annual Transformers convention. Given that the new film, Age Of Extinction, hits today, there was naturally a lot more excitement than usual. Judging from the reports I’ve read, that excitement was due and well-deserved (barring the occasional ugly snafu).

I couldn’t attend–not that I ever have been able to–and while some friends of mine held their own “Notcon” to make up for it, I stayed home and weathered the death of a close family member.

In between the various businesses of grief, I found comfort and escape in rereading the opening arc of the always-excellent More Than Meets The Eye, one of the two current ongoing Transformers comics, and reading the prequel to this current era of Transformers comics, the 2010 miniseries Last Stand Of The Wreckers.

Essentially, this is an action movie in comics form. Taking place after the All Hail Megatron event, which saw the Decepticons become rulers of Earth after destroying San Francisco, the story opens with Autobot Springer recruiting four new members–war hero Rotorstorm, Optimus Prime wannabe Pyro, gun nut Guzzle and genius weapons inventor Ironfist–to join the Wreckers, basically the Autobots’ answer to Seal Team 6 and Blackwater.

Their mission? Take back the Autobot prison planet Garrus-9, which has been ruled for 3 years by the sadistic Decepticon renegade Overlord. The Wreckers, plus human stowaway Verity Carlo ( a holdover from previous Transformers comics by IDW), land on the planet. But what they find is worse than they could’ve ever imagined…

The wonderful thing about this series–and there are many–is that it mashes up familiar characters (Springer and fellow Wreckers Kup and Perceptor date back to the ’80s) with the ultra-obscure (all the new guys are European exclusive toys who had never been used in fiction before). Writers James Roberts, currently writing More Than Meets The Eye, and Nick Roche (who also draws with Guido Guidi) bring these disparate types together and make them all fully fleshed out, interesting characters.
For example, Ironfist is a die-hard Wreckers fanboy who writes famous stories about the team under a pseudonym. That’s pretty neat.

I should also add this story is full of carnage. Bots die left and right and far from being meaningless, Roberts and Roche make us all care. That’s not easy to do.

Key to it all is Roche’s and Guidi’s art. The two mesh together beautifully and, with the amazing coloring of Josh Burcham, create vibrant, poppy artwork that could easily be the basis for an animated film.

I’d highly recommend this storyto anyone with even a minor interest in Transformers. No prior knowledge is required. I’d especially recommend getting the deluxe hardcover. It has all the covers, character profiles, a wonderful short story written by Roberts and supplemental sequel comics (full disclosure: my friend lettered two of them).
Even if you removed the giant robots, this is a solid military scifi story
If Roberts and Roche were to work on an original work, it’d be as great as what we see here. Check it out.