On the metallic planet of Cybertron a race of intelligent robots exist. The planet was at peace for a time until an army was formed called the Decepticons. Lead by a powerful robot named Megatron, they began a war with another faction called the Autobots, who were lead by another powerful robot named Optimus Prime. The two armies battled in a very brutal war using advanced weaponry, but their greatest asset was their ability to change into vehicles and weapons. They would soon call themselves Transformers.
The war had become so fierce that the planet was knocked out of its orbit, and it was heading for an asteroid belt which would spell doom for its inhabitants. Optimus Prime lead a team of his best warriors on the ship called the Ark, to clear the asteroid belt for Cybertron to pass through. Megatron learns of their plan, and realized it was the perfect time to strike and destroy Optimus Prime, thus, breaking the morale of the Autobots. The Decepticons attacked their ship and it crash landed on Earth. The two armies remained dormant for four million years. Now, they have awakened to continue their war with the planet being the prize.
With Decepticon Commander Shockwave destroyed in battle by Fortress Maximus, Ratbat is now sole leader of the Decepticon Earth forces, and together with Starscream they begin their new plan. The Decepticons have set up a new base of operations in the form of a tourist resort, with the Autobots human companion Buster as their figure head. Optimus Prime knows they're up to something, therefore he sends Blaster along with Buster's female friend Jesse to investigate. -summary
It's pretty tough for me to admit that I no longer dig most of these stories the way I use to. Bob Budiansky's writing on the original Transformers aka Transformers: Generation One, has too many moments where it just doesn't hold up. It feels way too dated for my taste; the action, dialog, and even artwork was too much of a struggle to get through. Thankfully, for the most part I still enjoyed issue #50, which was meant to be something of an extravaganza back then, but too many times my attention began to drift during this batch of stories. Classic Transformers Volume Four reprints Transformers issues 47 - 61.
The book begins with the first major storyline of the Transformers mythos, the four parter called The Underbase Saga. This begins when Ratbat is after a legendary source of power that will no doubt turn the war in their favor. He uses the tourist resort to search for it. Starscream assists Ratbat but it's clear he has every intention on betraying him. Starscream puts together a plan which leads to a brief Decepticon civil war, which pits Ratbat's faction against Scorponok's Decepticons. Eventually the Autobots become the third party in this.
One of the things about the Transformers comic I will always love, is that it actually introduced plenty of new faces that never made it to the TV series; such as many different Headmasters, Targetmasters, and even Pretenders. Other things I enjoyed was the constant rotation of leaders and many different Autobot and Decepticon sets, who thought completely independently and chose not to follow the overall leaders. In which one of the later stories saw a sub-group of Autobots who chose to abandon Optimus Prime altogether just because. Bob Budiansky and later Simon Furman took full advantage of the many possibilities to explore the Transformers universe, and this is something I will forever be grateful for.
Something else I enjoyed was the constant deaths or serious injuring of popular and well known characters. The Underbase Saga in a way, is like watching another version of Transformers: The Movie, as scores of Autobots and Decepticons meet their ends, and I'm not talking about nameless characters either. Instead, well known characters such as Hound, Bumblebee, Bluestreak, Skywarp, Thundercracker, and even Omega Supreme. The fact some of these characters actually stayed dead until the end of the series is a plus.
All fans know the constant introduction of new characters were to support the on going toyline. However, the writers find plenty of uses to exploit the special features of these characters. The Pretenders for those who may not know, are Transformers who use human and sometimes even animal appearances to hide the robot inside. These can either be used as disguises or extra man power. While some of the stories can be pretty creative with them, others can be totally bland.
The first four stories which tok place in the major arc have moments of being pretty exciting. Unfortunately, Budiansky introduces a bunch of cool down stories that I really didn't find interesting at all. One of the stories is a two parter featuring the Micromasters, who are Transformers that are about as small as humans. Budiansky attempts to develop the Autobot versions by having them live among humans helping them out. There was some type of potential here for something a little more, but it becomes rather dull when they engage in wrestling matches. These stories among several others are just boring. The book picks up when Simon Furman takes over writing duties on issue 56. Things become interesting when Megatron returns and he attempts to dispose of any one posing as Decepticon leader, Optimus Prime finds himself contemplating giving up the war due to the high Autobot death toll, plus there's the possibility of another Decepticon internal feud, as the Decepticons make it no secret that Scorponok's leadership is beginning to irritate them, as he chooses not to destroy Starscream due to him being a habitual traitor. There's also a cliffhanger that plays into the next major, and arguably best story arc in the series called The Matrix Quest, where we get our first glimpse of the world devourer Unicron.
Simon Furman is by far the better writer here. His dialog feels a bit smarter and even well placed, while at times Budiansky's characters feel too wordy speaking for little reason. Plus Furman's stories bring better ideas over to carry the plot. Jose Delbo's artwork has moments where it really shows its age, perhaps I'm just spoiled by IDW's newer stories, but I find some of his designs to be rather crude as well as inconsistent. Ratbat seemed to grow in every panel, being much larger than he normally should be. Plus there was little imagination when Starscream was killing Transformers left and right during the final chapter of The Underbase Saga. The action was fun, but the destruction could have been better conveyed. The colors aren't much to brag about either, since I noticed errors that reminded me of the TV series, such as Thundercracker being colored as Starscream, along with dialog bubbles being for the wrong character.
In closing this isn't exactly a bad book; the good far outweighs the miserable, it's just that the bad stories hit you one after the other once you make it into the middle. After thinking about it, I only recommend these stories to Transformers fans who read them in original form. I have a hard time believing that newer fans will get into these stories because of the dated look. For them, I recommend the more modern stories written by Simon Furman.
Pros: -Good beginning, good close out stories
Cons: -Middle portion is hard to get through
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