The Good: Decent-enough artwork, Generally good story
The Bad: Stiflingly average story, Essentially spells out what the Transformers films said, Light on character
The Basics: Disappointingly monolithic on the character front, though quite good with the art, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Defiance is a very average comic book anthology.
As part of participating in Summer Blockbuster Season, I find myself both attending more movies than before and doing a lot more reading. That latter fact might surprise some, but the truth is, a huge part of the media campaign for most of the big summer movies has involved tie ins with books. For sure, the vast majority of them are graphic novels - or more accurately trade paperback anthologies of previously released comic books - but they are making the effort on some level. One film actually had two prequel anthologies and that was Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (reviewed here!), surprisingly enough. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Defiance is the first of two studio-authorized prequels which were released to support the second cinematic Transformers effort.
The unfortunate aspect of Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Defiance is that it is utterly unnecessary. In Transformers (reviewed here!), Optimus Prime tells the story of how Megatron and Optimus Prime had a falling out over the Allspark and in Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, the story of The Fallen is told. This four-chapter graphic novel, then, becomes a redundancy that only the most loyal fans of the cinematic Transformers is going to feel the need to buy, much less read. Unfortunately, the book is stiflingly average and while the artwork is good, the sense of redundancy makes it seem like a cashgrab as opposed to an actual exciting prequel which might lead into the new film.
Starting on Cybertron, the citizens of Cybertron (the Transformers) are experiencing power supply problems and the Allspark is acting up. In their search for supplies, the Transformers have gone forth into the world searching for alternatives. At an archaeological dig of a Simfur Temple, the Allspark is affected and Megatron becomes determined to dig up the artifacts there, believing they are the key to the survival of Cybertron. Optimus Prime, however, urges caution and wants to preserve the integrity of the site. Against Prime's wishes, Megatron digs up an artifact on Trypticon and it soon reveals itself as The Fallen.
While Optimus Prime works to head off an attack by biological lifeforms, Megatron organizes the Decepticons under the guidance of the Fallen. As the Decepticons ruthlessly put down the outside attackers, Optimus Prime organizes the Autobots. But with most of the military and the guidance of the Fallen on his side, Megatron looks like he might just overthrow Optimus Prime!
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Defiance is basically the illustration of all of the backstory that viewers were simply told in Transformers and its sequel. The problematic aspects of it involve the utter predictability of the story and the lack of real character development or surprises. So, for example, when Megatron is killed, this is of utterly no consequence to readers because we know he'll be reanimated somehow (in this case, it is the Fallen who does it) because he is an integral part to both films. Similarly, anyone with any memory for the movies will know exactly who will defect from Megatron's side given that he appears as an Autobot in the films.
This is not to say that prequels are impossible to do or that there is no merit to Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Defiance. The book does illustrate well how Megatron came across the artifact-imprisoned Fallen and how Megatron began his revolt. Unfortunately, details near the end of the book are mostly filler and known filler at that. Optimus Prime making a fragment of the Allspark is something anyone who saw the films already knows and it falls a bit flat in this medium.
Furthermore, it is not like the Transformers are great character studies. Unfortunately, writer Chris Mowry does little to enhance the potential of Megatron or the Transformers in this book. Villains can be compelling characters, but Megatron is no Iago. Instead, in the earliest portions of the book where Megatron and Optimus Prime are working on the same side, Megatron is often contrarian to Optimus, so it is no surprise that he would lead a revolt. Indeed, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Defiance makes Megatron seem like an inevitable "bad egg," like he was bad to begin with, so the character does not so much develop as he finally reaches his potential to do bad works. Moreover, he lacks real motivation: he and Optimus Prime have a pretty simple difference of opinion and he raises a mutiny. It is not like he has a principle or ambition he is fighting for here, he just is a bad guy. This actually undermines his character as a leader character, as he expects others to follow his orders and give him obedience, but he does not have discipline of his own.
In a similar vein, The Fallen is just a generic villain as well, though his character is even more limited, as he is basically a slab with a face that talks to Megatron. The Fallen artifact is able to influence Megatron and reanimate him, but is not a fully present being. As a result, he simply orders Megatron and strangely, Megatron rises on his advice and gives him obedience. Until the film, The Fallen's characterization is somewhat lacking, but what is more important for this story is that Megatron simply becomes his servant and that is underwhelming to readers.
What the book does have going for it is the artwork. Penciled by Dan Khanna, Andrew Griffith, and Don Figueroa, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Defiance looks good on every page. The artwork features recognizable versions of every major character and the sense of movement in the book is pretty consistent. As a result, the flow of the book is good and there is a decent sense of tension and movement, despite the fact that the dialogue is simple and the characters are more archetypes than individuals. As well, the background art actually has good shading and depth, though some of it is quite obviously computer generated.
Still, there is not much to Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Defiance that those who see the movie will not already know or get from the film. The rise of Megatron could have been an interesting story, but here it is condensed and the diction is dumbed down to a movie-watching only audience. Apparently, Mowry and those who run the franchise think that readers and viewers can only deal with heroes and villains who are monolithic and if there was depth and real conflict that tore Megatron and Optimus Prime apart, they might somehow become confused. Sadly, readers expect better and it is easy to pass this trade paperback anthology by.
For other graphic novel tie-ins to major films, please check out my reviews of:
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: Alliance
Star Trek: Nero
G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra Prequel
For other book reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.