I bought both of the All Hail Megatron trade paperbacks this week. I missed the series when it first came out apart from the first issue, and I only recently bought the final at a comic show, so I wanted to catch up with the story. Not bad... not bad at all. I enjoyed the story quite a bit. I posted a review of volume 1 on my blog, and which I'll post here as well. I still have to read volume 2 and review it, so I'll post that when it's done. AHM vol. 1 - originally issues 1-6 “All Hail Megatron” begins with a simple premise, as detailed in the forward by author Shane McCarthy. The Decepticons have finally won the war. There’s no one to stop them from running rampant throughout the galaxy and doing whatever they want. It’s like the old cartoon episode “Megatron’s Master Plan” part 2, only without the sanitized nature of the old cartoon that made sure that no one died and nothing was permanently destroyed. AHM contains plenty of destruction and death, though a lot of it still happens off panel or is implied rather than shown, so it’s no R-rated bloodbath. The story remains in continuity with Simon Furman’s earlier storylines, and yet it consciously goes back to long-standing character groupings and reverts many characters to their original G1 designs. It’s a “back to basics” appeal to nostalgia, apparently in an attempt to halt the downward slope of comic sales throughout the “-ation” series of stories. The Transformers alter appearance and alternate mode often enough that the change is not implausible, but it is certainly jarring to have read three years of comics that were trying to bring Transformers into the present day, only to go all the way back to the 80s with many of the designs. A few characters retain their IDW designs, and a few adopt the Classics/Universe designs, so it’s not all retro. But it’s clear that the overall approach came from a mindset that believed that IDW’s problems stemmed from straying too far from what the nostalgia crowd wanted. I don’t agree with that, but that’s obviously what dictated the approach. So the story presents the reader with more familiar and traditional character designs and character groupings. Starscream, Soundwave and the rest of the usual cast of characters surround Megatron. Many of the Autobots are who we would expect to find together from the 84-85 cast, such as Ironhide, Prowl and Jazz. The Constructicons and Insecticons are thrown into the mix for the first time as well. That’s fine, and I can accept that the characters have gathered together as they have and altered their forms as well, given that a year has passed since “Devastation”. The Decepticons have set a wide ranging attack in motion both on Earth and elsewhere in the galaxy, and according to Megatron have broken the back of the Autobot “resistance” as he terms it. They openly reveal themselves and attack New York, killing thousands and trashing the city. They cut it off from the outside and establish it as a base of operations from which they attack other areas around the Earth. But in an interesting turn of events, they find victory less than satisfactory. The forces of Earth are not a challenge to the Decepticons, who slaughter them en masse without much of an effort. Cracks begin to show in the unity of the Decepticons, and Starscream openly asks Megatron “What’s next?” The Autobots are trapped on Cybertron, and Optimus Prime is near-death with Ratchet trying to keep him alive and repair him. Many of the Autobots are in an obviously damaged state, with missing limbs and holes in their armor. Morale is terrible, and there is a traitor in the mix who sold them out to the Decepticons. Jazz and Prowl keep the secret of the loss of the Matrix from the rest of the Autobots. Like the Decepticons, the Autobots are slowly going stir-crazy, though in their case apart from low morale it’s simply because there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. Cybertron is not a hospitable environment, though in keeping with the end of Stormbringer the environment is recovering from the damage that the planet had taken. The Autobots are able to survive unprotected on the surface when a year ago the Technobots had all sorts of problems. The plot unfolds very deliberately and naturally. We don’t see all the destruction and attempts to fight back in a single issue. Rather, it is ongoing throughout three or four chapters. The characters gradually go downhill rather than take sudden left turns, which feels much more natural. Ironhide takes a swing at Prowl, setting up his eventual beatdown of Mirage as his frustrations grow. Starscream abandons the battle and banters with Megatron about what’s next now that they’ve won. I’ve read numerous complaints about the slow pace of the story from those who read it month to month, but in compiled form everything feels just about right. Characterization is the key to this story’s success. I doubt we’ve ever seen the Decepticons interacting in quite the same way that they interact here, and the same is true of the Autobots. They react to the situations they’re placed in according to their individual temperaments and beliefs, meaning that the characters drive the plot as much as they’re carried along by it. Some characters are changed beyond recognition, like Perceptor. The story takes a few risks with the characters and they pay off. The characters that get lines and express opinions become more three-dimensional as a result. We get characters just standing around “chewing the fat” as well as discussing the overall situation. The human side of the story works better than I expected it to. I held off for a long time on buying the trade paperback because it seemed like there was a lot of human-centered story there that I just wasn’t interested in. But those portions of the plot are quite gripping at times as the military are rapidly outmaneuvered and beaten by the Decepticons, and General Witwicky takes hit after hit to his plans and morale. Yes, the Witwickys are introduced as a military family, with Spike apparently a commando or black ops type of soldier. There’s no sign of Hunter, Jimmy or Verity, though I know Hunter turns up later on and plays a key role in the story. The art is strong, as is to be expected from Guido Guidi, who’s been drawing these characters for some time now. Many of the characters are very reminiscent of the old cartoon, but that’s probably deliberate as well. The back of the book contains all the covers (as far as I know) from the first six issues, both the 'propoganda posters' and the variants, along with a bonus or two. The intro by the author explains what he was aiming for with the story, which is very much appreciated. It’s only the first half of the story, but I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit, and that’s the bottom line, isn’t it? It may not mesh perfectly with all of Furman’s stories, but it does work with them and build on them in most areas, while at the same time going off in its own direction and trying to appeal to nostalgia. “All Hail Megatron” is a solid effort at a direction change for IDW and a good story that uses the characters well.