Saturday, February 20, 2010

Transformers: All Hail Megatron volume 1 (comics)

Writer: Shane McCarthy
Artist: Guido Guidi
Collects: Transformers: All Hail Megatron #1-6

Everyone loves a good villain, right? They're an important part of almost any fiction and a good villain is important to establishing a good hero. Just look at Batman; the character's one of the richest in fiction, but his villains are also some of the best and help make his mythos as interesting as they are.

Transformers aren't exactly lacking for good villains. Either major Megatron (G1 or Beast Wars, for those unfamiliar) rank among memorable villains and the rest of their squads aren't slouches either. But let's face it; they don't exactly come out on top much. For the most part, like many 80's cartoons, the villains didn't get that many victories and the franchise has followed suit.

But what if that was different? What if Megatron and the Decepticons came out on top, just this once? That's the premise of All Hail Megatron; and honestly, so far it's pretty interesting.

The series doesn't really waste time with any Autobot versus Decepticon battle to show the villains winning. It effectively starts after that battle, right when the action begins. With the Autobots nowhere to be seen, Megatron arrives and swiftly takes over New York City as his base of operations, showing up the US military as a bunch of chumps. The resistance fails miserably and soon the other countries of the world are forced to consider other options. Meanwhile, the Autobots have survived, but they've been ravaged; stranded on Cybertron, they've lost definitively with no way off the planet and Optimus Prime down, forcing Jazz to take the lead.

The story essentially shifts between three real plots and sets of characters; the humans, the Decepticons and the remnants of the Autobots. The human portion is the one with the least concrete direction. You follow a central human for a while, but before you know it he's gone and it shifts to a general snapshot of the military as it deals with the sudden attack. The other two are a bit more straightforward; the Decepticons are wiping out any humans they can and the Autobots are stranded on Cybertron and trying to get their crap together. It's effective, if nothing else; the general mystery of what happened to bring this about is unfolded slowly, the pieces are put into play and the story builds.

It's something of a slow burn, really. Much of this volume sets up the situation and advances the pieces in a slow but steady manner, bringing them to interesting places by the end. If nothing else, you could say that this volume consists of the first real act of the story. But it works, as we get time to see the Decepticons in victory and are teased the possibility of mutiny thanks to the notion that what held the disparate Decepticons together was the hope of victory, leaving the question of where they go once they achieve it. It allows Jazz to show some leadership chops as well, reminding you just why the character was always one of the coolest of the franchise. It feels like one of those stories that benefits from decompression, giving the story enough time to breath before the fireworks start.

Aside from some cheesy dialogue for the humans in the early issues, there's only one thing that really bugs me about the story in this volume, which would be the fact that Optimus Prime is, once again, near death in this story. If you're a fan of the Transformers franchise at all, you've definitely seen this before, because they never let the cliche go. Optimus has died or been near death at least once in, well, pretty much every damn Transformers continuity ever made. We can all thank the original G1 movie for that; kids cried, it left an impression and suddenly no writer can resist the urge to mine that well. Personally, I'm beyond sick of it and could go without seeing Optimus die or on the brink of death ever again. It needs to be put to bed, badly.

The art is very good for the volume. Solid, consistant and colorful. Everyone looks like they should, their G1 forms brought to life on the comic page. It's nothing spectacular, but it's the kind of art that can tell a story and not stick out. For a property like Transformers, it hits the proper notes, so while you're not going to see anything defining, it does it's job.

There is one thing that's a major standout about the art though. The covers. They're simply fantastic, evoking old Soviet propaganda posters with the colors and the simplicity. Very eye-catching and evocative. I loved them.

The Verdict: Dramatic Thumbs Up

Definitely worth a read. The volume is a lot of setup, but it's the good kind. If nothing else, the premise alone makes it worth a read for a Transformers fan, as it's not often you see the Decepticons actually, you know, winning. I just hope the second volume is as good and pushes things into gear. But as far as this volume goes, it's an interesting and enjoyable read. If you're a Transformers fan, it's worth a look at the least.

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