Ever since I added the first G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers review on this site, I’ve seen the third series in my list of search engine refers. According to one poster at alt.toys.transformers, this is because of the first JoeVTFU appearance of both Serpentor and the Matrix. So how did they fare in the translation? Tonight we take a look at the third of four Devil’s Due series where as I said last time, America’s smartest scientists disprove their title.
G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers: The Art of War #1-5
PUBLISHER: Devil’s Due (March-July 2006)
WRITER: Tim Seeley
PENCILER: Joe Ng (+ Alex Milne & James Raiz on issue #5)
INKERS: Rob Ross with M3th
COLORISTS: Kevin Yan & Rob Ruffolo, with Tom Liu
LETTERER: Brian Crowley
EDITOR: Mike O’Sullivan
Additional art by Udon Studios
Synopsis:After the events of the last series, both the Autobots and the Joes decide to decommission all Cybertronian-based technology on Earth, since we’ve proven we don’t know what the slag we’re doing with it. We’re about to prove it again, because in an area even the Joes don’t know about, scientists have been working to combine Cybertronian technology and organic components to create the Serpent O.R. (Organic Robot), the ultimate super soldier, using Megatron and the combined military history of planet Earth. How could that possibly go wrong?
Two words: Cobra Commander.
Yes, it seems Cobra has learned of the project and, not knowing about the decommission, attack the Cybertronian tech labs. However, the attack activates the Serpent O.R., who sees Megatron as his “father”, and after downloading data from Soundwave, decides he needs to take the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, currently in the ownership of Optimus Prime, the current leader of the Autobots. He escapes through the space bridge to Cybertron and brings together the scattered Decepticons, leaderless with both Megatron and Shockwave permanently off-line.
A team of Joes join the Decommission team from Cybertron in tracking “Serpentor” to Cybertron, only to be led into an ambush. Bumblebee is killed by Serpentor, and the other Autobots and Joes are taken hostage. During the peace celebration on Cybertron, the Autobots are attacked, but Serpentor agrees to end the assault and free the hostages if Optimus gives him the Matrix. He agrees to the terms, and the assault stops.
At the Decepticon base, Serpentor has a “heart-to-heart” talk with Hawk, curious about how his killing of Bumblebee caused such an emotional response in the others. He believes that the Matrix will give him a “spark”, the Transformer equivalent of a soul. However, when Prime arrives, the hostages escape and fight back, just as Prime’s team of Autobots and Joes attack from the outside. Serpentor is still able to rip the Matrix from Prime’s chest and absorb its powers. The Matrix does indeed give Serpentor life, but it also gives him a conscience, and he begins to regret what he’s done. It is at this time that Cobra Commander is able to take him over via remote control. (During the base invasion, Zartan was able to input a virus that allowed Cobra Commander to control him via a special interface chair all the way on Earth.) Knowing that Cobra Commander controlling a Matrix-powered Serpentor won’t end well, Hawk attempts to access the power of the Matrix himself. The resulting explosion of energy fries both Serpentor and Cobra Commander’s mind. It also affects Hawk, giving him the accumulated wisdom of previous Primes.
Analysis:First, let’s talk variant covers. Actually, let’s STOP variant covers. Cover “A” had one of those “put the covers together” routines going on, and I like those for an arc or mini-series. Cover “B”, however, was just your usual cover. Do one or the other, people! Because the folks at my chosen comic store (who are usually really awesome to me as far as getting stuff, when Diamond doesn‘t screw things up) can’t be expected to pay attention to all these covers, or remember which version every person wants unless told, issues 3 and 4 sold out of the A covers before I could switch my copy. The picture up there was made using the teasers hosted at Transformer site Seibertron.com, so the “hiccup“ in the third issue’s cover I can blame them for. Still not as stupid as what Boom! Studios did with The Incredibles: Family Matters #1, but still bad. The inside stuff, however, was good. What I like most is the fact that the Transformers are actually part of the story rather than the plot device, as in the first two series. The Joes and Autobots work together against Cobra and the Decepticons (fated to never get along) as allies, something that seldom happens. Also, the Joes weapons (the iconic Joe vehicles make their debut in this series) are effective against the Decepticons, even without their mechsuits. That’s something we haven’t seen before from the US Military, and wouldn’t see again until the live-action movies.
Optimus Prime doesn’t take center stage, but is still important to the story. During Dreamwave’s various series, they wanted to take Optimus out for a while and spotlight the other Autobots, so they came up with gimmicks to keep him out of the action. All they had to do was not have him involved in every battle. Seeley also opts to use the Dreamwave version of Optimus Prime’s origin, where he used to be just an archivist. Personally, I prefer the cartoon version, based on a few biases and theories I maintain about the Transformer way of life pre-war, but it doesn’t bother me all that much.
What does bother me, however, is Seeley’s decision to kill off Bumblebee, since it made my inner child cry. ‘Da Bee was a childhood hero of mine, for reasons I plan to do an article for, but long story short he and I were a lot of like, and watching him grow as a “person” was a good thing for me. Otherwise, it worked for the story, although I do question why Arcee was connected to him, outside of her finally realizing who the awesomest Autobot really is. Usually, she’s paired with either Hot Rod (who is in the story) or Springer (who wasn’t that I recall). I approve of her choice in this series, even if it means just having her morn. I was hoping a later series would have Bumblebee resurrected as Goldbug, like in the original stories, but no such luck.
That brings me to his murderer, Serpentor. This version is far different from the “this I command” version of the TV show. He’s a lot less hot headed and more of the master planner toon Mindbender was aiming for. In this version he doesn’t take over Cobra, but the Decepticons, looking to be a real boy (especially after Hawk calls him out about being “just a weapon”). He also shows respect to his opponents, including Hawk and Optimus Prime, and salutes warriors that feel has earned his respect. In fact, the reason he killed Bumblebee was because he knew the Autobot would just keep coming back and being a thorn in his side. After gaining a spark, he regrets all that he’s done, and begins ordering the Decepticons to stand down. One wonders what would have happened had Cobra Commander not seized control of Serpentor. (I also wanted to see a Cobra Commander/Bumblebee rematch, since they were being set up as potential arch enemies. With the former brain fried and the latter dead, that‘s not too likely.)
Like Dreamwave‘s only crossover, “Art of War” breaks out the Scarlet and Snake Eyes romance. Unlike Transformers/G.I. Joe, however, it feels a lot more natural. After all, we’ve seen them in at least two other adventures by now, and there have been others “off-screen”. It is a lot more likely here that the two have worked together and developed affection for each other. Scarlett even tells Snake Eyes why she’s drawn to him, and we learn that ninjas even flirt cool.
(However, I call foul on Snake Eyes using “ninja tricks” to make Decepticons shoot each other. Has to be said. Also missing was the greatest G.I. Joe character ever: where’s Percy?)
One thing I did note is that someone who appears to be Storm Shadow is among the Joes move on Cybertron. That could just be an art error (perhaps meant to be Jinx), but since at one point he actually becomes a Joe member in the past, there could also be another story in the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow story that should have been played out “on screen”. It’s the only thing missing from Joe V TF.
Best Scene of the Story
The second arc in the series is still my favorite, but Tim Seeley may well be my favorite writer for this crossover. Unlike the first two writers, he actually uses both lines as equals rather than simply using the Transformers to push the Joe stories. He also bucks tradition and actually stays on as writer in the final story of the arc. Be with us next scan as Cobra-La and Unicron make their move in…“Black Horizon“!