After the last book I read I wanted something short and lighter…and something that understood how to create chapter breaks. So for the recent Chapter By Chapter book review over at my other site I took a look at a book aimed for younger readers. I don’t know if I expected it to be this young when I bought it. This was something I would have picked up from the Weekly Reader’s Book Club as a kid. (My mom encouraged me to read.) That may be why I didn’t pick up the next book but I probably wish I did now.

Although I’ve reviewed some of the Transformers toys in my collection I really haven’t discussed Transformers Armada outside of my love of the Mini-Con figures, smaller Transformers that could connect to the larger Transformers, and my review of the last of the classic Mini-Cons, the Assault Team. I’m sure I’ll get to one of those boxes in the future, but here’s the important parts. In this toyline the Mini-Cons not only linked to larger Transformers but in toys specific to the line, some of the “active” hardpoints could also activate special gimmicks, usually an additional weapon but sometimes unlocking alterations to their robot or vehicular modes. My complaint was always that the Mini-Cons themselves could also serve as extra weapons, armor, or tools but unless they combined into a larger robot or weapon this was not acknowledged in the media. The book, by author Michael Teitelbaum and illustrated by Dreamwave Studios (so no credits on individual illustrations, which appeared once per chapter like many books for the 5-7 age group), is yet another take on the origin of the Autobots, Decepticons, and Mini-Cons in the Armada multiverse (Armada gets to have its own multiverse within the larger Transformers multiverse–it’s not really important to most of you out there) following the cartoon, the Dreamwave comics, and the UK comics.  So how is the book?

This incarnation follows parts of the animated and Dreamwave continuities with a few of its own details. In this version the Mini-Cons were smart tools used by the others, and then used during the war with the branching Autobots and Decepticons. The Mini-Cons could boost the powers of the larger robots, but we only read about it in the prologue flashback. We don’t see it happen in the story, so no word if the physical attributes of the Mini-Cons I mentioned ever comes up. They’re also said to have been built by a “creator”, most likely a reference to the Transformers’ creator god, Primus, first introduced in the old Marvel comics and later just becoming a part of the multiversal canon, most notably in the three toylines and related shows that make up the “Unicron Trilogy”. (Primus would even get his own toy in the Cybertron toyline, transforming into the Transformers’ homeplanet of Cybertron itself.) However, when their power boost led to the planet itself being endangered a truce was called and the Mini-Cons sent away. Then sometime later the war was on again because you don’t have a series without Autobots versus Decepticons except for Rescue Bots.

A few million years later three kids–Rad, Carlos, and Alexis–stumble upon the remains of the ship and awaken the Street Action Team, as they usually do. In this version they can only understand the Mini-Cons they’re usually partnered up with in continuity; Rad with High Wire, Carlos with Grindor, and Alexis with Sureshock. This was the first time I had seen Sureshock officially listed as a female Mini-Con although I could have just missed it before. Anime Alexis kind of has an attitude that she’s the smartest person in the room but luckily her ego here is a bit more mellow. She is admittedly the brains of the group, Carlos the cautious one, and Rad the “man” of action. He announces himself later as the leader of the group, which Carlos doesn’t agree with just because Rad’s older. We get to see the Street Action Team combine into Perceptor, which their toys did even when they underwent a redesign in the Energon toyline (Combiners and Mini-Cons, two of my favorite things together) but like I said nobody attaches to the larger Transformers.

A sample of the artwork in the book.

I like some of the lore Teitelbaum adds to the continuity, and he writes the three kids as distinct but with more similarities than most. In the cartoon for example Alexis originally wants little to do with the boys but after an earthquake still goes to check on them. In the Dreamwave comics all three are would-be inventors. Here Rad and Carlos are more the adventurous types they are in the cartoon but Alexis is happily with them. It may be my favorite take on the trio. We don’t get much out of the Street Action Team when it comes to personality. Optimus Prime and Megatron are close to their counterparts not only in the Armada multiverse but as a whole. Megatron wants power, Optimus wants peace even if he has to fight for it. Neither knew (although I doubt the Decepticons would care) the Mini-Cons were more than just “tools”, although they don’t seem to gain intelligence until they’re all together on the ship, which I’m not sure I’m a fan of. I’d rather they at least slowly gained their own sparks (a Transformer’s “soul” if you will, containing their personality and lifeforce, a concept first introduced in the Beast Wars cartoon) just by attaching to the other Transformers, getting something from the larger robots in exchange for the power boosts the Mini-Cons gave them. Also, Optimus’s Autobot team seems to disappear during the battle while the Decepticons continue to hang around Megatron even when they escape. Those two are my only major nitpicks, although if you check out the Chapter By Chapter review I linked to in the intro you’ll see some smaller ones as well.

Overall, Transformers Armada: The Battle Begins is an interesting take on the lore but most adult readers won’t be interested except as a curiosity for the fans. It was made for kids, so that makes sense. I’m admittedly curious about the second book in the series, Race For The Mini-Con Robots, to see if Teitelbaum does actually use the ignored play features or not. The book also comes with Autobot and Decepticon stickers and for some reason in the right corner of the page they included a flip-book animation of the three factions’ logos spinning around like the old show transitions, which I thought was unnecessary. Who’s going to be using that when they’re trying to read the book? Otherwise at the time it was a good introduction to the Mini-Cons for the targeted age group. Oddly, I am planning to hold on to this just because I’m me. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and it’s an interesting curiosity for a Transformers fan who like him some Mini-Cons.