Now it’s time to take a detailed look at the Transformers manga collection that came out over here. Spread across 3 omnibus volumes this brought in many different Transformers titles. So you’ve got everything from classic G1 to Starsaber and even beyond. It’s definitely a must read for any Transformers fan. The stories are typically fairly quick so they are able to fit a whole lot in here. Each volume also has a lot of artwork at the end which is always fun as well as the final volume having a lot of unused concept art for episodes that we could have gotten. Definitely a shame that they were never animated but this is a lot of Transformers hype right at your fingertips.
I figure I’m going to break this down into each oneshot/series that’s included so lets start from the top. The first miniseries introduces us to Kenji who will end up being a fairly important kid. He wants to help the Autobots as best he can but he’s mainly more like a cheerleader the way Spike and Daniel were before they got their Exo-Suits. It’s always nice to have a human cheering them on though and it beats having to hide who they are all the time. We get several fights against Megatron and co.
A lot of these issues focus on the combiners which is nice as we get to see fights like Trypticon vs Metroplex. If you’re a fan of those big ones including Menasaur and the gang then it’s a nice way to kick things off. This first series has 8 issues so it’s one of the longer ones in the collection. It’s also the most retro I’d say because each issue feels like how a classic Transformers episode would play out. At most you can just see how the fights are shorter since the comic page counts aren’t very large. Typically once the Autobots get serious the Decepticons go down in a page or two.
At the end of the day I’d say Kenji was decent. A kid who can’t really contribute to the story can only go so far but he does try so I’ll give him credit there. He’s also very enthusiastic about the whole mission and stopping Decepticons so that’s good as well. In the manga there are times when the kids can even get Decepticons to see the error of their ways or at least weaken their drive so that can be important.
The second series is a bit shorter with 5 issues but mainly deals with the Galvatron vs Rodimus Prime part of the Transformers mythos. So if you’re a big Rodimus fan then this will probably be the highlight for you. It’s always good to see him. I may be a bigger HotShot fan but Rodimus is fun as well. Galvatron is really outmatched in each story though so it can be easy to forget that he’s supposed to be way stronger than Megatron was. In many ways the Autobots completely outmatch the Decepticons in each of the series here. Maybe Rodimus really was the chosen one and helped keep the Autobots on a higher tier. It’s something to think about at least…
The humans don’t really get to appear in this one. This is one of the more Robot focused stories but the humans would be returning soon so you don’t have to miss them for long. Either way the Robots are doing the heavy lifting so it’s not really a problem if they miss from time to time. Some would say the stories are even better without them. I do like the dynamic with the evil kids later on though so you don’t want to lose out on that.
This next series is even shorter at 3 stories but with a title like the Great Transformers War you can bet that there is a lot of action going on here. Optimus Prime is back by this point which is cool and there is a lot of action going on across the universe. You’ve got the Dark Headmasters as well and I’m always up for a good fight. There may be a bit less in here to stand out among the other stories but it’s got a solid base which is always important. A good story and solid action scenes will always end up making for a solid product and imagining all of this animated would be fun. Daniel also gets to show up here.
There’s a oneshot during the Beastformer saga which was solid. Basically the Decepticons and their animal counterparts decide to attack while White Leo is away so Kane and the others have to defend the place. Kane is so much better than Kenji and the main reason for that is that he can fight. Not just putting up a struggle or something but he has a sword and a mech suit. He can actually deal damage and do more than just be a distraction. That’s exactly what you want to see from the humans when they’re contributing.
With 8 issues, Headmasters is one of the longer series and it makes sense since it was fairly long/important in the cartoons as well. You now have all the good and evil headmasters fighting it out like ChromeDome. The original Autobots don’t appear as much by this point but you should like the new guys well enough. Daniel and friends actually have a sizable role this time as they appear in virtually every issue.
While I thought the actual Autobots from the Headmasters show were always some of the weakest, it’s always good to see them as a change of pace. By this point the series was like Pokemon where it’s difficult to memorize all of the names. Good luck on trying though, it would definitely be impressive if you can remember them all. You get a good amount of action here so it holds up with the rest of them.
After that is the Masterforce adaption and of course that was one of my favorite shows so that was nice. Unfortunately Ginrai’s human host is already gone by the time the manga starts so he doesn’t really get to appear but instead Shuta and Cab get really big roles here as our human characters. They’re pretty solid and get a little more to do than Kenji from earlier. That’s because they actually get to debate with their evil counterparts on the Decepticons side to prove that being a hero is its own reward. They’re later joined by Minerva and the 3 of them are actually given robots so fight with so they can help on the front lines.
Again, that’s always really big in helping make the characters cool because you absolutely need to be able to contribute. It’s only when the characters can’t contribute that I start shaking my head. Masterforce gets 12 whole issues so you can see that the manga is giving it the respect that it deserves. Although on the villains side Zarak and Devil Z aren’t as impressive as their names suggest. The villains in this saga tend to be a little bit whinier at times and maybe that’s a result of having the dark kids with them. Hard to say for sure but they don’t seem as pure evil and heartless as someone like Megatron was.
Victory is next up and I always thought that Starsaber had a really cool design. It reminds me of Protoman and he really stands out for that reason. At 10 issues you definitely don’t want to underestimate this series either. This time the main kid is Jan and his evil counterpart is Solon. It follows a fairly similar format of the kid helping out at times but by now the names for fighters from both forces will probably be totally unfamiliar to you. Fortunately it’s never very hard to tell who is a hero and villain both design wise but also in context. There’s never any doubt with the villains yelling and blasting about destroying the world. The two kids from the last series return but the girl changes as instead Jan’s sister Patty takes up the heroine slot. Her design is almost identical to the last heroine except that she looks a bit older. I always think authors should go out of their way to make sure designs don’t look super similar as long as there is no plot reason for it.
We also have the Transformers Zone adaption and they get to flesh things out a bit which is cool. I always thought that OVA had a ton of potential because it was basically an all star line up of the most powerful Decepticons to ever walk the planet. So now you have them all teaming up? That’s a winning combination if I’ve ever seen one but it’s hard to properly give them all time when it’s so short. Well in the manga version you feel like they all get to fight a bit longer. You also have the human fighters at the ready and so it feels like a fairly climactic battle with a lot of fighters on both sides. This really could have been its own series and it would have worked out really nicely. One day I’d like to see more stories from this part of the saga.
That said, as mentioned the manga does go farther than Zone into some original territory. One of these is the Battlestar one shot. Super Megatron (Cool form btw) ends up fighting with Star Convoy over in space and it’s cool to see all of these powered up modes going at it. From the story pages of unused drafts we see after this, there were really a ton of new forms and stories that were coming in the future. This is a nice preview of what we could have had and it makes sense as each G1 show did keep on increasing the power levels. It only makes sense that the robots would get more advanced each time right?
This was no exception and it was fun. It’s harder to go into detail on the draft parts but Optimus Prime would have been revived for real with a new form, he and Megatron would have had a lot of clashes in space and it all looked super hype. It also seemed more plot focused with a lot of cliffhangers and to be continued segments. One day I’d like to see Transformers get back into stories like that. The modern titles are cool and all of course but when’s the last time we got really high tier space battles with energy sabers and all? I feel like a lot of that died with G1 even if the modern titles are cool in their own ways as well.
With so many stories in the collection they can absolutely start to blend together. I’d compare it to the original DC Justice League comics where there are a lot of adventures and they follow a format each time. New villains and threats but roughly the same steps to getting there. Most of the Transformer stories are very similar in that way and since most of them are effectively stand alones, it’s easy to just pick up and read at any time.
By the same token, none of them are going to leave the same lasting impact on you as a volume from one of the modern titles would. Because those are typically a lot more plot based and tense with different story arcs and fate of the world hanging in the balance. Since these can range from being re-adaptions to side stories within the verse, there usually isn’t a whole lot of danger in the stories. They’re all very consistent though so you’re not likely to run into any weak stories here. They’re all pretty good. None are great but none are bad so it’s a fairly safe spot in there.
The artwork is okay but this is one where I would say that it can get a little messy and chaotic. Particularly during the battle scenes where everyone is blasting at each other. That’s where you can start to get lost in the sauce a little and may need to re read a page or just go slow. The series are fairly old so it makes sense that the art isn’t as polished. The way the panels are lined up and everything even feels more like an old comic. In a way it’s interesting how comics and manga both changed a lot over time into more streamlined designs. I suppose progress is progress no matter where you’re at.
The writing is on point though and it’s definitely nostalgic reading these titles. They definitely feel like real episodes on the printed page, only abridged versions to tell the full story in a small amount of pages. Whether you like Transformers or just want to check out a classic action story then you’ll have fun here. Not only will you get to meet a whole lot of different Transformer characters from over the years but you’ll get to see a lot of them fight and can understand more when people mention how Transformers used to be more about the robots than the humans.
A modern day remake of G1 would definitely be amazing in any format. I’m talking a classic full length series with traditional animation in 2022. No gimmicks or AUs or anything like that, but a straight G1 inspired story for an ongoing. That would be a blast because those titles had a lot of charm and can be modernized pretty well. You’d just switch the more episodic plot into something that’s a little more interconnected and then you’ll be all set. You could probably even include the kids if you want, at least the ones from Masterforce and beyond since they have their own robot suits and can fight.
The plot with the evil kid would work too because it’s especially easy to see how a kid would be taken in by the Decepticon’s lies and would be hard to get back on the good path. You could have a real good plot there provided you don’t let it completely take over the main plot. Robots still need to be the focus and you don’t want to change that but otherwise you’re all good.
Overall, I’d recommend checking out this collection. It’s like reading a Marvel’s Essential or DC Showcase where they bring over 500 pages of content. This one is spread out over 3 volumes but each one is really large and you can probably tell that based on all the stories above. It’s a must read for Transformers fans and it’s really impressive that they grabbed so many stories. I can basically say that I’ve read just about all of the Transformers manga now. There will always be others of course but this was a massive jump considering I hadn’t read much Transformers at all before now. (I’ve read a decent amount of the comics although probably a small drop in that big bucket of materials)