For those of you who missed yesterday’s article, here’s the catch-up. Also, here’s the link to yesterday’s article. Transformers: Linkage is a set of minicomics packed with the Legend Of The Microns (or as we know it, Transformers Armada) DVD sets in Japan, at least during the first run of DVDs, which also came with exclusive Mini-Con/Micron recolors. Linkage tells their story in a thirteen chapter set of three to four page minicomics written and drawn by Transformer fan turned creator Hirofumi Ichikawa, translated for English speaking fans by regular comic editor and translator Doug Dlin and re-lettered by another fan turned creator, Greg “M Sipher” Sepelak.
In the first six issues we met the Super Stunt Team, a group who only want to live in peace and avoid the war. Opposing any free will by a Mini-Con are the Speed Chaser Team, who want all Mini-Cons back to being smart tools to continue the Autobot/Decepticon war, and the Sonic Assault Team, who have chosen a side but need to get their full team back together. We learned that Mini-Cons have a “servility” program that means whomever they first powerlink with among the “bulks” (a term for the larger Transformers actually introduced in the Dreamwave comics because the Mini-Cons didn’t speak English–or even Japanese–in the show) and that they can mentally link with humans and alter more than the larger Transformers, expanding on concepts seen in the anime the DVDs were showing. When we last saw our heroes the Super Stunt and Sonic Assault teams managed to chase off the Speed Chasers, but the Mini-Con storage panel Falcia took from Redline was broken. Can they still save their friend? Last time we looked at the first six issues and in this installment we finish off with the final seven. Again, each paragraph represents an issue of the minicomics. Thanks to the Internet Archive you can still read along as we begin with issue #7.
We begin with the Mini-Cons looking over the remains of the panel which belonged to Twirl, the final member of the Sonic Assault Team. To save her Redline and Falcia travel into the titular Linkage, a connected group subconscious shared by the Mini-Cons. I believe this does play a role in the final battle of the anime. Falcia says Redline doesn’t have to come along but he’s still the ship’s maintenance bot so he’s going with. They enter and pull Twirl back to physical space with a new body and we get the scariest thing of all…she’s a valley girl! I didn’t even know Japanese knew what a valley girl is but Sepelak and Dlin worked off of Ichikawa’s notes so…Primus help us all. Stella wonders if this means Twirl is now Redline and Falcia’s baby, which the emphatically insist they aren’t. I wonder if this becomes a running gag…in a four page minicomic?
We get another time jump in the story, and since I don’t know how often these DVDs came out I may be giving these more of a pass than I should. Servo, Falcia, and Twirl meet with the Mini-Cons on the Autobots’ side. At this point I think they’re preparing to return to Cybertron for the big battle with Unicron, which makes me wonder if Ichikawa is connecting the minicomics to the episodes on the DVD? I don’t know what episodes were on each DVD. Rollbar and High-Wire try to convince them to return with them but Redline and Falcia saw Unicron in the Linkage and Redline thinks there may be a way to sever their connection to him so they’re going to stay on Earth a bit longer. Also, Twirl is apparently going along with the “baby” theory. Meanwhile, the Speed Chasers are meeting with Sideways and his Headmaster-style Mini-Cons, and I’m honestly not used to seeing his regular head in media. They’re contacted by the Aqua Raider Team, who has found our heroes’ ship and are ordered to attack, take one alive, and eliminate the rest.
Redline gives his remaining panels to Stella for safe keeping, then he and Combusta activate a “conversion driver” so the Aqua Raider Team–Sunburn, Bilge, and Freeboot (I had to look that third one up and it does work)–just find an empty ship, equipment and all. It seems Redline realized that the Unicron-controlled Mini-Cons, who lost their boosting abilities as Unicron’s slaves, gave him an idea about the “master key” to waking their true potential and severing the connection to Unicron. So the Aquas awaken a “bulk” apparently under their control, Ravenus. At least I think he’s a regular Transformer, given that he appears to be a repaint of Transmetal Terrorsaur from the Beast Wars line.
Ravenus, a victim of overpowerlinking, has the ability to command a Mini-Con irresistibly to powerlink with him, which he demonstrates by commanding Servo and Twirl to powerlink. Stella finds a car which Flat-Out and Falcia use to turn into a battlesuit for the human. They manage to free Servo but Ravenus still has Twirl, and a crystal that can destroy the Linkage. Unicron’s done with the Mini-Cons so now he wants to bring them back to him, making his creations one with him again. Meanwhile Redline is preparing to do the opposite.
Redline succeeds in upgrading the Mini-Cons with the ability to use the power they channel into the larger Transformers to attack the Unicronian Mini-Cons. He and Falcia manage to rescue Twirl with the help of a newly-arriving Mini-Con named Kingbot while the others capture and interrogate the Aqua Raider Team. They learn that the “doomstone” is formed from the energies of other races Unicron has destroyed and smashing it will smash the planet. Twirl tries to stop her not-parents from attacking Ravenus because he’s actually an Autobot. Meanwhile, Stella awakens the other Mini-Cons to join in the fight now that the upgrade is out there.
With their new powers the Mini-Cons undo Ravenus’s Mini-Con addiction and restore him to what he was before, now sporting colors closer to the Dinobot Swoop from the original series. The Aqua Raider Team manage to teleport away while Redline takes the doomstone into a pocket dimension within himself, even if it means he must disconnect to the Linkage. His friends aren’t down with that plan, since now all of them have a stronger connection to the Linkage. Now they plan to join the Autobots in returning to Cybertron to stop Unicron. Stella will miss her friends and wants to do more to help but Redline tells her that she’s done enough. He also says that Mini-Cons souls were split from humans in the past which…what? When did this happen? Mini-Cons existed before humans and their “souls” was why they escaped Cybertron and ended the first Autobot/Decepticon war in this continuity, or at least took themselves out of it. At least that’s why I thought. I know the franchise has tried to make the Cybertron connection to Earth more than a coincidence as the multiverse has grown but this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
In our final story Stella turns to drawing to focus her mind on her friends as they face off with Unicron in the final battle of the series. As our heroes face off with the Unicronian Mini-Cons Stella waits for a sign that her mechanical friends are okay. One year later she suddenly gets platinum blonde streaks in her hair, a callback to an earlier comment when the upgraded Mini-Cons started glowing. That’s one of her dreams come true and she’s sure one day her other dream, that the Mini-Cons will live in peace, will also come true. Outside of a few showing up in Energon and Cybertron she’s pretty much right, even though the Autobot/Decepticon war will turn to other power enhancements, namely the aforementioned Energon and the Cyber Planet Keys respectively.
These were a series of mini-comics added to a DVD and I’m guessing reflected the story in the DVD. Based on that the stories work okay, but reading them like this it almost feels like an early draft. If they were going to release this story collected it doesn’t quite read the same way and would require some serious rewriting to make a better flow for the story, but that wasn’t on the creator’s mind when he made the comics. These were just promo comics for the DVDs, but he did come up with some great ideas and amazing artwork. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing him redo it for a proper story taking place during the events of the anime. Sadly we still only see the Mini-Cons as power batteries who alter machines, which expands on the toy gimmick and anime but we don’t get to see the Mini-Cons act as extra weapons and tools on their own when powerlinked so once again a cool play feature is ignored by the official media.
On our next visit to Cybertron we will return to Dreamwave and begin the second Transformers toyline, but in our next Free Comic Inside I’ll see if time has opened a way to find more from the Aliens: Space Marines toyline. If not then we’ll finish the adventures of the Atari Force. Place your bets before next month!