I love writing about these robots in disguise, and judging by our traffic people are okay with reading what I’ve got to say, so let’s keep doing it!
After many months of prelude, the “Chaos” crossover that will run ’til the end of the year begins in Transformers #24. As we saw in Heart of Darkness, Galvatron has amassed a giant army on Cybertron in anticipation of battling an evil entity from the Dark Universe. Meanwhile, as laid out in the two-issue “Chaos Theory” lead-in, Megatron now finds himself a prisoner of the Autobots, who intend to put him on trial for four million years of war crimes. The two story threads may not seem to have much in common, but they’re united by Optimus Prime, who finds himself pulled to Cybertron even while Megatron’s his captive. All signs point to the Autobots being seriously in over their heads — surely this story isn’t called “Chaos” for nothing.
As much as I’ve been enjoying Transformers comics lately (I really dug “Chaos Theory,” even given my complaints about it), “Chaos: Part One” is a difficult issue to accept. That’s completely due to the change of artist. Transformers #24 brings a new talent into IDW’s excellent stable (at least when it comes to interiors), Livio Ramondelli, who handles all the art himself here, from penciling to inking to colors. The book looks fantastic, unlike anything we’ve really seen from a Transformers artist before. It’s dark and moody, and it’s exceptionally well-colored — I’d even swear some of this was painted. In a way, it brings a class to the book that not every artist drawing giant robots can muster. The two-page firefight spread in the middle of this issue especially impresses.
Unfortunately, as good as it is, the art’s also this book’s downfall. After two issues drawn by Alex Milne, an incredibly geometric and detail-oriented artist, Ramondelli’s less literal style is just too jarring. Transformers #24 doesn’t even look like it’s part of the same series as Transformers #23. It took me a lot of pages to even connect the events of “Chaos: Part One” with “Chaos Theory;” I was so convinced that this was a different story entirely.
I’m all about books experimenting with their artistic style, but not in the middle of a giant, line-defining crossover. Also, I hate to pigeonhole artists, but I don’t feel like Ramondelli’s style really compliments a main-line Transformers book to begin with. I’d rather see him take over Nick Roche’s more marginalized art duties on the property — can you imagine how good Spotlight: Kup or Infestation would’ve looked with Ramondelli’s touch? But when it comes to epic sci-fi robot adventures, I think you need an Alex Milne, you need a Don Figueroa.
Story-wise, “Chaos: Part One” is pretty good. Writer Mike Costa doesn’t pack as much into his scripts as “Chaos Theory” author James Roberts did, unfortunately, so this book reads a little quickly, but it does what it needs to do. Still, asking readers to buy such a drastic change in artist at this juncture really zaps the energy right out of this story. Though I certainly have no evidence for this, I’m inclined to put responsibility for that on editor Carlos Guzman, who recently took over from the excellent Andy Schmidt. If indeed hiring Ramondelli was Guzman’s call, it was a bold one, but it doesn’t really work.
In two weeks Transformers takes us back to Earth for the human-centric “Police Action.” I wonder how a book will manage to run two opposite stories concurrently; that seems to be even more problematic given the shaky footing on which “Chaos” is starting off. Still, IDW has a book compelling enough to make me keep reading — I love the property and am in no way abandoning it, I just think at this point there are a few things it could do a little better.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more