Monthly Archives: November 2016

MEGATRON: ANIMATED (2008)

tf-megatron-08-fullTRANSFORMERS: ANIMATED

If you’re not up to date on your Transformers comics be warned: Spoilers ahead.

I know I’ve mentioned this multiple times before but allow me to say it again, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye (MTMTE) is one of the best comic books around. I’ve been reading comics consistently since I was 8 years old, over 20 books a month at some points, and MTMTE is one of the best series I’ve ever read. I’ve always enjoyed Transformers comics; the original Marvel run in the 80s, the Dreamwave books of the early 2000s, the Fun Publications convention exclusives, and the various titles published by IDW beginning in 2005. Since 2012 IDW has been publishing two on-going Transformers comics simultaneously, MTMTE and Robots in Disguise (RID). RID has had its ups and downs but for the most part it’s been quite good. Quality-wise it’s what I’ve come to expect from a Transformers book which is to say that it’s an entertaining read with solid art. MTMTE, on the other hand, is in a league of its own transcending Transformers as a property. If you hate the Transformers you probably wouldn’t pick up RID no matter how good I told you it was but as long as you like good storytelling you should be reading MTMTE. Writer James Roberts has crafted an epic, hilarious, and heartbreaking tale that I cannot recommend enough. It would help you enjoy the story if you’re a Transformers fan well-versed in the lore but I really don’t think it’s necessary. Many of the characters featured in the book are not those who starred in the IDW books previously so MTMTE serves to introduce them whether you’re brand new to the franchise or an old-school fan like myself.tf-megatron-08-cover

For example, in the 80s Swerve and Tailgate were repaints of two of my favorite toys, Gears and Windcharger. They weren’t developed at all in the comics or cartoon so I always saw them as unmemorable second stringers. In MTMTE Roberts has infused Swerve and Tailgate with such personality that they’ve become two of my absolute favorite Transformers eclipsing Gears and Windcharger. Any character Roberts spends even a page on immediately becomes 10X more interesting. Despite this ability, I was skeptical about his decision to add Megatron to the cast in issue 28. As I’m sure you know, Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons. He’s always been the big-bad of the Transformers mythology responsible for the deaths of countless beings across the universe. I’ve always found him to be a fine villain. He was sufficiently menacing in the 80s cartoon (largely due to the memorable voice work of Frank Welker) but he never struck me as a very deep character. He was simply a bad guy because the property needed a bad guy. His origins and motivations have been explored in comics before, and those stories have helped to add some depth, but overall he’s an archetype. The same is true of Optimus Prime at the opposite end of the spectrum.tf-megatron-08-back

 

A few years ago the Cybertronian war finally came to an end in the IDW universe. The Autobots and Decepticons set their differences aside (for the most part) and everybody settled into relative peace back on Cybertron. The new status quo is explored politically in RID. In MTMTE Hot Rod decides to devote his time to searching for the legendary Knights of Cybertron on his ship, the Lost Light. He leads a ragtag crew of lovable ex-Autobots (and one or two ex-Decepticons) into deep space where they stumble into a number of entertaining adventures. Issues 1 to 25 are regarded as season one.

When season two begins in issue 26 the Lost Light crew return to Cyberton for the trial of Megatron. However, due some slick legal maneuvering and some wonky loopholes in Cybertronian law Megatron was able to talk himself off of death-row and into the position of co-captain of the Lost Light. I was leery of this plot development because I’d grown attached to the Autobots on the Lost Light and they’d now be bunking with their murderous sworn enemy and I didn’t want to lose anyone. Also I was worried that a bot as popular as Megatron would steal the spotlight from the lesser known characters like Swerve and Tailgate. In that regard I was absolutely correct because that’s exactly what happened…but I was wrong to worry because in Roberts’s hands Megatron is truly compelling. On the surface it seemed as though Megatron was really changing his ways and looking for redemption but I simply couldn’t believe it to be true. I just knew it was all a ruse and that he would eventually take over the ship and kill a bunch of characters I care about…but he didn’t. Every time Megatron showed remorse or compassion I was shocked and fascinated to watch this previously one-dimensional character actually grow. I never would have guessed it but now Megatron is one of my favorite Transformers.tf-megatron-08-art

I never owned the original 1984 Megatron figure when I was a kid. You’d think that might have bothered me but I always found the toy to be really wonky looking and not very representative of the character as he appeared on TV. I had the Shockwave figure though and he served me well as the leader of my Decepticon toys. Dozens of versions of Megatron followed the original and I never had any of them. When I got into collecting Transformers again as an adult with the launch of the “Classics” line in 2006 (starting with Bumblebee) Megatron was a character I was looking forward to owning for the first time. The Classics line was all about well-made toys based on the characters iconic 80s looks. Unfortunately, when a Classics Megatron came out later that year it totally sucked and was not faithful to the original. I decided to wait for the next release but sadly it was based on his Generation 2 green tank look so I passed on that too.  Years went by and my modern Transformers collection grew rapidly but Hasbro never released a Megatron that lived up to my expectations.tf-megatron-08-head

A couple years ago, on a trip to Giant Robot Comics, I came across this version of Megatron for sale in their loose figure case. It’s based on his look from the stylized 2007 Transformers: Animated cartoon. The exaggerated proportions of “Animated” didn’t look too bad on this figure, I needed a Megatron, and the price was right so I went for it.  I didn’t love the toy but I didn’t love the character at that time either so it was good enough; I just wanted a half-decent Megatron for my display. Now that Megatron has earned my love I will be seeking out a better version.

Things I don’t like about this toy include his cartoony appearance, the pink “battle damage” paint apps, his weird alt mode, and the struggle required to keep him standing. His joints are loose and he’s top heavy so he wants to constantly topple over. None of those issues are deal breakers for me though. His cartoony appearance is pretty close to his Generation 1 look with maybe a slight bit of live-action influence. The pink paint is dumb but at last it adds some color. I wish he transformed into a gun like he’s supposed to instead of a spaceship but I never transform my toys anyway. The thing I like least about this figure is its size. I’ve always felt that Megatron and Optimus Prime need to be bigger than their soldiers because thats how the original toys were and thats how they were portrayed on the show. Having a 5″ Megatron that stands shoulder to shoulder with an Insecticon just doesn’t seem right. When I do upgrade my Megatron I will be sure to get a taller one.tf-megatron-08-animated

 

Despite its flaws this is a decent Megatron which is why I got it in the first place. He’s got a pissed off look on his face that suits him well. I actually dig the exaggerated proportions that result in really large feet and Popeye forearms. The greys and reds look good together and the light-piping effects on the eyes and arms are cool too. My favorite feature is the massive arm cannon. This is Megatron’s defining feature and never has it looked so badass. I know they can do better but I still think this is one of the best Megatron toys Hasbro has produced. 7 out of 10.tf-megatron-08-fight

 

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SUPERMAN: JIM LEE BLUELINE EDITION (2016)

dc-superman-blueline-fullDC COLLECTIBLES

I have way too many Spider-Man and Iron Man toys. I know this. As a loyal Marvel reader for the past 30 years I have seen those characters wear a multitude of costumes and for some reason I feel compelled to own an action figure of each new look. It’s a problem. Conversely, I have never been a diehard DC fan. I really like some DC characters but I buy their books much more selectively. I tend to stick to critically acclaimed stories. There are exceptions to this rule but generally good stories do not feature alternate costumes. For that reason I’ve had very little exposure to short-lived, one-off DC costumes. Electric Blue Superman? Never read it. Bearded hook-hand Aquaman? Never read it. Knightfall Batman? Never read it. I suppose that’s why I’ve managed to avoid buying multiple action figures of DC characters. I’ve only ever felt the need to collect one iconic version of each. One Superman, one Batman, etc. Unfortunately that plan has been unravelling lately because of DC Collectibles’ designer action figures based on the specific artistic styles of various pencilers.

Ed McGuinness, Jim Lee, Jae Lee

Ed McGuinness, Jim Lee, Jae Lee

For a long time my Ed McGuinness inspired Superman figure was all I needed. Then last year DC Collectibles released a Jae Lee inspired figure which I couldn’t pass up. Next year they’ll probably put out a John Romita Jr. Superman that I’ll be powerless against but this year the Superman I got roped into buying was based on the artwork of Jim Lee.dc-superman-blueline-art

Jim Lee is one of those superstar artists that made a big splash in the comic book industry in the early 90s with his dynamic drawings. He was best known for his work on X-Men before he left Marvel and co-founded Image comics where he focused his creative energies for the next 10 years.

It was a pretty big deal when, after a decade primarily working on his creator-owned material, Jim Lee came back to mainstream comics in 2003. Rather than return to Marvel Jim opted for DC where he drew the 12–issue Batman run titled “Hush”. Hush has plenty of flaws but its undeniably a fun book. Writer Jeph Loeb crammed every Batman character he could think of into those 12 issues and it was a real treat seeing Lee put his unique stamp on each one of them. A series of Hush action figures released in 2004 is one of the earliest examples of DCs artist inspired toylines. Hush was a huge sales success for DC and it got me buying Batman comics on the regular for the first time ever.

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Lee followed up Hush with a Superman story written by Brian Azzarello called “For Tomorrow” in 2004. Lee’s art corralled me into collecting Superman comics for the first time as well. However, the story lacked the event feel of Hush and it was pretty forgettable. Story aside, it looked really nice and Jim Lee proved he could draw one hell of a Superman.

Lee returned to drawing the last son of Krypton on a monthly basis for the relaunch of the Justice League comic in 2011 as part of DC’s New 52 initiative. The New 52 Superman was younger than the Superman Lee drew in “For Tomorrow” and he had a different costume (lots of pointless lines and no more undies). An action figure featuring the New 52 look was released in 2012 but it didn’t interest me because I like my Superman old school. The figure was most likely based on Jim Lee’s artwork to a degree but it wasn’t specifically marketed as such and I don’t think great pains were made to capture his style.dc-superman-blueline-color

A couple of months ago DC Collectibles released this “Jim Lee Blueline Edition”  Superman figure similar to the Blueline Batman they released as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive in 2015.  The concept is that these figures capture the look of a Jim Lee pencil sketch before it’s inked and colored. I think it’s a pretty neat idea so I promptly purchased this Superman from BigBadToyStore when it went up for pre-order. A Blueline Wonder Woman is planned for later this year which I also considered pre-ordering but I’ve decided not to because I like how unique this Superman looks in my collection.

This figure features the exact same build as the previously released New 52 Superman except its molded in solid white plastic.  The only paint apps are the grey lines that represent Jim Lee’s pencils. I think this makes for a far more visually striking figure than the colour version. The pencil lines make the sculpt look more detailed than it really is. The colored version was mostly just sold blue without any sort of muscle definition.  This version’s muscles are very well defined courtesy of Lee’s etchings. I initially thought this figure shared the same head as the color version as well but after closer inspection I believe this is a newly sculpted head.  I don’t think the folks at DC Collectibles could get this figure to look so different using paint apps alone.  This version looks like the pre-New 52 Superman featured in stories like Hush and For Tomorrow rather than the 2011 Justice League Superman which is A-OK in my book. This version appeares to have a squarer jaw and a more recognizable Superman swirl in his hair.dc-superman-blueline-face

The articulation leaves a little something to be desired, especially when compared to Marvel Legends, but it’s pretty standard for DC figures. He moves at the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and neck. It’s a rather rigid figure but I’m fine with that as this is clearly a display piece for collectors; I don’t think too many kids would choose this version to play with over the full color version.

This is a great looking toy that does Jim Lee justice. I think it totally nails the concept of a sketch brought to life in 3 dimensions. I don’t usually talk a lot about packaging in my reviews but it should be noted that this toy came in an amazing box with a magnetic seal, a unique shape, and a bunch of Jim Lee artwork. The box itself is worthy of being displayed. Good work DC Collectibles. 9 out of 10.

 

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