Linkage, Part 1 - The Featured Comic Of The Week's Featured Comic of the Week is "Linkage (Part 1)", a pack-in comic written and drawn by Hirofumi Ichikawa and included with the first DVD of Transformers: Legends of The Microns (AKA Transformers Armada) in Japan.

Long ago, the Mini-Cons left the planet Cybertron in order to prevent their use as weapons in the Autobot/Decepticon civil war. But now they've been reactivated on Earth and the war begins anew. But the Mini-Cons we're concerned with aren't in that war directly... yet. Somewhere on the west coast of the USA, the Super Stunt Team are under attack by a pair of unidentified drones. Unable to evade them, Redline, Servo, and Flat-Out initiate their Evolution Protocol, Powerlinking with an ordinary car in order to convert it into a weapon. As Servo and Flat-Out admire Redline's handiwork, the young woman who owns the car tries in vain to use her remote to turn the gun back into an engine.

Unfortunately for Stella Holley, nothing is going to be back to normal for quite some time.

"Linkage" is a 13-part mini-comic made to spotlight the limited-edition Mini-Cons included with each volume of the Micron Densetsu DVDs. In the tradition of manga side-stories that take place in the margins of the animation, sometimes intersecting with the heroes and villains of the show but just barely. In comic form where we can translate from binary on the fly, the Mini-Cons can speak for themselves and explain more of their world and their abilities than they could in a kids' cartoon where subtitles would exclude the youngest part of the audience. Add to that the author's preference for the slightly more mature and sci-fi-oriented trappings of the US Transformers franchise, and you end up with a pretty decent comic.

Around the 2000s something- well, transformative -started happening in Transformers, that being that fans were becoming more involved in production on both the Hasbro and Takara sides. Hirofumi Ichikawa had drawn a number of Transformers fan comics prior to his work for Takara and was known for creating super-accurate, highly detailed toy-based art without looking stiff and stilted. Linkage continues this tradition nicely, right down to the slots in the Mini-Cons' legs where the ball-joints are. He's also known as I mentioned above for preferring the US version of Transformers, and it looks very much like his preferences extend comics in general: note that these pages are not flipped, and are intended to be read left-to-right. And perhaps most importantly there's nothing to be had in the way of manga-style decompression: Ichikawa had 3-4 pages per DVD booklet to work with and he squeezed a tremendous amount of story, exposition, and character into "Linkage," which totals only 45 pages.

Never officially released in any form in English, fanmade translations are nonetheless available. Two are known to exist: the one that's still readily available is a bit clunkier and more what you'd expect from your average fan-translated manga. The one pictured here is translated by Doug Dlin and is officially unofficial, with input and approval by Ichikawa himself. The site that hosted it, while still linked on the TF Wiki, went down with FortuneCity... but is your friend.

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