(W) Cavan Scott (A) Juan Samu (C) David Garcia Cruz
It’s a sad truth all Transformers fans must face: it’s all to sell toys.
That was evident in the original cartoon run, devastatingly so when Hasbro cleared house for the next series with the massacre of the 1986 movie. IDW’s run on the comic broke away from the mantra in its early days but steadily became more and more influenced by what was being readied for shelves. The trick has always been to make these stories and character inclusions feel natural rather than commissioned.
So here we are with a Back to the Future crossover, the collision of two well-beloved 80s essentials, and it feels manufactured to the franchise’s baser instincts.
True, Gigowatt — the Delorean Autobot available for pre-order and shipping in January — doesn’t make an appearance until the last pages of the issue. But his centrality is clear from the appearance on the majority of available covers, including one featuring a literal photo of the toy, and an opening monologue for which I assume he is the source.
The comic starts at the beginning/end of Back to the Future, with Marty McFly being chased by terrorists before jetting off from a mall parking lot for his first time travel adventure. The difference is his exit and return is witnessed by Rumble, sent to small town Hill Valley to, as Megatron so succinctly puts it, “finding ways to defeat Optimus Prime.”
In Hill Valley, California.
A short action piece with Bumblebee follows before Marty wakes up to a changed present where Decepticons rule over humanity and bully Biff Tannen acts as an enforcer for Starscream.
How Marty remembers the former timeline without having travelled is unexplained and incongruous with anything from the movies. Maybe it will be revealed later? Maybe not. The plot here is lackluster, bringing the set pieces together functionally if not fantastically.
I’m not one to get too hung up on the suspension of disbelief — it’s a crossover comic, after all — but Rumble just watches Hill Valley for superweapons? Why not have the Decepticons detect Doc Brown’s time experiments and move in to investigate? Or a line from Soundwave about odd readings drawing the bots to the town? Even if the ridiculousness of the premise is satirical, there still needs to be an acknowledgment of that: a wink and a nod to the conventions of crossovers.
It’s oddly passionless coming from writer Cavan Scott, who has an established pedigree writing comics and fiction from numerous fandoms. But here he just misses the mark.
The piecemeal plot isn’t done much favours by Juan Samu’s art. The cartoonish contrast and thick lines often look great on the Transformers (although with inconsistent designs) while the human characters have varied mileage sometimes dipping into the uncanny.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Mars Attacks: The Transformers was zany and hilarious. Star Trek vs Transformers was inspired and took artistic cues from both the G1 cartoon and the 1970s Star Trek animated series. Even the more recent Transformers/Ghostbusters, similarly designed to sell a toy, had a stronger start.
As always, it’s only issue #1. Maybe it will improve. But for now my suggestion is skip the advertising and buy the toy, if that’s your thing — no reading required.