Dreamwave Comics "Armada" #1

in 2003, Armada, Comic Book Review

Dreamwave Comic Books

General Information:
Title: Transformers Armada #1
Cover Price: $2.95 (US)
Publisher: Dreamwave Productions
Written by: Crhis Sarracini
Pencils by: James Raiz
Inks by: Rob Armstrong and Erik Sander
Backgrounds by: Edwin Garcia
Colors by: Alan Wang, Gary Yeung and Ramil Sunga
Graphic Design by: Paul Villafuerte
Letters by: Dreamer Design

Synopsis:
Hot Shot charges through the streets of Cyber City to report to Autobot leader Optimus Prime. As he brushes past Smokescreen and Scavenger, he reports to the Autobot leader, showing him a disc of a Mini-Con settlement being attacked. The head of the settlement, Leader-1 begs for Optimus' help, and then a gigantic hand closes on him, ending the signal.

At Mini-Con village C52, a group of Mini-Cons are preparing to make their last stand against the Decepticons. Led by Rollbar, the Mini-Cons work hard on trying to get a shield generator working. Rollbar sends Sparkplug to keep watch on a hill as the others ready the generator. Jolt and Longarm talk as they work, and Longarm explains that the Decepticons have found a way to restructure Mini-Cons so that they will enhance a larger Transformer's abilities.

Suddenly, Sparkplug comes flying out of the sky and crashes into the ground, heavily damaged. The Decepticons are here! The Mini-Cons quickly get the shield up, and then wait. Unfortunately, their strategy was flawed as Cyclonus proves by ripping the ground underneath the village and smashing the shield generator! Between Cyclonus and Demolishor, the two make quick work of gathering the Mini-Cons in small cages.

When Demolishor contacts Megatron to ask what comes next, the Decepticon leader states quite simply that it is time to declare war!

Review:

Story:
Armada #1 offers a very quick start to the Armada storyline, attempting to cover some of the ground that the television series will not. As the first panel indicates, this is Cybertron one million years ago, which is a time frame the cartoon series conveniently takes care of with a brief narrative in the first episode. In that sense, it is good to see the beginnings of the conflict long before the setting changes to Earth.

For those who are continuity buffs, they will also see from this panel that Armada has decided to go into its own continuity. By the Generation One continuity, one million years ago the Autobots and Decepticons were still lying dormant in the Ark. I like to think of this as a parallel universe,
where the Mini-Cons played a role that simply doesn't exist in other universes. To their credit however, the artists worked in at least three semi-cameos by G1 characters. As Hot Shot barrels down the streets of Cyber City, we see three robots who resemble Jazz, Hound and Ironhide.

Although larger Transformers make an appearance here, the stars of the issue are the Mini-Cons. The concept of Mini-Con villages is interesting, indicating that Cybertron has a very segregated society in this universe. Leader-1 even makes mention that he knows the Autobots are the guardians of Cyber City, but he hopes that they can leave their sanctuary to protect others.

One also has to feel an enormous sense of empathy for the Mini-Cons. They are quite literally being dragged into a war that they want no part of. It was a very smart decision to show "Decepticon" Mini-Cons and "Autobot" Mini-Cons working together before their capture. I was genuinely surprised to see Crumplezone, Blackout and Swindle working side by side with Jolt, Sparkplug and company. It adds a tragic layer to the story, showing that those who were once friends will one day be forced against each other in battle.

It was a good idea to focus on the Mini-Cons for this first issue, with the larger Transformers being "larger than life" characters. Sure they will play a larger role down the line, but since Armada's focus is on the Mini-Con gimmick, it is important for us the audience to get to know them well.

Artwork:

The artwork in this book is very nice, introducing us to Cybertron in something akin to a Golden Age. The architecture is reminiscent of other Cybertronian settings we've seen with sweeping highways, tall buildings and the use of domes. The coloring is used to really push some nice lighting techniques onto the page, and make the comic book feel slightly more like an animated feature than just a print publication. A wonderful example of this can be seen when Optimus Prime appears. Look carefully and you will see light filtering into the room around his head.

It is also interesting to see most Transformers are drawn with some stress fractures on their bodies. This is primarily used with the larger Transformers, giving the impression that they have been in battle after battle, slowly working their way towards their goal and not necesarily stopping to get fully repaired along the way.

Only two art sequences were a bit odd or could have used some work:

Page 10: On page 10, Roll bar looks up and sees a purle, winged creature overhead, then he looks down as if to pick up something. Visually, it's just not clear what is happening here. What is he picking up? What was that creature?

Pages 18 &amp 19 spread: As the Mini-Cons are looking up, preparing for the worst, Cyclonus' fingers are shown slowly lifting the grate next to them. The thing is, your focus is on the Mini-Cons and not that side, so when Cyclonus erupts from the ground, he looks like he's actually landing and crashing into the ground. A sound effect or something like that would have helped make the sequence a bit clearer.

Despite these two gripes, have no doubt that you are in for a visual treat with Aramada #1.

Neat Stuff:

  • When Hot Shot is racing through the streets of Cybertron, one panel shows three Generation One style robots that resemble Jazz, Ironhide and Hound.
  • Sparkplug is drawn to look a lot like an older, more mature Generation One Bumblebee, including the horns and crest on his head.
  • When Leader-1's message is playing on the screen, the Mini-Cons in the background are not random characters, but rather are members of upcoming Mini-Con teams including the Space Team.
  • On the screen next to Optimus Prime, two "in jokes" are on the screen. One is "All your base are belong to us" and "If you can read this you are obsessed".
  • The Mini-Con being shown in the Decepticon base (being forced to transform) is most likely Dirt Boss, a member of an upcoming Mini-Con team.

Nitpicks:

  • Although I am not sure what copyright issues may be at stake, Cyber City is an extremely weak name for any Cybertronian city. When we have cool names like Polyhex and Iacon to draw from instead, something like "Cyber City" pales in comparison.
  • On the signs in Cyber City, we see English, a language that won't be invented for thousands of years to come. Some have told me that I'm nitpicking too much
    here since it's possible that this is being "interpreted" for our eyes as readers. However, I would argue that when it comes to speech balloons, such interpretation is absolutely needed. However, in terms of structures and parts of the environment, those can be more authentic. A simple way to do this would have been to have some alien looking text with a small square/rectangle box in the corner interpreting the text for us. Let's face it folks, if Mainframe Entertainment could create Cybertronix, then a group of talented comic book artists could have done something similar.

As far as I know, there are few comic book series (especially those that are based on a toy line) that start off perfect. Despite my nitpicking, Armada #1 is a nice little read and the focus of the story is in the right place (poor lil' Mini-Cons).