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review 2018-05-23 15:58
Excellent storylines with a couple bumps
Transformers: IDW Collection Phase Two Volume 1 - Andrew Griffith,Nick Roche,Alex Milne,John Barber,James Lamar Roberts

I find the switching between MTMtE and RiD, to be honest, distracting, mostly because it doesn't feel like you're reading one continuous story.   It feels like distracting POV jumps.   Still, this is such an excellent collection, I only knocked off one fourth of a star.   The other fourth is for two reasons.   One: because I always find The Death of Optimus Prime to be integral to his storyline, but a chore to read.   Also, while Barber is an excellent storyteller, I'm spoiled by knowing what's to come: RiD isn't bad - in fact, it's a lot of fun and volume two was my gateway into this continuity because Dinobots - so much as his work gets so much more refined and nuanced later on, that this feels like an excellent author finding his way in retrospect.   And this is, to be honest, not a knock-down in my opinion: some authors intuit what to write and how straight away, but most have to work at it.   And if you ask me, I'd prefer the second kind of author.   The struggle to reach that excellence can keep them from taking it for granted, or thinking that they don't have to or shouldn't hone their craft: they are the authors who, in my opinion, continue to excel.   (There are exceptions both ways, but in my experience, this is what tends to happen.)


I say this because I feel like I've been comparing early Barber to early Roberts, and then to later Roberts.  For me James Roberts has been one of those authors who's knocked it out of the park with a couple exceptions: some issues got too moribund for my taste and then he quickly injected the humor back into Lost Light in particular.   I feel like I've been unfair to Barber, and so I'm explaining how I think of his writing at the present.   The fact that I have changed my opinion about him as he grows means I may change my mind again: I may find him to slip, or to reach a point where he becomes, hands down, my favorite TF author.   


I also am taking this much time explaining this because I think the context matters: how I view his work, and how it's evolved, does go into the rating.  This works much better for me in the context of what is to come, from these storylines and from Barber himself.   Reading this, I keep wanting to get further along, to what he does to Prowl, to the Dinobots in The Redemptions of the Dinobots, to Optimus Prime.   I'm also eager to sit back and enjoy watching the evolution of his writing.   So in a way, this is so high because in retrospect, that evolution is well worth watching and reading and it elevates this reading experience for me.   Furthermore, I'm less sneer-y now that I've seen it once, and I'm just allowing myself to sit back and enjoy the ride. 


Anyway, this has the Death of Optimus Prime and the beginning issues of More Than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise.   A bunch of fun so far.   I'm knee deep in Autocracy which starts off the next volume.   


Note: "allowing myself" at one point autocorrected to "blowing myself".  Vin's just being naughty now.

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review 2018-05-21 20:59
Transformers: The IDW Collection Volume 8 - Dan Abnett,Mike Costa,Andy Lanning,James Lamar Roberts

I was going to write a longer review, but no.   This gets weird, and not in a good way, in a  fucked up, this makes no fucking sense way.  


James Roberts co-writes one volume, the one that not only made the most sense but was the most complex, nuanced, and interesting.   It's the only one worth reading for the storyline.   The last volume, however, had one of my favorite artists.   So Livio Ramondelli? I will show up for his Transformers art, no matter how fragged the storyline is.   


Onto better stories in Phase 2!

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review 2018-05-20 13:21
Transformers: The IDW Collection, Vol. 7 - Justin Eisinger,Various Authors,Alonzo Simon

Infestation had problems, mostly that it was part of a larger thing and I feel like you don't get the whole picture when the two Transformers tie-ins - and they were all tie-ins to media like G.I. Joe and Star Trek - when just the Transformers issues are included here. 


And Britt was just ridiculous. 


Seeing Transformers vs zombies was kinda fun, though. 


Volume 2: 


Two got more interesting, as it involved details of how the world in general reacted to Autobots given the events in All Hail Megatron.  There's also collusion between Spike Witwicky - who was changed to Sam in the movies - and the Autobots.   


There's also the Spike and Scrapper issue, which will come back to haunt him later on.   


It's also not as nuanced, or balanced, or just plain good as phase 2, and this remains that way until the end.  If I remember correctly, phase 1 gets worse and then we get phase 2...


Volume 3:


Probably one of the more interesting volumes: Megatron gets a new body and turns his old one into guns.   That he gives to humans.   It's all about getting back at Optimus Prime and the Autobots by getting the humans to turn on them.   Some already have, some need a little push, but the thing is that Prime and the Autobots still insist on protecting the humans.   This is to prove how foolish they are for caring.  


And this also sets up a lot with Jazz, who kills a police officer - on live TV - to protect Bumblebee.   One of the problems?   Bee was already talking him down.   


I think this may be my favorite of the volumes in this series.   But still not nearly as good as phase 2.   Still, volumes two and three will come back into play pretty heavily for phase 2.  




Man, I kinda like that he came back, but... I don't buy a lot of this volume.   Like that Alpha Trion could bring him back, like trusting what he did to Sunstreaker, like if this is possibly why doesn't Alpha Trion bring back a bunch of people?    Isn't it worth the time and effort?


Anyway, yeah, Ironhide on a mostly dead Cybertron fighting Insecticons. That's pretty awesome.    Also, you get some insights into Ironhide and how he joined up the Autobots and why, and that's nice, too. 

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review 2018-05-19 18:39
Phase 1 is wrapping up
Transformers: The IDW Collection Volume 6 (Transformers Idw Collection Hc) - Mike Costa,Nick Roche,Zander Cannon,James Lamar Roberts

The first volume of the Transformers series - IDW 2009-2011 - kicks off this volume.   It's not as bad as I remember, it's just more of a typical action story than the later sister series, MTMtE and RiD.   And it suffers in comparison.   I'm interested in how Prime is positioning himself - as an unfit leader - and how it affects everything from there on out. 


It comes back in Death of Optimus Prime, or at least similar themes do, and this will be something I have to keep in mind for that issue.   


It's also going to be interesting seeing someone I like much more - and who is more appropriate to lead given the circumstances - take charge.   Overall, I wouldn't suggest this for anyone if they aren't deeply into the Transformers or unless they care about full impact for MTMtE and RiD; this isn't going to be many people, but this read will be worth it for them.


Bumblebee miniseries: 


I remember liking this more on first read.   A couple interesting ideas, but again, it didn't feel nearly as sophisticated as the stories that come after.   I think this had less impact on the overall storylines coming later, so there's that, too. 


I did quite enjoy the art in this one.   


Last Stand of the Wreckers: 


Roberts comes onto the scene in this reread.   For those not in the know, James Roberts is like my favorite Transformers author.   Possibly my favorite author on Earth.   So y'know, this is exciting.  I also have a deluxe hardcover of this that I will never, ever give up even owning this digitally.  I may dig this up later on and reread it for the extras. 


I can see Roberts here: a lot of what he will do later comes into play here, and yet... even reading it when I first learned of Roberts, I could see that this was early work.   There's humor here, but it's not as finely honed as later on, especially with the timing.   The pacing of horror and action and humor?   Roberts just nails it in MTMtE.   Last Stand is an adventure story - and a damn good one - without the balance found in MTMtE.   Then again, MTMtE was a sprawling 57 issue series that could afford to explore everything under the sun, and written by a more experienced Roberts.   It found the sweet spot and lingered there for the whole run - at least for me.   (I've read from others that they were less happy with it at the end, and I'm curious so see if after reading about why they felt that way, if I'll feel the same.)


The Wreckers go after Garrus-9 - and the who or what that is fairly literally a secret buried underneath.   And Roberts brings that same sense of horror in exploring what people - or bots - are really capable of.   This would have gotten four or four an a half stars on it's own, because the art is spectacular - particularly the coloring.   Just delicious!


Spotlight Prowl: 


I'm not quite sure I buy the Prowl in this one-shot: he's far too emotional.   Really, he's the Spock of the Transformers, if Spock was more into logic and less into morality.   Prowl does what he thinks the numbers tell him are right, and here he's... quite emotional.   He decides the numbers aren't quite right.   Prowl does horrific things in the name of the greater good, manipulates those who consider him friends, and is responsible for a lot of suffering.   But he believes he's good.   To be fair, he has good intentions - and if only intention was magical that way, he'd actually be good.  I think of him more as neutral: the good guys consider him good, to their own detriment, but he's enabled by the fact that people never question him too hard or punish him because of the shit he pulls. 


Prowl isn't a Deception.   He doesn't want to rule, he doesn't want to take over with strength, he doesn't want to be acknowledged for what he's done.   But.. is he truly an Autobot?   This makes me think of that, because if he was, he'd be like this always.   In MTMtE, though, he doesn't quite manage this compassion; he becomes more like a Decepticon in my opinion. 


Anyway, I really enjoyed the art.   It was quite stylized, and I didn't like this artist before, but they changed their style up a little and I do know.  


Onto volume seven.


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review 2018-05-18 21:11
All Hail Megatron and Codas
Transformers: The IDW Collection Volume 5 (Transformers: The IDW Collections) - Nick Roche

All Hail Megatron volumes one and two are made up of the main storyline: a twelve issue miniseries that has an additional four issues split up into two stories each.   There are eight codas, short stories about particular characters. 


All Hail Megatron is fantastic.   It's what would happen if Megatron went all out against Earth: how would the humans, the Autobots and the other Decepticons respond?   There are some absolutely brilliant and chilling moments; all of them are some damn fine character work.   There is a conversation between Sunstreaker and Ironhide that uses a conversation that Sunstreaker had in the past that is a particular twist of the knife.   And the way that Megatron manipulates Starscream is not only brilliant, but chilling and even painful: Starscream is cut down even when Megatron gives him what on the surface appear to be compliments.   (I'm still trying to figure out if he meant to manipulate Starscream in a certain way, but that would mean Megatron would have to have known something would happen that took him by surprise.   I have no doubt that Megatron was not simply complimenting Starscream, but manipulating him in some way; Starscream may be an evil bastard, but it's really sad how much flat out abuse he takes from Megatron.)


It's a little like watching a train wreck: a scripted train wreck, but... Not in that this book is so bad, more like things get worse and worse for most everyone and you still can't look away.   It's all so damn compelling.   And I'm not sure I can separate plot from the character work here.   The character work, and the plot, don't work that way in this case; the plot is built around and upon what the characters do.   Furthermore, whenever I try to pin down the plot for this review, it ends up a little like: Megatron tries to take over the world and blows up a lot of shit.   There's a struggle for power amongst other Decepticons, while the humans and even Autobots, try to save the Earth.  It's... not really that compelling.   The truth is that the plot is interesting because of the character motivation.   And here's why I wanted to reread all of Phase 1, even the not-so-great things.   Why people do what they do?   That's just not as meaningful without knowing the background. 


This is a bit of a slow-burn character work wise, but very quickly paced as far as action.  It's also, interestingly enough, a year after the last Transformers mini-series.   What I'm trying to say?   This series is not only well worth a read, but it's worth wading through some less interesting storylines to get the full impact of this. 


Now for the reviews of the Codas: 


1. Old Ways


Ironhide wants to leave the Autobots, or at least the war, for a while.  Optimus Prime outmaneuvers him.   This leaves me uneasy, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing.   There's a lot of talk in this continuity about what separates the Autobots from the Decepticons, and a lot of bots come to the conclusion that it's not much.   This is a small moment in which Prime says he'll let Ironhide go if he wants - and then Prime really talks him into staying.   Ironhide jokes about being outwitted by his protege, but there's no talk about what would benefit Ironhide.   There's a lot of mention about the cause, and Prime, being better off with Ironhide there, but nothing about what's best for Ironhide. 


So, this doesn't say it out loud, doesn't even whisper it, but given everything else about this - in Phase 1 and Phase 2 - is talking Ironhide into something that may be best for the cause, but not for his own mental health, all that different from Megatron talking people into becoming Decepticons?   


It's even more haunting because this is played off as true friendship, but the lack of concern for Ironhide bothers me.   Him saying 'I want out' and then being talked back in feels much more manipulative for the lack of Prime looking at it from his side.   If it's a case of 'everyone trusts Prime to know what's best, and plays it off as him doing what's best for everyone', then I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this scenario as written - or that I want to be.   


Of course, if I'm misreading this and it was supposed to be wink, wink, all in good fun, that's fine.   But I think that even unintentionally, this short story has a lot to say about this particular continuity that other writers picked up on later. 


2. Uneasy Lies the Head


Absolutely chilling story about Starscream.   How does he maintain control of the Decepticons when the shadow of Megatron falls upon them all?   And if he does, is it worth the cost?   


On this reread, I'm finding I love Starscream more and more: he tries so damn hard, and gets so much shit for it.   No wonder he turned into a manipulative little bastard.    He just can't get taken seriously otherwise. 


3. Replay 


The saddest, and most deeply felt, of the codas for me.   Sunstreaker thinks back to what happened to him, why he turned out the way he did in the end, and what it means for everyone - especially Sunstreaker himself. 


I didn't like Sunstreaker much first reads.   This time, though, I see him as the tragic character he was, right from the beginning.   Just a beautiful, heartbreaking, and all too appropriate tribute to what he's been through.


4. Rebirth


A Cyclonus and Galvatron and Scourge story.   I wanted to like this more than I did, especially since I love Cyclonus in Phase 2.   I found it boring and unnecessary instead.


5. Everything In Its Right Place


This story was actually great at the end.   Prowl's story showed just what an ice cold bastard he could be - but I really love him that way.  I knew he could do this, worse than this, but I still found this story unsettling in all the right ways.   


While the payoffs were there, I also felt like it took way too long to get there, and that a lot of the text was just filling space.   This could have been done as effectively - possibly even more effectively - if this was shorter.  I say more effectively because I feel like the text droned on and on and took away from the main points of this story.   


6. Lost and Found


Another chilling look at what this war does to Perceptor.   It ties into a line in the main storyline and I found this compelling, and paced just perfectly.   It wouldn't seem like it, but one reaction at the end was the real gut-punch to me, because it enabled Perceptor's new, more cynical persona.


7. Man of Steel


A Spike Witwicky story.   That ending!   I'd feel worse for him than I do, but he's kind of an asshole to all the bots at the end.   Fuck him. But really, this is still a clever story about him and how the humans react to Megatron.


8. Hidden 


Bumblebee's storyline.   The ending, how it's inevitable that he puts other people's lives above his own, and the recognition of that?   It made me go 'aw' and reminded me of why I have a massive crush on him.


So, yeah, overall, this is truly excellent.   Even the codas?   The excellence outweighs the blah codas.   So I love this whole thing, really.



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