Two huge franchises based on Hasbro toys clash in Transformers VS G.I Joe #1, officially (after the Free Comic Book Day zero issue) kicking off the new ongoing series by writer/artist/colorist/letterer Tom Scioli with co-writer John Barber. Is it good?
Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1 (IDW Publishing)
I should probably start this off by admitting that I have almost no affinity for either Transformers or G.I. Joe. I was born in 1991, and by that point both franchises must have waning in popularity after their initial boom in the 80s. I was probably most familiar with Transformers as a beloved toy series. I’m sure I watched the cartoon more than a few times, but I have almost no memory of it. I’m not particularly fond of Michael Bay’s live action/CGI Transformers films, but nostalgia has little to do with it.
As for G.I. Joe, I never watched it on television, I never owned any of the toys, and I certainly didn’t read any of the comics (not even that famous “silent interlude” issue).
Yet despite my lack of affinity for the franchises, Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #0 was a highlight for me at this year’s Free Comic Book Day largely because of how unexpected it was in its execution. It certainly didn’t read like one would think a comic designed to sell toys is supposed to read, at least not in 2014.
Though Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1 lacks much of the explosive excitement of its predecessor, if you enjoyed the zero issue, you probably will enjoy the proper first issue as well. If you haven’t read the zero issue, you’re definitely going to want to correct that, mostly because it’s a truly spectacular comic, but also because the official first issue may be a bit hard to follow if you haven’t read the zero issue. Frankly, I had a hard time following it just by virtue of the fact that I know so little about Transformers and G.I. Joe.
But that actually matters less than one would think. Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1 is definitely a case of style over substance, and the comic is better for it. Tom Scioli’s visuals are most easily compared to Jack Kirby, and while there’s no denying his aping of the Kirby aesthetic, he rises above most artists aping Kirby’s style by embodying the Kirby spirit as well, filling every page with an undeniable sense of energy, enthusiasm, and just plain fun. Make no mistake, some of these pages are truly jaw-dropping.
Besides the Kirby-esque art (with touches of Ditko and Steranko), the whole comic’s presentation is reminiscent of a long-lost Silver Age comic, replete with yellowed pages, stilted dialogue, and bombastic third-person narration. Again, it’s a weird choice for such a blatantly corporate comic. This feels more like an auteur work than a lot of creator-owned comics.
Is it Good?
Whether you’ve been a fan of Transformers and/or G.I. Joe for years or if you’ve somehow never heard of the franchises, Transformers vs. G.I. Joe is definitely worth picking up. Just try to get your hands on the (free!) zero-issue first.