Pushing 30 years old, the Transformers franchise has seen so many incarnations and storylines and characters that some aspect is sure to have ticked off or been ridiculed by or flat-out alienated even the most die-hard fan at some point.
I can’t imagine a Transformers fan so jaded, though, that they wouldn’t love the newly-released Transformers Vault: The Complete Transformers Universe / Showcasing Rare Collectibles and Memorabilia.
Seriously — I’ll bet this book could even make GeekDad Z. forgive the creators of Ratbat. It’s that cool.
Written by Pablo Hidalgo – who’s also one of the authors of Star Wars: Year By Year – and published by Abrams, Transformers Vault is 159 pages of Cybertronian mecha-goodness, from the embossed slipcase and rich cover art to the detailed history which unfolds in the text.
Organized into five chapters, the book tracks the development and storylines of the Autobots and Decepticons as they played out in toys, comic books, television and on the big screen. It also includes a relatively brief look into the future of the franchise.
Fittingly, the chapter titled “The Toys That Started It All” accounts for more than a quarter of the book’s pages. Hidalgo’s description of the line’s evolution is fascinating and memory-jogging, accompanied by a slew of nifty prototype photos, early packaging examples, patent diagrams and concept drawings.
With so much material to work with, every chapter is similarly well-packed with that neat-but-not-overwhelming balance of intriguing backstory and eye-popping visuals. It’s not a completist’s toy-by-toy cataloguing of the lines, nor an encyclopedia of character biographies and storylines – and that makes it much more a good read than a resource.
And while Transformers Vault is coming out just as the hype machine is peaking for the Transfomers: Dark of the Moon, it’s a great reminder that there’s far more to these characters and their history than the latest Michael Bay interpretation. The live-action big-screen incarnations don’t get their chapter until 129 pages in, and even then, it’s a relatively light twenty-page inclusion.
Tucked within the Vault‘s pages are seven pullout reproductions of memorabilia and artwork, including a miniature animation-style cel, a Rodimus Prime character reference sheet, and my favorite – a page of the red-and-blue “tech specs” graphs from the back of the old toy packaging, complete with a band of red acetate for “decoding” purposes.
On the whole, it’s a gloriously packaged and assembled book that makes fantastic use of the Transformers franchise’s incredible art. I do wonder, though, how the cover imagery, slipcase and some of the interior pages will hold up over time as those pullout extras are removed and re-inserted repeatedly.
There it is, though: worrying about whether a book will physically wear out due to overuse probably says a lot about the quality of its contents.
Wired: Stunning art, exhaustively researched text, and a projection map of Cybertron. What more could a Transformers fan want?
Tired: Wear and tear could be a problem for some of the flimsier pull-out pieces and their pocketed pages.
Disclosure: Abrams provided GeekDad with a review copy of this book.