Our copy of Transformers: Vault the complete Transformers Universe showcasing rare collectibiles and memorabilia arrived on Thursday 26th May 2011 having been released a few days early. We had placed the book on order since it was first announced and been looking forward to see what was contained within it. The book itself is a hardback book with a nice weight to it, it is presented with a hard slip-case to help protect it.
When you first open the book you are greeted by the foreword that is written by Peter Cullen himself. This makes for a nice start to the book and gets you excited to see what else is contained within it pages. The book starts off with the toys and the origin of the line including a look at some early concepts from the TakaraTomy archive including one of the original designs for Blaster. This is followed by some images of the wax sculpts of the Combaticons and a wood Sunstreaker. As collectors of prototypes and all things rare, this is a fantastic start and you really start to wonder just what else you will find within the book.
The book has some nice features like a pop-out replica toy-sheet, and soon switches to a double section on some of the more unusual merchandise including sleepers and the Jazz pedal car, which was submitted by Paul Hitchens better known as The Space-Bridge. The book continues to traverse the early years of Transformers though it starts to jump around a little with a small section that talks about the Japanese line before coming onto the Action Masters. The Generation One - Generation Two bridge line is pretty much ignored except for a few throw away references which is a bit of a shame considering the importance of this line and time within the history of Transformers. Generation 2 is quickly wrapped up before printing some box art for four unreleased figures. The well known, and produced, G2 Hot Spot and Motormaster and then the Desert Ramjet and Neo Mirage figures that were never fully produced but do have hand-painted mock-ups in existance.
The book then moves onto Beast Wars with another throw away reference to the Machine Wars which sadly is another part of the brands history that gets ignored. These pages do include a nice image of the wax concept for Torca that was sold on eBay a few years ago.
There is a small insert that talks about the start of the online fandom with Usenet , before a small section breifly covers both Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo. There is more information on these lines a little later, but much like the European figures and Machine Wars the book misses the chance to publish more information on this lines that many fans do are not familiar with.
Robots In Disguise is summed up in one paragraph before a section is dedicated to the Unicron Trilogy.
There is then a section that covers the Alternators including an image of a prototype of Smokescreen.
Transformers Classics and Transformers Animated are both breifly mentioned with the publishing of images of the unreleased Transformers Animated Wasp and Elite Guard Blurr being shown. The live action Transformers toy line then takes over the next few pages before the Crossover toys complete the first chapter of the book.
By now its pretty clear to the reader that the book is actually quite light in terms of content other than images, and tends to focus on particular lines. From this focus its actually possible to figure out who many of the contributors to the book were without reading the credits at the end.
Chapter 2 starts of with that Dreamwave stock image of Megatron as the book starts to focus on the history of the comics.
There is a nice section covering the Marvel days with some nicely chosen panels including a small section on the Marvel UK strips. The book rushes through the Dreamwave era like an embarrassed school kid before there is another unstated section, this time on the Japanese Manga.
Having made it past Dreamwave the book covers the Fan Club comics before starting a large section on IDW. This section is immediately interrupted by an insert talking about Botcon. Unfortunately there is only a page dedicated to Botcon and it only really talks about the 2010 event and fails to inform the reader of its soon approaching 20th anniversary nor is there any mention to other Conventions, which is a bit of a shame but not unexpected. The IDW section continues for many pages and is probably the most indepth section of the entire book.
The 3rd Chapter, The Transformers on Television, starts of with a decent spotlight on the Generation One series. There is an pullout that includes the character sheet for Rodimus Prime on one side and the character notes from Sunbow on the back. Fans of the Ron Friedman scripts will no doubt recognise the documents. The Japanese series is covered in more depth than the toys were, are still pretty much skipped through which is a shame considering the DVD's will be released within the US later this year and so I actually expected more of a focus to try to upsell those releases. G2 is summed up in a single paragraph before there are a couple of pages on Beast Wars. Beast Wars II and especially Beast Wars Neo are once again rushed though but thankfully a few of the readily available (in Japan at least) cells are re-printed within the book. Small sections on Beast Machines and Robots in Disguise follow before the Unicron Trilogy comes under focus for a few pages. Transformers Animated is spread out over four pages before the section ends with a two-page spread on Transformers Prime.
Chapter 4 starts and is all about the live action movies. This chapter is twenty-something pages and covers all three live action films from Transformers, through Transfomers: Revenge of the Fallen and breifly touching on Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Chapter 5 is entitled The Future and starts off talking about the Hasbro Offices and their internal book mapping out the timeline of the Transformers universe. This brings the book onto a page dedicated to the video game Transformers: War for Cybertron and includes a small image of the brand bible and a napkin doodle by Aaron Archer.
The book then ends with a single page afterword followed by another page of credits.
Transformers: Vault is published by Abrams and is available from various on and offline stockists.
Overall Thoughts: The book does make a nice coffee table book, and is certainly worth picking up but it does have its flaws. For me, it is a shame that there is is little to no artwork from Studio Ox in the book. Studio Ox have produced some of the best Transformers artwork, IMO, and it would have been nice to have seen more of it used within a Western publication. It is also a shame that the book decides to skips through many of the toy lines that could benefit from more exposure. These include the original Japanese lines, the European days, Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo.
The book, for me, started really well with the history of the line and including some images of prototypes and the design patent application for Megatron. It missed a beat with the lack of information on the European and Japanese G1 figures, then suprised me with the unreleased G2 artwork, which many fans will have never seen before and those of us who have will still be pleased to see these concepts given more exposure. Things continued fairly well through the comic section, but it would have been nice to have squeezed in more information and artwork from the Japanese manga and books including Comic Bom-Bom and TV Magazine even if it was at the expense of soem of the IDW material. The cartoon section pretty much follows the same pattern as the toys. It starts of with a good section on the G1 series, then rushes through until the Unicron trilogy which is once again a shame for those series caught in the middle. The live action Movie section is probably the most balanced chapter of the book, but personally I would have preferred to have had less of this included in the book if it meant that older material could have been covered in more detail. This isn't because I do not appreciate what the live action films have done for the line, it is simply that there are already so many books on the market covering the first two films, the book doesn't include anything new. The final chapter on the Hasbro office and War For Cybertron is short but sweet. It would have been nice to have included more information on the Hasbro offices as well as covering TakaraTomy and how both companies have changed over the history of the franchise. I would have also liked to have seen a larger section dedicated to the various merchandise that has been produced globally, but then if the book covered all of this it would be at least twice the price.
Overall if I were to give the book a rating out of 10 it would be a 7. Its an enjoyable journey even if some areas seem squeezed in or overlooked to allow for more space for the the more IDW and Movie-verse sections.