Welcome to another edition of Bin Fodder! This week I’m discussing an old tale with a new twist, Transformers and G.I. Joe. Over the years these two grand franchises have generated a wealth of comics. The now-defunk comic company Dreamwave, well-known for its licensed properties, produced Transformers and G.I. Joe before it shut down. This book is absolutely, hands-down, the BEST of the bunch. It was written by John Ney Rieber with art by Jae Lee. This visually dynamic representation of the Transformers and Joes shades them in a view never before seen.
The story starts off in fall 1938 with representatives of Cobra doing something rather common for them: killing people. But this time they’re actually killing with a purpose, something not-so common. Their purpose? Ultimate power. Cobra Commander had, by ways not discussed in the story, discovered the existence of the Decepticons and sent his forces to awaken them for his own vicious purposes.
The story then jumps ahead to summer 1939 and to the creation of the G.I. Joe corps. All your classic favorites are there including Duke, Flint, Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye and Scarlett. As the Joes assemble for their first briefing Scarlett and Lady Jaye are just returning from Europe. They were taking recon photos in a top-secret new aircraft called a Jet. The photos show the complete destruction of nearly every major city on the continent. Two scary things are brought to the forefront. First, the speed and power needed to cause the kind of destruction that has been wrought. Second, the fact that there are no bodies: the people are simply gone.
The Joes are charged with invading the Cobra stronghold located on the “Fera Islands”, a location named the “Terrordome” (one can only imagine that Cobra Commander named it himself, being clever as he is). Their drop in is meant to be under cover of darkness; silent and deadly. But things take a turn for the worse almost immediately and more than half the squad is cut down. The remaining members of the two strike force squads set out on their missions. This does not, however, apply to Snake Eyes. He is confronted by Storm Shadow and they are immediately entrenched in an epic battle. As side-stories built into a mini-series go, few have ever reached the level of this one. Rieber clearly had an appreciation for the hatred these two characters share and it comes off the page in palpable fashion.
Some of the remaining Joes stumble upon a repair and reconnaissance drone which awakens and restores the Autobots. The Autobots, led of course by the incomparable Optimus Prime, are initially not on board with joining the fight. But after seeing the evil deeds set forth by Cobra, such as the discovery that the missing people are in fact slaves of Cobra and are being used as human war-fodder, they quickly decide that the Joes need their help. Unbeknownst to the Joes, Destro and Starscream have teamed up to created a hybrid Decepticon called Bruticus, a mindless terror set loose upon the world.
The end battle is intense but rather short lived with several disconnected stories all tying together. In the end, Snake-eyes destroys the Matrix thus cutting off the power of every transformer, killing Decepticon and Autobot alike, for the good of all mankind.
Now, it should not be ignored that many of your favorite evil characters make appearances in the series such as Baroness, who is of course sleeping with Destro behind Cobra Commander’s back. There’s Dr. Mindbender who attempts to break the will of the captured Flint. Also making appearances are Zartan, Major Bludd and the Dreadnoks.
Thankfully lacking in this story is the over-done battle/standoff/epic conversation between Optimus Prime and Megatron. Too often any comic, or for that matter any movie, feels compelled to include this event and all it serves to do is remind the reader that nothing ever changes. But Rieber shakes things up. The only true downfall of the series is that it seems like it was a twelve-issue storyline compressed into six issues. Some have criticized the style of the art, calling it murky. I favor the style; it adds a grittiness and intensity that the story really calls for based on the era it is set in.
If the story had been able to fully develop and be more linear and comprehensible this would definitely have been a five-star story. As it stands it gets due in large part to the quality of the art, the excellent snake eyes/storm shadow battle scenes and the overall coolness of the story’s original idea and setting.
Until next time,
This is Bin Fodder Guru Tim Blacksmith signing off!