Welcome back, readers! It’s been a while since my last post, so I’m glad you haven’t given up on me yet! So, on the docket for this post is, as promised, a review of the first 5 issues of IDW’s new Transformers series. Plus, there will be a little bit of issue #6 in here as well because that’s the most recent issue and it’s quite good. So enough with the formalities. Let’s get down to business!
Back in April of this year, publisher IDW decided to reboot its Transformers mythology after having brought its previous continuity of 14 years to an end in late 2018. And thus, we get Transformers. Written by franchise newcomer Brian Ruckley, Transformers brings the characters back to their roots on Cybertron before the war that decimated the planet. The series also attempts to add some new depth and details that are previously unexplored in any Transformers series. So, where do we start? Well, here are the basics of what you should know going into this: Cybertron is on a social, environmental, and economic decline. Chaos reigns and the Autobots are in over their heads trying to keep everything together. All the anarchy has given rise to a new group of radicals called the Ascenticons. They call themselves radicals, but they are basically what we would consider anarchists. Births, better known as forgings, are very rare now due to the lack of energon, the lifeblood of all Cybertronians. Oh, and perhaps the most important detail, a murder has occurred in the outer regions of the planet. Murders are almost unheard of now due to the surveillance state imposed by the Cybertronian government and the Autobot police force.
The book starts out with the forging of a new Autobot named Rubble, who will be our protagonist for this first 5 issue arc. Now, when a robot is forged, they don’t start off as infants. More like an average 12 or 13-year-old. They have their wits and faculties about them, but they’re still naïve and have no clue how the world works. Rubble is assigned Bumblebee as his mentor, as per protocol for every bot who is forged. Every new bot is assigned a mentor until they reach a certain age.
Then the dark stuff kicks in. Bumblebee and Rubble are off to visit Brainstorm, one of the Autobot’s chief scientists, in the outer regions when they find that the outpost has been ravaged and Brainstorm has been murdered with no trace of evidence. As I stated before, murders don’t happen on Cybertron anymore. So, this is a very alarming event. Without spoiling too much more, this is seen as an isolated event to be kept quiet………….. that is until the murder is followed up by a series of attacks in the metropolitan areas.
Moving on to what I thought of these first few issues. I’ll say this: it has potential. But this first arc was like a high school senior at the start of May waiting for their last day of school. I thought it would never end. The issues moved at a pace that was not befitting 5 issues. It felt like Ruckley thought he had all the time in the world to get to the conclusion. In short, nothing happened. We move along at a snail’s pace with lots of sidebars to other storylines that serve no purpose other than to introduce us to new characters. Example: Megatron and Orion Pax. For Transformers fans, you already know who Megatron is. In IDW’s new mythology, Ruckley is setting him up as a former gladiator who is now a high-ranking member of the Ascenticons. If Megatron’s presence wasn’t enough to convince you, there are so many well-known villain characters in the Ascenticons, you can tell they’re clearly the primordial form of the Decepticons. Orion Pax, on the other hand, will one day be the legendary Autobot leader Optimus Prime. For now, he’s a former librarian turned Autobot police lieutenant.
But, back to the pacing issues. It’s slow. We’ve already established this. However, this is a new series and Ruckley is still trying to find his feet as a newcomer to the franchise. So, it’s only right to give him a fair shake. For reference, for the past eight years or so, we’ve had at least two Transformers books going that have been universally praised. Those books being Robots In Disguise and More Than Meets The Eye. The former being written by franchise veteran John Barber and the latter by U. K. scribe James Roberts. They were vastly different books, but the fandom loved them both. The difference between then and now is that those two books started midway through the previous continuity. The characters and places were already well established, many of them by Barber himself. Brian Ruckley is essentially establishing an entire universe on his own. It only makes sense that it would take some time for him to figure out what he’s doing and how he wants to handle these characters and places.
After all is said and done, there is a light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel. And Issue #6 is fairly solid. We get some more background on the bond between former friends Orion Pax and Megatron. We learn more about their characteristics and what drives them and Ruckley drops some hints as to why the relationship is so rough at the moment. Plus, at the end of Issue #5, we get a tantalizing tease of what looks like another murder and a figurative bomb is dropped in the form of 300 missing Cypertronians since Brainstorm was killed. So, it’s fair to say that the vision of this book is becoming clearer issue by issue. Although it still isn’t anywhere near the peaks of More Than Meets The Eye or Robots in Disguise. If I had to rank it right now, I’d say it compares to the 2013 low-point of Robots in Disguise. And that’s still not quite a fair comparison because, again, this series is just starting out and we don’t know what it can be yet. The only thing I can say is that I’m optimistic after the most recent issue. Especially since the first 5 left a bad taste in my mouth and sleepers in my eyes. It can only go up from here. So, would I recommend it? Sure. But I’d recommend starting off with Issue #6 because there’s no background knowledge of the first arc required. You can just go in and enjoy it. And besides, we’ll probably get plenty of recaps of the first issues in the “story so far” section of future issues. In a round-about way, I’d say this is fair to solid. Not excellent. But definitely worth the twenty minutes it’ll take you to read each issue.