– A commentary by Sean McPhillimy Taylor –
From September to November 2016, IDW published an event titled Revolution. Its aim was to bring together all of their Hasbro Inc. licensed properties – Action Man, G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K., Micronauts, and Transformers – into one shared universe: to bring a Revolution to the worlds of their books; hopefully managing to keep their long-time fans/readers of their G.I. Joe and Transformer books (both of which having published over 200 issues of each), and attract new readers to their publishing line. Four of the six properties had ongoing books prior to the event: the aforementioned G.I. Joe and Transformers, but also Rom and Micronauts. IDW chose to publish a 4-issue mini-series of Action Man leading into Revolution, which was used as the launching pad for an on-going M.A.S.K. book after the event.
I was one of the new readers IDW was hoping to attract. I heard about the event and, while remembering much of the above characters from playing with them as toys and watching their cartoons, I thought maybe nostalgia was worth itching and seeing what IDW had to offer. Now, bear with me as I digress briefly, to help me make my point that I will get to, and give you a bit of context about me as a comic reader. The last event of a shared universe that I went into solely based on it sounding interesting, with no connection to the universe, was Armor Hunters by Valiant Comics (still my favorite event in all of comics since). I read a couple interviews with the lead writer of the event, Robert Venditti, and was intrigued. The event would have 4 issues of the core event book, and only one tie-in book, in the ongoing Unity book, that was critical to the main plot. The other three event tie-in books helped enlarge the story, but were not strictly necessary to the core plot. Back to Revolution, IDW rolled the event out with the following publishing schedule:
Here is the problem: Rom: Revolution #1 is central to better understanding the core plot and especially his role in this universe; his mission. His role and personal mission, separate from the plot of the event, eventually gets briefly described half-way into Revolution #3.
M.A.S.K.: Revolution has zero bearing on the core plot of the event, and in fact, the ending does not actually match up with the scene in Revolution #2 when Miles Mayhem (leader of M.A.S.K.) introduces Scarlett (Commander of G.I. Joe) to the M.A.S.K. team, which actually happens half-way through Rev. #2.
The Micronauts: Revolution is a perfect set up for their introduction into the event, intelligently building off of the story that had been told in the Micronauts ongoing, and the ending of Micro. Rev. #1 perfectly starts Revolution #3. Like with Armor Hunters, it is an issue that is not strictly necessary to the plot but greatly enlarges the story and improves the experience.
Nevertheless, in Revolution #3, there is a scene with the editorial note that says: “*see Till All Are One,” except that Transformers: Till Are One is not published until two issues later. It completely leaves you uninformed and eliminates the possible full impact of the discussion being had. It also leaves a background potential subplot out of the main book entirely but, most egregiously, it makes it a lot harder to understand the ending and how what happened to save everyone happened.
In Revolution #4, another editorial note says, “*see G.I. Joe: Revolution and Transformers: Revolution,” except that the person being talked to was not in G.I. Joe: Revolution and Transformers: Revolution was published after Rev. #4. Additionally, G.I. Joe’s story is not relevant to the core plot, does not enlarge it, and at the end, says “story continued in the G.I. Joe ongoing.” Furthermore, Transformers: Revolution should be attached to dialogue two frames later, which doesn’t matter any way as the story in Trans: Rev. does not enlarge the story and is not relevant to the plot.
Still in Revolution #4, a scene has the ed. note “*see Action Man: Revolution.” The problem this time is that the scene is playing out after the aftermath of Action: Rev., which happens to be published, yet again, two issues after Rev. 4.
The art style in the main book, done by Fico Ossio and colored by Sebastian Cheng, felt like a mix of more current anime movies, a cartoon look, and CGI. At times, I found myself saying “wow” and other times I found the art so busy, with the coloring too similar in hue and shading, that it was distracting. The art actually slowed me down a bit too much at times. It was not always easy to tell who was who when there were not boxes telling me who each person was. The entire page and splash page scenes were the artist’s strength and wow moments.
The story pacing was quick and maybe a bit too compressed. Without the prelude, which was a free give away to stores re-printed at the end of Revolution #1, I never would have felt like the table was set. The main characters of not just the event but also who IDW will be featuring going forward were all written well, with distinct enough personalities. Each set of characters are left with stories their books can tell that were not resolved during the event.
Publishing snafus aside – significant ones – Revolution did ultimately finish in a way that makes the combining of their Hasbro properties make sense. It built a foundation that will allow for future crossover events without being entirely convoluted or contrived. Their Revolutionaries series is a testament to that – the book has multiple characters from the event working togethr. Oh, and as it should be, they saved the world!
Sean has read and enjoyed comics avidly for about 5 years now. His favorite genre is Sci-Fi, just like with TV and movies. Despite him never doing Sci-Fi, his favorite writer currently is Cullen Bunn. One thing Sean definitely laments is the excessive covers practice of the industry.