Transformers vs. GI Joe #0 review

Transformers vs. GI Joe #0"What if Jack Kirby drew GI Joe?" It's a question no one has ever asked. It's a question we didn't need an answer to. And yet it (and the similarly unnecessary question "what if Jack Kirby also drew The Transformers?") seems to be the central premise of IDW's Transformers vs. GI Joe comic, available this Saturday on Free Comicbook Day.

The book is drawn by Tom Scioli, best known for the Kirby-knockoff Gødland, a comic that, statistically, no one you know has ever read. He's also co-writer here, paired with John Barber, a guy who's written and edited a bunch of IDW's Transfomers comics - and those seem pretty popular, so that bodes well for this book.

This new title isn't tied to any of IDW's existing continuities. It's its own world, not beholden to any stories that have come before. But while this is an origin, it's an origin of the conflict between these two groups, not an origin of the groups themselves: as far as the Transformers go, it's almost an epilogue; and we join the Joes in media res, attacking a Cobra base (in the ancient temple of Koh-Buru-Lah, just one of the many pieces of fanwink that populate the brief story). In fact, since this is just an opening introduction, the two factions barely even notice each other - it's more that their separate stories intersect, then go their own ways once more.

However, if you're expecting writing on par with the main GI Joe and Transformers comics, you're going to be disappointed - it's like a slightly less funny Mad Magazine parody. Reading it with that in mind, it's really pretty entertaining, but you might want to manage your expectations before you crack the cover open, or you're in for some culture shock while you try to re-adjust. Think about it in terms of [adult swim]'s Superjail: it isn't meant to be good, it's meant to be silly, and when it's silly, it's good.

The same goes for the art. I've never understood the fetishization of Jack Kirby's artwork. You know how the success of Rob Liefeld inspired a slew of less talented imitators? Imagine if it hadn't happened until after he was dead, but then people built entire careers out of aping his style. The "real imitation krab" nature of the art adds to the Mad parody feeling.

However, there are a lot of clever moments, too. We get layouts and diagrams that could be taken straight from the '80s books, and a ton is owed to the cartoons, as well. If you don't try to take things seriously, there's a lot to like here.

The back of the book features a page-by-page commentary, where Scioli and Barber discuss the process of hammering this story into shape, and tease where they want things to go in the ongoing series.

On my first read of Transformers vs. GI Joe #0, I was disappointed, because I didn't understand what they were going for. Every subsequent re-reading has improved my opinion of the book though, and it's definitely worth picking it up for free on Saturday.

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8 Responses to Transformers vs. GI Joe #0 review

  1. Kirby was one of the most dynamic and innovative artists in the history of comics. He inspired generations of creators to think beyond the limitations of the medium and spearheaded a visual revolution that is still being felt today. If your favorite artist claims they were not inspired by Kirby, then they were inspired by another artist who was. Without Kirby, comics as we know them simply would not exist: to think otherwise is either charmingly naive or willfully ignorant.

    • yo go re says:

      Lots of musicians were inspired by the Beatles, too, but that doesn't mean Beatles cover bands are the pinnacle of rock music...

  2. Faugh says:

    >I've never understood the fetishization of Jack Kirby's artwork.
    Kirby's main strength was his imagination, how dynamic his artwork was, and how masterfully he could lead your eyes around the page. His visual storytelling ability, especially in bombastic, epic scenes, is unparallelled.

    Scioli, unfortunately, mimics his style (which was probably Kirby's biggest weakness, at least in monthly titles), but not his storytelling skills.

  3. C'mon, man, you know I'm talking about how YOU feel about Kirby. You've expressed your distaste for him many times. If the guy's art rubs you the wrong way that's fine, but you carp about it way too much. In fact, dollars to donuts say the only reason you even reviewed this book was to once again gripe about ol' Jack. Put the ax away already, you've sharpened it enough.

    • yo go re says:

      No, I reviewed it because it's flippin' GI Joe fighting Transformers, the toy-i-est comicbook that ever toyed! It's an awesome new toy-related thing, and thus, I reviewed it so people can decide if they want to go get it when it comes out. Same reason we review most things.

      I wasn't expecting Kirby-knockoff art, or Adult Swim writing, and I doubt anyone else was, either. It would be stupid not to mention those things...

  4. I understand Kirby's massive contributions to the field, but man, oh man, I do not enjoy his art at all. I was huge fan of "The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe" when it first came out in the 1980s. Then I heard DC was doing one too. I snapped up that first issue of "Who's Who," and was massively disappointed at the "schlub artist" they got to do a bunch of the entries. That guy, I later found out, was Kirby.
    Now that I'm out of my grade-school years and am an adult, I have seen some really cool Kirby work, but I would never buy a Kirby book over a dozen other artists -- some modern, some his contemporaries.
    And let me say, one thing I do like about Kirby is his wild costume designs. I just like it when other people draw them. Another thing I like are his ideas -- Mr. Miracle, the New Gods, Demon and so many other concepts are really great.
    Heck, I even bought "Kirby Genesis" for the simple fact that someone else was drawing his characters!
    But am I really a fan of his art? Nope. Not really. I agree with Yo completely.

  5. ferris says:

    I don't know much about Kirby's work (though I do love Kirby dots), but this comic looks kind of awesome. Anything that has fun and celebrates how crazy these universes really are is good with me, like Roberts' Transformers book and the Joe episode of Community a few weeks back.

  6. Diana Davis says:

    I got it, hoping that the previews I saw were just sort of the book "getting in to the groove". I love Joe. I love reading Joe comics. I did not love this. Not at all. It wasn't a parody. It wasn't "slightly less funny" than MAD magazine.

    It seems like it was created by aliens who read someone's articles about the GI Joe comic and the cartoon, never read an issue or watched an episode. Maybe they glanced at the pictures of characters online. Then they went to town and mashed everything they sort of read and watched together.

    I didn't have high hopes. G.I. Joe is not the juggernaught it used to be, and the movies proved that people put a lot of money into "reinventing" something good and end up producing nothing more than a sour taste in fan's mouths.

    No one will read a GI Joe book besides already established Joe fans. This crossover MIGHT have grabbed a few Transformers fans. I can't imagine either enjoying it much.

    Look at the depiction of my own personal favorite: Duke. The interview at the end described him as someone who had a lot of battle experience, but then joined the Joes and was somehow out of his element.. "Who's THIS guy?" was how I think it was put. What? Would ANY Top Kick be that way? Not on your life. He's going to come into the fold and get those soldiers to follow his lead, or he's not WORTH bringing on as a NCO. Would Hawk, a competent officer, EVER bring anyone into his outfit he thought wouldn't hit the ground running? 'Course not. There's a difference between "parody" and "idiotic characterizations".

    Some are going to think that as a cartoon fan, I appreciated his lame efforts to "hook up" with Scarlett. It was like watching a terrible 80's teen movie.

    Why on Earth was Hawk toting a Tomahawk into battle? All it does is slow him down and get in the way. Did Doc go insane with the Band Aids after the battle? Who sucked out the Joes' brains?

    Kirby never tried to cram every single element possible into one frame, and

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