Giant robots have been hanging around the Marvel Universe for a long time. From the Shogun Warriors tie-in to Red Ronin in the Marvel version of Godzilla (which in a rarity for licensed properties is STILL considered canon) to the two versions of Transformers, not to mention Marvel’s own Dreadnoughts and Sentinels, big bots are a regular occurrence. So it’s no surprise that the guy who’s dealt with Ultimo on multiple occasions would want to build his own giant robots to fight these potential threats.
Plus in the toy realm giant transforming robots were making a comeback in the early 2000s plus the rise in anime, which often includes “mecha”, giant robotic vehicles, so it’s not surprising that Toy Biz, at the time owned by Marvel, would get into the game. 2005’s Mega Morphs featured giant toys allegedly powered by the Marvel superheroes’ own superpowers, plus had the ability to transform into vehicles. There were a couple of problems. The toys were super huge, and thus rather pricey since they came in one size and price point, and the other….
They were kind of ugly-looking. Captain America’s Mega Morph is a helicopter with feet! I’m not sure what kind of tank Hulk’s is supposed to be but it’s kind of lame. Wolverine’s is just the robot lying down to call itself a jet fighter. Spider-Man’s is kind of cool and having Ghost Rider’s turn into a motorcycle seems rather obvious. The Thing had one too, but apparently not a minicomic and the only villain of the line (since you never know what side Venom is one from one week to the next) was Doctor Octopus.
The toyline was promoted with a four issue miniseries on store shelves, which I’ll get to eventually in the Tuesday Marvel reviews (we’re still in the late 1990s as of posting time) but before that was a six-issue mini-comic miniseries release with Captain America, Doctor Octopus, Hulk, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, and Wolverine’s toys. I never got the toys. I prefer my transforming robot toys at average Transformer size although I didn’t get many of the Marvel Transformers Crossovers line that came out a few years later from Hasbro. Lucky for me Marvel collected all six mini-comics and all four regular comics in a digest…but I’ve had conflicting reports on the order for the mini-comics. Plus it seems to be an ongoing storyline like the Drakes comics, meaning you’d otherwise have to buy all the toys to get the full story. So I’ll just review the whole story tonight.
Mega Morphs #1-6 minicomics
as collected in the Mega Morphs digest
PUBLISHED BY: Marvel Comics/Toy Biz (2005)
WRITER: Sean McKeever
PENCILERS: Lou Kang with Logan Lubera
INKERS: Pat Davidson, Wayne Faucher, & Craig Yeung
COLORING: Hi-Fi & Sotocolor
LETTERER: Dave Sharpe
CONSULTING EDITOR: Ralph Macchio
EDITOR: John Barber
I should note that some of these credits might be for the full-sized miniseries. Many of them worked on both versions, but the mini-comics appear to lead into the miniseries.
Each issue of the mini-comics starts basically the same way, with Tony Stark breaking the fourth wall to tell the reader that he designed the Mega Morphs to protect the Earth. And given the variety of giant robots and monsters in the Marvel Universe that’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. However, Doctor Octopus at some point stole the technology and built his own. Tony really can’t hold on to his tech very well, can he? Now Doc Ock is building some secret superweapon so Tony has called in Earth’s heroes to stop him and find out what the weapon is. He keeps asking us if we can keep a secret but I think the secret’s out.
The digest starts with Captain America and his standing helicopter. Tony sends him out after Ock, who is strapping rockets onto the Statue Of Liberty. Cap uses his vehicle’s shield (which he can thrown like his normal shield, bouncing it off of the statue) to surprise Ock but he manages to launch the statue. As Cap chases the statue Ock gets away and so does the statue. Good way to sell your toy…have it lose against the villain! There’s only about seven pages per minicomic (one of which is dedicated to the backstory of the “next generation of super-hero battle gear” as Tony keeps calling it) according to this digest and I don’t think the story was going to convince kids to buy a giant expensive robot line to get all of them. And considering the toyline was short-lived the toys themselves weren’t very convincing either.
Next up is Spider-Man. Tony somehow finds out that Octopus is going to steal a Hydra computer so Spider-Man tries to stop him. Too bad Hydra keeps distracting him by shooting Spidey’s Mega Morph and not Doc’s like they want to steal or. Or they’re just that stupid. Maybe they should have sent Cap to get it. I know they’d let him take it, right Cap?
This is pretty much the pattern these minicomics go. Tony introduces the concept, while a caption introduces the hero. The hero shows up, Doc’s Mega Morph proves too powerful, something distracts the hero, and/or he outsmarts the hero and escapes with his prizes. Ghost Rider fails to stop him from taking some kind of energy container because Ock is somehow the better fighter. The Hulk is attacked by the army when he tries to stop him from taking a cannon, then Ock uses a tranquilizing gas on the Hulk, turning him back to Bruce. (Since the Mega Morphs are powered by their powers turning to Banner means losing Hulk’s powers and thus their power supply. Seems like a bigger design flaw than you thought, Tony. That and how the gas entered an enclosed cockpit.) Wolverine manages to stop Ock from stealing a satellite, except the actual plan was to reprogram it. Wolverine says he can smash the thing but Tony says there isn’t time…despite Logan being rather close to where it is. Tony really isn’t very good at this in this story.
The final comic is Doc Ock’s so I’m guessing this is when he’s going to lose, since having the toy your selling in the mini-comic being on the losing end of the battle is just how these things roll. Despite having almost everyone there he waits until they’re all en route to Doctor Octopus’s headquarters before telling them what he’s created is a superhero power absorber. Which now makes me realize…how did Tony know where these thefts are going to happen and if he knew what Ock was going to steal at each point…how come he didn’t know until now what was being assembled? Seriously, Tony sucks at this! Also he didn’t make a Mega Morph for himself. I guess he waited until he could build a Transformer. And yet the Transformers Crossovers aren’t canon despite the New Avengers actually meeting the Transformers and Spider-Man once meeting the Autobots. Comics are confusing. This is also the only comic where the opening is different. (Each issue had a unique intro but followed the theme I mentioned) Here Tony is talking to the heroes, who already know about the Mega Morphs and Wolvie calls him out on it. Do I need to say it again?
So here’s is Otto’s plan: using the Statue Of Liberty as an antenna and the reprogrammed satellites, Otto will use the string cannon to defend the power sucker-uper as Spidey calls it until it drains all the heroes’ powers around the world, leaving Otto and his pal to take over the world. The heroes try to stop him but pretty much fall all over himself until Otto hits the on switch on his super power drainer. Without superpowers the machine doesn’t work, but Tony tells them to switch on the regular power source…no, that would have been a smart idea and we know by now Tony is stuck on stupid today. Instead he tells them that they can use their own willpower to make the robots at least move. Bruce manages to make his Hulk bot scratch his head or something, then Captain America throws his mighty big shield and makes something explode at the base of the statue (I’m guessing the energy container), and Wolverine smashes Otto’s cockpit and pulls him out. But Doctor Octopus had a partner in this endeavor…and it’s Doctor Doom, who will menace our heroes in the miniseries.
Well…these sucked. And don’t tell me it can’t be done right. The two Drakes miniseries were pretty good. I don’t know if McKeever lacks Eric Fein’s ability to make good minicomics, if he was hampered by the limited space, or what happened. It’s not that Ock wins, because he was going for a miniseries throughout all six toys and he needed the dramatic cliffhanger, it’s that the heroes look pathetic when it happens, except for Wolverine and Spider-Man, and even Spidey looked pathetic when he and Ghost Rider somehow get in each other’s way during the final battle. He does a fair job showcasing the talents of the toys/Mega Morphs (I wonder how the toys represented Wolverine’s healing factor…or how the “actual” vehicle managed to replicate that…the claws I can understand) but the pilots look like fools except for the villain. Even explaining that he had more practice time or something I could have bought. I recall the full-sized miniseries came out better, but we’ll have to see when we get there. Overall, this is not one worth getting. If you go for the digest so you can get all the comics together (I don’t think the miniseries came out as a trade otherwise) fine, but unless the miniseries was bad, too, you’re better off getting the full-sized comics so you can see the art and read the dialog better.
Next time we return to Eternia and the pre-comic days of the mini illustrated booklet (what Wertham calls a comic) as He-Man and Skeletor’s take their fight to the cloud. And since I have to go to a website to get it that has more than one meaning this time.