Magnificent Six is brilliant - and does seem to be the missing link that gets us to Wreckers, with its torture and shameful dark deeds of the past.
The Neo-Knights are.... depressingly less brilliant. There've been generic hero figures in Furman's team books before, from Dragon Claws to To The Death, but there's always been some characters that stand out, or who get a subplot or moment that drags them into murky depths (like Dragon binge-watching his old glories), or the plot and enemies grab your attention. And outside of Circuit Breaker and Blackrock's upcoming sacrifice of her - which is proper grim, taking the ending all the previous Blackrock-and-Beller stories (and Beller's solos) and doing the opposite, with no hope of return - the Knights don't have that. Nearest you get is Gruber laughing at Optimus when Primus ghosts him. A bit sad, considering how Furman seemed to almost instinctively dash off interesting people when he wasn't trying (Death's Head, Keepsake, Xaaron).
I love The Magnificent Six. It made a huge impression on me as a kid, and the introduction of Megadeath (that name! that look!) blew my mind. The way the classic heroes were evolving (exemplified by the AtoZs) also tapped into the feeling that the comic was maturing along with its audience, acknowledging the passage of time and events.
It’s like Furman didn’t learn anything from Circuit Breaker’s original appearances, or indeed RAAT. Stupid humans getting confused and treating all Transformers as hostile is just such a boring way of adding extra ‘drama’ to a situation. It just cheapens the Transformers to see them bested by such crap opposition. Transformers have gone toe-to-toe with Unicron, Death’s Head, time rifts, Demons and whatever else, yet run away screaming when attacked by, er, a guy with giant feet? At least maybe the Neo Knights going down like a lead balloon would make Furman think twice in future, yes? (Remembers Skywatch and Circuit Smasher) oh bugger.
It makes sense in IDW, where the Autobots are foreign infiltrators that don't talk to humans and - as he had VP Allen note in the Titan run - would just look like two imperial powers feuding over us. Marvel, not so much when the Autobots repeatedly go out of their way to talk to humans, save humans, and not fight humans. But that's the Marvel way ever since Spider-Man, so here it is again!
By presenting a government back team of mutants, this issue predates X-Factor by about a year (although Freedom Force had been around a while, but was largely portrayed as antagonists). And with Image comics only a few years away, it's not surprising that derivative teams and ideas were coming to the forefront. At the time I read this I was completely unfamiliar with Marvel mutants (this was around the end of the period when Marvel UK didn't do any superhero titles, and even the two annuals shown here are a step up) and found this story somewhat hard to understand because it never fully explained how the team got their powers. It was also difficult to realise the Air Strike Patrol got killed off in this one, with the art just compounding the problem.
I was another reader of the comic who never got given the annuals at the time and never had the spare cash to hand to get this one on the one occasion I saw it on sale. So it wasn't until the late 1990s that I got this one and the dark nature of the story didn't stand out so much in the spring. I suspect a toy mandate has caused problems with the cast here - it would be far more logical to have used just the six classic heroes, with Inferno in the Silverbolt role and Ironhide in Inferno's, reflecting how the fire engine wasn't (officially) part of the Ark's crew and doesn't (necessarily) have any history with the others. But I guess Hasbro UK wanted the Aerialbots promoted as well, though I doubt anyone knew early enough that Ironhide would be replaced in the toyline in 1991.
What a mess the Collected Comics were that year! I strongly suspect there was an autumn/winter special on the original schedule (there was in both 1989 & 1991) but something got in the way - perhaps the editorial change meant it got lost? Or perhaps the decision to run regular reprints in the weekly meant the Collected Comics were considered superfluous?
Thunderpunch's speech pattern annoys me, ay? Like he's some broad Yorkshireman instead of... whatever he's supposed to be, The Neo Knights (really?) were just terrible. And so deserving of some extremely sketchy art to compound how rubbish they are (I didn't know the Air Strike Patrol died here either). Furman does do good work with Circuit Breaker though for the rest of the books' run and I actually don't mind the character. I do wonder why Marvel never did anything with her. She would have made a neat Iron Man villain, if nothing else. I suspect she's just been forgotten about and doesn't have the kitsch appeal of some of Marvel's other z-listers to warrant a revival (hello Squirrel Girl).
I love the 1990 Annual. I don't know why, it's only really got The Magnificent Six to sell it, but there's enough about it to feel like some actual effort is being put in - or at least the formula established by previous Annuals is being maintained. I like the A to Zs, but I kind of wish toy box art had been properly used as with the last two annuals, as that made the British Profiles feel a bit more unique. Personally, I never really liked it when they used clips from comic art (as with Wheeljack here). It just doesn't look right to me.
I missed the Collected Comics for this year, despite them being my only way of catching up with Transformers, outside of the Annuals I got for Christmas. I can recall seeing CC #15 on a shelf in a random Smiths, but that was the last one I saw until the Time Wars ones later in 1991. I never clocked on to these being released at any other time other than Summer or Winter, so always missed out on some. You'd think the covers would give it away really...
I wonder if the 3 issue format also made it harder to collect complete UK stories? Not many of them were 6 or 9 parts long and couldn't be comfortably contained in that quarterly format. Plus, as mentioned, the weekly comic using reprints probably didn't help / limited the selection for the specials.
Isn't Thunderpunch Canadian? Hence the accent.
It’s a testament to how inaccurately Canadians have been portrayed in comics and other media that I (a Canadian) can’t tell if you’re serious or if you’re making a clever reference to the way that Wolverine has been written with an Australian accent in both comics and video. ☺
My roommate has a theory that the reason Wolverine sounds Australian so often is that Americans know so little about their neighbour to the north that they actually know more about Australia than they do about Canada.
Certainly they seem to consider the Canadian “eh” to be interchangeable with the Australian “ay,” which for the record it is not.
Are you sure that The Human Factor is the worst art in the series? I've always had that one down as The Big Broadcast of 2006 (UK-exclusive framing sequence excepted, of course).
I am happy to go on record and say i quite like Dway Turner's art here. It's chunky and dark and has a spontaneous quality that's lacking in most of the U.S. art. I much prefer his stuff to the majority of Delbo's for example. Still, I'm aware I'm in the minority. Bunch of philistines.
That image of the computer screen is terrible, mind.
I quite like it, too. It’s dark, broody and atmospheric. It adds a bit of gravitas to a script that barely deserves it.
While there are certainly some bad panels on display here, I would also take Turner over Delbo, aka the-most-godawful-artist-ever-to-work-on-TF-comics (though Will Simpson might want to argue that), Cosmic Horse.
“Comfortably the worst art on the entire series”? No way. I can think of much worse. Frank Springer, Alan Kupperberg, Mike Manley, and Andrew Wildman have all turned in much worse work than Dwayne Turner at some point.
You could make a case that this is some of the most off-model art of the series. However, while Turner’s art was certainly unusual for “Transformers,” it wasn’t actually bad as such. It’s grown on me over the years. That “Whisper having a bad face day” panel shows how Turner is able to give objects three-dimensionality and mass and pleasing proportions in spite of the fact that he’s unfamiliar with drawing Transformers, such that they end up looking vaguely human.
This issue also shows us Turner’s art at a time before the Image style became the default style for the entire comics industry and Turner followed suit with his style in Chris Claremont’s “Sovereign Seven” (published by DC but drawn very much in the Image style). Much like Greg Capullo’s early work on “Quasar” before he became an Image clone and started drawing “Spawn,” this is a rare chance to see the Turner doing Turner.
The Neo Knights are less defensible. I like Katrina Vesotsky and Lee Gruber individually, and it’s nice to see GB Blackrock back. I like the idea that Blackrock has rescued them from homelessness and given them resources. I could do without the bickering, the costumes, and the codenames, all of which feel tired by this point. To answer your question, no, I don’t think I would buy a “Neo Knights” series, at least not based on what we see here. With some changes, I would.
However, Simon Furman did a great job with “Brute Force” (which also reunited him with José Delbo and Janice Chiang). That was only a four-issue limited series but I would have bought it as long as that creative team stayed on it, and I’d say it counts as a baby step towards having a career away from “Transformers” for Furman. It’s too late to bring it back now, though. It’d just get ruined like everything else.
Add me to the people who had no idea the Decepticon Micromaster Air Strike Patrol was supposed to have died in this issue.
Stuart Webb. Who knows everything about nothing and not a lot about that.
Action Force/G.I. Joe