Friday, 24 March 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - Last Stand of the Wreckers


It's fair to say that in 2010 people were fed up with IDW. Simon Furman had been given unprecedented control and freedom when the publisher got the licence at the fag-end of 2005 and squandered it with a meandering three-year pile-up of dreadful storylines. Replacing him with Shane McCarthy upset the deluded who felt Furman's work was ever going to go anywhere and then upset the people who were up for a change when his All Hail Megatron arc rapidly went from being stupid fun to stupid stupid, and then successor Mike Costa's tenure got off to a very wobbly start. Something was needed to get the fans onside; the result was the recalling of fan-turned writer-artist Nick Roche, whose debut on Spotlight - Kup had been one of the few universally acclaimed pieces of output since IDW picked the licence up. Roche then roped in fellow Transmasters alumni James Roberts to help out on the script, to focus entirely on the Wreckers.
The result was the seminal Last Stand of the Wreckers - fannish wish fulfilment and an intense fun war movie of a comic all at the same time. The central concept of the Wreckers - a crack Autobot commando team who turned up in the Marvel UK comics and had a heavy mortality rate - and fleshing out their history in the IDW universe (where they'd already appeared, albeit largely without depth) is an open goal but one the series converts with aplomb. The plot works on so many levels and is that rare thing, a comic that gets better with each read; if you avoid the likes of the Transformers Wiki spoiling things there's always a little detail to be picked up upon, a well-worked point lurking under the surface, a neuron to connect. And yet at the same time it functions as a rag-tag group of Autobots dropping in on a planet to kill Decepticons (the main bulk of the story being told in flashback, a handy get-out for things like Ultra Magnus not being a gigantic twat).

On top of this it's packed full of characterisation, with every Wrecker getting a personality. And by personality I don't mean just bouncing lines off each other; there's genuine care gone in to mapping out the relationship between each character. You could sit down afterwards and say with confidence what Perceptor thinks about Pyro and how it changes during the story or how Guzzle feels about Springer. Rotorstorm, Pyro and Ironfist are done from scratch while Guzzle might as well be, which not only adds fan appeal but a freshness and a good angle for exposition, while this is without a doubt the best version of Impactor we've ever seen. That Ironfist is a Wreckers fanboy further helps the logical progression, meaning several infodumps that might otherwise grate slip right by; for long-time fans this thoroughly puts them in the Lightformer's metal feet, which also keeps him from being the sort of wet prat to turn up in the later work of both writers.

Overlord's ridiculously hammy villainy gives the Wreckers a perfect foil, a powerful enemy to put them into a spot without it all being about darkness and the end of the universe; once again the character's really come from nothing (only sharing a character design with the Japanese character, which wasn't even a Transformer) and yet doesn't feel like a try-hard attempt to come up with a mega-super-dangerous bad guy. The confidence and tightness of the scripting frequently brings off stuff that shouldn't work on paper and it's clear that the five issues have been honed to this immaculate state and planned to the frame.

Even after its' promise of a brave new world was squandered (even, unthinkably, being smeared by a substandard sequel) the absolute beauty of Last Stand of the Wreckers is that it's self-contained, its' connections with the IDW universe not entangling the story and its' meticulous narrative leaving a bare minimum of loose ends. It's emotional, exciting, funny, brutal and uplifting and it still stands alone, unfettered by the mediocrity on either side. A genuinely transcendent classic; calling it the greatest Transformers story of all time is ghettoising such a majestic work. This stands with Watchmen, with Marvels, with Planetary, with Mark Millar's Ultimates, with Hitman as a plain, flat-out classic of the medium.

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