REVIEW: Last Stand of the Wreckers

Last Stand of the Wreckers. ( Hardback)
James Roberts and Nick Roche
IDW Publishing


Don’t Make any plans rookies.
So it turns out that thanks to the wonders of the digital age, nostalgia just isn’t what it used to be. In the before-time (Pre internet )it was quite possible to look back on your beloved childhood favourites with love and fondness saying thing like “ those were the days “, “ things were better back then”, and  “ Those M.A.S.K cartoons were  really good”.  Of course that was total bollocks. It was just childhood memories playing tricks. Those things don’t exist the way you remember. But at the very least you could bask in the memories of how great they were without fear that the source material would come back to bite you in the backside. Sadly thanks to online communities it is entirely possible to have any possible permeation of Film, comic or song In mere moments allowing it to be proven quite decisively that the thing you remembered, and cherished….was a bit shite. The original run on Marvels Transformers comics are a fantastic example of this phenomenon.
I don’t know what it was about the story of a bloody intergalactic civil war that so captured my imagination as a small boy growing up in the perfectly calm totally terrorist atrocity free state of Northern Ireland. But it left an indelible mark on my psyche. When I think back to the stories from the Marvel Transformers comics, I remember a galaxy spanning saga pitting noble heroes against villainous rebels against a backdrop of colourful alien worlds. This  is  actually due to the aforementioned rose tinted glasses effect . The World Wide Web allows me to access these stories with the greatest of  ease , and what the Transformers comics really  amount to  is: a cassette that turns into a flying  rat is  plotting to take over the planet by hypnotising  people using a rock and roll car wash . A dinosaur who wears a crown wants to stop him. A scantily clad paraplegic wants to stop them both. [1]
At least, that was the case for the US. In the UK and Ireland we got additional material written by the likes of Transformers legend ( and Holly out of Red Dwarf look alike ) Simon Furman who took an altogether more adult approach to the comic that essentially  pitted two sets of toys fighting over who was the best toy . Stories like Target: 2006, and Time Wars which, with hindsight were still not quite what I remembered, but still light-years ahead of their American counterparts. It was  these stories that really made their mark on me. And seemingly On Nick Roche and James Roberts  whose Last Stand Of The Wreckers was released in 2010 to much acclaim and has now been collected in a very tasty little hardback edition collecting the limited series  plus  almost 100 pages of additional material.
One of the chief complaints I hear about modern day transformers comics is that there is too much heavy backstory. This may very well be true. Fortunately in this case it is irrelevant as this book works perfectly well as a standalone once you understand the very simple premise
The Wreckers are an elite group of Autobot warriors famed for both their daring missions, and their ludicrously high membership turnover.  A veritable Suicide Squad, LSOTW introduces us to the four latest recruits and sends them off on a mission from which it is likely they will never return. That’s all you need to know. This isn’t to say that there’s nothing here for hard-core fans. Quite the contrary :as well as cover galleries, sketches and  character profiles, the bonus materials rather annoyingly  include a very detailed list of all the Easter eggs , which allows you a momentary sense of self satisfaction for getting all the ones you spotted and which then evaporates as you see all the ones you missed .  The bastards. Still, it contains one of the most obscure Bret Hart references I’ve ever encountered in a mainstream comic and that can’t be  a bad thing.

In the industry we call this “ Fan Service”.
The closest comparison i can make to LSOTW in comics Terms would be to the Giffen /DeMatteias run on Justice League International with which it shares supper sharp witty dialogue, crisp clean artwork and most tellingly, a real sense of camaraderie between the all too real seeming characters that make up the rag tag bunch. [2] There’s a real sense of loss whenever one of the characters inevitably snuff it. In some regards it feels less like a comic and has   it has more in common with a team up movie like the Dirty Dozen. Actually The Expendables might be the best comparison, given that the 4 doomed red shirt robots are based on characters so obscure that their toys were only released in some European countries long after the heyday of the G1 line.
In truth the new recruits in LSOTW are barely concealed author avatars for Roche and Roberts, ascended fan boys who now have the opportunity to walk amongst the giants whom they once watched from afar. However unlike the doomed newbies in their tale Nick Roche and James Roberts have already managed something that their comic’s predecessors have not: Nick Roche and James Roberts make the transformers comics I remember reading when I was a kid. Well played lads.

[1] . This is the actual plot of Issue 31 of The Transformers: Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom, easily one of the dopiest things I have ever read. The mentioned dinosaur and paraplegic do not actually feature in the comic but are part of the overriding story arc. It never hurts to make these things clear.

[2] This was initially speculation on my part. Then I saw the alternative cover to the current on-going “More Than Meets the Eye” series by the same creative team.  That’s one more….for the bad guy.