It’s time to review the Transformers trilogy that came out a while back. These three books all take place in the film continuity, which can make longtime fans groan. Not to worry, you wouldn’t even notice if not for a few key references. None of the characters are quite as bad as the movie counterparts and the writing is certainly a lot better. This feels like a real Transformers adventure and it was a pretty fun ride from start to finish.
The first book is mostly the set up as we meet the Autobots and get to see them take down a few Decepticons. After that, we shift to Kevin’s point of view. He can’t get any homework done at his friend’s place due to a party that is going on so he heads off. He meets up with an Autobot named Gears who is currently looking for a special location to protect it from Decepticons. It ends up being hidden under a real government base so Kevin agrees to tag along so that he can finally get in on some action. Things get tricky when a Decepticon named Reverb tricks Ratchet into believing that he’s an Autobot and that they have to destroy Gears. This will definitely test the bonds of friendship between Autobots and Kevin will have to move quickly if he wants to survive this!
The second book gives Duane a bigger focus as he realizes that he needs to get closer to the heroes. He plans for his minions to steal some super tanks that a company has developed so he leads the heroes on a wild goose chase onto the next special facility. It actually turns out to be pretty useful and he works on earning Kevin’s trust while Reverb and the Decepticons attack the tanks and the Autobots. Can the heroes save the tanks or will they have to go back and make sure the Kevin and the scientists are okay. Meanwhile…when are they going to find Douglas?
Book 3 concludes the trilogy and I wish that I could say how it ended on a bang, but I really did prefer book 2. Duane places all of his cards on the table as he attacks with his tanks. The Autobots naturally counter, but a scientist decides to destroy all of the Transformers as he launches a satellite that will emit a code that will wipe them all out. Kevin and Gears decide that the satellite is the true priority and Reverb wants to live as well so a race against the clock starts. Meanwhile, we have insect worms that have invaded Earth and they are also attacking Douglas on the other planet. (Which actually gets a decent amount of screentime here as a subplot) One way or another…it all ends here!
Optimus Prime may not get a huge role in this trilogy, but it still may be a little bigger than you may have expected. He is guaranteed to get a fight in each of the three books and that’s always pretty fun. He takes down his the first Decepticon rather easily in book one and he also crushes the worms in the final book of the trilogy. (During the re match anyway) The only fight where Prime is on the losing side is when he faces off against Reverb and it’s mostly due to the fact that none of the Autobots or Decepticons are very athletic or quick, but I shall talk about that more in a bit. This is a pretty accurate depiction of Prime and he’s awarded the respect that he really deserves at this point. He seems to be a little more eager to convert Decepticons into Autobots here than usual, but he does ultimately want the war to be over. He can just be a little too naive in this when a single blast can change the course of a battle. He risks his spark with this decision more than once.
Gears is the main Autobot in this trilogy since he’s always hanging out with Kevin. His personality is pretty similar to Bulkhead’s or the green robot in Rescue Bots. He doesn’t really understand all of the Earth customs and such yet, but he still tries to help Kevin through his many hardships. Gears can be pretty cheesy though and he’s not the greatest fighter. He can definitely fight if he has too, but his leg is almost always injured. He beats Ratchet and Bumble Bee, but he’s not going to stand out after the trilogy ends.
Bumblebee looks pretty bad here. He doesn’t fall into any character holes, but the author must think that he’s the weakest Autobot of all time. Bumblebee doesn’t get to win any fights here and he is constantly crushed by random Decepticons. He always “talks” tough, but Bumblebee is the first one to hit the ground. He’ll charge at the villain, but they always seem to be quicker and stronger than him. It’s true that Bumblebee isn’t the toughest Autobot around, but he’s still a tough warrior and he gets the job done. I at least expect Bumblebee to put up a decent fight. That never happens here and Bumblebee’s role is very small, which doesn’t help either.
The only Autobot who may appear less than Bumblebee is Ratchet. Ratchet doesn’t look very good either since he can be worse than Prime when it comes to falling for Decepticon traps. The odds of Reverb actually being a hero are slim to none and he was very suspicious the entire time. Ratchet should have been prepared for such a course of action and he rarely helps during fight scenes. He has a cool buzzsaw, but you have to actually land attacks with it to make a difference. He gets to take down some of the worms and a Decepticon somewhere down the line, but he could have been a lot better. We need more fighters and less medics for the heroes!
Typically, I don’t like Ironhide, but he was actually pretty good here. He is always bragging or putting up a tough front. That can get old fast, but it’s good to see that at least one Autobot is always ready to fight. Considering how many Decepticons are around, The heroes definitely need more Ironhides. Despite his claims, Ironhide still isn’t that much tougher than the others. He has a lot of weapons, but he still struggles to beat a human tank and he is also quickly shut down by Reverb. He’s not a bad character, but he’s going to have to get stronger if he really wants to earn a rep. I am glad that he didn’t fall for Douglas’ tricks though.
Reverb is the main Decepticon and he’s really the only one to actually get a role here. He’s not ultimately powerful, but he can give Gears’ a good fight. He certainly knows how to get back on his feet though since he appears in all three books. He gets an energy shield, which immediately makes him stronger than the rest of the Autobots. It’s a little sad for the heroes, but it certainly gives Reverb bragging rights. He’s pretty generic, but as far as villains go, Reverb was all right. I should remember his name for a while now and he doesn’t let the humans boss him around.
Kevin is basically what you may expect from your average main character. The book does a good job of keeping him away from the romance angle and he just wants to have a good time. He does come with a tragic backstory though since his parents were taken out by Decepticons. Things get even worse for him after the first book as his brother is also taken away. Kevin manages to be pretty likable when he’s on screen although he can be a little wishy washy sometimes. He talks back to government officials as well as Autobots and Decepticons. Nothing can faze him and it’s pretty intense. He blew up at his friend in book 1 rather quickly though, which may make you doubt whether he makes for a good friend or not. All things considered, he’s a lot better than he could have been.
Duane is the main human villain of the trilogy. It’s not really a spoiler to say this because we find out pretty early on that he’s the main villain. He is rich and he just wants his Dad’s big inventions to fail so that he can prove to his father just how good he is. He’s willing to destroy just about anyone to further these ambitions and he’s very good at controlling technology. He can definitely be a handful for the heroes, but he definitely has the skills to prove why he can be useful to both sides. I think his character development in book 3 is very rushed though since an accident forces him to do a complete 180 on his plans. I don’t know…the whole thing happened without a lot of foreshadowing. It’s just hard to picture him changing so drastically because of the one event. I think the series may have been planned to be longer than 3 books or the author just lost track of time there. Still, Duane may be the best human villain that we’ve seen in Transformers since the Hunter in the original show.
Douglas is Kevin’s brother and he’s a pretty noble character. The author tries to portray him as the ultimate hero. He’s a tough commander, but he still makes time to joke around and become buddies with all of his subordinates. His will to survive never wavers and he’s firmly planted on the side of justice. He can be a little too strict at times though and Douglas tends to be very slow on the uptake. The author really tries to force you to like him, but that’s more or less okay since he’s a solid character. (Of course…that’s the point of the plan…) I wouldn’t have minded a book about his journeys on the planet.
Simon Clay is another villain whose character development goes through a radical change between books 1 and 2. You can even argue that it started towards the end of book 1. He was a capable villain at first and then he is completely used for comic relief in the final two books. He’s terrified of the Decepticons and he’s even scared of a kid. (He doesn’t know that his boss is a kid of course, but it’s still pretty embarrassing) He’s always running away or stuttering when Reverb is around and it’s pretty sad. I liked him a lot in book 1 and after that you can only like him in a comic relief way. I actually don’t mind that form of him, but you simply cannot try to be both serious and comic relief. You have to choose one or the other or you will fail at both. That’s what happens to Clay.
Let’s address the power levels of the Transformers. This is the movie continuity so it explains why they’re so weak, but it can be a little sad to fans who only watch the shows. The government’s tech is already almost up to par with the Transformers’ and it’s heavily implied that it is superior. The 1 on 1 battle between Ironhide and a tank ends with the Autobot’s victory, but Duane was holding back so throw away any suspicions that the heroes may have gotten. The scientist was also able to create a ray that could destroy all of the Autobots, but the heroes admit that it may not have worked anyway. Basically, a simple missile can deal critical damage to a Transformer and the government also has liquid metal that can instantly KO them. The Transformers are in a very dangerous pickle here.
What can also be a little annoying is that all of the Transformers seem to be more or less equal power wise. A good shot from a blade or a gun can KO just about anyone. The Autobots typically win because they attack first or land the opening blow, but the Decepticons really seem to have an even chance if they would only land a blow. I think there should be more of a gap between someone like Prime as opposed to the average Autobot.
One of the great positives about the trilogy is the fact that the books just go very quickly. They are a little on the short side (Around 130-160 pages a book and the print is fairly large) but I’m not really referring to length. The plot is very engaging and the dialogue between the characters is interesting enough to just keep you reading. The very first scene in the trilogy can start off a little too quickly since you’re just picking up the book, but it’s clear sailings from there. I typically finished off large portions of the trilogy in a single batch because of how fun they were. (Maximum Ride still holds the record in that regard as I would read a complete book in one sitting. I read a whole Transformers book in one batch as well, but Maximum Ride is about three times bigger)
Overall, This is a pretty great trilogy. We get some nice fight scenes and the human characters are actually pretty interesting. My only warning is that you should not expect the Transformers to operate under many tiers as mentioned earlier. There isn’t much that separates someone like Optimus Prime from someone like Ratchet. They’re more or less equal when it comes down to a fight, which makes things dicey against Reverb. The second book is actually the highlight of the trilogy, but the third still does have some fun action with Douglas and his party as they try to survive on the blue planet. Drama, Suspense, Action…this trilogy has it all!