Monday, August 6, 2007

New Avengers / Transformers #2

Stuart Moore and Tyler Kirkham are in with the second of four planned issues in Marvel’s New Avengers / Transformers gathering. The membership of both teams is a little goofy here, with the Avengers appearing in a modified pre-Civil War incarnation (The Sentry is MIA, replaced by Ms. Marvel and The Falcon) and the Transformers themselves arriving in very limited numbers. The entire face-off occurs over the backdrop of a Latverian / Symkarian war, which means Dr. Doom is in on the fun, too.

I’m not entirely sure why this crossover was necessary. Granted, the Transformers motion picture is in theaters as we speak, so I suppose any opportunity to take advantage of that momentum is reason enough, but I can’t really grasp the logic here. It’s a very by-the-books meeting: random circumstances bring the two teams together, a misunderstanding forces them into battle, cooler heads prevail and they reunite to battle a common foe. I don’t think that plotline was very interesting the first time I read it, about fifteen years ago.

As a whole, the story and artwork are both quire unremarkable. Much of the issue reads like filler, there to needlessly complicate and elongate the storyline, and when I’d finished the book I wasn’t really sure what had been accomplished. I don’t think Stuart Moore has more than a passing knowledge of either team’s longstanding mythos, as evidenced by the heroes’ words and actions. The Avengers don’t work together as a unit or put their individual strengths to good use, they sail into battle with a bloodlust. Optimus Prime reminds his crew to avoid fatally wounding the humans at all costs, then immediately fires at Cap’s head. There’s no personality, no characterization, no familiarity, just two teams of empty shells wearing familiar wardrobe. The Decepticons’ master plan is flimsy at best, and leads the reader to wonder why they’d travel such a great distance to see it through to completion. Surely there must be easier, less risky methods of acquiring energy?

Tyler Kirkham’s art would feel more at home in the mid 90s, but feels dated and unwelcome alongside the more stylized work that’s on the shelves today. His paneling is confusing and weighty, often distracting from what’s actually going on. His work on the Transformers themselves lands somewhere between strict realism and cartoony exaggeration, when it would be better suited sticking with one extreme or the other. Instead of compassionate living beings, the Autobots have never felt colder, more metallic than they do here. Granted, he didn’t get much to work with as the vast majority of the issue is centered on talking heads, but a good artist knows how to get around such difficulties. Kirkham merely passes the buck.

The Autobots spend most of the issue in their vehicular form, which is strange because they don’t really do anything outside of the first three or four pages. They’re just kind of parked there, speaking through their holographic human “drivers” as the story slowly drags itself toward the finish line. It’s a missed opportunity to deliver a few impressive visuals – Captain America standing tall next to Optimus Prime or Iron Man chatting it up with Wheeljack– and if the goal of this series isn’t to take advantage of those kind of opportunities, I’m at a loss as to its true intentions.

Bottom line, unless you’re an absolutely masochistic Cybertronian completist, you’re going to want to skip this one. It’s cool to see a lot of these guys sharing a panel here and there, but not nearly as cool as it was when the Transformers met up with G.I. Joe a couple of years ago. It’s lacking in just about everything but star power, which makes its ultimate failure even more disappointing.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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