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"Transformers Animated: The AllSpark Almanac II": You Can Win If You Dare!

by on August 4, 2010

I’ll begin with a thank you. Thank you to the many who purchased the original AllSpark Almanac. We’ve been rewarded with a sequel, the fittingly titled AllSpark Almanac II.

The original Almanac covered the show’s first two seasons, themselves running back to back as a single mega season. It makes sense then that this second volume covers the final, third season. Straight away similarities are apparent, including continuing the primarily in-universe writing structure and using the black and yellow borders to denote sections covering things from a real world perspective. The majority of key players had already been covered in the first book, so no time is wasted repeating information with the minor exception of a profile for Optimus’ Wingblade upgrade seen in the finale. The committed focus, though, is on characters introduced in the third season and beyond. All the newly seen characters, such as the Decepticons from ‘Transwarped’, are covered, but we also get profiles for characters seen in minor crowd scenes, and even a few that originally existed as simple fan art by designer Derrick J. Wyatt. These add a little depth to the overall Animated universe as rather than simply covering characters we already know we also get new characters who serve as minor but long awaited new fiction. However, there’s even more to come. Season 3 was originally written not as a finale season but simply the next in a continuing narrative. The sudden announcement of the show’s cancellation meant that at the last minute several elements had to be cut for time. An example of this is the ongoing thread for Project Omega, the Autobots’ secret superweapon of titanic battleship Transformers. Although they received a fair amount of focus in the show, details were left out, including designs for an entire fleet of Omega Sentinels. The Almanac presents these designs for the first time and even provides each unit a military career history within the Great War that makes up the show’s backstory.

The amount of information presented to readers is amazing in of itself but the true impact comes with the presentation. Much like the first volume, the book uses every possible inventive means to present the information. Personal character logs, newspapers, fast food tray liner sheets and even a fully playable board game are just some of the clever and creative ways information is served up. Authors Sorenson and Forster obviously had a lot of fun putting this book together, and it shows. Their fun doesn’t stop there, though, as they issue readers a challenge; the previous book was noted for containing hundreds of references to Transformers history and wider culture. Super fan Chris McFeely accepted the challenge of discovering and making sense of them all (he’s rewarded by having a character named after him) so the authors upped their game. Each page is swimming with references, some even hidden in code you’ll need external means to translate. This might sound like a daunting task but I assure you that even if you don’t want to take up the author issued scavenger hunt these references are still completely workable in the context presented. A map depicting all the planets Deception merchant Swindle has done business with is a particular treat. (Doctor Who in my Transformers? It’s more likely than you think!)

The second half of the book is focused on the show’s production, from original concept to a completed episode. This was briefly touched on in the previous book but Almanac II goes much more in depth. An amusing tidbit for myself is Wyatt’s claim that his attitude toward creating the show’s design aesthetic was to ‘remove all the Gundam’. The production of the show itself crisscrosses with the related toy line, to the extent that there was close cooperation in ensuring the toys in stores matched the animated characters seen on screen. This section of the book is full of pencil sketches, CAD models and resin prototypes which cover this involved objective.

The most publicized area of this section however is a glimpse into where the show was going to go had it continued. I know this announcement in particular is a key reason I bought the book, and whilst it delivers on the promise it’s fair to say it’s also somewhat disappointing. We do get some plot details and for each episode that would have made up the season (some of these plans are even sprinkled into the earlier character profiles to give them added weight) but really nothing is resolved. Animated ended with a lot of unanswered questions, chief amongst them the origin of Sari. With the show over and this looking to sadly be the last dedicated work created around it, surely it would have been possible to have just flat out answered the remaining questions? Given that the book is published by current comic book license holder IDW, this section feels less like answers and more like optimistic fishing for a comic book continuation.

The capper for the season four information is a look at some of the toys planned to accompany it. Looking at these is a real mix of joy and sadness as it becomes clear they had some really good ideas planned. I won’t spoil much, but both Optimus and Megatron would have gained new forms. This section in turn leads into coverage of the toys that were completed, including a gallery of the various character box art and some of the stragglers who sadly may not see release. Whilst it’s fitting that the book should catalogue the toy line in some form it also comes across the most blatantly commercial section of the book, with the related text commentary basically just finding different ways to repeat ‘Look how cool these toys you can buy are!’

Similar real world sections are dotted throughout the book covering things such as deleted scenes, the DVD exclusive shorts, the Nintendo DS video game and the style guides sent to merchandise partners. The latter is fairly interesting, as although it’s a known aspect of the industry, very rarely do we get to see an explanatory focus on it.

We were very lucky to get the first Almanac, but this second one is a godsend. It perfectly complements its counterpart, not wasting time on retreading what has already been covered but instead covering completely new ground. It’s fun and informative, and really the only criticism I can offer is the earlier mentioned lack of closure on the show’s actual story. But maybe that’ll be resolved. Last time, I implored people to buy this in hopes of a second volume and comic book continuation. We got the first one, so maybe the second isn’t too far off.

Transfans! Guarantee it sells out!!

Transformers Animated: The Allspark Almanac, Vol. 2 is available through Amazon.

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