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Simon Furman's own cartoon series,
This review is from: Transformers: Earthforce (Paperback)
As the main US Transformers comic focussed on the newer characters in an epic storyline which writer Simon Furman was clearly creating with a great deal of enthusiasm and attention, so the same writer's UK strips became more and more minor, and starring characters who weren't being heavily pushed as toys in the US. This, coupled with the rereleases of the older toys in the UK meaning that Hasbro wanted comic promotion, enabled Furman to create the Earthforce - and allowed him to bring, in the UK, old fan favourites back into the strip.
'Earthforce' begins with 'Starting Over', as Prowl and Wheeljack, alarmed by the increasing 'innovations' their companions have developed in their absence (Pretenders, Powermasters and the like) yearn for the good old days - which they soon recapture as they encounter Megatron, Soundwave and all their "good, old fashioned, down to earth"warriors. Then, in 'Break-away', Grimlock and Optimus Prime squabble for command of the Autobots until a compromise is reached - Prime will lead troops in the battle against Unicron (in the US strips) while Grimlock will command a newly established Earth contingent. And after this, the fun begins... amongst other happenings, the Autobot's base attacks them, Slag goes on the rampage, Grimlock tells his soldiers a fairy story and, later on, he sabotages repair work on Tracks...
The volume concludes with two stories which predate the main run, 'Prime's Rib' - chronologically set later, and seeing the creation of the 'female' Transformer, Arcee - and '[Double] Deal of the Century' - the only comic appearance of the mercenary, triple-changing Powermaster Doubledealer (although his Powermaster gimmick is not glimpsed here). The two stories sit extremely well and show the early signs of where Furman was to head with the black and white stories.
At the time these tales were first published, they struck a lot of people, including myself, as highly disappointing - a view which is still held by many fans today. This is an understandable view - after many years of great, epic UK-only storytelling, in which the comic ventured into areas unexplored by the US title to frequently surpass it in quality and ambition, the later black and white tales were seen as shallow little sketches, with absolutely no attempt to fit them into the 'true' (US) comic continuity. Simon Furman had defected to the US and taken his talent with him, and all we were left with were the crumbs. The sixteen-week drought of US material, where the UK comic ran (colour) reprint material alongside the black and white Earthforce tales, only reinforced the view that the UK comic was on its last legs and no doubt helped readers form the view that the Earthforce stories were rather less than classic - they were the only new stories we were getting and were having to carry the comic, but were so bad that nobody could even be bothered to colour them in...?
In truth, though, and collected in one volume, the stories in this book aren't bad at all. Taken out of the context of the time and read on their own merits, they stand up as fast paced bursts of fun. The black-and-white stories often resembled episodes of the cartoon series - spotlighting individual Transformers, but with little ongoing continuity from week to week - and this volume is the epitome of that, especially as those stories which did strive for more have been used up in previous Titan volumes. No, there is no real sense of danger or plot development, and the stories are often so lightweight they could almost float away, but it's refreshing to see, after his UK Galvatron saga and the ongoing US Unicron epic, that Simon Furman was more than capable of writing stories which WEREN'T epic and galaxy-threatening, with casts of thousands, but rather compact, punchy, starring one or two characters, over within a few turns of the page and with little purpose other than to entertain. The likes of 'Snow Fun', 'Life in the Slow Lane' and 'The 4,000,000 Year Itch' are thoroughly readable little tales which don't - and don't intend to - offer much beyond sheer fun and enjoyment - and what's wrong with that?