Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Booknote: The Transformers Classics, Volume 4

Bob Budiansky,, The Transformers Classics, Volume 4. San Diego, CA; IDW, 2012. ISBN: 9781613774977.

Genre: Comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: 1980s comics, robots, science fiction
Format: Trade paperback
Source: I bought this one on a clearance sale  at A+ Comics.

This is an IDW compilation volume of the 1980s Marvel Comics run. It picks up issues 39-50 of the series. If you want to take a nostalgia trip to your childhood, this may be for you. However, you may end up remembering that, while the toys were really neat, the cartoon, which was mostly to market the toys, was really not that good.

A major issue with this volume, and this series overall, is that comic has not aged well at all. The plots were very silly, and to be honest, the humans in the comic are more an annoyance and a nuisance. The introduction to the volume argues that adding humans shows readers the collateral damage and allows the writers "the opportunity to study the deep level of personal sacrifice that a human being will undertake for a cause" (5). That seems a bit of a stretch for this comic. In addition, as I mentioned, the comic has not aged well. Some details and effects that may have seemed cool then are laughable now. For instance, storing the full brain of a robot into a floppy disk.

In this volume, the Underbase saga, which runs for four issues, may be the best story in this set. We see Starscream as devious as we know he can be, and the story has a bit of depth. It does feature a lot of Transformers, at times way too many; this was an overall issue with the comics, way too many robots to keep track of. You can tell Hasbro was pumping them out to sell toys, and thus the comics had to feature them somehow. Also, you find some name changes, which seem petty. For example, Bumblebee becomes Goldenbug, and stuff like this does not really help. As I said, neat toys but the comic leaves a lot to be desired. 

Then there are the mistakes and other issues. This may be of interest if you like trivia, but as the IDW folks point out in notes between the issues, there are various bloopers, mistakes, plot gaps, etc. in the original comics. Some of these are due to trying to rush a comic to market. Others are due to trying to match a new (at the time) toy campaign, say the whole Powermasters line, and not quite succeeding. Panels get repeated to save time to press with Marvel hoping most readers would not notice. Overall, this was not Marvel's best work. However, for the true nostalgia folks, IDW has done a service preserving those issues and adding notes for context.

For me, I would skip these comics and grab later iterations of Transformers. Things like Beast Wars, their stories set in Cybertron, so on. For many, if you remember the 1980s cartoons fondly, just keep the memory. Going back now may well ruin the memory.

Though I would not recommend these, I think some libraries may want them if they already have a large selection of Transformers comics (or they need to replace older editions with a newer compilation). The IDW compilation, with an introduction and issue notes may be of interest to hardcore fans. However, casual fans may prefer more modern titles where the characters and plots have much depth, and the art has evolved. In the end, this is a volume to borrow rather than buy.

It was OK, so I am giving it 2 out of 5 stars.

This volume qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

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