I don’t think I’ve tried to review a comic before, so this will be fairly messy… I’ve loved Transformers for as long as I can remember breathing. I got the comics in the ’80s, watched Transformers: The Movie (and adored it) and then I grew up. Wonderfully, after a few years Transformers also grew up. It’s had many cartoon incarnations; the original TV series is fairly awful, as are most of the era’s merchandise cartoons, but they are still what I think of first. Vastly superior was the Beast Wars CGI cartoon, I reckon that was when Transformers developed a clearer sense of humour about itself and a desire to do more with the characters. 10 years or so ago Dreamwave started up a new comic series that was edgier, more interesting and often more beautifully drawn than before. Naturally the company fell apart halfway through a story arc. The whole thing was picked up by IDW who have run with it ever since. I could not be more pleased!
More Than Meets The Eye (MTMTE) is a continuation of a now long-running Transformers comic series. We are now in the post-war period, Cybertron has been reformatted and all of its children, Autobot, Decepticon and those in between have been called home. Only it’s not really home for them anymore – they’ve been fighting for millions of years and old habits die hard. MTMTE is one half of the current series; Robots in Disguise continues the story of post-war settlement on their homeworld, while MTMTE takes a raggedy bag of ‘bots off on a quest across space to find the Knights of Cybertron who vanished aeons ago. These series are both much darker than the old comics (though they did have some pretty major cataclysms) but more importantly remain consistent – the earlier comics’ history is relevant and maintained. When they leave Cybertron in their ship The Lost Light, Prowl the Autobot security officer attempts to kill them all with a bomb for desertion – RID continues with the characters believing that they did all die! Since then they’ve faced a series of adversaries, including themselves and some fan favourite enemies.
What draws me to the series is that these are not the main Transformers characters – most of them are minor, incidentals, those toys you never really wanted or the ones that popped up in the background shots. I like that. It gives the writers a chance to expand on them in a way that never really happened before. We have fully psychopathic, paranoid, merciless, idiotic characters – including a psychiatrist who features quite heavily. Well, he did until they accidentally blew his head off in volume 2. He’s still back though in volume 3… The comics are also funny. These are often the loser characters, certainly they’re wildcards – they fight amongst themselves, get drunk in the illicit bar, take unauthorised action and put themselves and everyone else at risk. Much of the humour arises from the pompous and reckless Rodimus Prime who leads them, and his clashing with the utterly humourless and rigid Ultra Magnus (intergalactic peace-keeper), the horribly earnest and devout Drift (ex-Decepticon / Cybertronian Knight) and the rest of the crew. The psychology of the players frequently takes centre stage, especially the post-traumatic conditions of fighting for millions of years and now there’s… nothing they have to do. It’s interesting.
MTMTE volume 3 collects the 2012 annual and the comic series’ Primus and Shadowplay. It’s a good mix of a genuinely amusing short story and two longer stories in which they first finally reach Crystal City (the series is in no hurry to complete the Autobots’ quest) and get in trouble with inter-galactic peace keepers and includes an awesome chunk of fan service by introducing the metro-titans including Metroplex – vast city sized robots. The second story takes place in the bar and uses a device of attempting to restart their psychiatrist’s brain by telling stories from the distant past. It’s a tale of early pre-war Cybertron and the exploits of Orion Pax (the one-day Optimus Prime). It’s detailed, dark and filled with action. Quite a volume!
The art is consistently stunning, featuring some of the best comic book artists to draw Transformers ever: Alex Milne, Jimbo Salgado and Emil Cabaltierra. The flashback art is drawn by Guido Guidi who has drawn many of the recent comics and the alternating style gives it a lovely feel. James Roberts has written some of my favourite Transformers comics and continues to give the characters warmth, individuality and humour. Thank you! Bring on volume 4.
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