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TransFormers Ultimate Guide 2004

TransFormers Ultimate Guide
April 2004
Simon Furman
While not as extensive as some fans were hoping, the new TransFormers Ultimate Guide does for the Robots In Disguise what DK Publishing has done for Batman, James Bond, Star Wars, and numerous other franchises. That is, to produce a big freaking book with tons of images and information about almost all the various incarnations over the past few decades. While it does tend to skip over the bulk of the Japanese only toys and shows, for fans of Western TransFormers, this is darned near perfect.

There's a ton of original art complete with cutaway segments so you can get a look at the inner workings of Optimus Prime and Megatron as well as Cybertron, Unicron, and other vehicles and characters. The illustrations are nicely detailed, and when compared with the old comic art from back in the day, well, there's really no comparison. The book shows how the characters supposedly "work," that is to say, where the pistons go and all of that sort of thing. It's the kind of detail usually reserved for sci-fi like Star Wars and Star Trek, so seeing the mythology from an 80's toy line presented with such respect and attention to detail is a little surprising.

The book looks at so many characters and episodes, it's obvious there's going to be a few omissions (and typos). The book looks at selected episodes from some of the TV shows, and some of the characters don't even get a real significant mention. The Robots in Disguise section focuses only on the toys, not on the show. (Actually, most of the toys are taken from the package art, which looks like it had some odd Photoshop effect applied to them.) Likewise, Energon is a little thin, but given the expected lead time of the book, one can't be too surprised by this.

Sadly, there is nearly no mention of the Japanese series like Headmasters, Beast Wars II, Beast Wars Neo, and their ilk. Still, there's a lot on Beast Machines and truth be told, they could probably do a half book on just the Beast eras if they really wanted to. The original CG-series with Optimus Primal and Megatron gets a good mention and a lot of insight, showing that the show was fairly important to the eventual revival of TransFormers we're enjoying today. Of course, there could be more, but seeing as how so many episodes were people running around in the desert, odds are what they have here will be good enough.

If you've missed out on a specific area of the TransFormers over the years, like the UK comics or one of the series, this is going to help flesh things out in a sort of crash course in just under 150 lavishly illustrated pages. A lot of new, old, and stock art come together to make what really is an "ultimate" guide for the time being. New fans will probably love this, while old fans will find a lot of new stuff and original art of characters they haven't seen much-- like Primus. For the price in stores, it seems a little expensive but online it can be had for about $17.

The only complaint most fans will have is that there favorite character isn't getting enough attention, and that's true since only Optimus Prime, Unicron, and Megatron really get more than a page each. You could probably make it a case that they should have done more than one volume, but odds are most fans really won't care if Starscream gets a page or part of a page. What you get here should delight you, if you care enough to buy TransFormers goods and are 20 or older. I don't know if kids would dig this given how much of it has to do with really old TransFormers characters, toys, and comics that they would most likely not know nor would they want to care about.

--Adam Pawlus
May 4, 2004

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