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‘Transformers vs. G.I. Joe’ #1 an energetic love letter to both properties

‘Transformers vs. G.I. Joe’ #1 an energetic love letter to both properties

TFJoeCoverTransformers vs. G.I. Joe #1
Written by Tom Scioli & John Barber
Art, Colors & Lettering by Tom Scioli
Standard Cover by Tom Scioli
Published by IDW Publishing

Since gaining both the G.I. Joe and Transformers licenses, IDW Publishing has done an effective job of carving out a nice little family of titles for both properties, mixing series grounded in their respective pasts with series that move both franchises forward in new and different directions. Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1 marks the first time IDW has brought these properties together (itself something of a tradition, having been done by most of the major previous license holders, though this is the first time this concept has been applied to an ongoing series). The end result is the first part of a story that, at least initially, appears to be, above all else, a celebration of both G.I. Joe and Transformers and the kind of madcap energy that comes from mashing together two fondly-remembered toy franchises.

Written by John Barber and Tom Scioli, the plot, picking up where the Free Comic Book Day #0 issue left off, is a fairly standard “first encounter” story, the kind that would be right at home in earlier iterations of this mash-up, though the final pages suggest an interesting twist on the old standard (and one which makes it clear this series is set firmly in its own continuity, independent of both previous iterations of this concept and of the concurrent G.I. Joe and Transformer titles published by IDW). Barber & Scioli, stated fans of both the comic book and cartoon versions of these characters, write them as an effect amalgamation of both iterations, and deserve credit for dusting off some deep cuts, character-wise, for this first issue, and leaving some of the major players on the bench initially. Joe standard bearer Snake-Eyes, of course, plays a role, but Generals Flagg and “Iron-Butt” Austin are hardly marquee Joe names, while Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Megatron are, initially, nowhere to be found. While these characters are likely to show up eventually, their exclusion at the start suggests the writers have a bigger story to tell featuring more than just the usual “go-to” characters from each property.

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TFJoePageScioli also doubles up and provides the art for the book, and his work may prove to be divisive amongst readers. At times, it seems overly simplistic, particularly in some of the figure work, and at other times, such as in the panel layouts and page constructions, it possess an almost Kirby-like level of energy, with characters almost leaping off the page. That disconnect can be off-putting at times, but overall Scioli’s art succeeds both in the fun little details (like tinting pages in red while the G.I. Joe team is at red alert) and by capturing and synthesizing the aesthetic look of the comics, cartoons and toys. Just as the story manages to meld both iterations of the properties into one, so too does the art manage to look at once like an issue of a comic book, an episode of a cartoon, and the live action play of children mashing action figures together, an impressive feat that smooths over some of the disconnects elsewhere in the art.

This issue wraps up with a text piece from the authors and annotated notes on the creation of the issue, and if the story itself wasn’t proof enough, this makes it clear just how excited they are to be creating this series, while the annotations make for a fun behind-the-scenes look at their creative process. This backmatter alone is enough to make picking up subsequent issues worthwhile, so hopefully it’ll continue at least through the initial story arc.

All told, while the unique art style may take some getting used to, the biggest takeaway from Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1 is that the creators genuinely love these properties, and are having a blast telling a story that brings them together. Anyone with similar affections should have no problem sharing their enthusiasm, and becoming engrossed in the narrative universe they’re creating.

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