Crossing the Rubicon : Mister Attack at the halfway point of Transformers: Regeneration One (#89-#90)
April 25th, 2013
Despite my seeming full mental breakdown after the first issue of Transformers: Regeneration One, I held on to my sanity well enough to continue buying it on a monthly basis. Didn’t take long for a feeling to creep in that, beyond the initial shock, things were maybe… Off the boil? I continued to buy it more out of a sense of nostalgic loyalty than any actual engagement. After all, who doesn’t want to see the creators of their childhood iconography still get paid, in this crazy work for hire world?
At some point I chucked a few issues of RG1 to Illogical Volume. He and I have occasionally dipped a toe in the water regarding the subject of how much more open I appear to be to the continuation, or re-imagining, of the properties I grew up with, versus his much more compartmentalised approach. His policy of suspicion seems fairly sane to me, as with huge licensed characters there’s not always a guarantee that what you will get will be an inherently good comic in it’s own right, and not just, say, “good for a Transformer” comic. Which is why, for example, I’ve been passing him bits of IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye, but not it’s sister book, Robots In Disguise. He serves as an objective party, and if it engages him, then there’s a chance it’s more than just good within it’s own sub-bracket. When contrasting the first few issues of RG1 with some random issues of MTME, he reached the conclusion that although MTME was a decent book, it was the sheer weight of nostalgic continuity that caused him to react more strongly to RG1.
His enthusiasm helped cause me to re-evaluate my current position on RG1, which I was almost prepared to summarise in a pithy but brutal comparison to Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Maybe drawn out to say something along the lines of “successfully marries the tone of the past to modern horrible pacing”, and the probably waffle for a bit about Furman’s early IDW run. But I didn’t do that. I re-read the thing from beginning to current issue. I was shocked to find how caught up I got in it.
So, what we really need to frame over this entire thing is this: if you were never there, you just won’t get it.
The framing tells us that twenty-one years have passed in-universe, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for a clean break. The series is as advertised: a continuation of the Marvel comic that ended at issue 80, that brings that series to a new and final conclusion at issue 100. What exactly was left to tell, you may ask? Well, here’s the thing… Simon Furman, the scribe of this book, threw around a lot of different possible timelines in his tenure as writer for both the UK and US version of this comic. We who grew up with the Marvel UK series glimpsed a wider range of stories than were ever told in the pages of the US book, especially where it came to concern the cast of the animated movie. For convoluted reasons (read that: marketing), the animated movie from 1986 is part of the continuity of the UK version of the Transformers comic. Furman’s legacy in the UK was cemented with a moment of inspired lunacy, when he elected to construct a time travel saga that happened off-panel during the US material that the UK book was reprinting, and off-screen during the film. Intertwining both and laying the roots for stories for the next 150 issues. It’s taken as read that Furman’s signature character is Grimlock, but I think it’s fair to say that Rodimus Prime, the black sheep of Autobot leaders, was probably better served by his role in Furman’s work, than say anything that was ever animated, and was easily the centre of much of the bombast. Hot Rod’s classic heroic journey to becoming Rodimus Prime was something that happened via the handoff of a mystic bauble in the animated movie. Furman fleshed out his own version of the neophyte leader in action after his upgrade, but his Hot Rod self was barely a bit player in any fiction, mostly due to the fact that he only existed to fill the Luke Skywalker role of the animated film. And empty your parent’s wallet once, twice, thrice. Hot Rod milled around the background of the earlier Budiansky comics, in a manner that suggested contempt for their animated origins.
It feels like this book is about bridging the gap between Furman’s UK work and the US work he inherited when he took over that book with issue 56. How could he reconcile the 80 issues that were, with the apocalypse he loved to tease us with? Time has crept on, and the curse of the time-travel story has always been the ever-changing now. It probably would have been simpler if this book had picked up from the year 1991, and in leaps and bounds told the story of how things came to be in the state we saw them when the 1980′s book looked to the future. You’d end up with a giant Möbius loop, and and a series that could be said to have several crescendo moments, but that ultimately lived up to that most looming of Furmanisms: IT NEVER ENDS.
Instead, and what will keep me gripped ’till the final issue is that there’s a chance for new, alternate timeline to overwrite what we knew, but in a way that ends it all, rather than completing the loop. An actual narrative conclusion, and not a cancellation.
How will it all end?
One other thing that has to be framed about this book is that old saying “everything old is new again”. Twee, but it says about all that needs to be said. A key thing that probably coloured Illogical Volume’s reading of this series was his unfamiliarity with any other Transformer comic that Simon Furman has written. Whereas I guiltily followed Generation 2 with the worry that I shouldn’t have been reading it at the age I was, and had pursued Furman’s earlier IDW work after it had been and gone. There’s a lot of familiar details in here from Aspects of Evil, Generation 2 and the -ation series that an over-familiarity with may cause you to tire of the series faster. But this book isn’t about the new, it’s about all the old familiar places.
Now… Reap the whirlwind…
Twenty-one years since the defeat of Bludgeon at Klo, Cybertron exists in an uneasy peace. The Decepticon’s bristle under the new status quo, and the veteran Autobot warriors find it hard to settle down into peactime. Optimus Prime prepares Hot Rod to succed his role in the future. Kup, dissatisfied with Prime’s behaviour, leaves with the Wreckers to travel to Earth, a first stop in a campaign to clean up the messes left in the wake of the war.
But it’s already too late.
A revived Megatron has obliterated most of mankind with the power of the Ark and an army of lobotomised Decpticons. With the help of Spike Witwicky and the human resistance, the Wreckers attempt to end this madness, while Prime heads to Earth for a final confrontation with Megatron.
Meanwhile, Grimlock travels to Nebulos to seek assistance curing the problems that have befallen the Autobots who were changed by the introduction of Nucleon into their systems. Like Earth, disaster has befallen Nebulos, in the form of a revived Scoponok. Free now of the weakness of Lord Zarak, Scorponok plots a takeover of Cybertron that will alter all individuals to the Decepticon perspective. Grimlock faces a choice: Are his colleague’s lives worth sacrificing their entire race for?
All the while Bludgeon and Soundwave plot their own Decepticon uprising. They just need to revive another previously defeated nightmare to do it…
Can Hot Rod rise to the occasion by finding a solution to all this madness somewhere within the hidden catacombs of their creator, Primus, and right a wrong their God so callously brushed aside?
Because somewhere, somehow, the Chaos Bringer stirs…