10 September 2019

Review: Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: The Quintessential Collection by Tom Scioli & John Barber

Comic hardcover, n.pag.
Published 2017 (contents: 2014-17)
Acquired January 2018
Read May 2019
Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: The Quintessential Collection

Written by Tom Scioli & John Barber
Art, Colors, and Lettering by Tom Scioli

I picked up Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #0 solely because it was free at Free Comic Book Day 2014, which I guess is the point of it all. As a dedicated un-fan of G.I. Joe, I expected nothing out of it... and it blew my mind. Tom Scioli's comic told an entire story on almost every page, doing more with the medium in one issue than many writers accomplish in entire careers. People should be teaching that zero issue in universities. I knew from that moment that once a collection of the entire series was released, I would have to buy it, and I read it to cap off my run-through of all IDW's Transformers comics.

I love everything about this page, from the fact that it is technically a "silent interlude" because despite being covered in text, no one actually speaks, to the way the narration culminates in the triumph of the last line.
from Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #0

I'm pleased to say the entire thing is mostly as good as that #0 issue. Any single issue here could be a premise for an entire miniseries of its own. Scioli and co-writer John Barber rocket through ideas: Decepticons making a fake peace mission to Earth, G.I. Joe as insurgents on Cybertron, Cobra teaming up with the Decepticons on Earth, Metroplex as inhuman prison, Scarlett in an experiment to convince her both G.I. Joe and the Transformers are just toy lines... everything here is awesome, from the big ideas, to the small details. The whole thing has the exact right tone, alternating between the sublimely ridiculous and the ridiculously sublime. Scioli knows you can't take this seriously (someone goes "Yub Nub!" at a victory party) and that you can only take this seriously (G.I. Joe guns down the entire UN because they're not handling the conflict seriously enough).

I like the way Scioli and Barber often extrapolate worldbuilding from features of the shows: Decepticons can fly, while Autobots usually can't, so of course a Decepticon-ruled Cybertron would feature deadly highway traps.
from Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #2

It falters a little bit in the third quarter. Scioli and Barber's commitment to never staying still means the whole thing escalates too quickly for its fourteen-issue length, and it seems to me that some of the flashback stories in that part of the series are designed to stall things to keep the pacing in place for issue #13. But the last couple issues are delights all over again, as things keep getting bigger and better.

Has death in the gutter ever been more horrifying but matter-of-fact?
from Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #7

Honestly, there are times where it's like something you might come up with as a kid. I loved the occasional inclusion of maps and diagrams, the stuff I used to obsess over (or try to make!) as a ten-year-old fan of Oz or Narnia or what have you. But it's the pleasure of childhood combined with the seriousness of adulthood in a way that diminishes neither. Some Transformers comics and even more G.I. Joe comics often seem to want you to forget that this is all ridiculous by making everything Proper and Serious. But Scioli never loses the sense of play that drew you into these series to begin with. This is everything you could ever want a comic book about giant transforming robots to be, and more, and better.

On the one hand, this evokes kids playing with action figures by sticking them in their mouths. On the other hand, this is a guy being chewed to death inside Megatron's disgusting-looking mouth. Comics!
from Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #10
Next Week: Meanwhile, in the Federation... it's Star Trek vs. Transformers!

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