Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: Transformers Armada vol 1

I’m not going to go into a history of the comic company Dreamwave, but suffice it to say this comic – which came out at the same time as the Transformers cartoon of the same name – was the book I was more excited about at the time when Dreamwave held the license to make these comics. I had read the first two issues of this book before dropping it (along with any individual comic collecting) but it’s one I’ve been anxious to revisit, knowing my library had the collected volumes. There are many concerns I had when reading the book, ones that I’ll pass along in this review as well; things like the general entertainment value, the ability for non-fans to understand what’s going on, and what interest a well-versed fan might have in reading it. Armada (at least in comic form) has one of the strongest openings of any Transformers story; yes the war rages on Cybertron between Autobot and Decepticon but in the middle is a “third” race of Transformers called Minicons. This is a smaller robot sect who up till now have been mostly the equivalent of civilian casualties in the war. But something is about to change all that – Megatron has discovered they can use the Minicons by attaching them to a larger Transformers body to give them an extra power boost. Now it’s all about the Decepticons trying to force the Minicons into servitude, and the Autobots trying to save them (as well as convince them to help their side of the war). The minicons, however, would rather not be involved at all. They escape from Cybertron, but when their ship crash lands on – you guessed it – Earth, you know the war is not far behind. The Cybertron section of this book is actually the stronger story. Once the Minicons get to Earth, a cast of pre-teen children become involved in a rather contrived way, helping the Minicons (who then adapt their transformations into things like skateboards) escape from the Decepticons (who of course arrive before the Autobots). The minicons are well developed characters, much more so than any other Autobot or Decepticon (save Optimus and Megatron) in this story. There were two things that stuck out in particular for me in Armada. First, there’s the plight of the Minicons. You can see what slavery is like for some of them, and how the others (who have been freed) shy away from helping the Autobots for fear of becoming slaves again. This is a downtrodden group, on the run and only wanting to be left alone. My second point comes along those same lines; because the Minicons are so small (about the size of your average human in robot form) and the story is told mostly from their perspective – the battles between Autobot and Decepticon are HUGE. These robots tower over the Minicons, and the perspectives used through most of the series let’s the reader see these battles through their eyes. Speaking of the art, it’s just gorgeous. That’s one of the things I remembered from my early impressions of this series, and it was true here as well. I’m not sure if James Riaz went on to do any other Transformers work, but he does a heck of a job here. At the same time, I wouldn’t call this essential reading for Transformers fans. It’s not the greatest story I’ve ever read – it’s definitely a satisfying take on the “origin” especially for this particular series, and because of that it’s very newcomer friendly. I think there are a number of things a long time fan can take away from this series as well. But it’s not a “classic”, and anyone over the age of 11 is bound to be annoyed by some of the antics of the kids who are introduced about half-way through. Still in all, I’m not unhappy to say I’ve read this volume – I just don’t know if I’ll seek out the next two in the series (which is the complete comic run).

1 comment:

Budd said...

I watched a random episode of the cartoon and couldn't get into it, but you make me want to look for the trade on this one.