Tuesday, 26 August 2014
The Transformers: Regeneration One (Comicbook Series Review, Vol. 1 - 4)
Something you'll occasionally see showing up in the media of comics are artists attempting to conclude their original work. With so many series being cycled between writers, handed from creator to creator or altered thanks to editorial decree, it's hardly surprising these crop up once in a while. Perhaps the reason they show up in comics the most is thanks to the degree of freedom available. After all, you don't need to spend time worrying about budgets as much as with film and television, the characters don't age and you can even evoke memories of a previous era by simply altering the art style.
Previous examples include the sadly short-lived X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont (which unfortunately ended with oh so many loose ends) and even George Lucas' original plans for Star Wars. Given just how often his saga styled plotlines were cut short, it's no real surprise Simon Furman returned with one last hurrah for the original Transformers comics.
Skipping Generation Two entirely, Regeneration One directly follows on from where the original Transformers comics left off, barring a slight time-skip. Set several decades after the Decepticons' apparently final defeat by the Last Autobot and Unicron's destruction, Cybertron is at peace. Under the rule of the Autobots, the world has been rebuilt and life flourishes once again. However, that peace is soon to be cut short. Under Soundwave, groups of disgruntled neo-Decepticons have been forming, ready to begin the Great War anew. Even as the first shots are fired, few realise just where this war will lead to, or what things are slowly awakening once more.
The first thing to be clear is that this is an entity in of itself. Unlike Alignment it doesn't weld together the Beast Wars and original continuities, and it's not beholden to what would follow years down the line. It's a story in of itself, based purely upon the Marvel comics which preceded it and, while not exactly panning out as originally planned, ultimately finishes by completely concluding the cybertronians' stories.
The first thing to truly praise is the decision to emulate the artwork of the late eighties. Much like X-Men Forever, the comic's artistic direction was a throwback to the era it was following on from rather than completely updating everything to IDW's level. This in many respects works in its favour, as it captures the charm of the original series thanks to the return of Andrew Wildman and Stephen Baskerville, but with the quality greatly enhanced. The styles, feel and general methods of an older era are all there, but they lack the limitations of their time. As a result, if you are after a classic looking comic, you'll be in for a real treat here.
The comic also offers plenty of action from the outset. While famed for expanding upon the universe's lore to the point of creating Primus, making Unicron the Chaos Bringer rather than a lab experiment gone wrong, Furman's comics are equally as well remembered for their brilliant battles. The series finds excuses to bring back the likes of Megatron, Galvatron and Shockwave again for one final time, while simultaneously introducing new foes which were originally planned for them to fight at a later date. While not being so overburdened with action that it drowns out any storylines, there's rarely a moment where the series drags. In many respects it's comparable to the pacing and plot/action balance found in the likes of The Thanos Imperative, where someone is always fighting someone but it nevertheless still fits in a fantastic tale.
Speaking of plot-lines, many characters key to the original series make a return here, both those previously living and dead, and each major name plays a core role in the story. While Omega Supreme and Blaster might have both disappeared into the background, they're still given memorable bits none the less and it's enough fan service to pay tribute to the older stories. Furthermore, those which were sadly cut short for time are done justice here as well. Rather infamously, after multiple issues of build-up for a massive final battle with Galvatron, Ultra Magnus was killed off in two panels by generic grunts in Time Wars. With a second chance to look at that story, Furman repeats many elements but allows them to play out as was originally intended.
This is really half the fun of this series, seeing certain story ideas play out properly this time around. However, those with a lack of foreknowledge of previous story arcs or the Transformers comics in general will not feel quite the same connection, and it doesn't do much to open itself up to new readers. This naturally goes without saying, and it was a problem with X-Men Forever, but it's still a definite issue which does hold the series back. Unless you've at least looked through TFwiki for a few hours to acclimatise yourself with the prior series or author's ideas, you may well end up feeling all at sea trying to read this one.
Another issue is that the comic's rapid pacing feels very much like a double edged sword. While the book rarely drags, far too often it can seem like it's racing from one point to the next with only fleeting focus placed upon one element at a time. The series only lasted for twenty-two issues, and in that time it tried to solve, pay tribute to, and revitalise plot threads which had started and ended over years of comics. Almost as soon as one beings, it abruptly ends and the series moves onto the next one. While this definitely allows the series to offer a massive amount of lore and story elements, it can often seem unfocused or over-encumbered by trying to juggle too much.
Regeneration One takes a fair number of issues to really find its footing despite a strong start, but once it does the series remains strong until the end. It's just reading that bit which can be something of a chore, trying to keep up with each development which arises and is then solved every few issues. However, for all these negative points the concluding issues of the series are worth their weight in gold to fans wanting to see the band get back together. With a genuinely surprising twist which works on every level, Furman manages to deliver a grand finale which offers far more closure and action than any prior series. Even then, the final moments of the last issue will stand out to anyone with investment with these characters.
While the heroes win once and for all, victory is bittersweet beyond all belief and knowing that this is the ultimate end to the comics which gave so much to the franchise makes it all the more tearjerking. If you had any investment in the classic characters, the very last moments of this series are worth buying the final issue for on their own.
While the continuity problems and pacing issues might lock out certain readers, Regeneration One manages to be a hit more than it is a miss. If you're familiar with the Generation One comics, definitely give it a look but otherwise you might want to look at a few series more friendly to new readers, particularly Autocracy.