Shiny Shelf

Transformers: Fallen Star

By Jim Smith on 02 November 2005

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

‘Transformers: Fallen Star’ is a miscellany; a collection of eight page, single and multi-part black and white comic strips written by Simon Furman for the Weekly UK Transformers comic during a period where that once top-selling, title fallen on hard times. It follows on from previous releases ‘Way of the Warrior’ and ‘Aspects of Evil’ (though the material collected was written, and is set, before them) and it represents something of a tidying up exercise.

That the stories contained within this (and indeed prior) volumes are from one of the less celebrated periods in the titles history and that they are amongst the last ‘Transformers’ comic strips to be released in trade paperback format (although at least two more similar miscellanies are planned) shouldn’t be taken as indicating that they are of low quality as that’s far from true. Furman was, is and always will be the premier ‘Transformers’ writer.

Furman might not have created these Robots in Disguise, but it was Furman’s work that gave them personalities and Furman’s stories that evolved for them and their world a mythos as complex and involving as anything in comics.

I’m reviewing this collection for a couple of reasons – firstly to make those general points about Furman on ‘Transformers’ (‘cos they, quite frankly, haven’t been often enough), secondly to applaud Titan Books determination to get every last piece of Furman’s ‘Transformers’ work out onto shelves (clap, clap) and thirdly because ‘Fallen Star’ contains one of my all-time favourite ‘Transformers’ stories – a collaboration between Furman and Geoff Senior (the Don of all TF artists) entitled ‘Two Megatrons’.

Following on from his own ‘Mind Games!’ (art by Staz, also in this collection) and ‘The Fall and Rise of the Decepticon Empire (art by Lee Sullivan, the final page of which hangs in my kitchen) Furman shows us a Megatron who has regained control of the Decepticon quarter of the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron and who – with assistance from the faithful Ravage – intends to use it as a base for further conquest. But there’s a problem, a stranger with extraordinary fighting skills is making his way across Decepticon territory

Looked at from a cynical point of view the story is a continuity fix masquerading as a plotline. Furman was about to take over the American comic book and needed to reconcile certain elements of the two series divergent continuities if he intended to continue to use certain characters. American author Bob Budiansky had – in an act of creative insanity – killed off Megatron early on. Furman had resurrected him, showing him still alive and scheming in stories which knotted in and out of the US continuity, never contradicting it but never quite coming into contact with it either. Furman’s creative intentions for the US book needed Megatron to be alive, but for simplicity’s sake years worth of stories the US readers would never have access to couldn’t be referred to. His solution is in one way obvious (duplication) although the accomplishment of it demonstrates what a great comic book writer Furman was, nay is.

‘Two Megatrons’ has pathos, it has friendship, it has possession, it has politicking, it has suicide, it has villains demonstrating more complex emotions than usual and it has giant robots beating the spark out of each other. It’s perfect, a little masterpiece of the form.

In addition to this we get a clutch of other stories which concentrate on the more villainous characters. What they all have in common is that they make these characters, simply by virtue of them being centre stage, immediately more complex. They’re still villains, murderous, rampaging wannabe dictators, in fact, whose hobbies consist exclusively of engaging in internecine warfare when the actual war with the Autobots isn’t blowing so hot, but in them we see that Megatron does have a certain courage – and his own (warped) principles as well as a kind of integrity when it comes to his own creed.

One of the other stories is about a zombie Starscream, resurrected after his attempts to gain omniscience through acquiring underbase – and this has a certain pathos as we get to see the monstrous ambition that drives Starscream and the pitiable physical state it has brought him to; later, after being physically restored, he waxes about his role as the nearly-man of great villainy. We also get a nasty little story where in Soundwave is given the job of exposing a traitor to Megatron, wherein the big problem is that the traitor is Soundwave himself. Cue a stitch up job and a quick semi-judicial murder. There’s also a story where Megatron fights Shockwave for the united Decepticon only for them both to be betrayed by their respective troops who unite under a single leader. The collection ends on a cliffhanger, as a group of Autobots rescue Starscream from his enemies within his own camp as they need to use him for the Transformer equivalent of a blood transfusion on a fallen comrade of their own.

Good stories, nice art, nice format, inexpensive price point – what’s not to love about this product? Go get yourself one or two, even.

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