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A Vast Improvement Over Marvel's Miniseries...,
This review is from: G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers Volume 1 (Paperback)For the record, this is not the first time that Hasbro's two juggernaut action-figure franchises have collided: apart from a few references peppered into the final season of the old Transformers cartoon - including a supporting villainous role in one episode by none other than Cobra Commander himself - Marvel Comics, which then held the comic book license for the two franchises, brought them together for what I'm sure was supposed to be an epic crossover. Jeez, was it wretched. The quality of the art fluctuated terribly, characters were misnamed, continuities were mangled and basically the whole thing sucked even for Transfans.
Flash forward to 2003. Both 'G.I. JOE' and 'Transformers' are enjoying renewed comic-book success...but through different publishers, Devil's Due owning the Joe license and Dreamwave holding the TFs. When the time came that the idea of another Joe/TF crossover was brought up, the two companies hit upon a novel solution to the dilemma of a licensing conflict: each published their own separate Joe/TF crossover. Dreamwave's is far grittier - even set during World War II, to further distance it from the existing Joe and TF continuities - but Devil's Due's story, while still out-of-continuity, hearkens back to the glory days of the 1980s for both sagas. And whether you're an ardent fan of either saga and you either loved or hated it, in the end 'G.I. JOE vs. The Transformers' is a radical upgrade from its Marvel predecessor.
The story is as thus: instead of Mount St. Hilary erupting, thus awakening the Teletran-1 computer which controlled the Autobots' hijacked starship four million years ago, the Ark is instead uncovered by Cobra agents who decide to haul off as many of the dormant robots as they can, reprogram them to serve Cobra's will and retrofit them as Cobra vehicles, and then use them in a full terrorist assault against the civilian populace. Right from the start, there are problems for our villains - two in particular: 1) Decepticon leader Megatron can't be reprogrammed, so Cobra Commander has Megatron paralyzed and stuck in gun form, whereupon he taunts Cobra Commander vowing to crush him like the bug he is; 2) Fortunately for the free world, Autobot leader Optimus Prime, while encoded with Cobra's programming, refuses to carry out any of his destructive orders.
Since in this story G.I. JOE does not as yet exist, it's up an assembly of familiar faces in uniform - later codenamed as Flagg, Flint, Lady Jaye, Scarlett, Mainframe and, of course, our man Snake-Eyes - to get it all together and, as the newly-organized anti-terrorist force known as G.I. JOE, take down Cobra and their new toys. They get at least some help: namely, a self-serving ex-Cobra agent named Mercer, and two Autobots left behind by Cobra and awakened when Cobra demolitionists sealed up the mountain - Wheeljack and Bumblebee! Before it's all over, the Transformers break free of their programming and what starts as a mission to capture Cobra's higher-ups turns into a free-for-all which involves the Joes disobeying direct orders to prevent a nuclear attack, a defense satellite that goes haywire and begins blasting up Cobra's island headquarters with everybody on it, some heroes meeting their deaths (a la 'Transformers: The Movie'); and, of course, the brawl for it all - Optimus Prime vs. Megatron!
The story's pacing is pretty frenetic, which again improves greatly on the original crossover; the dialogue is snappier, particularly within the chemistry that develops between the Joes and their two new 'friends', despite (or due to) a few misunderstandings here and there; and while there are few chances to really get into it given the demands of the story, everyone is perfectly in character in this one - Destro and the Baroness get flirtatious, Wheeljack's the logical one, and Starscream is egotistical as ever. Clearly, Josh Blaylock is comfortable with his game writing for the Joes, and at least here he isn't required to remain too serious - half his cast are giant robots.
Mike Miller's art is a perfect complement to that effect, too, capturing every character to a tee - even the refit Transformers who, despite their new vehicle modes, still recapture the essence of their true-blue G1 counterparts.
In closing, 'G.I. JOE vs. The Transformers' may not be a comic-book classic, but it does its source material justice far more effectively than some of the attempts made before it. And if you're not into the grim-and-grit approach of Dreamwave's book - or if you just want to have a fun read - then pick this one up...and roll out!