Transformers: Generation 1, Volume 2: War and Peace
In 2003, the Canadian comic book publisher Dreamwave Productions launched its six-issue follow-up to its wildly successful limited series of the previous year entitled Transformers: Generation 1. Although the first limited series was written in such a way that a continuation would have been unnecessary, its popularity guaranteed that it would have one.
In late 2002 (or early 2003, there's no specific date on the trade paperback), Dreamwave released an 8 page preview for the highly-anticipated follow-up in which an Alaskan whaling ship encounters a gulf full of whale carcasses. They quickly ascertain that the whales were killed in some type of cataclysmic explosion and then see the first clue to explaining what happened: a jagged piece of shrapnel sticking out of one of the whales' bodies reveals a bloodied chunk of metal bearing the Autobot insignia.
Miles away in a nondescript North American desert, Optimus Prime and his human friend Spike Witwicky are doing some rock-climbing, but Prime's heart is not in it. When Spike asks him what's wrong, Prime distantly replies "I just feel as though something terrible is on the way..." before clutching his head in a paroxysm of pain and collapsing to the ground.
Meanwhile, in Alaska, the Coast Guard has been dispatched to investigate the whalers' claims. After sending a group of divers to see what the deal is, they quickly find more than they bargained for: the wrecked remains of a gigantic starship with the Autobot insignia displayed prominently across its hull.
And thus the stage is set for the events that will be chronicled over the next six issues of this miniseries. Many changes are evident here; the first and most obvious change is the writer. Chris Sarracini, the writer responsible for the first volume, was reassigned to handle the first 5 issues of the Transformers: Armada comic before more or less dropping off the Transformers radar. Writing duties for "War and Peace" were given to Brad Mick, whose very different writing style is evident right from the getgo. Although it's hard to appreciate Sarracini's somewhat slowly-paced work on an issue-to-issue basis, it's very easy to fall all over Mick's "sit down, shut up, and hold on" fast-paced style. Unfortunately, that's a rather deceptive trap to fall into.
Sarracini's work is written like a screenplay and it shows. He puts some characters in the foreground, some in the background, he takes his time with character development, and he doesn't fill every issue with some explosive event; rather, he builds the tension from issue to issue, eventually resulting in a great denouement at the end. Mick, on the other hand, treats each issue like an episode of a multipart TV miniseries and it suffers for that, in terms of consistency and overall stylistic quality. After so many twists and false climaxes, it's less "what happens next!?" and more "damn, will this ever end?" Mick has also drawn criticism for his tendency to kill off scores of characters at a single time for what seems like no reason. He also has a problem with, uh, not paying attention to the actions of characters in the preceding book. Characters that die are suddenly returned to life. Some Autobots that were on Earth are now magically back on Cybertron and have been there for thousands of years. And so on and so forth.
"War and Peace" is still a solid entry into the rather expansive canon of TF comics and Brad Mick improves with every issue. He is quickly developing into the heir apparent for the affections of Transformers fans and something tells me that Simon Furman needs to watch his back around this guy.
Individual reviews forthcoming. (Any of you other Transfans want to help me out here?)