Reviewer: Iain Burnside
Story Title: The Iron Fist
Written by: John Ney Rieber
Penciled by: Jae Lee
Inked by: Jae Lee
Colored by: June Chung
Lettered by: Ben Lee
Editor: Adam Patyk
Last summer, the two icons of â€˜80s nostalgia, G.I. Joe and the Transformers, were teamed up in two six-issue crossover mini-series by their newfound money-hungry license owners, Devil’s Due and Dreamwave respectively. The Devil’s Due version took a more straight-forward approach that harkened back to the Marvel crossovers of old between the Big Bots and the Joes, and was a mildly entertaining read. Dreamwave’s version sounded much more interesting. They moved the action back to the beginning of an alternate timeline’s World War II, replaced the Nazi’s with Cobra, redesigned all of the Transformers to suit the period, and actually had the Americans (G.I. Joe, naitch) take a more proactive stance. Boy, am I ever going to get it in the neck for thatâ€¦ Anyway, this little series gathered quite a lot of attention for two out-dated toy properties riding the diehard-fanboy powered wave of nostalgia and now draws to a close this month. While it definitely gives the reader better value for money than G.I. Joe/Transformers (confused yet?), there was certainly plenty of room for improvement.
Typically with any sort of crossover series, the plot is a secondary mechanism best left to each property’s individual titles. The main selling point, right from the start, has always been the stunning artwork of Jae Lee, who has created a gritty and dirty atmosphere perfectly suited to this rather surreal battlefield. His Transformer designs throughout this series have been stunning but with the debut of the completely deranged gestalt Bruticus and his subsequent rampage, Lee has saved the best for last. Created by Destro and The Baroness, who are engaging in some sordid game of out-deceiving masquerading as foreplay, Bruticus is pure hate and terror captured in gigantic robot form. He is the atom bomb of this redesigned WW2. There is no chance in hell that the humans will be able to stop him, and even the Autobots seem powerless against his rage. Lee doesn’t just shine when it comes the mechanoids though. His renditions of the Joes and Cobra are equally impressive. Hell, anybody capable of drawing eyes as truly evil as those of Zartan’s are in this issue deserves some major praise. Not to mention Scarlett, the hottest redhead in any comic not involving spiders, and her mysterious main squeeze Snake Eyes, whose enigmatic qualities are highlighted by the dark tone of this book.
Sadly for the rest of the characters Lee has painstakingly designed and drawn in such a passionate fashion, Chung’s colouring is not as flattering for them. Hell, even the cover of this book does not stand out in any way whatsoever. A tiny splurge of purple on Megatron’s chest notwithstanding, the entire thing is a messy flood of grey, and it barely becomes any clearer in the actual book itself. It is quite commendable to try and reflect the murky moral aspects of war, and very refreshing to do so with these normally ham-fisted characters, but methinks she went a little bit overboard. At times Lee’s designs are completely obscured, wasting one of the main selling points of this title, and seriously interrupting the flow of the narrative.
That is not to say the narrative could flow very well on its own, however. This final issue seems to confirm the oft-voiced rumour that Rieber was just making it up as he went along. The opening consists of a lot of standing around and talking before the writer finally figures out how to bring things to a satisfactory conclusion. Eventually Scarlett and Snake Eyes stumble upon Destro and The Baroness, who have apparently found the one true weak spot of any Transformer and use it to kill Starscream. It is on â€The right side, just behind the hinge of the jaw, an inch below the ear.â€ This has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the story, but I thought I would make mention of it as it is beyond stupid. We’re talking Nightcrawler’s-daddy-is-the-Devil territory here, folks. Sheeshâ€¦ So anyway, Megatron finally decides to tell Cobra Commander where to go, having sat around and listened to his inane rants for the past five issues. Sorry Mr. Commander, there is only one retro super-villain capable of inane rants and that is Megatron. Hell, even Skeletor would whoop your ass into third place. Oh yeah, and Bruticus has been released now. None of which makes any difference to anybody as Optimus Prime suddenly gets a hold of the Autobot’s Creation Matrix (taken by that wannabe dastard Cobra Commander to hold the â€˜Cons in check) and uses it to kill Bruticusâ€¦ and himself… and all the Transformers. The Joes seem to be terribly moved by all of this, having realized that sometimes some giant robots have feelings too, but as an ending it came straight out of nowhere and has to be marked down as very sloppy writing. And I’m beginning to wonder why Optimus Prime is allowed to keep that Matrix as he keeps losing the bloody thing. Either that or he’s giving it away to people. Or, you know, killing everybody with it.
â€œPrime, have you seen my car keys?â€
â€œNoâ€¦ Wait, YOU LOST YOUR CAR KEYS??â€
â€œUh, yeahâ€¦ Sure they’ll turn upâ€¦â€
â€œOH MY GOD!!! We must all DIE IMMEDIATELY!!!â€
â€œDude, chill out!â€
â€œOh, okayâ€¦ Hey, you want a Matrix little man?â€
Okay, I’m done ranting now as this review is already two days late and if the writer can’t be arsed putting in the effort for his story then I can’t be arsed putting in the effort to review it in any great depth. By the way, if you get a chance, look at the final panel on the last page. I’m certain Snake Eyes wants to ask her if she’s ever been with another womanâ€¦