Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby andersonh1 » Fri May 03, 2013 7:29 am

Dominic wrote:And, while "Armada" tried to be kid-friendly (which is fine), it was hard to do a story about slavery and keep it light. I recall there being a panel in this story where Megatron pulls Leader-1 out (I think from the leg compartment that the toy was supposed to have), and Leader-1 says something like "No, please".


Yeah, that's in the middle of the fight, and Leader-1 is begging not to be powerlinked. It's definitely a little gruesome.

-notes that Optimus comes across as a jerk in the preview story.


To be fair he is in a fight for his life, but it's almost like a Bond one-liner when he looks at the guy he's just crushed to death (presumably) and says nothing more than "ouch". And it might be worse, it could be read as a quip about how he feels after hitting the ground. He might not even have noticed the guy he landed right on top of.
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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby andersonh1 » Fri May 03, 2013 1:49 pm

Armada #3

This is partially a transition issue, and partially introductory. The status quo on Cybertron is quickly and efficiently established as Megatron conquers the planet, the Autobots go underground to fight him, and the citizens of the planet pick their side. With only a few mini-cons left on Cybertron, all in the possession of Decepticons, they’ve got the advantage and they rule the planet. The mini-cons who escaped drift in space for what is implied to be many, many years, trapped in their ship, until they finally crash on Earth.

And then the bulk of the issue spends its time introducing Rad, Alexis and Carlos. Now I don’t hate these kids, and they’re not really annoying at all on the printed page. But their quirks and playing around don’t make for very compelling reading. I get a bit of a friendlier Calvin and Hobbes vibe from Alexis and Rad’s relationship which reminds me of Susan and Calvin if it wasn’t quite so hostile. Carlos is a third wheel. They spend the issue working on their project until those mean old bullies shoot it down. And then Rad tumbles into the buried remains of the Mini-con ship while trying to retrieve his biking helmet, activating a beacon which alerts Megatron and Optimus Prime to the presence of the Mini-cons.

It’s worth noting that there’s been technological advancement during Megatron’s rule. The Autobots and Decepticons don’t use spacecraft to reach Earth, they use the space bridge. And if anyone ever wondered just how long lived these characters are, the same group of Autobots and Decepticons are shown fighting each other after a million years have passed. Costa’s theme of “Transformers are slow to change” would fit right in.

And of course, the kids and the mini-cons bond despite Alexis’ suspicions, only to have Megatron turn up behind them. And apparently he’s been at the red energon again, since his teeth are a nice bright red. Weird.

Overall: the Armada trio of kids are not too annoying when they’re on paper rather than on the television. I couldn’t stand them in the cartoon for the longest time. At least here they’re just doing what kids do and being friends, and as obligatory human sidekicks go, they aren’t too bad. They get more page time than they need though, even for an introductory issue, so the Transformers get shortchanged a bit. But for those who want to see a competent Megatron who wins the war, Armada Megatron is your guy. Though apparently he can’t manage to wipe out a small Autobot guerrilla unit, even after a million years. These vast timespans always seem way too long to me. It’s hard to believe the status quo remained relatively stable and unchanged for all that time.
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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby Dominic » Fri May 03, 2013 3:34 pm

The number of Minicons on Cybertron is one of those points of inconsistency between the main comics and the sourcebook.

Not counting PLX recolours, Clench, and a handful of others, the only Minicons shown in the comic were those belonging to Decepticon Command and the Minicons established to be on Earth (assuming that we discount the Destruction Team being on Cybertron in issue 2). The Earth Minicons included the first 3, maybe 4, waves of team packs and the Minicons sold with the first 3 waves of "bulk" figures. This left some later new-character recolours (and Ramjet) unaccounted for.

It could probably be assumed that some of the unnaccounted for Minicons were working for the Deceptcons. But, the sourcebook describes some of them (such as the Minicons paired with the Autobot beast re-tools) as being Autobot alligned.

The kids work in the comic because they are not written to be the stars or heroes. Carlos is probably the most competent of the 3, and he is still a kid. The fact that they are kids is used to justify all manner of foolishness that normally makes the human characters a waste of page space. If Rad does something stupid, it makes sense because Rad is a kid. It makes sense for Carlos to be trusting and willing to help repair the Minicons because Carlos is a kid and is curious about technology.

Along similar lines, Optimus generally tries to keep the kids out of the fight. In later issues, he is shown to grudgingly tolerate their presence because the Minicons insist on being able to see the kids. In contrast, the cartoon went out of its way to have the kids on screen as much as possible, even when it made no sense for them to be around/involved.


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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby andersonh1 » Mon May 06, 2013 7:26 am

Armada #4

Allspark Power complex, eh? Looks like the Hoover Dam to me. Yeah, I know it’s a nod to the Allspark message boards. Dreamwave used to love throwing in fan references. I seem to remember some fan's character turned up as a dead bot in one of their series. IDW needs to pick up the tradition and put TFViews on some viewscreen somewhere. :mrgreen:

The Autobot and Decepticon casts shift to Earth. Megatron chases the kids and the mini-cons, the Autobots encounter humans, and the Decepticons all get new vehicle modes. It’s interesting to note that while Starscream, Cyclonus and Demolishor all scan real-life vehicles, they don’t end up with anything resembling real-world vehicle modes, as anyone familiar with the toys can attest. And Megatron can’t even be bothered to scan his own vehicle mode, instead relying on Starscream to do it for him.

And that’s about it. This issue, much like issue 3, is part of the “middle chapters” of the story in which characters meet, transition and get set up for the finale. The art remains good, and the action sequences are well done. Some of the character moments are nicely written, such as Red Alert’s casual attempt at conversation with the children at the dam, or the comments by the Decepticons as they choose their alternate modes. Prime is clearly far more idealistic than more modern incarnations. And unlike the trio of Prime, Red Alert and Hot Shot that we saw in the animated series, the Dreamwave comic is clearly the Prime and Hot Shot show. When it comes to the other Autobots, they’re all second fiddle with barely a line or two each.

Overall: a good issue largely made up of good moments rather than a strong self-contained plot, since it’s the middle chapter.
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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby Dominic » Mon May 06, 2013 1:47 pm

andersonh1 wrote:Armada #4

Allspark Power complex, eh? Looks like the Hoover Dam to me. Yeah, I know it’s a nod to the Allspark message boards. Dreamwave used to love throwing in fan references. I seem to remember some fan's character turned up as a dead bot in one of their series. IDW needs to pick up the tradition and put TFViews on some viewscreen somewhere. :mrgreen:



Well, we are definitely one of the more supportive boards....


Yeah, that's in the middle of the fight, and Leader-1 is begging not to be powerlinked. It's definitely a little gruesome.



Yeah. "Armada is the kid friendly portion of TF. C'mon kids, nothing bad here. The slavery and brutality are (sort of) sanitized to avoid traumatizing you!" A friend of mine bought a few "Armada" toys for her son (who was maybe 6 or 7 at the time). She was a little uncomfortable when I mentioned (in passing) that the Minicons were more or less slaves.



The Autobot and Decepticon casts shift to Earth. Megatron chases the kids and the mini-cons, the Autobots encounter humans, and the Decepticons all get new vehicle modes. It’s interesting to note that while Starscream, Cyclonus and Demolishor all scan real-life vehicles, they don’t end up with anything resembling real-world vehicle modes, as anyone familiar with the toys can attest. And Megatron can’t even be bothered to scan his own vehicle mode, instead relying on Starscream to do it for him.



I always assumed that the alternate modes were more adaptations than disguises. ((My thinking on this was influenced by this logic being implicit during the Beast era more than anything else.) Scanning a new form woudl be more for getting around and being able to survive than to blend in. A similar dynamic applies with the Autobots like Prime (a tracked trailer?!?!?), Grindor (what the hell kind of a skate board is that?!?!?) or Sparkplug (one of many under-sized vehicles).


more modern incarnations. And unlike the trio of Prime, Red Alert and Hot Shot that we saw in the animated series, the Dreamwave comic is clearly the Prime and Hot Shot show. When it comes to the other Autobots, they’re all second fiddle with barely a line or two each.


Is issue 4 the one that shows the other Minicons trying to make there way on Earth? Dreamwave did a really good job of depicting them as unenthusiastic, complete with resigning themselves to helping Sparkplug.


Smokescreen is also drawn *way* off model in the first arc. The changes to his appearance later can be coconciled by him scanning an Earth mode. (The Decepticons change subtley after taking alternate modes.) But, the real reason for Smokescreen's varied appearance probably has more to do with Hasbro not having a final character model for Dreamwave to work from.


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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby andersonh1 » Mon May 06, 2013 1:58 pm

Dominic wrote:Yeah. "Armada is the kid friendly portion of TF. C'mon kids, nothing bad here. The slavery and brutality are (sort of) sanitized to avoid traumatizing you!" A friend of mine bought a few "Armada" toys for her son (who was maybe 6 or 7 at the time). She was a little uncomfortable when I mentioned (in passing) that the Minicons were more or less slaves.


It's basically a case of being able to get away with certain topics because they're alien robots instead of people. The Dreamwave comics definitely go further than the cartoon ever did in showing how badly the mini-cons are treated.

I always assumed that the alternate modes were more adaptations than disguises. ((My thinking on this was influenced by this logic being implicit during the Beast era more than anything else.) Scanning a new form woudl be more for getting around and being able to survive than to blend in. A similar dynamic applies with the Autobots like Prime (a tracked trailer?!?!?), Grindor (what the hell kind of a skate board is that?!?!?) or Sparkplug (one of many under-sized vehicles).


In this series, that definitely seems to be the case.

Is issue 4 the one that shows the other Minicons trying to make there way on Earth? Dreamwave did a really good job of depicting them as unenthusiastic, complete with resigning themselves to helping Sparkplug.


Issue five is the one you're thinking of. It's kind of a trade-off really. The book puts Smokescreen, Scavenger and Red Alert in the background, while elevating the mini-cons. And it's a choice that I honestly can't find a lot of fault with, since the mini-cons are at the center of the story. I'd rather have them as characters and experience the conflict through their eyes than have them cheerfully beeping away.

Smokescreen is also drawn *way* off model in the first arc. The changes to his appearance later can be coconciled by him scanning an Earth mode. (The Decepticons change subtley after taking alternate modes.) But, the real reason for Smokescreen's varied appearance probably has more to do with Hasbro not having a final character model for Dreamwave to work from. .


Leader-1 has the worst luck with changing character models. I think he has at least four distinct appearances over the course of the series.
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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby Dominic » Mon May 06, 2013 2:48 pm

Leader-1 was still being drawn from the same control art. If I recally, Leader-1 was drawn with stylistic differences over the course of the series. But, Smokescreen was drawn from two wholly different character models.
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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby andersonh1 » Wed May 08, 2013 12:28 pm

Armada #5

I remember expecting this issue to pick up right from the cliffhanger that ended issue 4, with Megatron about ready to shoot Optimus Prime with his newly acquired tank mode. The story instead opens with a group of mini-cons that have been hiding in a junkyard and trying to figure out where they are and what’s going on while remaining unseen. Many of them, such as Rollbar, Longarm and Jolt were front and center in issue 1, so it’s nice to see the focus move back to them for a few pages. In fact, I can’t remember if any of these characters get so much page time after this as the book shifts writers. With such a big cast of characters, I imagine it is hard to juggle them all and give everyone time in the forefront.

One of the things I like about the opening scene is that it reinforces just how vulnerable the mini-cons are compared to other Transformers, as Rollbar is almost crushed to death by a car crusher. That’s a little more mundane than being captured and rewired by Decepticons, but at the same time it grounds them. I also enjoy seeing them catch up with news via the local TV station since Megatron’s rampage didn’t go unnoticed.

Back at the main event, I’m laughing at Optimus Prime’s trash talking of Megatron. Such macho posturing could be tiresome, except that it hits home by asking the same question I asked last time (how have Prime and his soldiers survived a million years of war with all the power that Megatron’s side has?), and it ends up being a diversion as Prime keeps Megatron’s attention away from Smokescreen.

“What's wrong, Megatron? Are you frustrated that after all these years, with all your enhanced Mini-Con power, you still haven't been able to eliminate us? Maybe you're not the great leader you think you are."
"WATCH YOUR WORDS, AUTOBOT!!!"
"Why? Are you afraid to hear the truth? Power alone might win you battles, but it will never win you the war. Are you too scared to admit that your bumbling has been what's kept this war alive? A smarter leader would have destroyed us long ago." – Prime and Megatron

“I was running out of things to say!” Optimus Prime.

We get a rematch of the Autobot/Decepticon battle from issue 2, only this time Megatron hogs the four captive mini-cons for himself, making the fight much more even. The Longarm’s group turns up and powerlink with the Autobots, ending the fight with Megatron taking his troops and going home, promising that Prime will never get Cybertron back. As an aside, I note that despite being beaten up, Prime isn’t oozing bright pink energon everywhere as a substitute for blood, but rather he’s leaking oil. It’s a small touch, but one that keeps things from being quite as graphic as IDW’s comics have been from time to time, or even as Transformers Prime has sometimes been.

An alliance between the mini-cons and Autobots is formed as the mini-cons admit that they need the help and protection, but that they’re unwilling to be slaves. Prime, of course, is adamant that the Autobots would never enslave them and that they too need help from the Mini-cons, as long as they’re willing. It’s a nice little bit of writing that establishes that while both sides need each other, they don’t necessarily have the same goals or entirely trust the other, and that the Mini-cons aren’t just going to surrender all independence to the Autobots.

So five issues in, and the first story-arc has been completed. Chris Sarracini has basically taken Hasbro’s backstory for the Armada toyline and fleshed it out, and done an excellent job. James Raiz does a fine job with the artwork, and it’s a pity that neither will be back. After criticizing Sarracini’s work over on the first G1 mini-series, it’s nice to be able to offer some positive words here. Maybe it’s because the book was pitched towards a younger audience and was thus able to avoid the need to be “adult and serious” that allowed it to get by more on action and humor and enjoyable characters. I suspect that had a lot to do with it, and the large role given to the three kids bears that out as well.
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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby Dominic » Wed May 08, 2013 1:45 pm

Sarracini's biggest issue was stumbling on basics like....ya know, research. (Seriously, a uniformed "Defense Minister"?!?!?!?)


The first five issues of "Armada" were good reading though. Sarracini balanced the tone, premise and characters and ended up setting the foundation for what should have been about 5 years worth of comics. Furman's run was only supposed to last for 2 issues. Even putting aside his inflation of that story, Lee's art ruins at least a few panels.

Raiz's art, while not toy accurate, was damned good. The characters looked like they were moving around and doing stuff. Raiz was definitely using legitimate control art as reference. But, he was clearly not using the toys. (And, that is okay.)


One of the things I like about the opening scene is that it reinforces just how vulnerable the mini-cons are compared to other Transformers, as Rollbar is almost crushed to death by a car crusher. That’s a little more mundane than being captured and rewired by Decepticons, but at the same time it grounds them. I also enjoy seeing them catch up with news via the local TV station since Megatron’s rampage didn’t go unnoticed.



It was not just the vulnerability, it was reluctance. If left to their own devices, the Minicons would have been happy to spend their time hiding in the junkyard.

(That said, I am not sure that Rollbar was in immediate/mortal danger. That scene looks to be a question of "Rollbar is being inconvenienced".)

The focus of the series definitely shifts. Sparkplug, the tank team, Leader-One and the saber jets are the only Minicons that Furman really uses. Rook shows up towards the end. And, it is a safe bet that he was intented to be a Mini-quisling, but the rushed nature of the last arc limits how much time is spent on him.


The question of choosing alliances carefully stays with the series though. It is the whole idea of "Fortress".


Dom
-notes that there were UK "Armada" comics as well, but has never seen copies first hand.
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Re: Dreamwave Armada - retro reviews

Postby andersonh1 » Thu May 09, 2013 9:11 am

I'm really enjoying my re-reading of the Armada series. So far, the quality has been high, and my appreciation of this branch of Transformers continuity has grown a bit stronger. It's shame we only have a year and a half worth of stories in this continuity.

Armada #6

Simon Furman takes over the book with this issue in what was supposed to be a temporary fill-in story, but ended up becoming a long term assignment, lasting until the book ended at issue 30 with Dreamwave’s bankruptcy. I like Furman’s run as writer of Armada and I think he came up with some pretty strong storylines, along with a couple that are fairly routine. The main changes I can detect in this issue are a shift towards Sparkplug as the main mini-con character, and Starscream becoming just about indistinguishable from G1 Starscream. I’m sure other changes will become apparent with time.

Issue 6 has artwork by Pat Lee (probably, unless someone was drawing it for him which seems to have happened more often than we knew at the time). It’s not bad per se, though I’m not a big fan of Lee’s style. Character models change from the way Raiz drew them, particularly Sparkplug, which is distracting. Leader-1 has changed appearance as well. But for the most part the art is serviceable and tells the story, though I count multiple instances of a particular drawing used more than once in the issue. The image of Megatron holding up the Star Sabre is present three times, if I remember right. Perhaps the most unclear sequence is the creation of the Star Sabre. It almost looks like Megatron is creating it from a mold, and yet later on it’s clearly the combined form of the three mini-cons, so I’m not sure what was supposed to be happening there. The bottom line seems to be that just as Megatron created the concept of mini-cons powerlinking to provide the larger Transformers with more power, he also created the Star Sabre by forcing the three Air Defense team members to combine. In the cartoon, the mini-cons already had this ability, but in the Dreamwave series, it’s always the Decepticons who weaponize the mini-cons, at least up to this point. I can’t remember if that changes later on or not.

And sometime between issue 5 and 6 the Decepticons have set up a base on Earth. Evidently some time has passed between 5 and 6, allowing the Autobots time to establish a base as well, and to make portions of it look like the old Mini-con villages.

One of the best pieces of dialogue in the series occurs here, showing how far apart the Autobots and Mini-cons are. Sparkplug laments that the only thing they really have in common is that they come from the same planet. Going back to the first issue, it’s worth remembering that Mini-cons had their own villages, separate from the cities of the larger Transformers. There might have been some mileage in exploring this version of segregated Cybertronian society, and it’s a pity we never got that. I like that the two groups don’t always share the same goals since it can lead to the sort of drama we see this issue, as Sparkplug blows off Prime’s orders and goes to rescue the Air Defense team along with Jolt and Longarm. Sparkplug is perfectly justified in doing so, and yet Prime’s fears about the Mini-cons being captured and turned against the Autobots are also perfectly valid, as Sparkplug finds out when he and his group are almost captured by Starscream. The issue ends with Megatron in possession of the newly-created Star Sabre.

I’d always had in the back of my mind that this was a weak storyline, but it’s actually pretty strong, and carries on many of the themes of the first 5 issues pretty well. The art is a letdown since Lee is vastly inferior to Raiz, but it gets the job done. There’s one more issue of Lee’s art, and then Guido Guidi takes over with issue 8 and does his usual sterling job.
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