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Longbox Junk Transformers / G.I. Joe

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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

April 2019

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It's not often I find something truly unique in comics.  Don't let your preconceptions of these two properties or memories of the cartoons they are based on fool you.  Dreamwave did something truly out of the box with this series by placing these well-known (and frankly overused) characters in an "Elseworlds" alternate history World War II, and painting the usually bright characters in grim and dark hues for a gritty, violent tale that is like nothing else from these properties that I know of. . .

TRANSFORMERS / G.I. JOE (Dreamwave)

ISSUE 1

It's not often that you can find something unique in comics. Just about everything that CAN be done HAS been done at some point. 

Dreamwave's Transformers/G.I. Joe is unique.

When I think of Transformers, I think of bright colors, sharp lines, and an overall picture of entry-level giant robot anime for young teens. Likewise, when I think of G.I. Joe, I think of brightly-colored heroes who shoot and get shot at, but nobody ever gets hurt. Once again, entry-level military action for young teens.

I expected as much from this mini, but had those expectations completely blown out of the water. Instead of brightly-colored sci-fi shootouts, what I got was a dark, gritty, violent tale set in an alternate timeline World War II. Completely unexpected. 

This first issue sets up the conflict very well, with WWII raging, Cobra discovers and activates ancient war machines (Decepticons) that lay waste to Europe. America, seeing the writing on the wall, forms a special unit (G.I. Joe) to attack Cobra headquarters in an effort to find out if these devastating game changers can be stopped.

All in all, it's a pretty simple story with a simple setup. What sets this apart is the alternate timeline setting and the extremely dark and gritty artwork. The writer and artist nail the atmosphere of desperation perfectly. This is not the Gung-Ho nobody dies feel of your average G.I. Joe story. This is not the bright, shiny average Transformers story. This is a tale of suicide missions and hopelessness in the face of a superior enemy.

Jae Lee is a unique artist in that nobody else draws like him at all. He's one that you can tell just by looking who the artist is. Like a Truman, a Sale, a Kubert, a Mignola, and so on. His take on the Transformers is dark and dirty. The Joes are rumpled and ready for action. His art, above all else, makes this crossover stand out from the hundreds of other Transformer and G.I. Joe stories. 

All in all, a fantastic first issue with a unique take on some very overused characters. If I have one complaint, it's that Lee's art is sometimes TOO dark and a bit hard to follow. But other than that, this was one of the most surprising things (in a good way) I've read in a long time.

ISSUE 2

Another great, dark, gritty issue. The story this time splits 3 ways between one team of Joes discovering and activating the Autobots (who reveal that they have been on earth for about 3 million years), a power struggle between Starscream, Megatron, and Cobra Commander, and a running battle between Snake Eyes and Stormshadow. All very well done, except the Snake Eyes/Stormshadow battle seemed to run a bit longer than it should. But that's just a small complaint for an otherwise fantastic issue.

ISSUE 3

This series just keeps getting better as the story continues to follow 3 threads. . .the Joes and Autobots desperately trying to establish a beach head for a naval invasion of Cobra headquarters, the power struggle between Cobra Commander and Megatron, and the continuing duel between Stormshadow and Snake Eyes. Once again, I felt that a bit too much attention was paid to the Stormshadow/Snake Eyes conflict, but other than that. Very well done.

One thing that stood out to me on this issue as the action heats up is that the book is rendered in very grim tones of black, brown, green, and grey, with only an occasional splash of color. This REALLY makes explosions, when they happen, stand out front and center with a burst of orange and red. A superb and subtle effect.

ISSUE 4

The already huge cast of characters expands and the story splits into another couple of threads, making this issue seem a bit crowded and cluttered. I get that they wanted to try and throw EVERY popular G.I. Joe and Transformer character into the mix in their alternate WWII form, but it's starting to get a bit cumbersome. Not that it's bad. . .the writing is still great and the artwork is still grim, gritty and dark (if anything, maybe a little TOO dark at times).

Cobra takes one of the Joe team commanders (Flint) captive, and the operation turns into a rescue mission. It's also revealed that Destro and Starscream are working together against Megatron and Cobra Commander, building a giant Transformer/Earth Tech robot called Bruticus. Also, the battle between Stormshadow and Snake Eyes is STILL going on!

There were a few weak moments. . .how can Destro and Starscream keep a GIGANTIC robot that absolutely dwarfs the already huge decepticons hidden? And then there's the giant great white shark that becomes part of Snake Eyes and Stormshadow's overly-drawn out battle. Overall, despite the weak points, this was still a great read.

ISSUE 5

As things build up to the final issue, it gets more crowded. Just LOOK at the character list! Fortunately, the writer keeps his hand firmly on the wheel and things stay on track as the Joes move in to rescue Flint before the invasion force arrives to pound Cobra's base to dust with naval bombardment, Cobra Commander (who establishes his superiority over Megatron with the Matrix) fills the beaches with slaves as human shields to put off a mass landing of troops, and the battle between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow FINALLY comes to an end. All in all, it's still a pretty simple story. . .it's just getting overcrowded with characters.

A standout moment in this issue is when Shockwave fires the first shot in the impending final battle, nailing Superion with a MASSIVE explosion. Superbly illustrated by Lee!

ISSUE 6

Holy crap. Look at that character list! But the difference between this story and most G.I. Joe or Transformer stories is that about half of those characters die during this final battle.

There's a lot of balls in the air in this final issue, but the writer juggles them well and brings this unique series to a very nice close. I won't spoil the ending, but once again, Optimus Prime realizes that sometimes to protect the weak, the strong must make sacrifices. My only problem with an otherwise fantastic, action-packed and emotional issue is that the ending is very abrupt.

All in all, I really enjoyed this whole series. It was a unique look at characters i didn't think had any mileage left in them, and a completely unexpected dark and gritty presentation of what is normally bright and pretty juvenile. Well done from first page to last.

CONCLUSION

And there you have it, Dreamwave's 6 issue Transformers / G.I. Joe crossover mini-series.

Overall, I found this to be a unique and unexpected take on these two well-known properties, with good writing and fantastic art throughout.  There were a few clunky moments in the story, it got a bit crowded with characters toward the end, and sometimes the art was TOO dark, but I have yet to find a perfect comic book, so those small flaws in no way take away from highly suggesting this series to anyone who enjoys military comics, whether or not they are fans of Transformers or G.I. Joe.  This is just a great series and truly a hidden gem among Longbox Junk.

Up next. . .

It's a mini-series that's really 4 one-shots.  Mass Effect: Homeworlds.

Be there or be square!

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