When I was a kid, the first thing I remember really getting into was Transformers. I had quite a few of the toys, Ultra Magnus was my favourite (I was born in 1983 so by the time I was old enough to pay attention to the cartoon we were on Season 3) as well as a ton of the Marvel UK comics. For a good couple of years, everything was all Transformers buts you do when you’re young I eventually drifted off to other things (Ninja Turtles!) I came back to them during my university years, picking up a number of the Hasbro G1 reissues of the toys and reading all the comics again just in time for the ongoing Dreamwave series to start.

I’ve long considered picking up most of the Transformers comics in trade, particularly the newer IDW stuff, but never quite got around to it. And then a couple of weeks ago, I saw that Hachette Partworks are collecting everything in the ‘Definitive G1 Collection‘ and couldn’t resist checking it out. I normally avoid collections like this due to the way the material is collected, typically random storylines in no particular order such as Hachette’s Marvel collection or the new Eaglemoss Star Trek series, but this collection promises to collect everything in chronological order which is exactly the sort of thing I’m interested in.

The Transformers Definitive G1 Collection is a series of hardbacks that has a planned run covering all of the original Marvel material from the 80’s, as well as the Dreamwave series and the current ongoing IDW titles. Given the name, I’d assume that it won’t be collecting any material from other continuities, such as Dreamwave’s Armada/Energon series or the Animated or Movie continuity stuff from IDW. There are however some additional series that could potentially be included due to their links to G1 such as the Generation 2 or Regeneration continuations to the original Marvel run, or the few Beast Wars miniseries that have been released.

While the completed collection will be chronological, the first issue released is volume 6 in the series. I’d actually started writing this piece a few days ago and was going to cover just the first issue, but the second and third issues arrived on Saturday so I thought it would be worth expanding it a little to cover those. Issues 2 and 3 are volumes 36 and 16, respectively.

So, onto the books themselves. Each volume features a matching cover, meaning every one will look basically the same. This is fine from a continuity and appearance side of things, but unfortunately the covers themselves are pretty bland.

Using a fairly generic image of one Transformers character as the main image, the bottom at least contains some artwork from the issues inside. The character images aren’t specific to the volume at all really, while Megatron and Hot Rod do appear in the volumes that they’re pictured on neither match the character’s appearance in those stories, and by the time of The Primal Scream Optimus Prime has become a Powermaster instead of his classic design. This also means that we’re unlikely to have the classic cover from The New Order appear as a cover, sadly. I also would have preferred the era-appropriate title font for the series instead of the very dull modern one, but I’d assume that was Hasbro’s call.

The back of the books contain a brief synopsis of the issues contained within, issue numbers and the various legal stuffs. Like the front cover, aside from the text each volume is identical here. My main issue is the spines of the volumes. When completed the entire collection will display a single complete image which is fine, but the volumes carry very little to identify them. At the top of the spine is an Autobot logo and a volume number, but that’s it. No title or even anything to differentiate the Marvel run from the IDW meaning that when you’ve got 80 of these it will probably be a bit tricky to find a specific story. Being hardcovers without dust jackets they kind of remind me of the cheaper reprints of Dorling Kindersley reference books that WH Smith carry, but they’re quite sturdy and well bound.

Inside the books, they start with a brief introduction to the stories within. On the three volumes released so far these are all by Simon Furman which makes sense since he writes the majority of the material collected here as well as being a consulting editor on the project. I’d assume other writers and editors will introduce volumes down the line, particularly the Dreamwave and IDW stories that he wasn’t involved in.

One of the major selling points of the series is that it’s collecting the original 80s material as it was published in the UK for the first time. The weekly Marvel UK comic alternated between reprints of the US comic (split across two issues) and new material. Volume 6 contains the stories from issues #78-88 of the UK comic, as well as #21-23 from the US.

The UK issues make up the story Target: 2006, arguably the most well known of the UK stories. Featuring a time travelling Galvatron from between scenes in the movie, it marks the first time that Furman was able to break away from the constraints of fitting between the existing US stories. It’s a fairly decent story, but like many of the longer Marvel UK tales suffers from drastic changes in art throughout. There are a couple of issues drawn by the great Geoff Senior, with his distinctive blocky style such as the Galvatron and Ultra Magnus panel above that looks fantastic, but there are also some less than impressive panels such as this one from Will Simpson:

The US stories that follow are a three part story featuring Circuit Breaker that’s not terribly exciting but does introduce the Aerialbots to the comic. I thought at first that there was an issue with the printing in my volume as the blacks are quite inconsistent and there are a few places where there seems to be little definition on faces but after checking some scans of the original issues it looks like this was always the case. It seems a little odd, since the three issues credit the same art team the whole way through, and most of the pages are in the normal Marvel house style of the time. The US issues are presented in a standard collection style, with the cover before each issue. I understand that the IDW remasters of the original comics are being used for this collection, and this includes the Marvel logo being removed from the covers.

The covers to the UK issues are then collected at the end along with some additional material such as reprints few articles from the UK comic, discussion of the effect the release of the Transformers movie had on the comic and a profile of the Wreckers characters who featured in Target: 2006. I doubt any long time fans of the franchise will particularly learn much from the material, but it’s certainly nice to have context from the time to the comics collected in the volume though the original articles from the UK really haven’t aged very well in particular the in character review of the movie from Grimlock.

The second issue is volume 36, which covers the IDW storyline Stormbreaker, as well as several of the Spotlight character specific one shots that were released around the time. As with the Marvel comics, the IDW material is being collected chronologically so the Spotlights have been arranged around this. It’s likely that this collection will largely follow the IDW Transformers Collection hardbacks for it’s order, so I’d assume that this will be the third volume for the IDW continuity after Megatron Origin and Infiltration. I’m naturally much more familiar with the IDW books due to them being a lot more recent, and I reread these not all that long ago when the digital trades were on Humble Bundle.

Oddly, these issues aren’t printed like normal collections of American comics. The covers are all collected at the back, and while the spotlights each get an individual title page Stormbreaker just gets one with no gap between issues. It was fine from a reading perspective other than the typical reintroduction you get at the start of an issue, but felt like a really strange break from how comics (and even the older US comics from the previous issue) are normally presented.

The Spotlight issues all look quite nice and are fit to the page nicely despite these volumes being smaller in height than a standard American comic. The Stormbreaker issues though seem rather strange, and look to be set even smaller and since almost every page has a coloured background they end up with a black border all the way around the page instead of being set to the full height like the rest of the issues. It’s a very unusual way to print the pages, and I do hope that the rest of the IDW volumes will be a bit more consistent. Aside from being slightly distracting though, it doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the comic and Stormbreaker is still quite an enjoyable read.

The last issue currently out is volume 16, The Primal Scream. This collection contains issues published a couple of years later than the previous Marvel volume, and marks the beginning of Simon Furman’s run as the writer of the American comic after Bob Budiansky stepped down. Budiansky had written nearly every US Transformers comic up to this point, and according to Furman’s intro picked him as his replacement. This volume is also noteworthy for containing the first of the newly coloured UK strips, as some stories had begun being published in black and white at this point. Colourist John-Paul Bove, who worked on the IDW Regeneration One series, is providing the new colouring for this series and also writes about the colouring techniques used in comics now and back in the 80s for the additional content at the end of the book.

This book feels like a much more consistent read than Target: 2006, likely down to it all being written by Furman, and has a few plot points and characters appearing in both the US and UK issues. I personally found this volume more fun than volume 6, and there’s some enjoyable melodrama from Optimus Prime throughout while he tries to remember why he fights to save humanity from the Transformers’ war. While there are still many different artists throughout the issues there aren’t as many jarring shifts as in the previous volume, plus it brings the first Andy Wildman work of the collection and I’ve always enjoyed his issues.

The next volume out is another collection of the 80s comics, this one being volume 18. While I understand the non sequential publishing nature of the series, it does seem a little odd to do another volume that’s so close to the last but that skips six months. The collection is also going to feel a little too weighted to the 80s at this point, while there are significantly more IDW comics in total. Next after that will be the first Dreamwave War Within series, numbered at volume 28. The Dreamwave books are really my main sticking point with this series, though I do remember enjoying them at the time, as I don’t really want to be doing anything that could even potentially give Pat Lee any money these days but it’s only going to be a couple of volumes and presumably with Dreamwave having gone bust he won’t profit from it.

As a subscription service, you’re basically locked in to paying £20 a month to get two trades of comics, until you quit at least but given how the issues are due to be published you’ll leave gaps in the collection if you do. While that’s money that I wouldn’t necessarily have decided to spend on comics each month, it does make sense for someone who wants all of the Transformers comics anyway, which I do. My rough mental maths works out that this series will likely be the cheapest way to do so, while also getting material that’s not previously been collected and some bonus content as well. The trade of Target: 2006, for example has an RRP of £17.99, and doesn’t contain the Marvel US material. An average US comic trade (4-6 issues) like Stormbreaker would retail for about the same £9.99 asking price as these volumes, and wouldn’t have the Spotlight issues. While I’m a little concerned about the presentation of the IDW issues so far, there’s certainly nothing that affects the readability of the issues and the actual print quality is high.