AHM trades, vol. 1 and 2

Discussion in 'Transformers Comics Discussion' started by Andersonh1, Nov 6, 2009.

  1. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Man, I've been here a LONG time Veteran

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2009
  2. Cyber-Kun

    Cyber-Kun UNLEASHED!

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    my only issue is that IDW shoves this in Furman's continuity. If it were a stand-alone story, I think I would enjoy it a lot more
     
  3. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Man, I've been here a LONG time Veteran

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    Volume 2 trade paperback, originally issues 7-12

    “All Hail Megatron” volume 2 collects the second half of the series into a single book. Like the first collection, this greatly improves the pacing of the story by avoiding a month’s break between chapters. The book collects covers in the back along with a few character sketches. I’m very quickly becoming a fan of the trade paperback format, though I doubt it will lead me to abandon monthly books. Without the monthly books succeeding, there won’t be any trade paperbacks.

    It’s difficult to review these comics without falling back on the “this happens and then that happens” type of plot summary. There’s not much point in a recap like that, since someone could simply read the wiki summary or the books themselves if they want to know what happened. Some discussion of events is inevitable, but I’m going to try and stick with broader ideas and themes.

    But so much of the story hinges on the actions of one character and what’s happened to him that I have to focus on his story at first. That character is, of course, Sunstreaker. As the story reveals early in volume 2, it was he who was both directly and indirectly responsible for the Decepticons winning the war. For all the talk of “All Hail Megatron” ignoring or contradicting some of what came before it, so much of what happens in the story does so because Sunstreaker was captured along with Hunter O’Nion and forcibly converted into a Headmaster by Scorponok and the Machination. Sunstreaker was tortured, humiliated and taken apart to be used as a weapon against his fellow Autobots. For an individual as proud and vain as he was, it was a deeply disturbing experience. And though his body was restored, the events continued to haunt him, causing him to turn his back on Hunter.

    Enter Bombshell, created by Megatron to take advantage of the captured Hunter and the Headmaster components integrated into the human. Had Sunstreaker not abandoned him, it’s possible that Hunter would not have been captured and used against the Autobots. Had Sunstreaker been able to heal and come to terms with his experiences, he might not have made the stupid mistake of trusting Starscream. The Autobots’ entire defense network is compromised thanks to Hunter’s unique nature, and the Autobot group under Prime is defeated thanks to Sunstreaker’s desire to lash out and gain revenge on humanity for what one small group of them did to him. Had Sunstreaker been able to stand firm on principle, much of what happened would not have happened, and the Decepticons would not have won. It’s little wonder that Sunstreaker is essentially driven to suicide by Insecticon, telling Ironhide that he wants to die. Watching Ironhide beat up Mirage when he was the guilty party seems to have been the final straw.

    What brought down the Autobots? It can essentially be boiled down to one individual who chose revenge over a higher moral principle and couldn’t rise above the admittedly terrible events he had lived through. It’s been made clear that the Autobots in IDW’s continuity are not the noble characters that we’ve seen in the past, and that there isn’t a lot of difference between them and the Decepticons when it comes to the way the two groups fight the war. The Autobots are willing to endure “acceptable losses” for the purpose of fighting the greater war. Even Optimus Prime has been shown as less than concerned with individual life up to this point. All of that begins to change as the Autobots debate whether or not they are worthy of surviving at all, and Optimus Prime begins to “grow a conscience” as Megatron later terms it. It very much seems that the break from the war and the enforced period of inactivity has caused at least some of the Autobots to rethink who they are and what methods they should be employing. Had Prime or any of the other Autobots thought Hunter worthy of protection, they might have been able to prevent what happened, so in that sense they all share the blame with Sunstreaker. It’s good to see Prime beginning to grow beyond that at the end of the story, and his leadership is certain to influence the others under his command.

    It goes without saying that the lack of concern for individual life is a flaw that most, if not all Decepticons share. This is most apparent in their treatment of humanity as they kill tens of thousands in their assault on New York and other areas around the Earth. But it’s also apparent with the creation of the Swarm. Megatron knew beforehand that the experiment designed to produce a genius like Bombshell was likely to produce thousands of failures before any success was achieved, and yet he proceeded anyway, much to Thundercracker’s displeasure. “Our own kind!” he shouts at Megatron, before walking away in disgust. This lack of regard for even fellow Decepticon life leads the Decepticons to turn on each other far more easily than the Autobots do, which is why Ironhide’s attack on Mirage is so shocking. We expect fratricidal behavior from Decepticons, but not from Autobots. It’s realistic but at the same time disappointing to see that under the right circumstances, even a stalwart like Ironhide can crack.

    The contrast with fellow Decepticons’ behavior is also why Thundercracker’s anger at the treatment of the failed Insecticon experiments stands out, since he appears to be the only one to aspire to a higher standard of treatment when it comes to the others who follow the same cause that he follows. The fact that even Megatron as leader and standard-bearer cannot live up to Thundercracker’s ideals is a great disappointment to him, setting up his actions in the middle and end of the story as he quickly grows dissatisfied with the casual slaughter of humans and as he prevents the mass destruction of many more with the nuclear bomb. “All Hail Megatron” presents the reader with possibly the best use of Thundercracker we’ve seen, as he goes from being the other half of the “Thundercracker and Skywarp” pair to an idealistic individual who is perfectly willing to commit immoral actions, but only up to a point and for certain reasons. He’s still a villain, but a villain with standards, which makes him far more interesting than he’s been in the past. The potential was always there, and it’s good to finally see it tapped.

    The other major plot thread running through the story, which comes to a head in volume 2, concerns the plans and actions of the post-war, victorious Megatron. Having finally obtained the long-sought victory over the Autobots, Megatron rather suddenly finds himself faced with having to tame the monster he’s created in the form of the Decepticon army. As that army had formed and as the war had dragged on, Megatron had led them more and more in the direction of doing anything to win. In theory, all Decepticons should have been much more like Thundercracker in terms of outlook, rather than brutal, bloodthirsty murdering thugs. Megatron is fully aware that without a common enemy in the form of the Autobots that they will turn on him and each other at some point, and he rightly knows that Starscream will be the leader of that coup attempt, as usual. The attack on Earth is a delaying action for the most part, giving his army something to keep them occupied while he waits for the inevitable uprising, so he can cull the Decepticons who don’t meet his ideals. Interestingly, he spends no small amount of time trying to convince Starscream to live up to his supposed higher ideals, and even telling him that he will one day succeed in taking leadership from Megatron. Starscream, interestingly, claims to act because of what he sees as the failed leadership of Megatron, who was able to win the war but had no clear plan for victory after that.

    That leads to the themes of leadership and focus that pervade the story, and the contrast between Optimus Prime and Megatron. For most of the story, the Autobots are falling apart despite the capable presence of Prowl and Jazz, and later Kup. It’s only when Optimus Prime is finally repaired and among them again that the Autobots rally. He is able to inspire and motivate them even in the most hopeless of situations. Megatron on the other hand had offered the Decepticons a philosophy to aspire to, but in the end it turns out to be hollow, and Megatron has to lead as he always has, by being powerful enough to fend off all challengers to his position. He simply is incapable of inspiring his followers in the same way that Optimus Prime does. Megatron needs an enemy to focus his troops against, to force them to band together against the common foe. When that foe is the clearly inferior humanity, it’s not enough. The hollowness of the Decepticon cause is readily apparent for all with the intelligence to see it, like Thundercracker. The Autobots recognize their flaws and begin the process to change, led by Prime’s example. The Decepticons fragment and turn on each other as their flaws are exposed, and the one guy who tries to live up to his ideals is punished for it.

    The basic story and premise are good, but as detailed above, what makes this story so strong are the underlying moral and philosophical dilemmas. Taken together with volume 1, “All Hail Megatron” is one of the stronger Transformers stories I’ve read. It has something to say, and it makes very good use of the characters, including some whose potential has never really been exploited before. It’s well worth a read.
     
  4. UltraMagnus3786

    UltraMagnus3786 That's what it is

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    Mr. Anderson... very well said sir. I completely agree that AHM was more of a character/theme piece than anything else. The story separated each faction and broke them down in ways we're not used to seeing them-- that is, the 'cons have victory, and the 'bots are defeated and without prime.

    i also agree that sunstreaker as he was written here was very intriguing and complex. You should grab maximum dinobots and ahm 13-16 asap to get the full depth of the sunstreaker story. i just remember how shocked i was to see hunter captured, and even more shocked that the plug was pulled. he was truly a victim in this saga-- i'd love to see a spotlight hunter that explores his torture at the hands of the machination and then bombshell.

    things i didn't like:
    -pace was off for a monthly.
    -reliance on deus ex machinas-- prime's miraculous recovery (ok, time to turn the story around guys!), omega supreme, halo 3-esque head shot to megatron & shockwave gun (it took that long to recover the damned gun?!)
    -most of the human elements
    -inconsistent art in the middle (soundwave mourning over frenzy/rumble's body should've had more emotional impact in the art)

    some random thoughts:

    -where's ultra magnus?


    gah, too tired from pulling all-nighters at work to finish this post. perhaps more to come later
     
  5. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Man, I've been here a LONG time Veteran

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    I've got the Coda issues, particularly issue 14 which deals with Sunstreaker. The poor guy didn't even die in the explosion... he lives through it in a horribly mangled state, at least long enough for his life to flash before his eyes at the bottom of that canyon. That's terrible. Poor guy.

    Still need to read Maximum Dinobots. I've got issue 4 and I've browsed through the tpb, but I need to buy it so I can sit down and enjoy it at leisure.

    Considering how bad Hunter looks in AHM, I'm not sure I'd want to see how he got to that state. He's missing limbs, has tubes and wires running into and out of him... it's nasty.

    Thankfully I've only read it as a trade, and it works very well in that format.

    Prime's recovery is the only thing that really bothers me, since it's so out of nowhere. Omega Supreme is awesome enough that I'm glad to see him, and the explanation that he answered Hot Rod's distress call works for me. The Shockwave gun and the headshot to Megatron are set up well in advance, so that I have no problem with at all.

    I actually liked that part more than I thought I would, but of course the Transformers were what really interested me, as always. I'm not a fan of the new version of Spike. I liked Col. Witwicky though.

    Agreed. That fill in artist wasn't quite up to Guido and E.J.'s standard.

    I'm not saying the story was without problems. Clearly while it builds on Furman's earlier work, it also takes some liberties with it and ignores parts of it. And the sudden revival of Prime needed to be set up beforehand... just a line from Ratchet saying that "It could take X number of days to do this procedure, but if it works Prime should be back on his feet." Something like that would have had the reader looking for his return, not left saying "how did that happen?" Overall I feel there was considerably more about AHM that succeeded than failed, and I enjoyed it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2009
  6. Beemer

    Beemer Well-Known Member

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    Great reviews, Shane. Very well thought out. I agree wholeheartedly. And I'm glad someone mentioned the fill-in artist. Maybe if they put together an AHM Omnibus they'll have Guido redo those pages. (I can dream, can't I?)
     

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