Saturday, 13 September 2014

Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Volume 1 Review (James Roberts, Nick Roche)

In Nick Hornby’s excellent book, The Polysyllabic Spree, collecting his Believer columns discussing books he’d bought and read each month, the author talks about attempting to read a novel outside of his comfort zone. In his case, it was a sci-fi novel by Iain M. Banks called Excession. This was his reaction: 

"The urge to weep tears of frustration was already upon me even before I read the short prologue, which seemed to describe some kind of androgynous avatar visiting a woman who has been pregnant for forty years and who lives on her own in the tower of a giant spaceship...By the time I got to the first chapter, which is entitled ‘Outside Context Problem’ and begins ‘(CGU Grey Area signal sequence file #n428857/119)’ I was crying so hard that I could no longer see the page in front of my face."

This was basically my reaction to Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye, Volume 1, a comic about a series/cast of characters I thought would be interesting to read because I know next to nothing about them. I saw the first Transformers movie and about 15 minutes of the second, and that was enough - I hated both. I vaguely remember the ‘80s cartoon and I remember owning some Transformers toys as a kid. I know some names: Optimus Prime (hero), Megatron (villain) and Bumblebee (tool). That’s it. 

Having tried reading this, all I can say is: you need to know more - a LOT more! - to understand what’s happening in this book. 

So apparently Optimus Prime died. A robot - at least, I think that’s what he is, right? - “died”? OK. They’re machines but whatever. Then he winds up in somewhere called the Afterspark which I guess is robot afterlife? It wasn’t explained. But there’s a ton of other robots there and they’re all alive - so he didn’t really die? Then there’s mention of Primus (not the band) who’s God or something - do robots have religion? These ones seem to! 

Then we’re on Cybertron which I guess is the Transformers’ home planet - except Optimus is surprised that it’s populated. So I suppose it was uninhabitable before and now it is - for robots to “live” on? 

Then you start getting battered with labels: Vector Sigma, Grand Imperium, Galvatron’s Sweeps, Greater Iacon, Vela Pulsar, The Battle of Kimia, Dai Atlas and the Circle of Light, the Matrix (not the movie), Alchemy-Seven Crew; do you know what any of these mean? Because they’re not explained in the comic! I was beyond lost at this point. 

Then the Transformers are introduced: Sideswipe, Prowl, Whirl, Rodimus, Turbofox, Wheeljack, Perceptor, Metalhawk (who, confusingly, doesn’t transform into a hawk but an X-Wing instead!), Ratbat, Rewind. I have no idea who any of these characters are. Are they good guys, bad guys? Even Optimus Prime - the only character name I recognise - was made baffling because everyone was calling him Orion Pax. Is that another character or his real name or a title or what?! 

Believe it or not, all of that information isn’t even 20 pages of this book, but that’s where I stopped. If, not even by page 20, I have no clue what’s happening on any level in a book, I’m done, and that was the case with this one. Apparently Optimus was dead, then he was alive, then he was leader again and everyone wanted him gone for some reason. I… 

So that’s my first and last foray into Transformers comics - I knew there was a reason I didn’t read them! Check them out only if you know a lot about Transformers already or are willing to do the homework and have the patience to figure them out!

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Volume 1

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