“They’re fools, Swoop — Fools if they think war is over, think that just because we fight together against Unicron, four million years or so of bitterness and resentment just swept away!
“Civil war was never about who rule Cybertron, not even about stopping Decepticons stripping Earth’s resources!
“War about genetics!
“Creator, Primus, think he make race of perfect beings — heroic, noble, good. He wrong. He create two races that would eventually start calling themselves Autobot and Decepticon. One good, one evil.
“Good and evil, it just ways of things. For every Yin a Yang, for every light a dark…. Everything balancing.”
This is a quote from Grimlock in End of the Road. This is in the aftermath of the victory against Unicron and Grimlock, as new leader of the Autobots, is explaining why he knows the new and fragile alliance with the Decepticons won’t last. It is genetics. They’re bad, that’s it, so that’s that. No use trying to play nice or trusting them. They’ll turn on us soon enough. The clue is in the name.
With the movies out there, Transformers has become known for big, dumb action. Let’s face it, the cartoon series of the 80s which I grew up with was hardly high art. But the comics I do love. They were well written, often by Simon Furman, who did so well in the UK that he ended up going Stateside and running it all.
These two graphic novels I own – All Fall Down and End of the Road – chronicle the coming of Unicron, the forging of the alliance, the battle itself and the aftermath. Not only do we have Grimlock’s simple but insightful understanding of the situation, but we also have a deformed bonding of Megatron and Ratchett so that Optimus has to face the great test of whether to kill this monstrosity or try to aid it; we have Grimlock questioning what kind of life it is for his Dinobots to be in stasis and that gambling their lives to save them is better than leaving them like this; we have Scorponok, or rather his head, Lord Zarak, doubting himself and everyone around him, as he struggles to lead the Decepticons into this ultimate battle. His character arc is particularly fascinating and emotive as he makes a pact with Optimus Prime, comes to admire him, admits he is afraid of dying, helps him in battle and finally gives his life against Unicron.
Basically, when a new Transformers movie is out and I see people raging against it or cheering for it all over the place, it is nice to be reminded that once there was some genuinely strong story telling with engaging characters that set up my fanboyish nature towards the robots in disguise.