Author: Mike Avila
Forward: F.J. DeSanto
What They Say:
The fate of Cybertron lies in the hands of the Autobots in this gripping new animated series. The Art and Making of Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy provides an incredible behind-the-scenes look at the conception of this exhilarating new story and gives readers insight into the exacting character design that brought the Autobots, Decepticons, Maximals, and Predacons to life. Featuring hundreds of pieces of gorgeous concept art, this deluxe hardcover shows the painstaking detail that went into the creation of the technological world of Cybertron, the vastness of space, and the wilderness of prehistoric Earth.
With stunning imagery and exclusive interviews with the show’s creators, producers, artists, voice actors, and more, this book will provide the ultimate look into the crafting of the action-packed series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
In 2020 and 2021, Netflix, in conjunction with Hasbro, released a three-part Transformers movie series called Transformers: War for Cybertron, which tells the tale of the origins of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons for control of Cybertron, as well as how and why the Transformers eventually head to Earth. It chronicles Optimus Prime’s reluctant rise to leadership, Megatron’s descent into madness, and tells how sometimes the best of intentions can quickly go astray.
With the popularity of the series comes this book, a large collection of artwork and a detailed behind-the-scenes catalog of the making of the movies, from conception to release. The book is separated into six chapters, each detailing a different aspect of the series, and has a forward written by F.J. DeSanto, War for Cybertron’s head writer. Each chapter has a deep dive into its topic—conception, characters, setting, etc.—by the book’s writer, Mike Avila, and includes plenty of quotes from various people involved in the production. There are a lot of interesting tidbits throughout the book, both about the lore and just about the process that sees an animated production get made. I particularly enjoyed the character sketches and analyses as it helped illustrate how the characters I grew up with have evolved since I started watching the original series in the early 1980s.
One of the things that I enjoyed about the book was how upfront they are about War for Cybertron being a vehicle to sell toys—in fact, there is a whole chapter on the toys alone! The reality is that since the release of the first Star Wars movie in 1977, the business of children’s entertainment has been merchandise driven. Everything is made in order to sell toys, clothes, breakfast cereals, and more, because this is where the real money is made, but it is rare for the industry to be so up front about it. This book immediately admits that the genesis for the War for Cybertron project came from a meeting at Hasbro about needing a new Transformers IP to keep pushing product, and F.J. DeSanto even mentions that some of his ideas for the series came out of ideas he got from the toys that he played with when he was a kid. I certainly would not say this book is toy focused, but I can definitely appreciate that they don’t run away from the economic reality of the series.
The other thing I found interesting in the discussions of the lore was the talk about how careful they were to be faithful to it. DeSanto mentions in the Foreword that he knew he had to be careful to be true to the lore of the franchise and the fans’ expectations. The reason I find this interesting is because if there is a series that struggles for any consistency in its lore, it’s Transformers! They couldn’t even get through the original series before they were retconning ideas—we were originally told that all Transformers were once the evil, militaristic Decepticons, and that the Autobots were a small band of rebels who had grown a conscience and rejected the “might is right” approach of their race. Then we were told that the different sects were actually created by the Quintessons, the original inhabitors of Cybertron, for different purposes and the early wars were as much a rebellion against them as it was an internal struggle for power. So the idea that there is a specific lore to be faithful to is pretty funny. In fact, one of the major plot threads of War for Cybertron is that Megatron was once a benevolent leader with altruistic plans who is corrupted by his power and the war he is waging. The original lore says he was created specifically as a powerful warrior to lead the Decepticons in their genocide of the Autobots. Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s fine that War for Cybertron tells its own story. A franchise like Transformers that has been around as long as it has with as many different iterations as it has gone through is bound to have inconsistent lore at best, and Transformers’s is more inconsistent than most. I just found it funny how much they talk up about having to be faithful to what came before. If that was their goal, then I’m not sure how much they succeeded.
But in all this talk about what is written in this book, the meat of the book is in the artwork that’s provided. Each chapter devotes a few pages to a write-up about the chapter’s topic, but then many more pages on a plethora of imagery created for and around the series. Production sketches, storyboards, screenshots, promotional artwork, etc. There is just a ton of gorgeous material to take a look at, and it is all recreated beautifully. The book is printed on high-quality, glossy paper, and all of the pictures are crystal clear with colors that pop. The image of Optimus Prime on a war torn battlefield that adorns the front cover promises that the book will be a visual treat, and it more than delivers on that promise. This will be the stuff you spend most of your time with as you peruse the book, and it more than anything else is the reason to pick it up.
The Art and Making of Transformers War for Cybertron Trilogy is an excellent book. Certainly, fans of the film series will get a lot out of this, but I think fans of Transformers in general will find a lot in here to appreciate, even if they haven’t seen this specific film trilogy. The behind-the-scenes discussions were interesting, and the absolute abundance of artwork in here should make any Transformers fan drool. And frankly, there’s enough about production in general that if you aren’t a fan of the series but would like to know more about how things work behind the camera, there’s a lot to take in. It’s a very well-put-together tome, and I think any Transformers fan would appreciate having it on their shelf. Highly recommended.
Content Grade: A
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: October 11, 2022