Transformers vs GI Joe #1
Story: Book 1: Tyrants
Release date: August 2003
Cover variants: Two regulars, holofoil
Cover price: $2.95
Writer: John Ney Rieber
Artwork: Jae Lee (pencils) Benjamin Lee (letters) June Chung (colors)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Ian Arrowsmith
Cobra forces have unwittingly opened the tomb of the Decepticons and gained new allies.
The story starts in the Fera Islands in the winter of 1938. Major Sebastian Bludd is about to command his Cobra troops to storm a 15th Century structure whose contents are 'older than Imperial Rome'. The men under Bludd's command are allowed no other pleasures of the fight and must focus on their objective - securing a fabled ultimate weapon. They quickly overwhelm the monks who guard the object, and ignore warnings of impending doom as they remove the glowing amulet from the chest of a stone statue. The building begins to shake but it is not a quake occurring, rather it is the footsteps of death approaching. The Cobra taskforce cowers as the face of Megatron appears from behind the crumbling walls. The soldiers identify themselves as 'Earth's dominant species' and say they have come seeking power. Megatron replies that they have found it, as a legion of Decepticons emerge from beneath the rubble.
Six months later in Virginia, the US military in the person of Flint begins to gather it's finest men and women to meet the new threat. When the last of them arrives a general briefs the team and shows them reconnaissance photographs of devastation across Europe all committed under the banner of Cobra. The GI Joe unit, as they will be called, are to do the job of an army and blunt the fangs of the cobra menace. As though with a sixth sense, the ninja Snake Eyes detects the watching eyes of a spy in the darkness above - not of a human nature but altogether still alive. The heroic forces open fire with pistols and a beam of heat scolds the palm of the shooter, as Laserbeak takes to the sky.
A day later the mechanical vulture returns to land on the arm of its master, Soundwave. Now the Decepticons and their human allies Cobra have learned of GI Joe they must defend against it. This enemy should be crushed because 'heroes and fools are born to die'.
At the Shetland Islands the Joes prepare to leave. Black 'chutes mean a night drop, and all they can take them is the limited equipment they can carry and even more sketchy intel. Above the misty English Channel Megatron plots to steal the Matrix back from Cobra Commander when the time is right but for now they must keep up the sham of an alliance. He orders Starscream to destroy approaching British attack planes and minutes later Cobra forces move inland to seize gold and paper while the Decepticons help themselves to the real treasure - energy.
Six hours later the Joes parachute on to the Fera Islands and begin to pick off Cobra troops. Snake Eyes comes face to face with his arch-nemesis and brother, Storm-Shadow, and draws his sword intent on avenging an old score. The Joes advance and stumble across a giant metal 'monster head'. Heroes are about to be born.
Ian says: This series offers something new for both GI Joe and Transformers fans as characters are given completely new takes and looks. Don Figueroa must have worked hard to design some of the Transformers and Rieber's story does put them in the period. The English RAF pilot is a particilary notable example. The art is stylish and is reminiscent of films like Saving Private Ryan and this all adds to the World War 2 atmosphere. It is a major departure from the bright colour palettes used in Dreamwave's Generation 1 series and a welcome change too. My complaint though has to be the "over darkening" of some areas. Sure it is atmospheric but it takes a lot away from the detail and it feels in places like the reader is staring at blank pages. This issue set the scene well but didn't offer the action or buzz I was hoping for, but is still a creative addition to the library of Transformers comics.
Steve says: From the opening pages it is immediately clear that this will be a very different kind of Transformers story from any seen before. The pencils and colouring (though confusing in places) invoke a distinctive World War Two atmosphere complete with grey skies, ashen landscapes and devastated cities. Yet ironically year is 1938, the year before the outbreak of war in Europe, and there is not a Nazi in sight. So clearly we are dealing with an alternate reality where the armies of Cobra Commander, rather than fascist nations, are waging a war for world domination. The cause of this departure from the official history books is just one of the many questions that go unanswered in this series, but my personal suspicion is that Dreamwave didn't want to offend any German readers by dragging up a dark period in that country's history. Or it just couldn't think of an easy way to integrate the Nazi and Cobra causes.
Following the success of the War Within, which saw familiar characters in their not-so-familiar Cybertron modes, it is an interesting twist to imagine what they would be like in another bygone age, that of the Second World War. It is also very fitting because this was a period of global conflict and machines of destruction, and must seem very like the Transformers' home planet itself.
As for the characters, the best ones for me were Lady Jaye (or it could be Scarlet as we are not told) - a strong woman in a man's world, and the mysterious Snake Eyes. I hope we see more of them, particularly the feud between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. The Transformers seem relegated to support cast at this stage. If it weren't that we know what the likes of Megatron and Starscream stand for we would learn next to nothing of their personas and abilities here. And likewise it is not revealed how the Decepticons came to be entombed under the 15th Century monastery/church (whatever it is) or why removing the gem has the effect of releasing them. It seems fair to assume that this gem is the Matrix (or a piece of it), otherwise Cobra Commander could not possess it - but if it was the Matrix encased in the stone statue at the beginning, why didn't Megatron simply relieve the Cobra soldiers of it? Why enter into an alliance with so-called inferior beings? We also need to know how the Autobots came to be buried on the islands as well, so a bit of back story would be appreciated.