Shiny Shelf

Transformers #1

By Mark Clapham on 26 July 2007

There’s a new, large format ‘Transformers’ comic available from British newsstands, with a lead strip written by Simon Furman and drawn by Geoff Senior. For one short second, all troubles are forgotten and everything seems right with the world.

Since the Marvel weekly folded a decade or so back, there have been periodic attempts to relaunch a UK ‘Transformers’ comic, with the most recent being an ‘Armada’ cartoon tie-in that skewed towards a very young audience, with simplistic artwork and non-violent storytelling.

With a 12A rated movie in cinemas to tie-in to, this new ‘Transformers’ comic has a legitimate excuse for aiming a little older, and to try and satisfy both grown-up fans brought back to the fold by the film as well as the kids. The first issue seems to cover all these bases nicely.

The editorial thinking behind the comic seems to be to offer some substance for an adult reader’s £2.60, but to also provide enough variety of content and colour for shorter, younger attention spans. This is certainly a more substantial read than many kids’ comics on UK newsstands, representing a good compromise between a kids comic and an official tie-in magazine: three strips (one original, two culled from recent IDW US comics), accompanied by some fact-file type articles, a short piece on the 1985 animated movie, and a letters page.

The features are written for a young audience, but are not written down, and resist the juvenile temptations of shouty comedy captions and irksomely zany layouts. The substance of the issue is of course the strips. The two reprints are both good, reprinting half of the first issues of IDW’s movie prequel and ‘Beast Wars: The Gathering’ mini-series.

The prequel story, co-written by Chris Ryall and Simon Furman with art by Don Figueroa, sets the stage for the movie nicely, although broken into ten page chunks like this the pace may seem a bit glacial. A lot of the art is in stark black and white, partially to indicate a flashback but also seemingly to allow a certain vagueness in the portrayal of character designs that may not have been entirely finalised at the time the strip was drawn.

The ‘Beast Wars’ strip, by Furman and Figueroa, is a pleasant oddity seemingly included to demonstrate the breadth of the franchise, a brightly coloured continuity-fest which will hopefully draw both new fans and 1980s nostalgics towards the ‘Beast Wars’ TV series, one of the sharpest written and well executed incarnations of ‘Transformers’ in any medium.

The highlight of the issue is right at the front of the comic, but I’ve been saving it to last – a new, original strip set in the movie continuity, written by Furman with art by Geoff Senior. At this point, I have to abandon all pretence of critical distance – Senior was always my favourite artist from the old weekly, and a Furman/Senior Optimus Prime story is, frankly, a dream come true. It’s a short strip, but a perfect little precursor to the movie, with some action and a strong characterisation of Optimus Prime. One of the movie’s strongest qualities is the extent to which Prime is written and performed exactly right, and that characterisation is also present here. It’s a lovely, lovely strip, an absolute treat for long-term fans. Future issues will showcase the other movie characters, with Furman writing and a mixture of old and new ‘Transformers’ veterans providing the art.

If you have any interest in or nostalgia for ‘Transformers’, then you have absolutely no excuse for not rushing out to buy this first issue. It’s a great package: the new strip is wonderful, and the larger pages show off the art in the US reprints in a way that beats the original, smaller issues. Buy one for yourself and, if you have any young relatives who enjoyed the film, buy a copy for them as well. They’ll thank you for it.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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