After 30-some issues plus assorted one-shots and minis, IDW’s line of Transformers comics has reset to #1 — two #1s, in fact. This week’s More Than Meets the Eye is the first volley in a soft reboot of the Transformers comic franchise. And while reboots seem to be all the rage in comics right now, ultimately they’ve got to be judged by what they bring to the particular story they’re telling. If MTMTE #1 is any indication, IDW’s made a strong decision here.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that IDW’s rebranding this classic property to fit into a more hard science-fiction style. Gone are the humans that are typically so central to Transformers stories… MTMTE #1 has nary a flesh-creature in sight. Instead, the company’s two concurrent monthly series are split up into basically home and away teams. The cast of More Than Meets the Eye — Rodimus, Ultra Magnus, Drift, Ratchet, Red Alert and more — are explorers aboard a vessel called The Lost Light. In the aftermath of the Great War and with a home planet that’s been stripped of most technology, they’re searching for Cybertron’s original explorers and a supposed paradise they’re said to have discovered. Meanwhile, over in Robots in Disguise (out in two weeks) a shaky governing body of ex-Autobots and Decepticons like Bumblebee, Prowl and Ratbat remain behind on Cybertron to restore order after millennia of fighting. There’s considerable tension between the two groups; in fact, a major plot thread of this issue involves Bumblebee and Prowl trying to stop Rodimus’ departure by any means necessary.
To me, this plot description calls to mind some of the more noteworthy science fiction serials of the last few decades. Most obviously, a search for a rumored utopia brings strong overtones of Battlestar Galactica. Trying to establish a ramshackle governing body after a ravenous war sounds a lot like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I think it’s smart for IDW to channel properties like these; most Transformers fans would probably agree that their favorite robots have serious science fiction potential (perhaps previously best-realized in the Beast Wars cartoon), and using examples like these as springboards seems like a good place to start.
We’ll address the issue of how weirdly excited I am to read a comic about Transformers governing themselves in two weeks, but MTMTE seems to be all about adventure. This first issue kicks off strongly by assembling a wildly diverse cast of characters. I like Rodimus (aka Hot Rod) in the lead; he’s impulsive but with a strong (if not repressed) sense of responsibility. That should lead to some fun drama. Behind him he’s got the hilariously rule-devoted Ultra Magnus, who considers any Autobot who wears his insignia on a slant a “wayward character.” Perhaps Rodimus’ right-hand man is the ex-Decepticon Drift, who one character suggests actually acts as a puppeteer for Rodimus. Whether or not we should suspect Drift of sinister actions isn’t addressed head-on here, but it’s a nice touch that writer James Roberts plants seeds of dissent so early on.
There are, actually, a lot of seeds planted throughout MTMTE #1. Roberts is a detailed writer with a seemingly massive long-term plan. He’s stacked The Lost Light with some great unexplored gems, like Tailgate, a legless Autobot who’s improbably been trapped beneath Cybertron for six million years and has dug his way out just in time to make the launch (he thinks he’s on the original Prime’s Arc). Whirl’s an oddball with a proclivity for strange relationships and a totally uncontrollable temper. Cyclonus is, well, pretty recently a bad guy. My favorite of the bunch is the minute Rewind, who transforms into a memory stick. He’s an archivist obsessed with recording; at one point in this issue he protests to Prowl “This could be an important conversation. It could have repercussions!” I suspect Roberts will be having a lot of fun with this quirky character.
Art in this book’s provided by IDW mainstay Nick Roche. Honestly, I’m personally not a giant fan of Roche’s art, which is heavily Eastern-influenced. That said, I think he does a fine job here. His lines are a little looser than the typical Transformers artist, which lends itself well to action sequences (he gets a lot out of the Cyclonus/Whirl battle). And even though some of his figures are a little more lithe than I’d like, people who’ve been following IDW’s Transformers books for awhile know he’s had a pretty vested interest in Hot Rod (going all the way back to his initial Spotlight issue), so it seems fitting he’d work on this book. If nothing else, his more playful pencils should work well for the many alien environments our cast is sure to explore.
More Than Meets the Eye #1 ends with our heroes cast off to a strange new world basically against their will. It’s an exciting start for the series, and one that should have pretty major repercussions on Robots in Disguise as well. The very last page of the issue also lays some ominous hints for future events in this title, a nice tactic to snag readers and let them know what Roberts has in mind. Given the way Roberts and Roche expertly introduce their series in this issue, I’m completely on board to see what they’ve got up their sleeves next.
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