Dreamwave Comics "Armada" Free Comic Book Day

in 2003, Armada, Comic Book Review

Dreamwave Comic Books

General Information:
Title: Transformers Armada Free Comic Book Day #1
Cover Price: Free
Publisher: Dreamwave Productions
Written by: Brandon Easton
Pencils by: Don Figueroa
Inks by: Elaine To
Colors by: Alan Wang, Rob Ruffold, David Cheung, Stuart Ng, Susan Luo and Felipe Smith
Graphic Design by: Matt Moylan
Letters by: Paul Villafuerte

Synopsis:
The comic begins with a quick synopsis of the events leading the Mini-Cons coming to Earth including the war on Cybertron and the Mini-Con ship crashing on the moon.

In the woods, Rad and Carlos are speeding along on their bikes when they suddenly spot a red race car hiding. It turns out to be Swindle, hiding from the Decepticons (especially Starscream). He asks Rad and Carlos to hide him, and in exchange, he would take them to school. Rad is suspicious, but Carlos wants to give Swindle the benefit of the doubt, and ultimately Rad agrees.

Above, Starscream is searching for Swindle, and contacts Megatron to report in. Megatron berates him, and he's not all to happy about the abuse.

Carlos and Rad are on the lookout for Decepticons. But just as Swindle reveals himself, Cyclonus and Starscream swoop down onto the scene! Swindle tries to drive away with the kids, but then Demolishor blocks their escape, grabbing the kids. Things seem bad until Hot Shot, Smokescreen and Red Alert show up firing away! They knock the kids out of Demolishor's hand and begin their assault in earnest. The Decepticons look like they are losing until Megatron appears on the scene and blasts the Autobots!

Carlos, Rad and Swindle watch from behind some bushes - until Swindle grabs the kids and presents them to Megatron! The kids are shocked, but Swindle explains that he was promised his freedom if he helped learn more about humans for the Decepticons. Carlos tries to explain that Swindle was free the moment he became their friends. The Mini-Con considers this, but Megatron grabs the humans first.

The Autobots have been tied up in energon bands and things seem grim. Swindle asks for his freedom, which the Decepticons respond to by laughing. All is not lost however as Optimus races onto the scene. He knocks the kids out of Megatron's hand and they scramble for safety as Optimus and Megatron fight. Optimus does well, until Starscream blasts him from behind! The Autobot leader falls and is quickly tied up like his comrades.

Hidden away, Rad and Carlos try to figure out what to do until Swindle appears and tells them to stay put. He thanks the two for being his friend and then heads off into the battlefield. The Decepticons are amused by Swindle, until he picks up Hot Shot's gun and blasts the energy bands off of the Autobots! They launch a quick counter attack and the Decepticons retreat - but not before stealing Swindle again!

Optimus explains that Swindle had to be given a second chance to prove himself, just as any enemy would. With that, the Autobots transform and roll out!

Review:

Story:
Part of the purpose (if not most of the purpose) of this comic is to introduce the uninitiated to the world of Transformers Armada. Hence the introduction in the beginning about the Cybertronian wars and the Mini-Cons crashing on the moon. Plus, by focusing on a single Mini-Con (and only two of the kids), we get to see the war from the perspective of a poor bot who is essentially a desperate soul.

The messages in this comic may seem simple, but for a simple promo comic, I was very surprised by the amount of text in this issue. Between the kids and Swindle, there was quite a bit of chatter. Also, some of the interaction between characters was great. Megatron and Starscream bantering was classic while Optimus' "pick me up" speech to Hot Shot felt right for someone acting as a mentor (and to someone being groomed for leadership to boot!).

Not to be confined by just lots of text, this issue offers up quite a bit of action. Notice that in both melee combat and fire rights, both sides take some hits. It's also nice to see the Autobots actually almost lose instead of just swooping in and declaring a fast victory. The drama built up much more that way. Sure in the back of our minds we knew Swindle would do the right thing, but there is a second of doubt there, and that makes for some good storytelling.

This comic also shows why I prefer the comic book's approach to Mini-Cons. Here we see Swindle doing both the right and wrong things in one day. We see that he's not truly evil, but is being used as a pawn against his will. This works out much better than the method the television show uses where every Mini-Con seems to respond to anyone without question so long as they have a Powerlinx point.
Makes you feel sorry for the Mini-Cons that much more.

Artwork:

Among Transformers artists, Don Figueroa is a star, and it was great seeing him get a hand at an Armada comic issue (even if it is a one shot). His style is very dynamic, and all his action scenes leap off the page and feel fairly brutal. The scene between Optimus and Megatron fighting hurts to see as the two pummel each other. That is what an artist should be able to convey, and Don does it smashingly.

Don also pays attention to detail. Note how, as the issue goes along, the characters look more and more beat up. Small cracks on their armor is not something that's easy to keep track of, and most artists would rather not have to deal with it at all, but he does and it's appreciated.

The coloring work is brilliant, considering that this is not the most expensive stock of paper to print a comic on, you feel like you're watching an episode of the show on paper. Objects such as
laser beams and the energon bonds are brightly colored, but done so in such a way that they look like they're glowing, not trying to assault your eyes. Great work.

Overall:
There's not much to recommend here only because this is a free issue. If you're a Transformers fan, definitely snatch this up. It won't cost you a thing, and it's a fun little read.