It Never Ends, and Other Furmanisms

Cultural creations are inextricably products of their time. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield wouldn't have been thinkable a few decades earlier, and would've been considered hopelessly outdated a few decades later. Contemporary action-genre movies of the mid-to-late nineties, like Robocop and Predator II, were these bizarrely dystopian tales of the immediate future, which you could never get away with outside that bleak cinematic moment. But I don't think any other medium is quite as susceptible to the vagaries of time as comic books. The comics written in the Silver Age and the Dark Age couldn't have been written any other times; you couldn't have The Dark Knight Returns unless you already had Adam West dancing the Batusi, and you couldn't stick a skull on The Shadow's chest and call him The Punisher.

Which makes Transformers: Regeneration One: Volume One a slightly surreal reading experience.

Parts of it still fit normally with what's accepted as appropriate in a  modern Transformers comics, and modern comics in general. Indeed, much of the Cybertron-based plot is pretty clearly reflective of what's going on in a similar kind of situation in IDW's own Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye line. A disillusioned Optimus, at loose ends after the war's end. The attempt to integrate Autobots and Decepticons, undone by unrepentant and unreconstruced Decepticons. Key Autobot characters chafing under peace's demands, and setting off for adventure in the wider cosmos. Heck, the reappearance of Grimlock a few issues into the volume coincided with his and the other Dinobots' reappearance, after a three year absence, in the core IDW books; they called it 'Dinobot Month'.

But then, right there in the middle of it all, there's Berko, and the Cosmic Carnival. And you're like oh, right. Marvel's Transformers universe was weird.

Returning to that universe can be kind of hard, particularly after having read 'realistic' Transformers stories for so long. It has, after all, been twenty-one years since the last Marvel Transformers comic, '#80 in a 4-Issue Limited Series' as the cover so glibly put it, came out. There are committed TransFans running around today, who know everything firsthand about three completely distinct iterations of the franchise, who weren't even alive when this thing ended, nevermind when it began. And for those of us who did read it at the time, two decades of growth and change as readers makes it tricky to fall easily back into a world where Megatron and Ratchet are magically connected because of a transporter accident, and where something like the Neo-Knights still lingers in an otherwise superhero-free fictional universe.

So, it's weird, and it's heavily nostalgic. But is it actually any good? Honestly, only if you've followed the Marvel series, either during its original run or by picking up the reprinted trades IDW has put out. If you don't know about things like the Last Autobot, and Circuit Breaker, and the effects of Nucleon, and what the Ark is doing under a lake in the Canadian north-west, and the Underbase Saga, you are really not going to get a lot out of this. It relies to a huge extent on prior knowledge on the part of the reader, and while it's full of old Marvel-style asterisks pointing out what happened and what issue it happened in, that isn't a sufficient substitute for having read those issues yourself. It'd be like starting Star Wars with Return of the Jedi; sure, you could, but without two movies of sexual tension the Han-Leia relationship is going to be totally flat, and the Vader/Luke dynamic is going to be about as bad.

If you did read the old Marvel run, however, this is more of the same. Whether that's good or bad will depend on whether you prefer your Transformers dealing with the politics of post-war reconstruction and trying to rediscover their spiritual roots, or palling around with superheroes and hitching a ride on a Cosmic Carnival.

Me? I'll take one of each, please!

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