IDW Publishing "Last Stand of the Wreckers" #1

in 2010, Comic Book Review, Generation One

IDW Publishing

General Information:
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: Nick Roche and James Roberts
Story by: Nick Roche
Pencils by: Nick Roche
Inks: Nick Roche and John Wycough
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Neil Uyetake
Edits by: Andy Schmidt


Cover A Cover B Incentive Cover

Synopsis:

Three Years Ago...
The Garrus-9 Penitentiary is under attack. Commanded by Fortress Maximus, the base is starting to fall to the forces of the Decepticons led by Skyquake. He leads the charge in the name of Megatron, but soon another figure swoops in: Overlord! When Skyquake is resistant to take orders from the large Decepticon, Overlord destroys him and takes command! Under his leadership, the base is overrun and Fortress Maximus is tossed off to the very captives he had been in charge of keeping under control. Overlord tells the Decepticons to keep him alive, but that doesn't stop them from tearing him apart.

Eight Months Ago...
On a Moon Fuel Depot, the Autobot Dipstick is near losing his mind. A group of Autobots has just blown up a reconstruction project, setting it back months. Pyro apologizes, explaining that Ironfist wanted to test out his Lightformer cannon. Guzzle is anything but apologetic as he explains he and his team are going to join the Wreckers. Just then, Rotorstorm pummels the area with more firepower. This is one trigger happy group! Before things can escalate, Ultra Magnus' ship arrives.

The Autobots board Magnus' ship and meet Verity, who has been onboard helping out. Springer shows up, introducing Kup, Twin Twist, Topspin and Perceptor. Ironfist is impressed, especially by Kup. Springer explains that their mission is to infiltrate G-9, a task no other Autobot ship has managed to accomplish. He warns however that sometimes a Wrecker's first day can be his last!

Two Years Ago...
On Garrus-9, a squad of Decepticons are chasing down an Autobot for sport. When they finally catch him, he almost gets the better of Wingblazer until Overlord destroys him. Before the Decepticon can fully thank his leader, Overlord destroys the Decepticon himself! He uses it as a lesson to show that any Decepticons so easily caught unaware are a waste. The other Decepticons look on grimly.

Onboard Magnus' ship, the Ironfist has fallen unconscious and slowly reboots. The crew is concerned, but he tries to dismiss what has happened. Guzzle then outs him as a writer who has written extensively about the adventures of the Wreckers. Twin Twist is surprised that "Fisitron" is among them, having read his work. Ironfist explains that he is a huge fan of the Wreckers and their history, taking data gathered from different sources and cobbling together stories. When Springer asks if he's okay he is dismissive, not wanting to address the problem at all.

Kup shows concern for Springer, knowing that the younger Autobot has a lot on his mind. Springer contemplates just how futile this mission and the team seem, but Kup knows the true source of his reservations: their current mission brings back thoughts of their lost comrade Impactor!

One Month ago...
On Garrus-9, Kick-Off has won another duel with a Decepticon. Overlord is pleased and offers Kick-Off a reward of his choice!

Onboard Ultra Magnus' ship, Magnus and Verity have detected a ship in the flight path of the Autobots. The ship is heavily damaged,looking as if it has seen heavy combat. Before Ultra Magnus can complete his hail, the ship explodes! A lone figure exits from the ship however, and it is none other than Impactor!

To Be Continued...

Story:
I have to confess that despite reading a lot of the many IDW based Transformers series over the years, things started getting a bit confusing for me. Without a continous series and gaps between mini-series, it's been hard keeping track of a coherent timeline. For that reason, it was really refreshing to jump into "Fall of the Wreckers #1" and jump into a robot heavy adventure that isn't heavily reliant on continuity from other series. It's a standalone story for the most part that involves several characters we have met before. And boy, what a bunch of characters indeed! Roche and Roberts do a fantastic job of creating individual characters who stand out from each other. Sure they're all "Wreckers" meaning they're rough and tough, and in the Transformers universe, almost legendary. However, it's great to see not every single one is just some humorless warrior who just grunts and shoots things. Springer is truly a caring leader, the Jumpstarters seem to have a bit of a sibling rivalry and Kup is the wise, old advisor. Among the new recruits, Pyro the rescue vehicle is characteristically caring of those around him while Guzzle is the token little tough guy, seemingly inheriting the mantle from Brawn. Rotorstorm seems like the super enthusiastic one while Ironfist is a bit of an enigma.

On the Decepticon side, it's cool to finally see Overlord take his place in American fiction. His inclusion fascinates me because if you look at a bulk of the characters in this story, they were European exclusive Transformers including the Predators and Pyro. Indeed, even Overlord was a figure released in Europe, but never in the US. It's fantastic to see these characters get some "air time" at long last!

Overlord in particular is interesting. His promises of entertainment to the Decepticons do not echo the conquering drive of Megatron or other Decepticons we are used to seeing. He seems to have a purely sadistic streak combined with a craving for power of a particular type. I am very interested to see how the character is interpreted in this incarnation going forward.

A huge surprise for me was seeing Verity on Magnus' ship. Going in, I forgot that Verity had been brought back to life in "Devastation" and thought "Wait, wasn't she dead?". I was happy to see the character playing an active role in helping the Autobots as opposed to being some damsel in distress (something that is commented on by the Autobots to boot!). Little hints of her work include seeing her using some type of armor to work on the ship and get around. This definitely utilizes the smart aspect of the character that I feel largely got ignored after "Escalation". I also enjoyed her "Cyber Sexism" comment to Rotorstorm, a fun shot at the very "male-centric" Transformers race.

Roche and Roberts manage to inject a lot of fan favorite touches and humor into a storyline that has been (by my taste anyhow) relentlessly grim. "All Hail Megatron" was downright depressing, as were many events in "Maximum Dinobots". Now, I'm not saying Fortress Maximus getting ripped to pieces is happy time, but the interaction of the Wreckers with each other is fantastic and the scene with Dipstick was a nice nod to the use of non-toy characters made up for the comic books. This is a tradition that began with the Marvel Comics Generation One series, and it's nice to see it survive to this day. It's cool to see small touches like the mention of Ironfist's "Lightformer" cannon, a reference to his sub-group in the toy line and seeing Kick-Off as a hardcore warrior fighting gladitorial battles, a story element pulled straight from his G1 tech specs. Clearly this is a book written by fans for fans and it is done very well. Of course, having Impactor show up is awesome, and I eagerly await to see the IDW take on this character! On another note, I laughed pretty hard at the comment that Pyro "stole" Optimus Prime's look since, for the most part, if you look at his design he does look like a "Prime" character.

Artwork:

There are some artists whom I like, others that I really have to work hard to appreciate. Then there are those I positively gush over, and Nick Roche is one of them. When he did "Spotlight Kup" I was blown away by his distinctive style. He blends the best of animation, character models from G1, toy influences and some anime influence and merges them into spectacular looking robots. His panel layouts are nothing short of visually dynamic and at times, a bit mind blowing. Along with Don Figueroa, I place Roche high on the pantheon of my personal favorite Transformers artists. Along with John Wycough doing inks, there is a lot of detail and depth to the work here, and Josh Burcham's color work is appropriately bright in the battle scenes and downright scary in the darker scenes such as the scene where we see Kick-Off fighting in front of Overlord.

I was very happy to see the designs for many of the Wrecker recruits resembling their G1 toys a lot. Sure there are embelishments such as Guzzle's cannon dwarfing the rest of his body and some odd greebles here and there, but for the most part the characters are instantly recognizable and don't stray too far from the traditional Generation One based Transformers appearance. In some cases such as Kick-Off and Rotorstorm, it seems like there are no changes at all, something that is nice to see now and then. I'm a fan of cool interpretations of characters, but sometimes it's just nice to see a character translated into a new medium, especially if they've never existed in that medium before on an ongoing basis.

Another comment on the art before I continue. Roche has a fantastic sense of motion. Every battle panel has explosions drawn not just as poofs of circles, but with parts that trail off, making them look like they're moving. When he draws a Transformer moving or changing modes, the character has a dynamic feel instead of a static transformation from say, vehicle to a standing straight up pose. These touches may not seem significant taken individually, but add them up over the course of a whole issue and they create a very fluid visual experience.

Final Thoughts:
"Wreckers #1" is pure awesomeness. I can honestly say it's been a while since I've been this excited about one of IDW's titles and I'm looking forward to more!