Review: Get ready for Revenge of the Fallen with the Transformers prequel comic

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

IDW Publishing has two graphic novel prequels to the upcoming movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen out—Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Movie Prequel: Defiance and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Movie Prequel: Alliance ($17.99 each).

Both graphic novels are fix-ups of four-issue mini-series published by IDW earlier this year, and both are scripted by Chis Mowry, who'd done the graphic novel sequel to the first Transformers movie from 2007, The Reign of Starscream. The Alliance and Defiance story arcs are together known as Transformers: Destiny, which I think officially makes this the comic book series with most colons in the history of the medium.

It's kind of hard to think of these two graphic novels being part of the same series, as in terms of tone and scope they're vastly different, even though they both fall solidly in the Transformers mythology.

Defiance is set almost entirely on the Autobot's and Decepticon's home world of Cybertron, and as such, it captures a lot of the totally rockin' kind of cosmic conflict that's told best in comic book form. Defiance is the Paradise Lost of the Transformers mythology, which might be the only time in my life that I'll mention John Milton in the context of an intellectual property owned by Hasbro, but if the shoe fits, what the heck? In Defiance, the robotic denizens of Cybertron are investigating their own past, searching for the origins of their civilization through a series of archaeological excavations that uncover a artifacts connected to the All Spark (the source all independent robotic life).

This quest for knowledge is complicated by the outbreak of war between Cyberton and the denizens of Eshems Nebula, which leads to lots and lots of balls-bearings-out cosmic bashfests that might make comic book dorks of a certain age think fondly of how Jim Starlin used to depict interstellar warfare.

Optimus, not yet known as Optimus Prime, and Megatron start locking ideological horns in the midst of this upheaval, and Megatron finds an unlikely ally in the form of an intelligence contained in one of the artifacts that Optimus's team has unearthed (or, in this context, is it "uncrbertroned"?)

Mowry's script is nicely punched up by the art by Dan Khanna, Andrew Griffith and Josh Perez, which, through its use of composition and perspective, gives the graphic novel moments of Kirby-esque sweep.

Alliance, in comparison, is really weak. It's basically about what happens after the events of the first Transformers movie, with Epps (played in the movie by Tyrese Gibson) and Lennox (played in the movie by Josh Duhame) doing clean-up duty, and as such, it doesn't really take off with any kind of narrative sweep. It's hard for a premise like this to have a satisfying beginning, middle, and end if its purpose is to be filler. There are other factors in the plot dealing with a fragment of the All Spark, but Alliance feels like it could use a jolt from the All Spark itself to really get jumping.

Die-hard Transformers fans might dig Alliance, but just about any comic book fan can find something to like in Defiance.