IDW Publishing: "Transformers: The Movie" #1

in 2006, Comic Book Review, Generation One

IDW Publishing

General Information:
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: October 2006
Written by: Bob Budiansky
Art by: Don Figueroa
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Robbie Robbins
Designer/Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Edits by: Chris Ryall


Cover A Incentive Cover

Story:
Writing a synopsis for this story seemed a bit redundant. I reviewed the actual movie itself quite some time ago here. However, for the sake of reference this issue begins at the same point as the movie (with Lithone about to be devoured) and ends with Optimus Prime on his deathbed.

Review:
This issue marks the return of a Transformers legend to the comic book world: Bob Budiansky. For those who are not familiar with his contribution to the Transformers universe, you can read my interview with him. "Transformers: The Movie" was such a critical part of the Generation One era. It changed the Transformers landscape forever by introducing elements such as wholesale loss of characters, transitions in leadership and it pushed the scope of the Transformers tale beyond Earth. Budiansky also worked on the original Marvel comics adaptation of the animated movie so it was most appropriate for him to work on this version.

For older Transformers fans, and indeed older comic book fans in general, this comic is a bit of a blast from the past. Stylistically, Budiansky uses a few tools that are rarely employed by current day comic books. First are the exposition balloons that offer a narration to go along with each scene. Another tool is the use of reference balloons that offer definitions or notes on something a character says. The third is the extensive use of names in dialogue where the movie did not use them. Each of these tools may seem quaint, but I sometimes find modern day comics rely on giving too little information, and it was a breath of fresh air to see these tools used well in a current day comic. Perhaps the most jarring of these is the use of names. The names of the characters in the movies are pretty much burned into our brains as fans who have seen the movie over and over, so seeing such explicit reference to every single character name upon their introduction is a bit odd at first. On a more emotional level, these factors are a comforting reminder of a different time in Transformers history and a whole different era of storytelling.

It is not often that a movie is made into a comic book adaptation years after its release. It is even more unusual for one movie to receive two different comic book adaptations (by two different comic book companies to boot) but that is exactly what we have here. What this automatically meant was that Budiansky was placed in a position where he could not simply duplicate what Marvel had done twenty years ago. Instead, this adaptation seems to be approached from the persepctive of someone who has not seen the movie before, or perhaps saw it long ago but has forgotten a lot about it (and yes, such people do exist). In that respect this is targeting some of the same people that the current DVD release is targeting. In that respect, having a lot of the exposition in the narration balloons and the explanation balloons make sense.

In terms of dialogue being altered, some of it works well and some of it I didn't like at all. Adding names is something that would take me "out" of the comic on the first few pages, but I adapted to it as the issue went along. The necessity of this is clear however. Not everyone who reads this may remember certain character names. The other way dialogue was altered involves the cutting of some lines. I understand space was an issue, so the "why" when it comes to these cuts is not hard to figure out. However, there were a couple key lines I always felt were really good ones that should have remained including Ironhide's last "Nooo!" and Megatron's response.

A couple things struck me as odd, one of which was a clear error. When Perceptor reports to Ultra Magnus at the beginning of the Autobot City battle, Blurr winds up with Perceptor's dialogue and Perceptor winds up with Magnus'. Go figure. Also, when the Autobot shuttle is about to launch, Jazz's line about "Decepticon shenanigans" is given to Ironhide instead.

Artwork:

I've gone on and on in previous about the awesome quality of Don Figueroa's artwork, so I'll spare you that. However, what this issue does is give us a glimpse as to Don's ability to vary his style to suit a project. One of Don's trademarks is his detailed work on his robots. He often adds small details that are just enough to enhance (and not overwhelm) the characters. However, to remain true to the spirit of the movie's look, he had to backtrack and actually reduce the details on the characters, giving them an appearance of animated models. He manages to do this perfectly, even eliminating his trademark "raised rectangle/vents on the hands" (except on the cover).

I also really admire how Budiansky and Don worked together to get key scenes all scrunched into twenty two pages. It's quite a challenge without using lots of tiny panels. In some cases Don manages to pay homage to the movie scenes such as the Dinobots leaping from the shuttle, the Decepticons exiting the shuttle to attack and the large splash panel showing the battle between Optimus and Megatron blow by blow. Crucial elements are maintained while keeping the flow of the story going.

When Don first told me he was working on this project he mentioned he wanted to add a bit of artwork revisionism of his own. Those touches are apparent here. When the Dinobots leap from the shuttle, Snarl is with them (when he was notably absent in the movie). When Megatron tells the Insecticons to attack, Bombshell is with them. And while Sunstreaker appears with Prime when he exits the shuttle, he does not appear helping Kup with the roadblock sign. These are small touches, but they sort of ease some thoughts of "That's an error!" that sit in the back of this long time fan's head.

The coloring in this issue is brilliant. The tones are so bright and lively they match the movie's aesthetic perfectly. Even better, everyone is the correct colors which the movie itself cannot boast 100% of the time!

Final Thoughts:
I enjoyed this issue very much, partly because of the melding of the old and new aspects of the Transformers universe. This is a classic tale in the Transformers universe and having Budiansky and Don work on it together was a fantastic choice. The issue is by no means perfect, but between the added exposition on the movie and the brilliant art, this is definitely worth picking up.