Transformers vs GI Joe #5 Preview and Review!

Written by: Tom Scioli and John Barber
Art, Colors, and Lettering by: Tom Scioli
Production by: Chris Mowry
Edits by: Carlos Guzman

Summary: Duke and Snake-Eyes, fighting to the death while tumbling through the void between worlds, were rescued by a familiar (to readers anyway) red semi truck robot… thing. The trio in turn find themselves captured by the Quintessence, who judge them unfit to live. Meanwhile, Cybertron approaches Earth’s moon and the newly-formed GI Joe-Autobot alliance, based out of Metroplex, finds itself under attack by the Decepticobra forces and Trypticon. The lumbering, apparently mindless Fortress Maximus is a powerful unknown element in an already dangerously volatile situation. It’s really tough to say anything more about it without giving out spoilers. Suffice to say that no fewer than four different mysteries are developing and there are some serious grudge matches that not everyone walks away from.
Review: This is my first review on this series, so this is partly a little catch-up to my thoughts overall. My feelings on this comic are very mixed, but the more I see of the story the more I enjoy it. It’s not something I want either brand to be all the time, although as its own thing it’s genuinely fun. Scioli is taking full advantage of being able to do the unexpected and has so many twists going at one time that he doesn’t have space to even hint at them all in a single issue.
Unfortunately, the break-neck pacing and multitude of twists also work against this comic. There are entire plot points that I don’t really follow and just go along with in the moment because it’s easier than trying to question it. Then I get to the commentary by Scioli and Barber in the back of the issue and they offhandedly explain it while they congratulate each other on how amazing it is. Why are there three-to-five pages of commentary on twenty pages of comic anyway? I’d rather have more pages of comic making things clearer in the first place. Additionally, the commentaries tend to veer into Scioli and Barber patting themselves on the back for making the comic I just finished reading.  Being proud of one’s work is great, but self-aggrandizement like “This is the sequence that is going to make Hasbro a billion dollars” and “This is the funnest comic on the racks right now!” is a bit much. Again, I’m primarily reading the commentary to keep up with the plot they’re so proud of, so by the sixth issue (including #0) it’s become a bit bothersome. Sometimes it’s okay to slow down, tell the story, and just let me think it’s great on my own, you know? I’d much rather get more comic upfront and read the commentary in the trade.
Probably the most consistently controversial aspect of this comic has been the art. I get what Scioli is doing here, I know all about his influences (again, I read the commentaries), and I see them reflected in this work. However, I also see a lot of rookie mistakes not seen in his other work–simple problems like blocking and perspective that I believe he wouldn’t do unless he meant to. I maintain that Scioli isn’t just writing the story of a child playing with his toys, he’s illustrating it too! I can appreciate this, but I increasingly feel like this also works against him. After six issues the approach is starting to feel like mixed messages. It’s earnestly childlike AND wittily self aware, it’s raw on purpose AND it’s full of homages to the greats, it’s retro AND it’s a retro-that-never-was, and so on.
I think that’s really where Transformers vs GI Joe loses me. It wants more than anything to be exciting wacky fun, but most wacky stuff still has a baseline, a touchpoint to work with. This comic is trying to do so much that I’m not sure where the baseline is.
With all of this said, I do recognize that “trying to do too much” is not really a fault and I want to stress again that I do enjoy this comic, and I enjoy it a LOT. My aim here is to critique it, not lambaste it, and I don’t mean for any criticisms to take away from an amazing experiment that I think is well worth reading. There are several panels and pages in this very issue that I’m in absolute love with and can’t mention without giving things away. It’s not exaggerating even a little bit to say neither brand has ever had anything like this before, and whether it grabs you or not it’s an immensely enjoyable book.
Favorite line: “A gun… Megatron gave me a gun. It’s a beautiful gift, but I don’t understand its significance.” –Destro, who doesn’t know a portent when it’s handed to him.


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