IDW Publishing picked up the rights to publish Transformers comics in 2005 and commenced with what became an epic continuity lasting well in excess of 400 different issues and thirteen years. There were good times and bad times for the book, but overall it’s been massively appreciated and transformed Transformers.
But all good things must come to an end, so after a short break a new continuity commenced in 2019 with a variety of artists and main writer Brian Ruckley. Although there are some differences in art, they have stayed very faithful to the character designs in the War For Cybertron toyline or the most recent toys of figures, including ports for attaching weapons and accessories. The last continuity had started with Cybertron off realms, but this new continuity has started on a very different Cybertron.
I’m going to look at the first volume of issues 1 to 12, published as a hardback, comprised of The World In Your Eyes (five parts), Orion Pax: Free Fall (single issue), The Cracks Beneath Your Feet (five parts), and Nautica: Home (single issue).
The World In Your Eyes
We get our introduction to this version of Cybertron via Rubble, a newly forged Cybertronian who has not even chosen an alternate mode yet. Mentored by Bumblebee, with Windblade along for the ride too, he gets to see a world that is more natural and less metallic, with other creatures a part of it. Mentions are interspersed in the first issue to new characters and groups such as Termagax, the Rise (seemingly a gang of saboteurs), and the Ascenticons, who follow the teachings of the unseen Termagax but are led by Megatron, who at this point is still friends with Orion Pax (Optimus Prime). A tense conversation between these two is sandwiched in between episodes with Rubble and company, leading to a grim discovery.
The following issue deals with the break from normality by trying to further show what normality is. A lot of talking, briefly punctuated by action, which was an early complaint of this book. Chromia and Prowl come across most effectively as a pair of tough cops. The cast expands to include more familiar faces, even in cameos, like Soundwave and Elita-1, then more new additions, like the quasi-autistic Geomotus and the bizarre Codexa, who has started to become part of the planet itself. Cyclonus returns as a strange outsider, not as brutal as prior depictions, but a lot more creepy, a connection to the past.
The short arc concludes with another dramatic event, which is a case again of a big rock being plunged into a deathly still pool. I feel like the story reads a lot better after the second reading, where clues are more evidently being dropped, but it takes quite a while to get to them.
Orion Pax: Free Fall
Orion Pax and Megatron have been present during the first five issues, but not overwhelmingly so. Pax keeps control of a deteriorating situation, while Megatron contributes to it. This issue gives Pax a moment to be the focus of attention, looking at how their relationship has changed, divided philosophically and politically. It’s a little bit like Animal Farm with Transformers, with Pax representing Snowball and Megatron representing Napoleon.
Maybe that’s a flawed analogy, but no more flawed than the misguided outing Pax and Megatron go out on, skydiving, speaking in metaphors to one another. On first reading, this was one of the poorest modern Transformers comics I’d read, but it’s better on revisiting as long as you steel yourself against it. It does include one of my bugbears with Prime, though, his original occupation of an archivist. The argument in support of it is that it shows how special he is, having come from a humble profession to being the strongest Autobot and leader, but I actually think it makes him less special. Optimus Prime is someone to me who should be born special, a king among men. Megatron’s history of a miner-turned-gladiator much more readily supports his transformation, so why can’t Prime’s?
The Cracks Beneath Your Feet
Picking up from issue 5, Bumblebee is again very much at the forefront of the story, descending into something very unlike what we would expect of him given the recent circumstances. Part of that is alongside Elita-1, changing from Windblade, and at this point I draw attention to how many female characters are featured so far in this continuity. It’s not a bad thing at all, but it is noticeable, as Transformers has always been a predominantly male line. I think it’s a good thing to do, especially as the number of female fans has grown, but I don’t think it’s been completely successful yet, despite the strength of these characters.
The mystery aspect continues, with some things being clearer and some still remaining unclear. The Autobot and Ascenticon relationship worsens as even more players enter the game: Shockwave, eternally at odds with Megatron and dedicated to causing chaos, Sentinel Prime, a leader who is seemingly disliked and disrespected. With both is an interesting supporting cast, some seeing their first major usage in stories.
Again, it’s interesting, but it’s slow. Brian Ruckley realised this after initial reactions, so the plot has been sped up consequently. The arc ends with a transformation of the Ascenticons into something far more familiar, but in somewhat of a forced way.
The volume concludes with a story featuring Nautica, introduced in the previous IDW continuity and someone who became quickly popular. In this continuity she is an assistant of Sentinel Prime, so a light around his darkness. Among his ranks also includes Starscream, who is presented as antagonistic as ever.
As Nautica is a communicator, the issue involves a lot of talking as, again, a mystery is investigated. Nautica looks into it with her bodyguard Road Rage, who to me ends up looking far cooler as after too much talking she takes action.
This is pretty much the run up to this point and a bit beyond in a nutshell: too much talking, not enough action. Good talking, better action. When the mix is eventually addressed, it becomes a better comic.
I don’t expect this continuity to influence the show that premieres on Netflix too heavily, but it will be interesting to see what they share in common. I’ll report and review on Friday.