Friday, 21 April 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - Chaos


I am not a professional comic writer, or even an amateur one. However, I have a salient tip for any writer out there - if you're hurriedly compacting two-plus years of storylines from multiple linked series in four issues compacted and compressed from a planned mini-series to clear the decks ahead of a relaunch event do not, I repeat do not call it Chaos. Thankfully for anyone looking for a cheap shot at Costa (and there was never any shortage both in terms of opportunity and opportunists) it's pretty chaotic. While James Roberts is involved his role seems largely to be doctoring a bit of the dialogue and making sure the characters he's eyeing for successor series More Than Meets the Eye get guided through (note the sudden assignment of whacky funster status to Swerve, just a teaser for the mint banter we'll be subjected soon) and the rest is pure Costa - by which I mean a succession of promising developments executed poorly and quickly before he shuffles on to his next brainwave.

Costa clearly decided that that three years after All Hail Megatron it was time for a big balls-to-the-wall action epic again and after the dry-hump of the ongoing he was probably right. Galvatron with an army at his back (albeit one made up almost entirely of Sweeps for some reason) and the Heart of Darkness trying to save Cybertron from D-Void with Optimus Prime and the bulk of the Autobots plus prisoner Megatron inbound - there's the makings of a smackdown there. And the broad strokes are great - Galvatron as a misinformed pawn is solid, Megatron escaping and helping in the fight fits his patriotic backstory and so on. But it's so super-compressed and it feels like a lot of pages are missing.

This would perhaps be more forgivable if there wasn't so much unneeded stuff in here. Some diversions from the core are good, like the brutal opening at Kimia that adds to the atmosphere. Others - such as the arrival of Arcee and Hardhead in time to save that fucknut Swerve and a few other designated survivors from Kimia or the sudden ability of Megatron to summon the entire Earth-based Decepticon contingent to Cybertron as easy as you like - are so obviously part of the plan to centralise the cast and allow a fresh canvas for the relaunch titles that it's painful. And in the middle of that there's a brilliant little scene for Lightspeed or some characterisation for Cliffjumper.

Others meanwhile are totally inexplicable page-wasters - the sudden reappearance of Devastator complete with a dead Scrapper as one of his legs only for the behemoth to be immediately incapacitated by a crap ruse from Sunstreaker stands out as a real "what the Hell was that all about?" moment. Ditto the merger of the Decepticon forces into one giant beastie, which just feels like a random upping of the stakes to manipulate Megatron into a certain position with little thought as to plausibility. It's like Costa's trying to ashcan as many ideas as possible before his time runs out.

Not helping the conclusion at all is Livio Ramondelli's art. Ramondelli is the single most talented artist IDW have unearthed on the titles, that simple, but his style is not suited to a muddy script one bit - too often his abstract dalliances and Costa's elliptical script lead to genuine confusion as to what exactly is happening. It's not helped by Costa cheating like mad in places, notably about who actually came back to Cybertron on Omega Supreme (notably a whole air force of Autobots who might have been handy over the previous twenty-odd issues) or ever really bothering to establish much about the status of anyone who's not absolutely central to the plot - the casualties are either gigantic or after the opening near-non existent, it's impossible to tell.

On top of this jumble is the final issue of the ongoing, a standalone about the future of the race after the war but it's one of those shit possible future scripts a writer does when he's fucking off a title and everyone knows the next writer is going to tear down everything they've done and that absolutely nothing it predicts will come to pass. Ordinarily this would be inoffensive if indulgent and self-aggrandising but we've just had a storyline that would have really benefited from another 22 pages of space so it just comes across as more bad pacing.

In summary Chaos isn't a good endcap for Costa's run but it is a fitting one, frustrated by plot developments that were clearer in the writer's mind than his scripts, that infuriating mix of decompression and compression, the same varying success with characterisation, the same inability to actually work an angle to a satisfactory conclusion.

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