1. The Transformers (No. 16, May ’86, Marvel) – Len Kaminski, Graham Nolan & Tom Morgan
Transformers is a franchise that is at its core – irredeemably goofy. No surprise then that the original ’80s comic series produced by Marvel was itself deliberately wacky. One read of the slipshod origin story and one can’t help but smirk: “Circling the star Alpha Centauri, ages ago, was a planet unlike any other in the heavens — Cybertron. . . . And cities rose across a broad mechanical expanse . . . Cities that were the products of Cybertron’s dominant life-form –The Autobots. Whereas life elsewhere in the cosmos usually evolved through carbon-bonding, here it was the interaction of naturally occurring gears, levers and pulleys that miraculously brought forth sentient beings.”
Originally planned to be just a 4-issue limited series, Transformers will always have that whiff of a cash grab given the fact that the series is fundamentally a spinoff of a toy line by Takara and Hasbro. And yet the property’s nostalgia factor, perhaps the biggest thing going for it, has resulted in four live-action installments of Michael Bay’s Transformers. Giant robots, it appears, will always have a way of capturing our imaginations and transporting us back to when we were six. Perhaps my favorite issue of Marvel’s run of Transformers is Issue 16 where the suddenly despondent Bumblebee, a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, contemplates suicide and what it would be like to be human. Vaguely reminiscent of Disney’s 2005 movie Herbie Fully Loaded starring Lindsay Lohan, here is an excerpt of Bumbebee’s self-pitying inner-monologue:
I wasn’t much help to our team in that last skirmish with the Decepticons . . . Hmmph! They’re all so much bigger, stronger, smarter than I am. They’d probably have won that battle if I’d have been more help. I’m useless . . . to them I’m an unneeded option! Maybe I should just get out of their way. I bet they haven’t even noticed I’m gone. Maybe my fate is not with the Autobots — maybe I should try this on my own for awhile. Humans are so lucky. They’re weak . . . They always need each other to get along. I wish I was a human. Then maybe someone would need me.
2. Godzilla: Rulers of Earth (No. 11, Apr 2014, IDW) – Chris Mowry, Matt Frank & Priscilla Tramontano
Like the new live-action reboot, IDW’s current run of Godzilla is less than ideal. Though, to be frank, the comic book version of Godzilla does do what many moviegoers last weekend wanted Godzilla to do in the live-action version – and that is to have more of Godzilla fight a slew of giant monsters. Never mind that the trailers were a classic case of bait and switch with Bryan Cranston’s character dying prematurely; what was particularly irritating with Director Gareth Edwards’ vision of the beloved tokusatsu monster was the choice to postpone the big Godzilla fight sequences till the last 20-30 minutes of the movie. Post-Pacific Rim, fans of the franchise will expect exponentially more big baddies from the inevitable Godzilla sequel.
3. Captain Marvel (No. 3, July 2014, Marvel) – Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Lopez & Lee Loughridge
Two years ago the former U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, formerly known as Ms. Marvel, changed her title to Captain Marvel to presumably pass the baton to Kamala Khan, a teenager struggling with her Pakastani American identity, who would take on the title of Ms. Marvel. What is particularly fun in the newest incarnation is the Star Wars flavor in all of Captain Marvel’s adventures. Less uptight than the usual Star Wars fare, the introduction of the Guardians of the Galaxy in the madcap space opera is a breath of fresh air. Hopefully Disney is taking note.
4. God is Dead (No. 12, Apr 2014, Avatar) – Mike Costa & German Erramouspe
Aronofsky’s Noah on steroids. Picture giant domesticated ants killing Gaia and consuming all of the flora and fauna on Earth. Cut to bare-breasted Greek goddesses hysterically weeping at the feet of beheaded Greek gods. And suddenly, as if Ralph Reed himself had had enough, the clouds part to reveal . . . yes, you guessed it – Jesus!
5. All-New X-Men (No. 11, July 2013, Marvel) – Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger & Marte Gracia
Nothing signals the arrival of summer quite like the studios’ big tent pole movies. So far so good: The actual design of Godzilla was above and beyond expectations. And I had fun with both Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 & Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, the early reviews for X-Men: Days of Future Past promises nerdgasms at an entirely separate spatial and temporal dimension. If the new X-Men movie captures any of the flavor of the current time travel arc in All-New X-Men, I’ll be the first to sing the praises of Brian Singer. As douchebaggy as he comes across, his return to the franchise appears to be a welcome relief from the bag of excrement that was director Brett Ratner’s X-Men 3.