In truth, this review doesn’t matter. The sales for this series were decided three months ago, and they were dictated by the fact that there’s nineteen covers in all. That is how you make a successful crossover event. Nineteen covers. The content at that point doesn’t matter because the shows are invested in selling the variants and sure the $3.99 priced regular cover to fans of these Hasbro franchises that continue to buy and support everything IDW does with them.
Which is why this story is so weird. Why take Transformers, arguably one of their biggest titles with the most offshoots, and slam it together with G.I. Joe? Something that has failed recently and has sat on the sidelines waiting for this event. In reality, I’m sure that was just the excuse not to relaunch the title yet again after soft sales on the last two volumes. Then there’s unproven titles like Action Man which just made it to its fourth issue and ROM, which has two issues shipping at the same time. The question becomes, will a shared universe help these brands or hurt them?
I point to Transformers vs. G.I. Joe which has had I believe five or six volumes and yet I bet if I pressed the biggest fan of the crossover they couldn’t tell me anything that happens in the story other than “Transformers vs. G.I. Joes.” Even the first series done by Dreamwave was average at best and relied on variant covers that were little more than fan art.
Why all this excess in a review? Why am I breaking the most obvious review rule in that I’m talking about anything other than the issue? Because I’m genuinely interested in how the fans will receive this book and if the brands will be damaged due to the shared universe. That and I want to give the haters an easy reason to write off my review when they rush to the bottom to see the score.
Spoiler, it’s not good.
This book is only slightly better than the zero issue prelude that they released. If you missed that issue, don’t worry, it’s at the back of this issue to pad the page count and “justify” the price tag. In it, we learn that some bad people are in charge and that they have the head of a Transformer hanging from their wall talking like a light-censored toy bass.
This issue establishes, through a lot of exposition, that the Transformers may or may not be taking over the world, and that energon (which is given a different name for some reason, probably a legal one) is exploding which is jacking up the earth and leaving the Transformers hungry. The issue and series make the mistake of starting off with Action Man. It’s a mistake because it’s terribly boring, but then at the same time shows just how out of place the character is. It’s hard to imagine anyone “popping” for Action Man in this series.
The rest of the issue is just the classic misunderstanding storyline. ROM’s villains are the villains of the series and all of the time is spent with the good guys fighting each other and coming across as unlikable dicks. I am supposed to like the Transformers, G.I. Joe’s and ROM right? The only person that isn’t a dick is Action Man, and I have no reason to like him because he just shows up and watches a man die. I did like General Colton because he was clearly evil as fuck, but then ROM shows up and just blasts him into oblivion. If ROM’s actions weren’t so out of place and lacking explanation, I would probably have cheered for him killing people. Unfortunately, you have to read his one-shot tie-in issue to understand his actions as they’re never explained in the main crossover, and he leaves after seemingly killing innocent people just trying to fight against our robot overlords. I did laugh when the G.I. Joes mistook ROM as a “little Transformer” which is kind of what he looks like.
Speaking of the G.I. Joes… I hope you like Scarlett because she’s the only Joe outside of Colton that you’re going to see. Is the state of the Joes that bad that there’s no one else that’s worth a damn? There are a few others during the battle, but their appearance was strictly for a nameplate saying their name. Outside of that, they don’t contribute to the story in any way. The Joe’s, in general, are a far cry from their former selves and make me long for the days that Devil’s Due had the licenses and made me like and care about someone other than Snake Eyes. Oh and Cobra? Not even a mention or an appearance. Same with the Decepticons. Nothing.
The art is good but wasted on a story that’s all exposition. The Joe’s pointlessly fire their guns at the Transformers that are in the middle of helping sandbag a flood. Again, it’s really good art, excellent coloring and none of it stands out because of how poor the story is. That and after Dreamwave and Devil’s Due set the bar so high for the Hasbro titles it’s hard to truly impress with the art for these franchises. You have to come in at par or don’t even bother. It makes par, but no birdies.
As I said, this review is mostly pointless. The sales have been decided. Comic fans have long ago decided to support anything IDW does with these franchises. I will not be continuing with the series. I have it one and a half, and that’s all I can muster. It’s more of the same from a publisher that has excelled at selling variants for these brands. While they’ve managed to do some interesting things with Transformers, the rest of the properties they touch feel more like a slap in the face for anyone expecting more than just nostalgia to be dulled out to them.
Now if you’re still reading this and very angry with me for bashing your beloved IDW crossover event you’re probably wondering “Then why did this asshole even write the review?” Well as a friend recently pointed out to me, to be the dissenting voice. Because I know that others out there are reading this event and wondering why they didn’t enjoy it. It’s not the “you’re killing my childhood” argument because I’m a fucking adult, and no amount of retooling and rebooting will spoil my enjoyment felt as a child because it’s protected by the untouchable wall of the past. If this is something you enjoy, congrats. You like average crossovers and variant covers. If you didn’t, at least you know you weren’t alone. I’ll be watching this from afar. Watching the sales, waiting to see the effects this will have on IDW because if it does fail, I won’t be the only wondering why they took all these individually successful brands and mashed them together so that they could be like other publishers when IDW has thrived by not being like other publishers. Why else would people continue to pay those prices?
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Writers: John Barber, Cullen Bunn
Artist: Fico Ossio
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital