Transformers Armada #1

Publisher: Dreamwave
Release date: July 2002
Number of covers: One
Cover price: $2.95
Writer: Chris Sarracini
Artwork: James Raiz (pencils) Rob Armstrong/Erik Sander (inks)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Hot Shot, Leader 1, Optimus Prime, Rollbar, Sparkplug, Incinerator, Longarm, Jolt, Demolishor, Cyclonus, Megatron


Synopsis:

By Ian Arrowsmith

Armada Megatron intends to use Mini-con-enhanced power to fuel his conquest of Cybertron!

Cybertron, one million years ago. A yellow automobile speeds into Cybercity in an almighty hurry. He takes out an automated greeting bot who welcomes him at the city entrance and then guns it down the highway causing accidents as he goes. When the vehicle reaches a building with a large Autobot emblem above the entrance, it transforms into Hot Shot and he dashes inside with a message to deliver to Optimus Prime!

Inserting a disc into a player produces a large image of a blue and grey Mini-con on a screen. The robot is called Leader 1 and he is appealing to Prime for help against a threat from the Decepticons. The rogue faction of Transformers is invading Mini-con villages and taking Leader 1's people prisoner, and only the Autobots, guardians of Cybercity, can save them.

At Mini-con village, C52, just before dawn, inhabitants Sparkplug and Rollbar discuss what they can do to prevent themselves being next on the Decepticons' roster. Their only chance is for a force field to be up and running before the Decepticons arrive. Rollbar asks Incinerator, who is working on getting one of the shields working, how long they can expect it to take. A few minutes is the answer. Two other Mini-cons working with him - Jolt and Longarm discuss the Decepticons. Neither has seen a Decepticon before but Longarm has heard stories about experiments they perform on Mini-cons, and how they are forced to become batteries for the Decepticons and provide them with ever more power.

The force fields are prepared and Rollbar thinks they might actually make it. Suddenly he is hit by a flying Sparkplug and realises the 'cons, in the form of Cyclonis and Demolisher, have arrived. They scramble to get the shield online and there is quiet. But then their force shield comes crashing down and the mini-cons are soon being grabbed and trapped in cages. Only Sparkplug manages some kind of escape, before being shot in the back and sent spiralling off a high building.

Cyclonis reports reports to his leader Megatron that the village has been taken and asks what happens next. Megatron, who we now see clutching an unconscious Leader 1, says: "Next? We declare war."

******

Comments:

Not just a new beginning but a new continuity. Dreamwave has been taking G1 in new directions but there is still a well-established history and cast of characters. With Armada the publisher has a chance to start over with a completely new incarnation of Transformers, set in a different reality to G1. What is strikingly different is that now there are three factions Autobots, Decepticons and Mini-cons.

It's rolling introductions as the comic plunges us straight into the story and we meet characters as it goes along. In structured issue arc it starts with the good Autobots, the neutral mini-cons, and finally the big bad Decepticons. The premise is not different or challenging enough for my liking. And it would have been nice to be guided through the issue by a central character, or characters, to help readers get to know everyone in an opening issue. Instead it feels like we are getting a bird's eye view. However what is seen of the characters bodes well for future issues as they seemed fairly fresh not just retreads of G1 characters.

The art of James Raiz is good, and aside from when things are drawn to be seen from a distance it is well detailed, and when things are moving they look like they are moving. The characters are also well posed. I'm not so keen on the backgrounds they are all beige and not that conducive to a Cybertronian environment. All in all it is a fairly good issue but it seems like the creators weren't prepared to step out too much, despite the fantastic opportunity they've been given.

Steve says: I really liked it. Being unashamedly a G1 purist I wasn't expecting to warm to the series but there's enough that's familiar about it, while offering the promise of different kinds of stories. It will be interesting to see where the writers take things from here. The opening scenes were cool - especially Hot Shot ramming a hole in the greetings bot on his maniac run through Cybercity. This city by the way, reminded me of the opening scenes in the Judge Dred film, with Megacity, with the double-page of skyscrapers bridges and the holographic adverts (in this case the Autobot sign welcoming drivers to Cybercity). Prime's got the same head and colour scheme but his body is significantly changed. I think I prefer the classic design but I'll give this time to grow on me.

The Mini-con villages amused me. It makes them sound like munchkins. They seem to be second class citizens to some degree, due I'm sure to their diminutive size compared to other Transformers. The size difference is dramatically apparent later in the issue when Demolishor bursts out of the ground and looks gigantic and menacing. Obviously Mini-cons are more than just little Micromaster-style transformers, as we learn they have the ability to enhance the power of a full-sized TF. Kind of like when Transformers bond with Nebulans in the Headmasters stories.

Megatron looks strikingly different in Armada. This new form looks more like Scorponok than any Megatron I've seen before but he's quite clearly mean and nasty and in that there is a touch of familiarity. Colouring and art is top notch and the story has a lot going on, especially in comparison to Dreamwave's G1 opening issue which was over way too fast.

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