Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
We are half-way through this book, but given that this is a young reader book that’s not too surprising. I needed something short but good and thus far this book has delivered on that. I think I read this back in the day but either I didn’t come upon any more books in the series (I think I ordered this through Previews but I’m not sure…it’s been a long time) or didn’t want to keep collecting books for kids…which given what I read and watch nowadays seems odd.
In our last installment our three kids met our three robots, but a signal was sent to Cybertron telling them that the Mini-Cons are awake. So what’s been happening on the old Transformer homeworld of this continuity since the prologue?
Chapter 4: Arrival
So…peace didn’t last very long, did it? After the Mini-Cons left an unspecified number of years went by at peace. (The book only says “many years”.) Then Megatron goes power mad again, because he’s a Megatron and that’s what they do, and resumes the war. I wonder if he has an eyepatch now? Yeah, this was one comparison to our last book I wasn’t expecting either, resuming wars. We have Optimus Prime and Megatron both fighting in Cybertron’s largest city, which also goes unnamed…this chapter really isn’t into the specifics, is it?…but the fighting is seriously damaging the city because even without Mini-Cons nobody learned anything. During the fight a red beam hits Optimus and some of his Autobots while a purple one hits the Decepticons. Nice color coding but I’ll get back to this in a moment.
The book describes transforming as if the reader has never heard of it before. Given the target age group that’s actually quite possible. This could be their first introduction to Transformers and what they are. I also understand giving them Cybertronian modes, something the other media never gave us, but they don’t really match up with the forms they’ll later be given. Megatron is said to transform into some kind of giant flame thrower, but how does this later translate to a tank, his Earth mode? Optimus is worse. He ends up with some kind of spaceship mode, with his face somehow transforming into a heat shield that blocks Megatron’s flames. That doesn’t match his transformation pattern at all and this is the first flying Optimus I’ve heard of since Star Convoy in the last days of Japan’s G1 toys. We wouldn’t see that again until Cybertron (the toy line) and Optimus’s MASK style flight mode in fire engine form. At least give Optimus some kind of Cybertronian truck mode like other not-Earth vehicle modes. Even the G1 Marvel Optimus with a rotating cannon felt like something that could give way to the toy’s vehicle mode.
Not aware that the war is back on, the Mini-Cons are pretty relaxed about both sides being summoned to Earth. They explain (as best they can when only one pair can understand each other and their own team only) that the two beams were in case they were found by locals of wherever they landed, worried that those locals would also fight over them. Apparently there’s no warning involved so that the groups can come of their own power like in the other versions. Since the war was supposed to be over and nobody wanted to risk the Mini-Con overload that nearly destroyed the planet before, it makes sense to summon both sides so no one side was tempted to snag the Mini-Cons either but teleporting the leaders and the closest available subordinates (I’m betting it will only be the characters from the first few waves–Optimus, Hot Shot, and Red Alert for the Autobots and Megatron, Starscream, Demolishor, and Cyclonus for the Decepticons) without warning doesn’t seem like the best option either. Better off that they use the usual space bridge option to answer the alert, plus that’s only powerful teleporter in the Mini-Cons’ ship to drag them all here across the galaxy.
Not a bad chapter. It sets up what’s going on and this book is the introduction to the series. Again, comparing this to Tom Clancy’s Op-Center, which was also an introduction to a book series (and I promise this comparison wasn’t intended when I chose this book), we have an introduction to everyone and the situation, but it works with the story rather than acting alongside it as a second story interfering with the important story. (In that case the bombing and plot to restart the Korean War was constantly interrupted with setting up information for the Op-Center series, pulling us out of the main adventure too often.) The book for kids is doing a better job introducing a book series than the one for adults. So don’t tell me that kids books, TV, comics, or movies are somehow inferior to adult stories because they’re made for adults. Sometimes the people writing kids stories do it better. Let’s see if that trend continues next week, because the fight is still going on, just in a new location.
Next time: Confrontation