Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Transformers: All Hail Megatron #5

If you haven't been keeping track, there's been a lot going on with the Transformers recently, and none of it looks all that good for the Autobots. Under Megatron's leadership, the Decepticons have conquered Earth, chasing the remnants of their opposition to a secluded corner on Cybertron. With Optimus Prime at death's door, the duties of leadership have fallen to Jazz, and his work is cut out for him. While his first order of business is procuring a steady source of energy, of which little remains on their hollow, exhausted home planet, uncovering the traitor in his group's midst remains a close second priority.

Series artist Guido Guidi was born for this kind of work. When it comes to the Transformers, there have historically been two kinds of artists: those who get it and those who don't – and sadly, the latter have far outnumbered the former. Granted, the task of illustrating an entire race of boxy, metal-skinned, living, breathing robots (no two of which look even remotely alike) is not an easy one… especially when so many different interpretations have come and gone over the years. But I've found that the very best renditions have been able to convey the unique qualities of the Cybertronians' physical features while also delivering a strong sense of identity and humanity to the mix.

Guidi is able to bring all of that to the table, while also adding a detail-rich series of backdrops to the list. His work is painstakingly detailed, but not exceptionally busy. Its look and feel is clearly manga-influenced, a carryover from the visual style of 1986's animated Transformers: The Movie, and bursting at the seams with liveliness. Each page of this issue leaps right off the page, which makes actually reading it a delight. This is what I've been looking for out of this property since it was officially relaunched: it's clearly crafted by a longtime fan, and he's poured his heart and soul into his work.

Shane McCarthy's writing isn't quite that good, but it's strong enough to draw similar comparisons to The Movie, which I consider to be the quintessential Transformers story. All Hail Megatron caries a similar sense of dread and frustration, with the good guys outnumbered and on the lam while their enemies run unchecked. His story is epic in concept, and while it's sometimes clunky in execution (the pacing in particular is a little strange) at the end of the day it left me anxious to see where it's all going. The best moments in Transformers lore always seem to come after the day has grown its darkest, and the revelations at the end of this issue have sent the storyline into uncharted territory as far as that's concerned.

While this property was having its issues a few years ago, floating around with little direction at Dreamwave, its shift to IDW has been rejuvenating. The storytelling has taken a step up, returning the franchise to familiar, celebrated themes, and if this issue is any indication, the artwork has never been better. All Hail Megatron was created by the fans, for the fans, and that's a welcome change. Buy it for the artwork alone: the story's just gravy.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8

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