More than any other franchise, Transformers just seems impenetrable to me. I just don’t understand it. And what’s very odd is that I can not understand it while liking it at the same time. Because there’s so much Transformers out there that works for me.
I missed the boat on Transformers by a few years. My version of the franchise came years later with Beast Wars, a show I loved very much. That is the version of the characters I understand the most. I’ve also seen all three (to date) live-action movies, but for the life of me would not be able to tell you what they were about. The movies are like sensory overload to me, people just talking so much without saying anything that I start to tune them out to the point that I miss whole plots.
Anyway, that’s what I know of the franchise prior to this review: Beast Wars and the movies. So if I miss the point, please forgive me.
I also am really having a hard time figuring out where to start reading. It worked out fine for GI Joe for me to just start anywhere, but all the covers look weird and complicated to me. I feel really, really old trying to read a Transformers comic. Like, older than any 28-year-old trying to read a comic book should feel.
After a little deliberation, I’ve discovered that my local store (Timemasters Inc) had all four issues of a mini-series called Rage of the Dinobots. I remember Dinobot fondly from Beast Wars so I pick up all four, and that’s what we’re reviewing today. This is my first Transformers comic.
The first issue starts with a declaration: “We all know the story.” No, I don’t. “Autobots versus Decepticons.” Okay, I did know that. “Cybertron lost.” Didn’t realize that. We then cut to an alien world where Grimlock, Slug, Sludge and Swoop collectively attack an oncoming force of what I assume are Decepticons. These four make up the Dinobots, not a single person here but some sort of weird bastard-offspring of the regular Autobots. I get the impression from this comic that they’re somewhere between “X-Men for Transformers” and “Red-headed Step-Child” for the Autobots, or at least the Dinobots themselves feel that way. In any event it adds some pathos to have the characters be outsiders.
I also don’t get their disguise-mode. They either look like robots or robot dinosaurs. Either way they’d stick out like a sore thumb. But I digress.
Things look bleak until the group in saved by Ultra Magnus and his plane. He looks a lot like Optimus Prime and he’s an Autobot, so I’m going to assume he’s the leader. I really have no clue. Where’s Optimus? I know one character’s name and it looks like he won’t show up.
Anyway, Ultra Magnus is shot down and his remains are taken by Ser-Ket as a trophy to Shockwave. The Dinobots head out in hot pursuit, but in the wreckage find… a Predacon! Apparently they’ve been extinct for eons, and this is a big deal… it’s a big deal for me because it reminds me of Beast Wars, where the Predacons were the main villains. This one even looks like Megatron’s dragon-mode from later seasons. Could they be making a comeback in this very comic? I’m excited.
Grimlock takes on the Predacon and we get four pages of not-terribly-exciting battle between the two before the Predacon takes off and kidnaps Swoop.
In the second issue we get a little more meat as the Dinobot investigation proves that these Predacons were forged, made from other pieces… like the Dinobots themselves. And finally I get it: the Dinobots are like the Weapon X Project of the Transformers Universe. Okay, I can definitely get behind that.
They make their way to a prison that takes up an entire mountain and free Ultra Magnus, only to be attacked by a squad of robots loyal to Shockwave… including a reprogrammed Swoop!
The third issue is an issue long battle between Grimlock and Ser-Ket for the fate of Swoop, with Grimlock finally beating out Ser-Ket due to the rage of his Dinobot mode… the reason for the title of this miniseries, I guess. Reminds me of when Wolverine used to go berserker all the time. Remember when that was a thing? Going berserker? God I miss that. Once Ser-Ket is defeated and things seem to be winding down, we have another splash-page reveal at the last page: Shockwave, ready for battle.
Sensing a trend? I’m sensing a trend. I really can’t say I’m enjoying this story by Mike Johnson and Mairghread Scott at all. It took two people to write this? How? I feel like the first issue had some interesting points, but that I’ve gotten the same issue twice since. In fact I’m complaining about the creative team right now just to avoid picking up the remaining issue.
The art by Agustin Padilla is competent enough, but he’s nut dynamic enough to make the fight scenes energized. And all this miniseries has been is one giant fight scene… so that’s kind of important. Also, I have a really hard time telling the Transformers apart. They all look the same to me. Is that racist? Am I racist towards the robot population somehow? Whatever.
Anyway. Issue 4 features Grimlock versus Shockwave, with Shockwave winning and capturing Grimlock to experiment on again. All the Dinobots are game to save him, but Ultra Magnus says no, to which he’s basically told to shove it because: “This is Dinobot business.” They keep saying that, like Johnson and Scott thought it would be a catchphrase. For all I know it already is one.
They save the day after the spat, and the Dinobots finally gain the acceptance of the Autobot leader. We are promised that the story will continue in Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters. My only question is: what story. I looked everywhere and could not find one.
Transformers remains impenetrable to me. If someone can suggest a better place to start reading the comics I am very, very open to suggestions.