Sunday, 9 November 2014

On Fiction, Part 4

One thing I haven't mentioned about my recent US holiday purchases is that, yes, I got versions of Rattrap, Waspinator and Skids with IDW comics packaged with them. Having remarked upon their omission from the UK releases, you'd think that would warrant some comment.

In my previous 'On Fiction' pieces, I've stated that my interest in the fiction associated with the TransFormers toy brand is rather limited, so it should come as no surprise that it took me more than a week to get round to properly reading even one of them (Skids). The most obvious thing about it is that Skids isn't very prominent in the story - essentially a documentary, shot by Rewind, about the crew of the Lost Light, on their quest to find the Knights of Cybertron*. He's not the main character in this segment of the story, nor is he especially well-explored. In fact, it would be generous to say he plays second fiddle to any of the other characters. Right at the end, however, it's revealed that Skids is showing the documentary as a presentation intended to gather new recruits for their quest.

It's an interesting story with some quite funny moments - Rodimus and his attitude toward Thunderclash, Whirl and his enthusiasm for violence, the pissing contest between the Cybertronians and the Ammonites (who seem to have been based upon or the inspiration for the Generations Mini-Con Assault Team, at least in terms of their colourscheme) - but it doesn't work as a standalone, or as in introduction to the character it came packaged with.

Rattrap's issue is notable for two reasons: first and foremost, Rattrap doesn't appear at all, at any point in the story - not even, as far as I can tell, in the background. Secondly, the pages are entirely out of order, with the opening pages of the story appearing near the end of the comic. It's not just that the pages have been bound in the wrong order, they've been printed that way... quite a significant production error, there. The artwork is strange and inconsistent, jumping between a battle on Cybertron - in which Autobots and Decepticons are fighting side-by-side against... other Autobots and Decepticons - and a group of Autobots (and Cyclonus) wandering about in the Dead Universe (whatever that may be... Like I said, I don't follow the fiction much these days). But it's not only inconsistent because it was worked on by two different artists and colourists, it's inconsistent because the work of at least one of the artists is very variable and has a weird, semi-organic style, in which all the robots have banded metal necks like the X-Men character Colossus.

Waspinator's comic is the odd one out for two reasons: Waspinator may not be the main character in the story, but he's certainly prominent and a key part of the plot, while the art is just... weird. On the one hand, I quite like the darker, subdued tone of it all... but on the other hand, I very much dislike the overall look of it. While Sarah Stone's artwork on the Windblade miniseries was scrappy but bright, emotive and full of character, Dheeraj Verma's linework seems ill-suited to giant robots, and they come out looking like humans in sculpted armour, and Joana Lafuente's dark, subdued colours give the story a fairytale/nightmarish quality that's not seen in any of her other TransFormers work. The combination of the two looks very strange, and I kept expecting some Lovecraftian monster to rear its head.

So, overall, while I'm all for purchase incentive additions to the packages, but these three seem particularly misjudged for one reason or another... and, unfortunately, they haven't rekindled by interest in the comics.

* Clearly I'm completely out of touch here, but it struck me as interesting that this IDW comic book story was dealing with 'Knights' when they were such a sudden and jarring addition to the movie canon in Age of Extinction.

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