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IDW - Revolution Review

First three Issues so far...

By:  Karl Stern (@wiwcool, @dragonkingkarl, karl@whenitwascool.com)

I'm expecting big things out of this series.  It has several things I really like going for it.  First- I love ensemble properties.  Throw a bunch of things I like together and you have me interested.  Two- G.I. Joe.  Three- Freakin' ROM THE SPACEKNIGHT.

There are a lot of things about the comic book company IDW I like and some things I'm weary of.  I have enjoyed several IDW books over the last few years. Their production, art, and book quality have generally been pretty good.  However, I have been very hit and miss on their handling of the G.I. Joe property.  Obviously, one of the things this website covers extensively is G.I. Joe and IDW has that property licensed from Hasbro for comics.  I have really, really enjoyed some of the G.I. Joe stuff from IDW and really, really hated some of it.

It seems that every few days IDW has relaunched, rehashed, and re-imaged G.I. Joe in some way.  The comics have been extraordinarily inconsistent.  They even let Larry Hama continue the old Marvel Comics G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero continuity in a book but even that has been wildly disappointing over the last couple of years (Blue Ninjas?).  Still, I'll give Mr. Hama a wide degree of latitude since, without him, the classic version of the characters we all know and love wouldn't exist.  Still, the current day version of even Hama's characters are so far removed from what I once loved that I can barely read the book any more.

This, however, isn't that.  This is either continuing the "new" G.I. Joe IDW version of the universe or revamping it yet again.  The artwork on the cover, particularly of Scarlet, doesn't give me a great degree of hope.  Never the less, I do see one of the characters listed as being used is one of the original Joe's- Grunt!  So, I'll give IDW a clean slate just for that.

Rom the Spaceknight was originally a comic book series at Marvel that ran for several years.  It has a cult following and I am one of those cult members.  By necessity, Rom's origins and over-all story has been altered for the IDW Universe but, so far, I have really enjoyed the Rom comics put out by IDW and think it's one of the most under rated comic books out right now.

I have no real attachment or knowledge of Action Man.  I have read the first couple issues of his series but couldn't really get into it.

I think I owned exactly one M.A.S.K. vehicle back in the 1980's and have no real emotional attachment to it either.  

Hate me if you like, but, I never got into the Transformers.  I don't know why, it was certainly a gigantic part of my childhood and most of my friends had the toys, watched the cartoons, and read the comics.  It just didn't appeal to me for some reason.  I don't dislike it I just can't get into it.  So, Transformers to me is neither a positive nor a negative for this event.

I will keep the review of the entire series in this one article, so as a new issues comes out I will simply update this post and bump it back up the front page so keep your eyes out for updates.

 Not a good look for scarlet.

Not a good look for scarlet.

IDW Revolution:  Issue 1

The series opens up with Action Man descending upon Mount Olympus in Greece.  A blurb on the page tells us this is "Action Man: British Special Agent".  I know nothing about this property but I assume he is a G.I. Joe-ish type spy character.  He is communicating with Agent Terrence Calmons who is piloting some futuristic military craft that Action Man has leaped out of.  They are investigating a fissure on the mountain that for some reason is emitting a distress signal.

Action Man enters the fissure to discover Big Ben of the G.I. Joe team mortally wounded with a crystal stabbed through his chest.  He tells action man his "entire squad" of G.I. Joe's were killed by someone after the crystals and is holding some dog tags.  We aren't given any clue yet which G.I. Joe members were killed.  Action Man escapes the fissure just in time as it explodes and Big Ben presumably dies in the explosion while imploring Action Man to remember "It's the crystals!".  So we have our mystery.

 The death of Big ben of G.I. Joe

The death of Big ben of G.I. Joe

We cut scene to the White House where the President of the United States is talking to Joseph Colton, the General in charge of G.I. Joe, and they are joined by Scarlet.  We drop in on their briefing with a video of Optimus Prime playing on a screen.  The crystals, according to Colton, are food for the Cybertronians and very unstable.  The President is not happy about Optimus Prime taking it upon himself to bring the Earth into the galactic community saying his speech sounds like they are our "robot overlords" so conflict is brewing.  Scarlet says G.I. Joe needs to investigate.

We cut to Optimus Prime who is consulting with Soundwave about the incident on Mt. Olympus.  It seems he isn't sure what caused the explosion either but realizes that the human governments will recognize the connection to Cybertron and it will cause further tensions in their relationships here on Earth.

We cut back now to the G.I. Joe's who have set up a mobile command center.  Mainframe is working communications for Scarlet and I see Roadblock and two other unknown Joe's in panel standing around.

Mainframe observes the Transformers engaged in humanitarian efforts in a flood zone and they begin discussing if the Autobots are behind this at all... but... and this is my first problem so far- the Joe's have already sent out a drone to attack them.  No investigation, no nothing, they just attack Arcee and Jazz while they are in the middle of relief efforts.  That made no sense at all.  

Rock & Roll and Grunt now join the fight as Arcee and Jazz are still trying to figure out why they are under attack.  So am I.  Scarlet and Roadblock are now shown there as well.  The Autobots are not even fighting back yet the Joe's are pressing the attack.  Some other Joe's show up who I am not familiar with- Mayday and someone with a beard.  Again, there seems to be no logical reason for this military strike - on American soil no less- against the Autobots who were engaged in humanitarian relief efforts.  The U.S. Government and the G.I. Joe's are coming across as the real bad guys here and I don't like this one bit.  The Transformers aren't even fighting back!

 The good guys.

The good guys.

The Transformers hit the Joe's with an E.M.P. blast which shuts down the attack.  As Optimus Prime tries to talk some sense into this ridiculous over reaction of an attack guess what? Beach Head shows up with what appears to be a missile launcher and Short-Fuze shows up with a machine gun.  Despite the Autobots repeated attempts to stand down and end the situation the Joe's needlessly and inexplicably press the attack.  Agent Helix also now shows.

Suddenly, out of the sky, swoops Rom!  Hopefully, he zaps these fools into some sense.  Of course, the person who I presume is General Colton tells the Joe's to forget about the Autobots for a moment and attack Rom.  Rom disintegrates Colton with his neutralizer so I guess Colton was a Dire Wrath which, thank goodness, might explain the completely irrational behavior of the Joe's.  In fact, Rom zaps Red Zone and Hi-Tech as well so it looks like the Joe's have been heavily infiltrated by the Dire Wraiths.  

Rom does not zap either Roadblock or Scarlet so it seems they might still be human.  The Autobots realize that they are probably going to get blamed from Rom's apparent killing spree (they are probably right) so they turn to attack Rom as well.  Rock & Roll blasts one of them with a rocket launcher and does some damage while Rom flees the scene.  The Autobots give chase and in another humanitarian effort turn the Joe's radio equipment back on so they can tend to their wounded.

The Joe's are oblivious to the fact that the destroyed Joe's were actually shape shifting Dire Wraith's and think the real Joe's were killed by Rom.  A terribly drawn Scarlet vows revenge on the last page.

Wrap up:  The story was completely nonsensical until we found out that the G.I. Joe team had been compromised by the Dire Wraiths.  However, this hasn't yet been explained in this series, you would only know that Rom's Neutralizer kills Dire Wraiths and not humans if you've been reading his book.  So I imagine there are some confused readers here.

 enter m.a.s.c... err... k.

enter m.a.s.c... err... k.

IDW Revolution:  Issue 2

From the looks of the cover, M.A.S.K. is going to get involved in this issue.  M.A.S.K. = Mobile-Armored-Strike-Kommand because T is for Terrible and H is for Hell and U is for Ugly and G is for Jail because a T.H.U.G. can't spell (shout out to Tracy Smothers).

We get a "previously" page which explains the events of last issue.

The G.I. Joe team is standing around in the aftermath of last issue trying to figure out why the Autobots would kick their butts then turn their radios back on.  Agent Helix seems to be the only one with a clue as she figured out that the Transformers could have wiped them out but for some reason only killed four.  Actually, Rom did it but the Joe's seem to be lumping him in with the Autobots.  

The Autobots have pursued Rom to a wilderness area and press their attack on him.  Rom tries to explain that he has not killed any humans, only Dire Wraiths which have infiltrated the human race.  They continue to fight for a few minutes until Optimus Prime gets the drop on Rom in order to talk and we cut scenes.

 rom = good guy

rom = good guy

We are now at G.I. Joe headquarters which is not The Pit but, instead, Governor's Island, NY.  Doc is trying to talk sense into Scarlet who is having none of it. The artist still can not draw Scarlet.  Also her character is ridiculous.  To be a supposed military intelligence officer she is dumb as a sack of rocks and won't listen to anything or anyone.  

Scarlet enters another part of the base where she meets up with Miles Manheim the Director of M.A.S.K. who is torturing Blitzwing whom I assume is a previously captured Transformer.  Yes, torturing it.

 yes, torture.

yes, torture.

We find out that the M.A.S.K. transforming vehicles are based on Cybertronian technology.  We also find out they aren't affiliated with the military but I guess get to use the base to torture robots... these guys better turn out to be Dire Wraiths too.

We cut scene back to Mt. Olympus where the only sane people in this series, the Autobots, are trying to investigate the explosion that started all this.  Their investigation seems to suggest that the Transformers are being framed.

We join back up with the Autobots who are in their vehicle form zooming down the street.  No sign of Rom yet.  The Autobots are overtaken by the M.A.S.K. vehicles and attacked.  M.A.S.K. defeats them but Matt Trakker seems not to be totally cool with this realizing that the Autobots are living beings and not actually robots.  

 matt trakker

matt trakker

Then, on the last page, we get the reveal of the bad guy behind all this- Baron Karza of the Micronauts. Dun... Dun... DUNNN!

Wrap up:  Interesting twist at the end.  The Transformers are still clearly the good guys in the series and G.I. Joe comes off an inept at best and M.A.S.K. as nearly evil.  Perhaps, they too, have been infiltrated by the Dire Wraiths, it remains to be seen.

Issue 3

 IDW Revolution issue 3 - best thing about the issue is the awesome cover.

IDW Revolution issue 3 - best thing about the issue is the awesome cover.

The cover is awesome.  A gigantic Rom and the Micronauts.  This is exactly the kind of cover that, as a kid, would have grabbed my attention.  I would have grabbed this issue up in a second.

After the one page catch up, we jump to the microverse.  We find the Micronauts in conversation inside a ship.  Acroyear is such a great character design.  We are introduced to everyone on the team.  At the end of last issue we were introduced to Baron Karza the chief antagonist of the Micronauts and he reappears here as the Micronauts come upon what appears to be a Transformer.  We get a bunch of dialogue that I don't really understand.  I don't follow the Micronauts series and honestly, beyond the cool look of Acroyear and Baron Karza, I totally zone out when reading the Micronauts.

I'll sum up a lot of words on one page- Baron Karza needs the Micronauts to help save the universe.

We cut scene back to G.I. Joe headquarters.  Scarlett of G.I. Joe and Matt Trakker of M.A.S.K. are having a heated and overly dramatic discussion.  The are arguing over the fact that they were duped into believing that the Transformers were robots and not living beings.  

 lots of angst in these panels.

lots of angst in these panels.

One of the captured Transformers is trying to explain why Ore-13 is blowing up.  Of course, no one will listen.

Cut scene to Autobot City where we have a beautiful panel featuring the Autobots and Rom discussing the Dire Wraiths infiltration of Earth.  They had already taken over Gen. Joe Colton or G.I. Joe and he got destroyed because of it.

The story is getting really convoluted at this point, bringing in a lot of elements from the Transformers comic series which I haven't been reading.  Apparently, (if I understand this correctly, it's confusing) Micronus Prime is the Transformer we saw in the microverse  and he is one of the founders of Cybertronian society.

Back to G.I. Joe headquarters where the most unlikable character in the entire series, Scarlett, is having a conversation with Mainframe.  Scarlett finally learns the truth that the killed G.I. Joe's weren't human after they ran a DNA scan on them.

Cut now back to Baron Karza who is chatting with a hologram.  There is way too much talking in this issue and no action.

 many words.

many words.

The Micronaut ship is then invaded by an unidentified cosmic type being.  Somewhere in this mess Baron Karza figures out that somehow Ore-13 can save everything.  This story is really hard to follow it is so dense with so many different characters I'm losing track of everything.

Rom then breaks into a soliloquy and the Transformers show up again. Again, lots of talking and like the previous issues the final page gets a big reveal- this time- Snake Eyes shows up!

 lots more words.

lots more words.

Issue 4

I'm not a big fan of the cover of this issue.  Snake Eyes looks more like a ballerina than a battle hardened ninja commando.  There is a palpable softness to him that I don't think works.

 Not feeling this cover.

Not feeling this cover.

The opening splash page is very nice, however.  The giant Victorion standing there towering over Jazz is pretty nice.  We also are shown by inset that Snake Eyes is climbing up a building in the background.  The next page is very "Silent Interlude" with Snake Eyes rendered much better on the inside than on the cover, thankfully.

The next several scenes are very confusing.  It's extremely hard to figure out scale when Snake Eyes is fighting both giant Transformers and tiny Micronauts.  Rom is still assisting the Transformers and now they are, together, trying to make sense of what the Micronauts are.  Me too.  This series has gotten very convoluted with too many characters I don't know.  It's hard to differentiate between the Transformers and Micronauts unless you see something to compare scale with.

We cut scene to Miles Manheim of M.A.S.K. who is covertly talking to someone  on a computer screen when Matt Trakker walks in and catches him and becomes suspicious.  Again, I have no idea what this is about and a blurb tells me I need to read G.I. Joe: Revolutions and Transformers: Revolution.  That's another thing that is making this series so difficult to read, it crosses over and requires knowledge of numerous books and characters I'm not familiar with.

 Matt trakker gets suspecious of Miles Manheim

Matt trakker gets suspecious of Miles Manheim

We cut scene to find the person that Miles Manheim was talking too is some kind of Dire Wraith leader with a hive of Dire Wraiths.

We cut back scene again to the good guys who are all finally starting to get on the same page with Snake Eyes, Rom, and the Transformers now all finally realizing that the Dire Wraiths are the true enemies.

 Can we make friends now?

Can we make friends now?

We now cut scene back to the G.I. Joe's who are my favorite property out of all this hodge-podge of licensed characters in this series but, somehow, are the absolute dirt worst in this series.  I absolutely hate Scarlet's melodramatic, whiny, and out right dumb character in this.  She better end up being a Dire Wraith.

We cut now to Monument Valley where the team of M.A.S.K. is about to attack Victorion, the giant Transformer.  We now know that M.A.S.K. leader Miles Manheim is in league with the Dire Wraiths (perhaps, even probably, he is a Dire Wraith himself).  Sure enough, the M.A.S.K. team is shocked to find out their reinforcements against Victorion are the Dire Wraiths themselves.

This leads to a huge, gigantic battle scene with The Transformers, Snake-Eyes, and Rom on one side against M.A.S.K. and a legion of Dire Wraiths.  There is a very nice two page spread of the battle which is the best thing I've seen in the last two issues.

 ROM, Snake Eyes, and the Transformers battle M.A.S.K. and the Dire Wraiths.

ROM, Snake Eyes, and the Transformers battle M.A.S.K. and the Dire Wraiths.

There is a complicated scene that plays out next.  The Dire Wraiths turn on Miles Manheim and the M.A.S.K. team and attack them too.  But Manheim, it seems, has another ace up his sleeve as he opens a portal to let Baron Karza into this dimension.  Karza somehow absorbs the Dire Wraiths making himself some sort of super Micronaut-Wraith hybrid thing.

We cut back to G.I. Joe headquarters where the Joes (and me) are trying to make sense of this turn of events.  Scarlet seems to have a plan and the final page is a nice scene of the Joe's uncovering their various iconic vehicles like the Skystriker, R.A.M., and V.A.M.P.  To be continued...  

 The first remotely positive portrayal of G.I. joe in this whole series so far.  Yo Joe!

The first remotely positive portrayal of G.I. joe in this whole series so far.  Yo Joe!

Issue 5

This issue starts out with a chaotic scene as the heroes battle against Baron Karza who is now a Dire Wraith hybrid.  Things in this series are so convoluted at this point that the busy art isn't helping matters.  There is a lot going on in the first couple of pages with the Micronauts, M.A.S.K., Snake Eyes, and various Transformers all battling it out and it's a task to keep up with who is who.

 Lots of characters make for a busy scene.

Lots of characters make for a busy scene.

Finally, we focus in on Optimus Prime and Rom for a couple pages giving the issue some focus for the first time.  Optimus Prime finally gets everyone to take a breath and stop fighting each other and focus on the real enemy- Baron Karza when in swoops the G.I. Joe team in their various iconic vehicles.  I spot Skystrikers, a V.A.M.P., a R.A.M. , multi-MOBATS and Wolverines with G.I. Joe members Mayday, Mainframe, Roadblock, Scarlett, Rock 'N Roll, and Agent Helix.  The battle rages but it's very hard to follow, there are just too many characters and too much going on.

 Lots of machines.

Lots of machines.

Finally, Mainframe and Matt Trakker appear to hatch a plan to end this chaotic battle.  It involves some sort of convoluted space bridge or something.  I can't even follow this anymore.  The important part is, in the end, Miles Mayhem (of all people) saves the day, knocking Baron Karza into this portal thing and destroying him.  It also looks like G.I. Joe's Mainframe also died in the battle but it turns out he didn't and terribly drawn Scarlett celebrates.  The event wraps up with the remaining heroes essentially going forth to defend Earth against future dangers, hopefully far less convoluted than this one.

 Friends in need are friends indeed.

Friends in need are friends indeed.

I really wanted to love this series which brought together a lot of things I loved from childhood but this was a big swing and a miss.  Too convoluted and complicated to be fun.  G.I. Joe was largely portrayed as a group of morons.  The only property that even looked remotely competent coming out of all this are The Transformers and maybe Rom.  Worse yet, apparently this transitions into a new series called "Revolutionaries" and the artwork features Rom, a Transformer, two people I do not recognize, Major Bludd, and I presume Action Man but it's hard to tell from the artwork.

 if that wasn't enough, apparently there is more to come.

if that wasn't enough, apparently there is more to come.