Sunday, October 25, 2015

Transformers Chronicles: Book One / Hirofumi Ichikawa

In my years of being involved in the Transformers community there are a few times when I run across something that I haven't seen before. Usually if I don't know much about my recent finding I can always go to other Transformers fans or the internet and find what I'm looking for or have my questions answered. Today's topic however hasn't been so easy to research.

I'm a comic fan, but not really a Transformers comic fan. I've got all of the current IDW Transformers hardcover collections and I've read the first 5 or 6 volumes to date. I've even only read a handful of the Marvel Comics run of Transformers. Blasphemy to some fans, I know. The comics just haven't been able to hold my attention like Spider-Man has. Anyhow being a fan of comics in general my brother and I picked up this small softcover trade at an early Botcon, circa 2000 I believe. I had largely forgot that I even owned the book much less could remember it's story. Earlier this week I sat down to read it and I thought I'd share this book with the hopes that you the reader would find it entertaining.

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Written and drawn by Hirofumi Ichikawa, this thing is a work of beauty. Translated by Doug Dlin (from Antarctic Press) this story appears to be a part of a larger story as this book is labeled Book One. I have no idea if it was ever finished and I'm kind of hoping someone can let me know and better yet supply me with a lead to pick up Book Two. From what I can gather this book kind of bridges the gap between Generation One and Generation Two.

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I'm not the best at reviewing or re-telling stories so I ask that you bear with me here. You can click on the scanned pages for a larger, more detailed look at the fantastic art. The story opens up with Headmaster Chromedome investigation a luminous phenomenon on the planet Cybertron before some sort of energy surge I image comes down like lightning from the heavens. The story then shifts to Earth with G1 Smokescreen , the Axelerators and Aerialbots from G2 are expecting at any moment a space bridge of sorts to open up that the Decepticons have been using.

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The Autobots calculations were correct because out of the portal comes Skyquake and the Decepticon Sky Scorchers (and eventually the Predators too) from G2. The Aerialbots quickly merge to form Superion to take on the threat of Skyquake. On the previous page you can see the Aerialbots take off from G1 Broadside's aircraft carrier mode w/ Silverbolt sitting in the water in his base mode with G2 Seaspray docked beside.

I find this fight scene particularly fascinating as it depicts Skyquake as being roughly the same size as a G1 combiner. We all know the old G1 animated cartoon had it's fair share of scale issues, so does this story suffer the same fate? While you could say that since the Aerialbots were just sitting on Broadside on the previous page, but you could also say that these two characters have been drawn based on their toys. The G1 Skyquake toy is a rather large beast of a plane. A lot of readers may be familiar with this mold as it was also used as Starscream in the Machine Wars series. This toy is roughly the same size as a G1 (or G2) combiner team. Anyhow right off the bat I was drawn into this story which as I pointed out earlier doesn't always happen for me w/ Transformers comics.

During this battle the G1 Powermasters Dreadwing and Darkwing show up and ambush Smokescreen. Knowing that their Autobot friend was in danger, Superion jettisons G2 Air Raid to help his friend and eventually vanishes as he follows the fleeing Decepticons through their portal.

It appears that the human alliance with the Autobots on planet Earth isn't on the same firm ground as it has been. There is a scene containing television news clips of a public hearing in Washington, DC regarding if immigrant citizenship laws should apply towards Autobot refugees that have come to America seeking asylum. In these scenes we see Chip Chase being questioned in DC. Spike and Sparkplug Witwicky are shown somewhere else (I'm guessing at Spike's home) reacting to the news on TV. There is a female shown as well, but not named. I'm assuming this is Carly.

The story shifts again back to Cybertron with a group of human (or are they Nebulan?) scientists showing off the Autobots current power source, Nucleon. Now let me pause a second and react. I know that the story of Nucleon is that its a power source so potent that if a Transformer "ingests" it raw that one of the side effects is that their transformation essentially locks up, however the robot gains new abilities and skills. Not since I bought the Japanese Nucleon Quest Convoy have I heard this power source mentioned so I got a little excited here. I also immediately wondered if any Action Masters would show up in the pages of this story.

The aforementioned scientists are showing Hot Rod and the others a new set of troops that were being built, the G2 Laser Rods. Interesting enough all 4 are shown here as they are just robots. They go on to explain that while they can build new troops, only the power of the Creation Matrix can grant them life. Big Daddy from the G1 Hot Rod Patrol is also shown here specifically for the author to introduce another new technology called Matter Reduction, as Big Daddy's size increases as he transforms from vehicle to robot mode. All the sudden there is a huge jolt by some unknown energy source and immediately the Laser Rods seem to becoming to life?

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Meanwhile the store shifts to the Decepticon side of things were we see the G1 Ultra Pretender, Roadblock, alongside G2 Starscream! I'm really loving seeing all of these characters depicted in the store and Hirofumi's art is top notch. This same unknown energy source that seemingly gave life to the Laser Rods over at the Autobots base of operations has also struck the Decepticons base and has given life to their new recruits as well. These troops are shown to be G2 Aquaspeeders and Stormtroopers.

Combat Hero Optimus Prime is then shown letting everyone know (Autobots Action Master Mainframe, Perceptor, Chromedome and the Technobot Lightspeed are shown) that he nor the Creation Matrix were responsible for giving life to the new robots and that there was only one other power that could do that...none other than Vector Sigma!

At the Decepticon body plant, Starscream makes his case to his fellow Decepticons and to the robots that have just been brought online that everyone should serve under his command. Even though the G2 version of Starscream is depicted here, this is your classic character as Starscream remains sneaky and cocky as ever before. In these scenes you can also see the G2 Cyberjets, Gobots and Laser Cycles, some of which question Starscream and ultimately get a shot of null ray through the face!

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It doesn't take long before the Decepticon forces attack the Autobots. Just before this splash page introducing the Action Master Banzai-Tron, you see his companion Razor Sharp cutting through the door of the Autobots base. G1 Red Alert and the Omnibot Downshift are shown here as Razor Sharp prepares the way for his master to enter and combat the Autobots. It appears that the Targetmaster Pointblank is shown as Banzai-Tron's first casualty.

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I remember reading Banzai-Tron's old toy tech spec and remember reading that he was a master of a fighting style called Crystalocution. He takes it hard to the Autobots that choose to stand up against him. Ironhide is the first to try to go toe to toe with the Decepticon Action Master and just like in the 1986 animated movie, Ironhide faces his demise. Interesting how they chose to depict Ironhide's robot mode based on his original toy.

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Optimus Prime eventually confronts and defeats Banzai-Tron all while the Decepticon forces are starting to question of they want to follow Starscream. Then out of the sudden Starscream hails for one of his newest allies, G2 Dreadwing and Smokescreen! Optimus Prime is confused and startled by the appearance of Smokescreen, so confused that he doesn't have time to react Smokescreen turning fire onto his former leader. Yes, in this story the G1 Autobot Smokescreen was rebuilt as the G2 Decepticon of the same name. Now there is a little disclaimer at the end of the story that this is solely part of the author's discretion and that Hasbro or Takara have ever said or claimed that these two characters are one in the same.

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The story ends with the focus shifting back to Earth, specifically the Decepticon's control bloc. Enter G2 Megatron...and he doesn't appear to be all that happy with Starscream.

I really wish I knew more about this book. The last page's credits show that the book was released by One-Time Assembly, printed on June 18th, 1998. I love the selection of characters and how Autobots and Decepticons are used from both generations. While many of the characters have limited lines and are largely used in the background, it's great to see so many characters have an appearance that are often overlooked or just not used in comics. Even if I never find the 2nd part of this store (if it even exists) I'm so glad to have this as a part of my Transformers media collection.

If anyone reading this has any additional background information on this book or it's supposed follow-up, please, please comment and let me know or reach out to me directly.

3 comments:

  1. I did a little bit of digging and it all suggests that this is the only volume that was created / released. I took this from Hirofumi Ichikawa's Transformers Wiki page:

    "But perhaps his most well known pre-official work is Transformers Chronicles, a sort of "bridge" story for his take on the lead-up to Generation 2. This book was translated to English, but has long since sold through its short run."

    The MyComicShop.com entry for One-Time Assembly only lists this one Transformers Chronicles volume and a couple of unrelated comic book series.

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  2. 1. It's hard to tell because the comic is black and white, but I think the Aerialbots as they appear in this issue are supposed to be in the G2 colors.

    2. I read a series of Transmasters UK fan comics in which Megatron's G2 tank mode was actually an exo-suit worn over his classic G1 body. I love that idea!

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