Friday, January 9, 2009
Summer 2007. A little film called Transformers is ruling the box office and Marvel Comics and IDW Publishing decide to strike while the iron is hot: A four-issue miniseries combining two of their hottest properties.
And thus, we were given New Avengers/Transformers: Man & Machine.
Being a lifelong Transformers fan, I was interested when the series was announced, but as I was giving up buying single issues at the time, I didn't purchase it. I recently picked it up from my local library, eager to see how it turned out.
And by the hammer of Thor, is this thing awful.
We open with a quartet of Avengers (Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Luke Cage, reflecting the team’s pre-Civil War lineup) infiltrating the nation of Latveria in an effort to determine why the country is sending airstrikes into its neighbor, Symkaria. Except something’s wrong (well, besides two fictional European nations teetering on the brink of war). Something is causing our heroes to act very aggressively towards each other. Even Captain America, who is normally the very picture of calm and collected in the fact of danger, is on the verge of opening a can of whoopass on his teammates.
We soon learn that the amped-up aggression is due to a brain-altering device created by Latveria’s ruler, the villainous Dr. Doom. The device is now in the hands of the Decepticons, who are using it to goad the nations of the world into all-out war. I’m going to assume Megatron’s plan is to somehow harvest the energies unleashed by a nuclear war, because it’s never explained why they stole the device from Doom.
The Decepticons kidnap Spider-Man when the Avengers stumble across their location, and…discover his irradiated blood will enhance their power. Look, I’m all for comic book superscience, but they hook Spider-Man up to a machine, take samples of his blood, somehow harness the radiation present in said blood, and then juice themselves with it. Sound stupid? It is!
While all this is going on, the Avengers (who have been joined by Iron Man, Falcon and Ms. Marvel) have been pushed outside the Decepticon stronghold and are joined by the heroic Autobots. Still under the influence of the Aggress-O-Matic, Captain America promptly tells his fellow heroes to annihilate them. Wackiness ensues. The Autobots fend off this attack and manage to calm down the heroes. The two groups join forces and take the battle to Megatron.
And here’s where I give away the ending: They win, Megatron gets his ass handed to him and the Decepticons flee Earth. I tell you all of this because there is no reason why you should read this.
Here’s the best part of the entire mess:
There. If you see it on the shelf of your local bookstore or library, take a minute to look at the very nice cover artwork by Jim Cheung, and then put the book down, knowing you’ve seen the only part of it that has any value.
More complaints? I thought you’d never ask!
The series was written by Stuart Moore. He’s not a veteran writer of either group of characters, and it shows. Characterization is off all across the board, and the dialogue is wretched. I mean, Spider-Man’s known for his bad puns, but this is just…painful.
Logic is also thrown out the window. Iron Man has conveniently heard rumors of giant alien robots hiding among us, so he decided to build a Transformer-sized version of his armor, just in case he ran across them. Exactly why this was a good idea is not explained.
And what is Dr. Doom’s motivation throughout the whole ordeal? If you can figure it out, please let me know, because he's all over the map in this. He serves no real purpose, story-wise, and I suspect he's only here so that the story has both a Transformers villain and a Marvel villain. First he’s pissed at Megatron for stealing his tech, and leaves to broker a cease-fire with Symkaria. Then he’s back in the fortress, working with the Decepticons. Later, he turns on them again. When asked by Spider-Man whose side he’s on, he replies, “Doom does not need to explain his actions.” An appropriate response, since I'm not sure even Doom knows what the hell he's doing.
And is this supposed to be in continuity? Marvel’s said it takes place between the first and second story arcs of New Avengers, which I suppose it could (But if it does, where’s Spider-Woman?). But it doesn’t seem to jive with what I’ve read of IDW’s new Transformers continuity. There is a bit of characterization with Ramjet, a minor Decepticon character, that seems to match up with his IDW Spotlight issue, but other than that, it seemed like it could have been an out-of-continuity story.
The art side is almost as bad. Tyler Kirkham turns in passable work, but you have to question decisions he makes (and possibly wonder how much time he was given to finish the project). Transformers go from robot mode to vehicle mode back to robot mode in the space of three sequential panels, even if all they’re doing is standing around talking. Size scale is an issue as well, with Autobots and Decepticons going from towering over the Avengers, to being only slightly larger than them, and back again. The only bit of art that really stands out is a splash page of Spider-Man webbing up Megatron, in an homage to the cover of Transformers #3 from 1984. I searched the interwebs, but couldn't find a scan of the page, so enjoy the 1984 cover:
So much like Hooper’s opinion regarding Spider-Man: One More Day, if you must read New Avengers/Transformers, find it at your local library. You needn’t spend hard-earned money on something like this.
If you want to read a good Avengers or Transformers story, Buck recommends:
Marvel Adventures Avengers Vol. 1: Heroes Assembled