Friday, July 8, 2011

Whine All You Want, But If You Can't Get A Cinematic Crossover Right, Why Bother Doing It? Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Rising Storm Flops!

The Good: Writer John Barber seems to respect women more than the movie's writers . . .
The Bad: Artwork is terrible, Story is fragmented and does not lead into film well, Predictable plot in many ways, Lack of likeness for human characters.
The Basics: One of the worst comic book crossovers to a major movie event I've yet encountered, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Rising Storm has vivid coloring, but little else going for it.

With Summer Blockbuster Season upon us, I am reading a whole lot more. No, that's not a typo, I read quite a bit during Summer Blockbuster Season. I get to the movies early, usually armed with new graphic novels that crossover with the big summer movies. Right before Transformers Dark Of The Moon (reviewed here!), I had the opportunity to pick up the prequel graphic novels and I was so disappointed in them that it has taken me this long to get around to reviewing Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Rising Storm. It was, truly, that bad. And for Transformers enthusiasts, I can honestly say that nothing is lost by not reading this volume before one goes to see the latest cinematic endeavor of Transformers.

As one who was fairly unimpressed by Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, largely by how women were treated in it, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Rising Storm offers both a remedy and rubs salt into the wound. Carly, Sam Witwicky's new girlfriend, appears in the pages of this book and she is a gun-toting heroine who is her own woman. This is disappointing, as the movie has Carly along mostly for t&a, so one who goes from the book to the movie and treats them as of equal weight within the franchise will wonder what the hell happened to Carly as she degenerates from woman who can take care of herself to pointless damsel in distress.

Rising Storm opens with an oil processing plant in China being rescued by Longarm and Salvage. Their attempt to save humans is abruptly undone when Shockwave appears with Astrotrain and lays waste to the facility and the Autobots. As Starscream tries to sell Decepticon weaponry to humans, Megatron's Brain Unit malfunctions and goes rogue. Optimus Prime and the Autobots adapt to new arrivals, including three sisters who act in concert and have an old grudge with their leader.

Flashback to Cybertron and the last days of the war. There, Shockwave is a deadly presence. While Megatron works to find and understand the Allspark, Shockwave lays waste to the Autobots. As the story unfolds, it is actually Shockwave who arrives at Earth before Megatron, in the Tunguska impact in 1908. Over the decades, the Russians work to restore Shockwave and the Decepticon becomes a force on Earth that has been hankering for revenge when Megatron locates him.

Rising Storm then concludes the journey of Shockwave as the Decepticon returns to full power and massacres more Autobots, in the process exposing Sam Witwicky.

There are two fundamental problems with Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Rising Storm. The first is that the story is cluttered and the second is the artwork. The cluttered story is annoying because the first chapter of Rising Storm includes an awful number of threads which do not actually connect Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen to Transformers Dark Of The Moon. Plots involving Starscream and the triplets are setups that are not paid off in any meaningful way as Shockwave moves to eradicate the Autobots once and for all. It doesn't take a particularly knowledgeable reader to figure out that if the movie only had less than ten Autobots still living on Earth when they are deported that many of the ones fleshing out the small NEST army in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Rising Storm will not survive. Similarly, it does not take a rocket scientist to be unenthused by the peril that Sam Witwicky is put in when one knows he must absolutely survive the dangers to make it to the film this book is setting up.

Unfortunately, writer John Barber doesn't make the reader care all that much about the characters. He makes the passing attempt to make readers care about Director Galloway by putting the pain-in-the-ass government operative in the field with the Autobots. Sure, he has a character arc as he loosens up to the Autobots, but because he does not appear in the movie, his fate is utterly unsurprising and most readers will not bother to get attached.

This leads us to the artwork of Carlos Magno and my title to this review. Magno, whether because IDW ridiculously could not get likeness rights or because he is not a terribly good penciller, guts the visual element of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Rising Storm. The human characters look nothing like their cinematic counterparts. When I say "nothing like," I mean "there is no real connection between the character on the page and the one on the screen." Magno's version of Sam Witwicky does not resemble Shia LaBeof, Tyrese Gibson and this version of Epps only share skin color, and whatever model Magno was using to make Lennox, it bears not even a passing resemblance to Josh Duhamel. The human characters look nothing like they ought to and for a crossover with a film, a prequel to a film, this is a killing blow.

Moreover, Magno fails to use the medium well. The intrigue of Transformers is based in movement. These are organisms that change rapidly from one thing to giant robots. Failing to capture a good sense of movement is criminal for a franchise where movement is what the characters are all about. Fortunately, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Rising Storm is utterly unnecessary for fans of the films, the Transformers franchise or casual readers.

For other Transformers graphic novels, please visit my reviews of:
Transformers Official Movie Adaptation
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen Alliance
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen Defiance


For other graphic novel reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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