Time once again to give you a peek at the stuff I’ve picked up to entertain me with it’s storytelling skills. Last time, we checked out Dreamwave’s team up of the Transformers and G.I. Joe. In this edition, we begin our look into Devil’s Due‘s offerings. While they were still an imprint of Image comics (they are currently an independed company, last I heard), DD obtained the rights to Hasbro’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (also known by the initials ARAH), and when Transformers publisher Dreamwave (currently defunct) made their crossover, DD also made a series. Not having closed, they made more than one mini-series. And in this edition, we’ll take a look at the first of the set, simply titled
Publisher: Devil’s Due
Issues: 1-6 (mini-series)
Cover Dates: June-November 2003
Credits: Josh Blaylock (writer), Mike S. Miller (pencils), Armando Durruthy (inker issues 1-2), Cory Hamscher (inker issues 2-6), various cover artists (yes, they had variant covers 😛 ), and groups doing the color and lettering.
As you can see, I’m still trying to come up with the perfect layout, but it’s only my second Scanning My Collection post.
We begin at a rather famous volcano for Transformers fans. Only this time it’s broken into by up-and-coming terrorist group Cobra, who are more than happy at this new find. They don’t know what to make of the alien robots they find, even when one speaks.
Fast forward unknown time frames: A group of military (I’m assuming Army, but they just say “military”) soldiers are guarding a peace summit in DC, when they’re attacked by vehicles familiar to any ARAH fan. However, things are a little different here. This time when Cobra Commander, leader of Cobra, calls for the “Battle Android Troopers” (or BATs), the vehicles turn out to BE the BATs. They attack the UN building (which should be in New York, but whatever), running right over a group of peace protesters (now that HAS to be irony!–darn you, Morrisett!) and giving the unprepared military a sizeable beat down. The only ones unscathed are the media, so Cobra can send their message: we’re here, and no place is safe for you! Only one BAT fails to perform, the one we all know as Optimus Prime!
Also one soldier gets his face wasted in the battle. Any Joe fans who can’t guess who should just turn in their dog tags now.
In the aftermath, the Pentagon decides to create a daring, highly trained special missions force with one purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra! (Why does that sound familiar?) They select their elite group, led by General Abernathy (aka Hawk, one of the survivors of the first attack) as Cobra attempts to reign in Optimus Prime. Cobra Commander is also keeping Megatron locked in gun mode, the only Transformer left active, or so they think. Two more are online: Wheeljack and Bumblebee (because you can’t stop Da Bee!–sorry, personal favorite) were in a hidden part of the ship and escaped being taken by Cobra.
Using the technology reverse engineered from the Transformers, Cobra has created their own battlesuits, the SNAKES. Now they plan to use the Transformers and SNAKES to take out the control center of a solar-powered satellite they plan to turn into a solar laser weapon. However, Optimus, with what little will power he maintains, has sent out data revealing Cobra’s plans and coordinates. The textual data is Cybertronian, so they can’t decode it, but the images are easy to figure out. The Joes head out to the SPS Center to stop Cobra, and while they fail, they do meet up with Bumblebee and Wheeljack. The Autobots prove themselves to the Joes, but not to the “shadowy” part of the brass, who just see them as tech to be studied. (Shades of Sector Seven from the live action movie years later.) They order the Autobots shut down and brought to Area 51, while they plan to just nuke the island and call it a day.
However, if that nuke hits, the Energon that powers the Transformers will explode and wipe out a huge chunk of the planet. Wheeljack has also sent a signal that awakens the other Transformers, Autobot and Decepticon alike. Trying to decide whether to fight each other or Cobra, the island is a battlefield. The Joes (against orders) and their Autobot pals arrive, and the clock starts ticking as the nukes take flight. Optimus and Megatron has their big battle (seen in a recent Friday Night Fight here), and Cobra’s satellite control is used to destroy the nukes.
Unfortunately, the control is destroyed by the SNAKES team, and the satellite goes out of control, regining destruction on Cobra Island towards all four groups. With some Energon, and Megatron’s “borrowed” arm cannon, Optimus is able to destroy the satellite. Cobra is sent into hiding (including Cobra Commander, who escapes in Starscream–one wonders if the fact both characters were voiced by the same actor, Chris Latta, in their respective cartoons in the 80’s), the Decepticons are defeated or thought destroyed by the satellite, and the Autobots prepare to return home, leaving a few battlesuits behind to say thank you. What nobody knows is that a group of scientists have gotten their hands on the Decepticons thought destroyed, including Megatron, and are planning to get them back on line.
This series succeeds where Dreamwave’s WW2 story fails. The art is very clean, and resembles the cartoon at it’s best. There’s no relationship out of nowhere to make fanboys happy. The concept is set in modern days, rather than the past (which was the only thing in Dreamwave’s story that worked), and takes an interesting turn. Here, both Autobot and Decepticon are turned into weapons of destruction by the bad guys. While this sounds different, and I’m sure was to any Joe-only fans who gave the series a chance, Dreamwave had already done something similar with their first Transformers story, which featured the Transformers being found after the destruction of the Ark 2, swept up in political intrigue, and being used by a guy named Lazarus. I’ll have to tell you that story someday, but suffice it to say it works better here.
This is primarily an event-driven story, where the Dreamwave version may have been more character-based. That’s a little difficult with four factions and a slew of characters in each faction to pull off, and John Ney Reiber failed at that as well. On the other hand, Josh Blaylock’s decision to go story-side succeeds. You get more intesting scenes (like the Joes training or the intro of Bumblebee and Wheeljack), dialog that didn’t creep me out or make me feel dirty (I’m looking at you, Scarlett!), and still manages to give you a handle on the characters. Snake Eyes loses face, again, but this time he referred to early on as a “chatterbox” who had to keep quiet as part of a bet. (I wonder if that’s considered cheating?) That puts a bit more tragedy into his origin, as it means his life is more altered than the already silent Snake Eyes of the Dreamwave story. However, he’s still something of a ninja in this story, but there’s no Storm Shadow face—let me rephrase–honor duel in this version. Perhaps disappointing for Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow fans, but there’s no place in the narritive for it, and at least Blaylock knows that, even if Reiber didn’t.
However, we do get Snake Eyes stuffing a grenade in Starscream’s eye and chopping Laserbeak’s head off. That’s got to be a compromise there, right?
As I said, the art is much better here. You can actually make out your favorites, even those Transformers that are now famous Cobra vehicles, like the HISS tanks and STUN cycles. However, the mechanical designs on the Transformers have their drawbacks. Miller, Durruthy, and Hamscher went with the cartoon school of Transformer design, where the robots have a few vehicle bits on them in robot mode and mostly obtain the vehicle modes they do because the artists say so. This was done in the main Dreamwave series as well, but when you look at The War Within, or IDW’s redesigns, you see an effort to make them look like they can transform into the forms they do (most of the time, anyway), and adds a realistic quality (the good kind) to the designs. They should have borrowed Don Figueroa (who would later do work for other Devil’s Due comics) for the mechanical designs. Instead, we have the artists trying to somehow make the Transformers look like some weird combo of their “normal” robot modes with Cobra “kibble” replacing the usual cars, and planes. Only Megatron, Bumblebee, and Wheeljack get their usual G1 forms, not counting Soundwave and his crew. However, while the other “Cassettecons” keep their alt form, what the heck is Soundwave supposed to be anyway?
All said and done, however, Devil’s Due doesn’t just have the superior crossover, but a darn good story that fans of both series can find some enjoyment in. While Transformers/G.I. Joe can’t even be recommended to any but the most diehard fans of either series (or sheep like me who want every comic of their favorite series), G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers can be recommended to almost anyone. You don’t need to be a fan to follow much of what happens, there are no “fanboy” subplots”, the art is good (except for some of the covers that are just plain bad, but that’s what variants are for, I guess), and the action is properly paced.
Best Scene of the Story
This series is still available at Devil’s Due’s online store, and possibly other outlets, in graphic novel form, and I recommend getting it. There’s also an omnibus of all the comics in this universe. Since Devil’s Due never closed down, they were able to put together three more stories set in the JoeVsTFverse. Next time we’ll get into Volume 2, as our heroes come together again for a romp through time and space.