G2 Comic - retro review

Discussion in 'Transformers Comics Discussion' started by Andersonh1, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. Andersonh1

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

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    Why not? I've gone back and started re-reading Marvel's Generation 2 Transformers series from the early 90s. It's been awhile since I read through this series, so I plan to write a brief review of each issue and post it here and elsewhere as I go back through the 12 issues. I'll also be posting a list of what characters get killed in each issue, since G2 is infamous for offing top-tier characters.

    Generation 2 comic series

    Issue 1

    About two years after the original Marvel Comics Transformers series ended, I was pleasantly surprised to find a brand new first issue of Transformers: Generation 2 at my local comic book shop, sporting a foil-stamped, bullet-filled Optimus Prime’s face on the cover, along with the words “this is not your father’s Autobot”. Author Simon Furman was returning to write the new series, and since he had greatly improved the stories in the original comic, I was looking forward to seeing what he did with this one. New artist Derek Yaniger gave a blocky and energetic style to the art. This issue looked like a good start for the new Transformers series.

    G2 picks up where the original left off. The war is over, and the Autobots are victorious. But some have had a hard time accepting peace. A small group of Autobots, led by Grimlock, is traveling around the galaxy picking fights with Decepticons. The ‘Cons they’re after have been converting planets into replicas of Cybertron while killing off the native populations. As it turns out, these Decepticons are not remnants of Megatron’s old army, but a second generation who arose on Cybertron during the time that Optimus Prime and Megatron’s forces were dormant on Earth. There are untold numbers of these Decepticons throughout the galaxy, and they vastly outnumber the Autobots.

    Furman introduces two new characters that will go on to play a role throughout this series. The Decepticon commander is named Jhiaxus, a Transformer who dismisses Decepticons like Megatron as “petty tyrants”. Jhiaxus is calm, rational, and not only physically powerful, but in command of a massive army. His lieutenant Rook is a minor character in most ways, but he at least merits a name and a role as advisor. Most of the G2 Decepticons we see are nameless grunts and cannon fodder to be slaughtered en masse. And as we’ll see in future issues, even prominent named characters aren’t immune from this trend. Far from it. G2 will ultimately end up killing more prominent Transformer characters than any other series that I’m aware of, but more on that in the relevant issues. I sometimes wonder if the casual and quick death of so many G2 characters in IDW’s comics written by Furman are an inside joke referring back to the slaughter that took place in the actual G2 comic.

    The second major subplot is briefly introduced as Optimus Prime has apocalyptic visions of something dangerous and lethal to Transformers that will be encountered in the near future. His thoughts on the final page indicate that it is ‘far worse than the Decepticons’, after the ‘Cons have been set up as a ‘boundless’ problem to deal with. Very little is revealed about the threat at this point in the story, but it will play a major role in future.

    Derek Yaniger’s art trends toward cartoony and blocky rather than the more realistic naturalism we see with E. J. Su, for example. It works very well, with clear and easy to follow action scenes along with easily recognizable characters. About the only thing I don’t care for are the mouths sported by some of the characters, particularly Hot Rod. Yaniger’s Transformers are loaded down with ammo belts and sport massive and numerous guns. This fits with the whole violent tone of G2. Sadly, this will be the only issue completely drawn by Yaniger, as he apparently was unable to keep up with the pace of a monthly comic.

    This issue does what any introductory story should do. It successfully introduces the main characters, recaps the past and sets up the main conflict. It also sets up the grim tone that will pervade the story. I’d love to see IDW reprint this series in one of their collected volumes. I’ve grown used to the glossy paper used in modern comics, and it’s hard to go back to the old newsprint and flat colors. Still, it’s a strong beginning for the series.

    Dead characters: mainly generic unnamed G2 Decepticons.


    Issue 2

    Fort Max gets the Axe. Ouch.

    Issue 2 is split into a primary and back-up story, as most of the remaining G2 issues will be. To really make sense, the primary story requires some knowledge of both the original comic series and the events in the G.I. Joe storyline leading up to G2, though narration and dialogue make it easy enough to pick up on what’s generally going on without having read either.

    The story deals with Megatron, who has control of the Autobots’ old spacecraft, the Ark. On board are both Fortress Maximus and Skydive. Spike, who is the headmaster unit for Fortress Maximus, merges with Fort Max and attempts to stop Megatron, who fights him off with ease, severely damaging Fortress Maximus in the process. Rather than let Megatron retain control of the Ark, Fort Max and Spike sacrifice themselves to destroy the ship, while Skydive escapes with a captured G.I. Joe scientist. Meanwhile Hot Spot is badly injured trying to destroy Transformers technology that’s in the hands of Cobra, and rather than let himself be captured, self-destructs.

    The art takes a downhill plunge with this issue. Yaniger draws the first few pages, so they’re good, but then the musical artists begin. Andrew Wildman contributes a few pages, so those are good if very different in style from Yaniger. But sadly we’re introduced to Manny Galen in this issue as well, and while he attempts to copy many of Yaniger’s stylistic choices, he doesn’t have the skill to pull it off. His pages are full of inconsistent character models, and generally amateurish artwork that really drags the story down. Sadly, he’ll essentially be the regular artist for the remainder of the series.

    The backup story shows Optimus Prime and his unit fighting Bludgeon and his followers for control of an ancient cache of superweapons. Both groups are prevented from obtaining their goal by a massive alien guardian, who drives the Transformers away. Geoff Senior provides a very welcome improvement in the quality of the art for this backup story, which is only tangentially connected to the main storyline. It does serve as yet another connection to the original series, with Bludgeon confirmed to still be leading the Decepticons, and both Octopunch and Stranglehold, among others, still part of his army.

    After a strong first issue, this one is a disappointment. It serves to tie up loose ends and storylines started in other series, establishes Megatron as a major threat, and starts the trend of slaughtering prominent Transformers, including gestalt components. It also does nothing to advance the main storyline set up in the first issue. And the art takes a nosedive. It’s still a necessary chapter since Megatron will play such an important role later on. And the cover is great, as all the G2 cover art is.

    Dead characters: Hot Spot, Fortress Maximus, Spike Witwicky, and a generic Decepticon following Bludgeon
     
  2. Andersonh1

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

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    Issue 3

    Primal Fear

    I appreciate this story quite a bit more than I did when I first read it. At first glance, it’s a fairly standard “alien possession” sci-fi story, of the sort you might find in Star Trek for example. An alien influence brings out the violent tendencies in passing space travelers, with tragic results. But the story serves to illustrate and develop the character of both Optimus Prime and Jhiaxus, and as a character piece it’s very strong because of what it reveals about both faction leaders.

    Jhiaxus reminds me of IDW Cyclonus, though of course it’s the other way around since Jhiaxus came first. Both believe in the supremacy of Cybertronian life, and both maintain a calm and reasoned persona, while suppressing a dark and brutal nature that revels in violence and carnage. But while Cyclonus ultimately embraces who he really is, Jhiaxus is deeply distressed by the memory of what he is deep down, and he very much wants to maintain the façade of calm, icy control. In so doing, he can continue to convince himself that he is morally justified in his attitude towards “lower” life forms. He wants it so much that he, along with Prime, ends the fight and allows the Autobots to go on their way, even while vowing to destroy them as soon as possible. As long as they exist, they are a reminder of what Jhiaxus truly is, and he won’t stand for that. It’s a motivation that will affect the character for the rest of the series’ run.

    In the case of Optimus Prime, I’m sure I’m not the only one who wonders why he appears so weak at times, and why he doesn’t just unleash all of his considerable fighting prowess on his enemies. We certainly see that in “Primal Fear”, as Prime gives as good as he gets, and really takes it to his opposite number. This story provides the answer about Prime’s “weakness”, as Prime has spent centuries fighting against the impulse to revel in violence. Unlike Jhiaxus, he isn’t in denial about the tendency for violence that exists within him, and his calm and reasonable nature isn’t a façade. Prime truly is what Jhiaxus pretends to be, and it all boils down to a respect for life, something Jhiaxus realizes at the end of the story, but refuses to accept. Admitting it would mean that his life has been a lie, and he won’t make that admission. It’s ironic that Jhiaxus characterizes the Autobot resistance against his empire as “fleeing from reality”, when it’s Jhiaxus himself who is doing just that.

    Most of the other characters in the story are involved in the fighting but get no real characterization. Surprisingly for a G2 story, Hound gets a good role, as he does what even Optimus Prime can’t initially do, and fights off the effects of the alien parasite. He serves as the narrator, catching the reader up on what’s happening through the plot device of sending out a warning beacon to other space travelers to stay away from the region.

    Old Evils

    Derek Yaniger draws this backup story, as the activities of Bludgeon’s Decepticons since they left Klo in defeat are revealed. The Decepticons have built a “Warworld”, a massive, apparently moon-sized spacecraft, which they use to attack passing ships and strip them for parts and supplies. Bludgeon also has plans to create new Decepticon warriors, but to do that he needs the creation matrix that Prime carries. Bludgeon decides that the best way to draw Prime out where he can be attacked is to attack Earth, so that the Autobots will come to defend the planet. This particular story is light on character, but sets up any number of plots for future issues to develop.

    Dead characters: plenty of nameless G2 Decepticons die. Of course, that happens every issue…
     
  3. Rodimus Major

    Rodimus Major Custom User Title

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    It's a good thing the internet wasn't around back then in the huge way it is now, I can just see the G2 complaints:

    "When the first run ended, Megatron was mentally linked to Ratchet, now there's no mention of it at all! Sloppy writing!"

    "Prime and Grimlock aren't Action Masters anymore, with no explanation given! With Grimlock at the end of the original series yelling every other panel about how much more powerful he was as an Action Master, why change back? Talk about a downgrade!"

    "Where is the Last Autobot? You'd think he'd come in handy, raising falling Autobots in battle and all, but no mention is made of him, not even as a passing thought to explain why they can't use him!"

    "Bludgeon, a 'bot who's honor is very important to him, breaks his word and comes out of exile, attacking Earth? What bad characterization! Didn't this writer even READ the original series?"

    "Oh, Starscream's betraying Megatron again..CLICHE!!!!"

    "The Matrix needs to be siphoned now? WTF? This writer is pissing all over Furman's work? Who wrote it again?" :lol 

    I loved the G2 series though. I liked the sense that anything can happen, that no character was really safe. I really liked the depiction of Megatron, as a smart tactical commander with personalty traits other than 'I'm Evil! BWAHAHAHA!" The interaction between him and Prime as allies was great, and I wish we could have seen more of it. As Prime said, their being on opposite ends of the war really is a tragedy. I could see this Prime calling this Megatron "Brother" under different circumstances.
     
  4. Andersonh1

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

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    Issue 4
    “Dino-Might!”

    Devices and Desires
    Let the slaughter begin. I hope you’re not a fan of Red Alert, because he meets a grisly end in this issue, thanks to Grimlock’s rash actions.

    Optimus Prime is still having visions of a coming apocalypse of dead Transformers. Grimlock, fed up with Prime’s inaction, is determined to keep hitting the second generation Cybertronians, so he puts together a commando group to attack Jhiaxus’ flagship. This is typical Grimlock, as Furman loves to write him, self-aware but full of bravado and confidence. It backfires badly on him as Jhiaxus has anticipated just such a move and prepared an ambush. Red Alert rather stupidly displays some bravado and raises his weapon and gets nailed by the G2 cons. He’s literally shot to pieces. Gruesome.

    It’s good to see a genuinely competent villain for once. The old “steal a shuttle trick” is a sci-fi cliché at this point, and there’s no way it should work if security is even close to being effective. Grimlock’s rash choice gets Red Alert killed, and earns him a trip to the Liege Maximo, mentioned here for the first time. For a few panels it looks like we’re going to get a version of the similar scene from “Maximum Dinobots” where the apparent death of a soldier under Grimlock’s command makes him realize just how recklessly wrong he has been. But that doesn’t happen, as Prime comes to the rescue of his troops and Grimlock starts worrying more about how much trouble he’ll be in than reflecting on the death he caused. At least Prime’s “steal a shuttle AND the crew” strategy is amusing. Oh, and Mirage gets killed as well, so that’s two major G1 characters who get a no more than a cameo and a death in this issue.

    In the end, Grimlock gets a slap on the wrist, if that. Prime even leaves him in charge temporarily while he heads off to Cybertron. I’m sorry, but Grimlock deserved some pretty severe consequences for getting two bots killed, and Prime comes off as pretty ineffective here. “Oh, ha ha, lesson learned.” It’s a trite ending to what was otherwise a strong story.

    Tales of Earth Part One

    Decepticons attack the Earth and slaughter thousands! The Autobots aren’t there to stop them! Is it “All Hail Megatron”? No, it’s “Tales of Earth” part 1, where Bludgeon and his crew burn, pillage and maim, all in order to draw out Optimus Prime so they can kill him and take the Matrix. Rather than Prime, they actually attract the attention of Megatron and Starscream, still stranded on Earth since the Ark was destroyed in issue 2, and the cliffhanger leaves us with the promise of a great, action-filled confrontation between Bludgeon and Megatron. Pity we don’t get that…

    There’s not much to say about this story. As usual, the backup stories look far better than the main feature. Pity they’re so short. The Decepticons are more brutal than they ever were in the original comic, and one gets the feeling that the type of collateral damage they inflict here is more realistic (if you can apply that term to a Transformers comic) than the largely bloodless fighting of the older comics.

    issue 4 dead: Red Alert, Mirage, lots of G2 Decepticons
     
  5. Andersonh1

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

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    You're probably right. I can see it all now... :eek: 

    Yeah, Megatron really gets some good characterization later in the series. So does Jhiaxus for that matter. Too bad the story focuses primarily on Prime, Megatron, Grimlock, Starscream and Jhiaxus. Everyone else gets pushed to the sidelines. But G2 is still one of the most focused and unique Transformers stories out there. It's really strong.
     
  6. WhiteRabbit

    WhiteRabbit Uncounted Outlier

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    Clearly this all points to one thing: G2 was originally supposed to be a separate continuity, but Marvel decided to shoe-horn it into their own continuity at the last minute! ;P

    Seriously though, you make an amusing point. Put an actual two years between TF comic series and no one seems to dwell on dropped plot points. TELL people two years have passed in the story and suddenly no one believes anything can change drastically in that amount of time.

    Which isn't to say such writing loopholes can excuse any kind of nonsense, naturally...
     
  7. Andersonh1

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

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    I always assumed it had been ten or twenty years between the two series. How long would it take Bludgeon's group to build the Warworld, for example? That thing's massive. It's not going to get built overnight. Plenty of time for so many of the changes we saw to take place.

    I love the answer in the letters page about Nucleon and what happened to it. No fuss, no angst, no technobabble.

    "Nucleon was a fad. They got rid of it and got a proper energy source."

    Awesome. :lol 
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2009
  8. WhiteRabbit

    WhiteRabbit Uncounted Outlier

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    Yeah, that's definitely most likely. I used a two-year example because of the real-time buffer between G1 and G2. :) 
     
  9. DrGrim

    DrGrim OBEY

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    And yet GIJoe and Spike had aged very little since last being seen with the Transformers.
     
  10. Andersonh1

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

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    Uh... that's all due to relativity. Time passed faster out in the universe than it did on Earth. Yeah.



    Well, so much for my couple of decades theory. I guess Bludgeon's crew really are just that fast! :lol 
     
  11. WhiteRabbit

    WhiteRabbit Uncounted Outlier

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    Heh, that puts him right up there with Ratbat and Shockwave in the Most Competent and Accomplished Decepticon Leaders Club.
     
  12. Cast

    Cast Roll the dice

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    After megatron kills him and takes over then looks at all Bludgeon had done Meg's says something like maybe it was rash to kill Bludgeon but he's never been one for regrets. So yeah I'd say Bludgeon was pretty damn good leader to get megatron's respect like that.
     
  13. Andersonh1

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

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    Issue 5
    The Power and the Glory

    This story contains one of the more interesting additions to Transformers mythology that I’ve seen, as well as an answer to a question I’ve always had about replacement Transformers. Namely, if the matrix is the one and only method of creating new Transformers life, how is it that a race involved in thousands or millions of years of war isn’t extinct by now? The population would long since have been depleted if they were losing thousands to war attrition and only occasionally replacing a few via the Matrix. And even then, only the Autobots would have the means to replace losses. The Decepticon population would just fall continually.

    Prime returns to Cybertron in order to try and determine what his apocalyptic visions mean. He descends into Cybertron to a point where he can commune with the Matrix or something. At any rate, he learns that Transformers once reproduced by division, where a new Transformer literally grows from another, like cells dividing. The process was meant to go so far and no further, producing a fixed but finite number of Transformers, and so the knowledge of the process was lost once that number was reached. But while Prime and Megatron’s crews were dormant on Earth for millions of years, the process somehow began again, producing the G2 Decepticons, the self-styled Cybertronians. This included Jhiaxus, whose creation Prime witnesses. The issue also details the creation of the Swarm, which Prime misses, as a byproduct of the excessive Transformer creation.

    It can be rightly said that the second generation Decepticons, the Cybertronians, should not exist. Primus knew that given too much power, the Transformers would do exactly what they are doing, which is to move out into the galaxy like a plague, overrunning and conquering other life forms. It remains to be seen just what the Swarm is, other than a byproduct of Transformer fission. But all of this reinforces the seemingly unsolvable nature of the problem for Optimus Prime. Even if genocide were a moral option for Prime, the numbers are against him. The Cybertronians vastly outnumber the Autobots. And Jhiaxus is unlikely to listen to reason, particularly since part of Prime’s argument involves telling him how he shouldn’t exist.

    Speaking of Jhiaxus, there is a scene following him as he inspects a Cybertronian colony in the process of being built. This scene serves mainly to show just how obsessed Jhiaxus has become with the Autobots. While the groveling head of the colony is trying to detail how the schedule will be met, Jhiaxus is watching the sky, wondering why the Autobots don’t attack, more worried about Prime now that he’s being quiet rather than attacking.

    Overall: a creative and fascinating concept is added to Transformers mythology, which unfortunately has never been seen again outside the G2 series, at least as far as I know. And the massive scale of the problem the Autobots face is reinforced.

    Tales of Earth Part Two
    This short story boils down to Megatron versus Bludgeon, and to my disappointment, Bludgeon goes down in about ten seconds. Yeah, Megatron’s tougher than ever in his new body, but Bludgeon ought to have put up a better fight. Still, the ending was pretty much a foregone conclusion, given the constraints of a toyline-based comic. The story does produce an amusing quote by Starscream about death just making him and Megatron meaner and crankier every time they came back.

    Sadly, Derek Yaniger is entirely absent this issue, meaning Manny Galan drew both features. I’ve found that while his characters are generally weak, that his layouts aren’t too bad. Still, I’d love to have seen a longer, more dramatic fight between Megatron and Bludgeon, drawn by Yaniger, so this story disappoints in that respect.

    issue 5 dead: Bludgeon. Megatron rips off his Pretender shell’s head, and his inner robot mode is blown apart. Ouch.


    Issue 6
    The Gathering Darkness

    I like Bludgeon’s “skull” as a trophy on a stand. Nice visual.

    After killing Bludgeon, Megatron gets a tour of the Warworld courtesy of Swindle, and is shown what Bludgeon had planned and accomplished, including the new Decepticons awaiting the Matrix life force. In a nice character moment, Megatron expresses some admiration for Bludgeon’s vision and comments that he might not have removed him quite so entirely from the picture had he known more before he killed him. It’s telling that Megatron adopts Bludgeon’s plan to draw out Prime without so much as a pause, and that he allows the Decepticons to continue blowing the tar out of Earth.

    From this point on in the series, Megatron begins to receive some serious character “rounding” as facets of his personality beyond megalomania and boundless ambition begin to be shown. His admiration for Bludgeon and adoption of his strategy are illustrative of that. The version of Megatron that we see throughout the second half of the G2 story is one I’d love to have read more of, but sadly we haven’t seen him since that series ended. Swindle’s clearly terrified of him, and fear is certainly one tool Megatron uses to maintain power. But he also begins to show flashes of wit and charisma, as well as insight, such as when he tells Soundwave that he’s well aware that Starscream will betray him, and that once the new troops are online, that it may be better to go ahead and dispose of him before that can happen. Most Decepticons are brutal and tough, and an illustration of why that isn't enough, and why Megatron is the leader rather than others is something I always appreciate.

    I feel like I’m reading some unseen chapters of “All Hail Megatron” once again with some of this story, at least on a superficial level. The Decepticons attack cities and military worldwide with no effective resistance from the humans. We even get Starscream wondering why humanity would defend such a strategically unimportant piece of ground as we see the Lincoln Memorial in the background. At least a burning and broken Air Force One isn’t lying in front of it.

    Character-wise, Megatron’s cadre of Decepticons noticeably takes the place of Bludgeon’s crew in this issue, with the various jets, Soundwave, and some of his cassettes moving to the forefront. Octopunch and Stranglehold are still around, as we’ll see later, but Megatron’s “favorites” regain prominence. G. I. Joe also makes reappearance in this issue, as they try to get some Autobot help to defend the Earth. I’m not really a Joe fan, and I’m not sure Joes and Transformers really mix, but this minor appearance doesn’t bother me too much.

    Overall: why can’t the entire series look like this? Why couldn’t Yaniger draw faster? This story is a nice mix of action and characterization, particularly for Megatron. A strong chapter.

    Tales of Earth Part Three
    Prime arrives on Earth alone to talk with Megatron. Big mistake, as it almost gets him killed. Of course, turning Tantrum into roadkill wasn’t the smartest way to defuse the tension, always assuming that was possible in the first place. Megatron clearly hates Prime and inflicts considerable damage and pain on him before taunting him as he steals the Matrix. He’s about to kill him when Grimlock arrives with a group of Autobots and rescues Prime. Thankfully Prime gets a few words in about Jhiaxus’ Decepticons, which he is fairly sure will send Megatron off in the direction of Jhiaxus army.

    It’s interesting to see a couple of things happen in this story. First, Prime clearly knows Megatron fairly well, but it would seem not quite well enough. He rightly predicts that mentioning Jhiaxus will send Megatron looking for the Cybertronian commander, but he also believes that Megatron will be willing to talk, which turns out to be a nearly fatal error.

    And after Prowl’s prominent role in IDW comics, it’s odd to see him reduced to a cameo and a foil for Grimlock. I’ve grown so used to him as the second in command that I forget how little page time he used to get in the old comics. Of course, it was the same way in the cartoon, to the point where I thought Jazz was second in command. Prowl’s prominence as a character seems to have begun with Dreamwave, unless there are some UK comics that gave him a greater role. I have to get around to reading those one day…

    issue 6 dead: Tantrum. He’s roadkill as Prime slams into him, causing him to explode. Bye-bye Predaking.
     
  14. Andersonh1

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

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    Issue 7
    New Dawn

    After nearly killing Optimus Prime, Megatron heads out into space to secure a rare gas that makes metal very dense. Knowing what’s coming in later issues makes it obvious what’s going on here, but on first reading this appeared to be just another Decepticon raid that happened to finally introduce some of the new G2 characters. Dreadwing gets his one panel to shine, and is never seen again. More significantly, Megatron’s scouts who went to check out what Prime told Megatron don’t make it back, apart from Skullgrin, and he lasts only long enough to warn Megatron before his shuttle explodes.

    So the gauntlet has been thrown down, and Megatron takes it up eagerly. Jhiaxus, deciding that his patience has run out, finally cuts loose. No doubt his less than successful meeting that Rook futilely asks him about has something to do with his mood. His forces slaughter Megatron’s troops, literally in some cases. Check out the list of dead at the end of this review. It’s not a good day to be a Decepticon in this story.

    Megatron, of course, has the arrogance and nerve to take on Jhiaxus. It’s understandable, given how much more powerful he is than most, and given how easily he recently beat both Bludgeon and Optimus Prime. However in a delightful turn of events, depicted nicely on the cover, Megatron is beaten soundly by the Cybertronian leader, and nearly killed as he is sent plummeting through the atmosphere of a nearby planet, taking severe damage along the way. It’s too bad Prime couldn’t have done it, but still, it’s immensely satisfying to see Megatron humbled like this.

    I hate to say it, but much of the art is particularly bad in this issue. Galan never can get Megatron’s head quite right, and his perspective is often off. Stranglehold looks really bad during his death scene. As is often the case in this series, a good story is hurt by poor artwork.

    Tales of Earth Part Four
    This story can be summed up as follows: Prime reflects on the past, particularly his history with Megatron, as he is repaired following Megatron’s attack on him. Yaniger’s art is back, and it’s great fun to see flashbacks to past issues drawn in his style. The Ratchet/Megatron hybrid makes an appearance, along with Powermaster Prime, and Megatron’s old form as well. This is more of a character study of Prime and his motivations than anything else. The Megatron turns up on the final page, badly damaged but ready to fight.

    Issue 7 dead: Skullgrin + 5 unnamed others killed off panel, Runamuck, Quake, Stranglehold, Crankcase, Octopunch, others, lots of Cybertronians


    Issue 8
    Escalation!

    At least Manny Galan has begun to draw Jhiaxus’ face well. He’s not half bad on the opening spread as he declares that he’s done being lenient, and both Prime and Megatron’s Transformers will be hunted down and destroyed. They’ve gone from being a nuisance to a problem, and he’s going to eliminate that problem once and for all.

    Tales of Earth Part Five
    Prime and Megatron get that talk that Prime wanted two issues ago, with some interruption from Grimlock. Both Prime and Megatron really shine in opposition to each other as both characters are written at their best here. Megatron’s sharp-tongued wit (“Really Prime, doesn’t he have a muzzle?) and Prime’s determination to stick to principles (“You can either help us [protect life first] or walk away.”) help bring these two some welcome depth and in Megatron’s case, add some facets to his established character. Grimlock plays the faithful and determined bodyguard to Prime, and Prowl gets a moment to shine as well, even joining in on Megatron’s humor with regard to Grimlock. And it’s nice to see Jazz in his G2 deco. This is a very strong chapter. And at the end, Starscream decides that it’s time to start looking out for number one, hinting at future developments…

    Back to “Escalation!”, as Prime and the Autobots answer the distress call. They find the Cybertronians in the process of razing a highly developed planet to the ground, and end up in a number of pitched battles with them. This time they suffer the casualties as Smokescreen, Ironhide and Inferno are killed in the battle. It’s interesting to compare Ironhide’s death here with the one in IDW’s Transformers #1. In the more recent book, it’s a huge deal, even spoiled by the company before the book was released. In G2 #8, Ironhide shows up in one panel and gets killed in the next. He’s nothing but cannon fodder. How times change! And the bot you can’t get away from these days, Bumblebee, makes his one and only appearance in this issue. At least, if he shows up again, I can’t remember. Springer’s visible in one fight scene. Inferno, as is possibly fitting for a character with a toy available during G2, gets a few pages and some dialogue before dying.

    In the end, the Decepticons, who initially refused to come along, show up and bail the Autobots out, leading Prime to worry that their more ruthless edge might be what’s needed to win the war against the Cybertronians. He doesn’t want the Autobots to descend to that level, but there may be no alternative, adding yet another moral issue to those introduced in this series.

    And on the final page, Soundwave informs Megatron that Starscream is missing, no longer on the Warworld. Hmmm… wonder where he’s gone?

    issue 8 dead: plenty o’G2 Decepticons, Smokescreen, Ironhide, Inferno
     
  15. Andersonh1

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

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    Issue 9
    Swarm

    Nice opening fake-out. It initially appears that Prime is having another vision, until I remember that he doesn’t have the Matrix and is unlikely to be receiving visions from it. As it turns out, the Autobots and Decepticons are surveying a planet that was attacked. Realizing that it wasn’t the Cybertronian forces, Megatron is all for leaving right away. Prime decides otherwise, and interestingly, Megatron doesn’t press the issue. Perhaps despite the sarcasm, he actually meant it when he said last issue, “Prime’s always right!”

    Elsewhere, the Cybertronians are busy exterminating an ape-like humanoid race under the command of a bot named Mindset. Apart from Rook and Jhiaxus, and of course the Liege Maximo, this is the only named G2 Decepticon in the series. This sequence is also one of our only lengthy detailed looks at the Cybertronians and their attitudes and methods in the absence of the usual familiar Transformers characters. Despite Jhiaxus’ claims that the extermination of “lower life forms” is both dispassionate and without malice, the Cybertronians here not only look down with contempt on the ape-men, but also positively enjoy killing them. One does comment that he prefers his targets bigger, so perhaps he’s not getting all the enjoyment he should out of his work. Poor guy. If nothing else, this sequence demonstrates beyond all doubt that the “evolved sensibilities” of the second generation Decepticons are a lie. Jhiaxus wants to believe the lie that he’s better than “primitives” like Megatron, but the troops don’t even pretend that. They just go about their business like any other Decepticon, conquering and killing without a second thought.

    Then the Swarm arrives, and begins killing the Transformers as quickly and efficiently as they were killing the ape-men, and showing as little regard for the G2 Cons as they showed for the ape-men. After seeing the Cybertronians tear through Megatron and Prime’s forces with so little effort, it illustrates just how deadly the Swarm is that they can’t even put up a good fight against it. The Swarm is also shown to be intelligent as it adapts to their tactics, and finally realizes that it has a kinship with the Transformers.

    And Starscream meets with Jhiaxus, jockeying for power and position in exchange for betraying Prime and Megatron. Predictable, but also entirely in character. Starscream wants power, but he also wants to survive, and he can read the odds.

    Tales of Earth Part Six
    The results of the analysis of the dead moon are detailed, and Perceptor reveals to Prime and Megatron what the reader already knows, that the Swarm is related to the Transformers. Megatron realizes quickly that Prime already knew, and to his credit doesn’t rant or deny the facts, but accepts them as Prime reveals everything he’s learned. We so often see Megatron let his ego or previously held beliefs get in the way of accepting facts, but here Megatron is intelligent and willing to learn. I still say this is the best portrayal of Megatron that we’ve ever had.

    And then Jhiaxus finds them. Given how the last two encounters with his troops have gone, things look bleak. And the fact that they’re on Earth portends trouble for that planet as well.

    Issue 9 dead: G2 Decepticons a-plenty, including the named character Mindset
     
  16. Andersonh1

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

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    Issue 10
    Total War!

    Jhiaxus’ superiors have evidently given him an ultimatum, because he makes it clear that the existence of Prime and Megatron’s forces can no longer be tolerated. All of them must be wiped out. Thanks to Starscream, the G2 Decepticons know exactly where to find the first generation Autobots and Decepticons, and exactly where to hit the Warworld. He presses an all-out attack against both targets. There’s some great back and forth between Prime and Megatron during the battle, and while I’m enjoying the relationship between the two as they work together, it’s good to see that Optimus hasn’t forgotten just how dangerous and untrustworthy Megatron is. Despite that, it’s hard not to agree with him when he thinks that it’s a tragedy that he and Megatron are on opposite sides.

    Megatron’s self-deprecation when questioning why he reanimated Starscream is a fun moment. “Why did I do it? Because I’m a fool, that’s why.” Or words to that effect. Optimus’ response that he’d love to record those words for posterity always has me laughing. It occurs to me that despite the fact that the two are opponents, for once we’re seeing both interact with an equal rather than a subordinate, and that’s a rare thing, allowing for some rare and enjoyable characterization for both Prime and Megatron.

    Tracks gets a cameo that doesn’t lead to his death! Amazing! He is saved by one of the rotor force Decepticons, but I can’t remember which it is. I’m so used to G1 characters dying that I was surprised to see that he didn’t.

    Another notable moment is when Jhiaxus is amazed at how the combined forces of the first generation Transformers actually succeed in their counterattack against his superior forces. His analysis of the situation is sound, but he decides that sheer numbers will win the day, and he calls for reinforcements, forcing a retreat by Prime and Megatron’s group. Prime decides that he needs to get to the Warworld and secure the Matrix, lest the Cybertronians gain possession of it, making the situation far worse.

    In a final scene that portends even more disaster to come, the Swarm catches and devours one of the reinforcement ships called in by Jhiaxus, thus learning the way to Earth.

    Tales of Earth Part Seven
    Geoff Senior returns to Transformers with this backup story. I’ve been a fan of his art since he first appeared in the original comic series, so it’s great to see him contribute to Transformers once again. Prime and Megatron board the Warworld to find that Starscream has used the Matrix to merge himself with the giant ship, increasing his power considerably. As one might imagine, he plans a grisly fate for Prime and Megatron.

    issue 10 dead: Joyride, all 5 Combaticons (possibly).
     
  17. Andersonh1

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

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    Issue 11
    Dark Shadows!

    This story offers another great Prime/Megatron team up as they fight Starscream, who has possessed the Warworld through use of the Matrix. Nothing terribly deep, plot-wise, but once again the interaction between Prime and Megatron is very well written and makes the story. The twist, which is actually revealed in the Tales of Earth segment, is that the Matrix is re-writing Starscream to make him good, meaning he’s unconsciously helping Prime.

    Jhiaxus is one step from going completely postal here. He’s still in denial of reality, and throws wave after wave of his own troops at the Warworld in an attempt to recapture it. Strategy and subtlety are out the window; brute force is the order of the day. His subordinate, Rook, reflects on the detrimental effect the “throwback” first generation Transformers have had on him. Jhiaxus calls Rook a subordinate who has no right to offer him advice, but amusingly Rook seems to have a direct line to the Liege Maximo. Not bad for a lackey. Maybe all Cybertronian commanders have a spy for the Liege keeping an eye on them?

    Prime reaches the center of the Warworld and attempts to contact and reason with Jhiaxus. Big mistake.

    Tales of Earth Part Eight
    More awesome Geoff Senior art greets the eyes for this backup, as Jhiaxus blasts San Francisco out of existence just to torment Optimus Prime. Prime blames himself for the deaths, of course. In an example of just how quickly a compact story like this can turn, the horror of the city’s destruction is replaced by a darn funny scene as Starscream attacks Jhiaxus’ ship, causing Prime to realize that the Matrix is rewriting Starscream to be good. Naturally, Starscream isn’t too happy about this. “Help me Prime! I don’t want to be good!” Hilarious!

    I love the art. The panel where Jhiaxus' ship, the Twilight, blots out the sun is subtle, but highly effective as it takes a second to realize what the image is, giving the reader the same sense of dawning realization that the city's inhabitants would have. The explosion of the city's most well-known landmark, the bridge, tells us all we need to know in one panel. And Senior's Starscream as Warworld blows away Manny Galan's version. Man, I wish Senior could have drawn the whole series.

    Then the Swarm arrives, setting up the final issue. Great cliffhanger ending to a great issue.

    Issue 11 dead: for once, no prominent G1 Transformers die on-screen, though tons of G2 Cons buy it fighting the Warworld. The entire population of San Francisco gets blasted out of existence
     
  18. Andersonh1

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

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    Issue 12 – Final issue of series
    A Rage in Heaven
    The Swarm has arrived over Earth, along with a huge contingent of Jhiaxus’ Cybertronians. I note that when the Swarm destroys the second battleship that’s there alongside the Twilight, Furman gave it a crew compliment of 16,000. They all bite the dust. That’s brutal, even for this series.

    Jhiaxus loses it. Unable to accept the reality of the situation, that the Swarm is unbeatable, he orders an all out attack against it. When Prime rather foolishly tries to reason with him, he attacks and severely damages the Autobot leader. Jhiaxus’ world has collapsed around him, and he lashes out in fury. He believed in the absolute power and control of the Cybertronians over anything they chose to confront, and it costs him his army, his flagship and his life. Jhiaxus has been an interesting character, a Decepticon who had all the base instincts and love of violence and power found in the standard Decepticon character, but who actually wanted to rise above that. Rather than embrace life, he constructed a world where only Cybertronian life was important, and essentially withdrew from reality. We’ve seen that type of characterization of Megatron from time to time, but it was far more interesting to explore with Jhiaxus, because he wasn’t so much insane as simply in denial. A fascinating and effective character.

    Starscream gives up the Matrix and thus his power, all because he didn’t want it to rewrite his nature. In such a bleak story, Starscream’s anguish over being forcibly made to do good things is exactly the right kind of humor needed to lighten things up. He rescues Prime from space at one point, and then tosses him a canister of Rheanium before getting out of Dodge. I love his worried look as he leaves and thinks, “I hope that Matrix didn’t do any permanent damage!” I’d love to have seen future stories with Starscream fighting his unwanted impulses to do good. That could have been fun.

    Megatron impresses with his focus and determination, and by having enough control not to just kill Starscream on the spot. Knowing that time is short, he puts him to work and then heads to Earth to distribute the gas to the rest of the Transformers. His wit is on display when he tells Grimlock that planetfall without a shuttle is not recommended. Megatron is in his element here, fighting against impossible odds, reveling in his own power. One wonders where he would have gone from here, had the series continued. The “ridiculous, fragile” Autobot/Decepticon alliance would have been good fodder for future stories.

    Last but not least, there’s Optimus Prime. He really should have known that Jhiaxus was beyond reason at this point, but he tries anyway and gets beaten up badly for his efforts. Had the Swarm not arrived when it dead, Jhiaxus would have killed him. And it’s not that he couldn’t fight back, as issue #3 proved. Prime’s a heavyweight and can hold his own in a fight, but his nature is to avoid violence. His desperate plan to contact the Swarm is undeniably dramatic, but I can’t help but wonder if letting himself be eaten alive was the only way to accomplish that. However in a story and series filled with violence, it’s refreshing that in the end, Prime’s appeal to the Swarm’s better nature actually wins out, as the Matrix gives it peace and knowledge of its origins, and it returns Prime to life.

    The Generation 2 comic has become one of my favorite Transformer series. The main weakness is poor art for most of the issues, but at least Manny Galan’s art is serviceable and tells the story in a clear manner. Derek Yaniger and Geoff Senior deliver some excellent visuals whenever they contribute. The story itself takes the “Generation 2” tagline and runs with it, giving us a literal second generation of Transformers who present a massive threat to Prime and our familiar Autobot heroes. It’s a creative and original idea, and we haven’t really seen anything quite like it since. Certainly not with Dreamwave’s updated cartoon universe, and not with Furman’s reinvented G1, which has some good new ideas of its own but is far removed from the tone and scope of the Generation 2 series. I’ve regretted on several occasions that the series ended after only 12 issues, leaving only the final glimpse of the alliance and the Liege Maximo to hint at future stories.

    Issue 12 dead: G2 Decepticons in droves (17 battalions according to Rook, with at least 16,000 dead at the hands of the Swarm), Jhiaxus, Prime (temporarily), Razorclaw, Ramjet, Frenzy, Slag, Slingshot, Nightbeat, Dirge
     

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