Original web series are fast becoming one of the most popular and exciting ways for film, television and/or comic book properties with sprawling universe-scale continuities to expand on their characters and stories. The upcoming Transformers: Combiner Wars is currently one of the most highly-anticipated examples of a franchise installment taking this route.
Combiner Wars is aimed at older fans of the Transformers animated series and toys (based around Hasbro's collector-focused figure line of the same name) and promises to offer classic Transformers fans the sci-fi action and mythic scope many have felt lacking in recent TV ventures. Now, the first of four brief "Prelude to Combiner Wars" shorts has been released online - offering a history lesson from the Autobot leader himself, Optimus Prime.
Running just under 3 minutes and presented as a flashback narrated by Prime himself, the first episode of "Prelude" effectively establishes the starting-point for Combiner Wars' continuity as it picks up at the tail end of the "Great Earth Wars" (aka the first two Earth-set seasons of the original "Generation 1" animated series). The flashback largely concerns an alternate version of the final battle between Prime and Decepticon leader Megatron that concludes with a decidedly different result than famously seen in Transformers: The Movie. It also offers unsettling details about what comes next; specifically, Prime is no longer the leader of the Autobots (the hero and villain armies both having disbanded) and he's come to fear that the now-rising Combiner Wars represent the Transformers' conflicts never coming to an end.
The Optimus Prime episode, which launched today, is set to be followed by three more "Prelude" installments centered on other characters, laying out the origins and the stakes of the main conflict that will play out over the course of the actual Combiner Wars series. The remaining episodes (each of which will be themed around and told from the perspective of a different character) have been dated and described thusly by Machinima (which is producing the series):
July 5 - Victorion: A Combiner born from the magic of the 'Enigma of Combination', describes her anger with this new state of affairs and proclaims her intention to save the Transformers galaxy from the chaos created in the aftermath of disbanding the Autobots and Decepticons.
July 12 - Starscream: No longer the villain we once knew him as, is now a member of a great 'Council' along with The Mistress of Flame from the planet Caminus and Rodimus Prime. The burden of responsibility is heavy on the three due to the destruction and loss of life from the ongoing Combiner Wars.
July 19 - Windblade: Once an official 'City Speaker' to the gigantic 'Titans' is tired of the bureaucratic non-action of the Council, who seem to sit idly while her people and her cities on Caminus perish. She decides that the only way to end the Combiner Wars is to take matters into her own vengeful hands.
That's certainly quite a bit of new information to absorb, even for fans of the famously complicated Transformers mythos. Starscream no longer a bad guy - and in fact part of a governing council? The Mistress of Flame (an IDW Transformers comic book character) making her animated debut? Newly-created female characters like Victorion (an all-girl Combiner team) and the fan-generated Windblade taking center stage? Despite the targeting of nostalgic G1 fans, it's clear that Combiner Wars will look to offer a whole new spin on Transformers when the full series launches.
The Transformers: Combine Wars full series arrives on August 2nd, 2016.