Last week, noted comic creator Dan Abnett kindly sat down to chat with Spaceman Spiff and myself about his recent work in the medium. You can listen to the full interview in our podcast Tuesday, but one of the points that came up was that Transformers, like X-Men, is a giant, convoluted family of books that allows for many different types of stories. In the current monthly ongoing series, writer Mike Costa expertly tells stories with a real-world political bent; he peppers in the science fiction elements of the property just enough to mark the book as uniquely Transformers. For fans who long to return to the space opera-style stories of longtime Transformers writers like Simon Furman, you can now rejoice: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have your back.
In fact, Transformers: Heart of Darkness #1 (out today) picks up where Furman’s Revelation storyline leaves off. Following a climactic battle with Optimus Prime and his Autobot armies, Galvatron (plus his loyal Seekers, Scourge and Cyclonus) should have ceased to function. However, a mysterious power from the Dead Universe — an eerie place stumbled upon by the first Cybertronian explorers that teems with anti-life — has kept them alive, and somehow it relates to the titular artifact, the Heart of Darkness which Galvatron now possesses. Now our “hero” finds himself hungry for truth, so he and his party set off to reconnect with the Dead Universe in hopes of finding answers to their existential dilemma.
It may seem strange for a Transformers comic to focus so thoroughly on an individual’s quest of self-discovery — especially when that individual’s a giant purple robot — but writers Abnett and Lanning solidly bring readers in to Galvatron’s world. Traditionally, the character’s been played as a major villain or straight-up crazy, so it’s a cool role reversal to cast him as a relatively level-headed protagonist. In fact, so far publisher IDW’s books have strayed away from connecting their version of Galvatron to any previous incarnations, especially inasmuch as he’s a mere explorer with no clear connection to Megatron or the Dark God Unicron, though perhaps that’s about to change…
The first issue of Heart of Darkness is light on conflict but high in mystery. It works to earn the literary allusion in its title; I suspect that, much as Charles Marlow travels deep into the Congo to discover horrific truths of existence, Galvatron will do the same, with the Dead Universe standing in for the depths of Africa. It’s heavy stuff for a Transformers book, but if you have an attachment to the characters and their universe, it executes well.
A relative newcomer to monthly comics, illustrator Ulises Farinas (again with the literary references!) takes a welcome first step into the world of Transformers. His work recalls the 1980s British Marvel Transformers series which Abnett himself worked on. U.K. comics are generally larger than their United States counterparts; they’re essentially the size of a magazine, giving every image a bit of a grander feel. That’s what Farinas captures here, especially in his two-page spreads but also in standard panels. Everything feels big, which is appropriate for a book about giant robots. In particular, I’m really impressed with his visuals relating to the Dead Universe, and I hope to see more of those as the series progresses.
For longtime fans of the property, or even those whose fandom has lapsed since the ’80s, I recommend Transformers: Heart of Darkness heartily. One caveat: if you’re not up on your IDW Transformers books, I’d suggest reading Revelation first. I revisited those issues last night and I’m really glad I did, or else I might have felt a bit lost. Heart of Darkness is certainly not impenetrable without prior knowledge, but the characters and motivations on display will make more sense if you’re familiar with what’s come before.
Overall, Heart of Darkness is a cool chance to get to know Galvatron, one of the mythos’ more fascinating characters. It does beg one question, though: when Marlow traveled to the Congo he found Col. Kurtz. What, or who, lies in wait for Galvatron?
Be sure to check out our interview with Dan Abnett on the Nerdy Nothings Podcast, going live on our website and iTunes Tuesday!
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