For my money the Transformers universe is kicking the teeth out of George RR Martin’s chilly little world. This fantastic Transformers comic series continues, with both Autobots and Decepticons back on Earth in search of revenge and the lost secret to Cybertronian gestalts.
By this point in the story it’s getting a little confusing. This is numbered the seventh collected volume of Robots in Disguise, but that follows at least a dozen others in the same continuity plus there are another six (eight now?) running in parallel to this storyline! In short – the Autobot/Decepticon war has ended, apparently decisively on Earth. Cybertron has been resettled (currently under Starscream’s worrying leadership), Metroplex has returned, as has Galvatron and several of the most ancient Transformers (from the Dark Universe no less), Bumblebee is dead, Shockwave has attempted to destroy the universe, Megatron is now an Autobot and Prowl is going insane as the new head of Devastator… and that really doesn’t even come close to catching up.
This the first part of the Combiner Wars story – the secret of combining Transformers into powerful gestalts. Thankfully we have Alpha Trion and Galvatron to fill in some of the background on Cybertron, way way back in the semi-feudal era of the Prime tribes. There’s an ingenious mention of Headmasters in that early history and a number of fan favourites such as Rhinox appear briefly, lending some context to the existence of the bestial Transformers. This series constantly delves into the myths and history of Cybertron and its biggest players, enriching what was once just a series of adverts for plastic toys. It’s fair to say that this series more than any other has wrenched Transformers out of adverts and into a rich fictional universe of its own.
It’s not all talk – far from it. With Prime distracted by the recovery and insights of Alpha Trion, he leaves the Autobots orbiting a very tooled up and hostile Earth. Unfortunately he leaves Prowl in charge – that’s the Prowl who until recently was being controlled by the Decepticons and indulging in horrifyingly utilitarian strategies, not that any of his colleagues thought he was any worse than usual. He’s also teamed up with the Constructicons (the only “successful” gestalt so far – Superion fared quite poorly but is being tended to by a recuperated Wheeljack, while Monstructor who is properly crazy hasn’t been seen for a while) which is bad news for Earth since their leader Scrapper was killed by humans during the same war that cost Prowl even more.
It gets worse, obviously. Galvatron is seeking out the Enigma of Combination which he thought he’d destroyed millions of years ago (guess what – it’s on Earth). Arcee is supposed to be keeping an eye on Prowl, but she’s half crazy anyway – not to mention she was formerly Prowl’s prize assassin (and since when have the good guys needed assassins?). She’s a great character (with quite a history) who takes absolutely no crap from anyone, whether it’s her allies or enemies. My current favourite character Thundercracker (awful-screenplay-writing, dog owning ex-Decepticon hermit living on Earth) is immediately sucked back into the fray in attempting to stop another Earth-Transformer war. The last one took a billion human lives and no few Transformers – can they really afford another…?
So it’s carnage all the way. As ever, the story is nailed by the wonderful artwork. I was especially delighted by the first chapter, drawn by Sarah Stone. It’s a bit of a shame she doesn’t get to more of it. That’s not to say the rest of the volume isn’t also gorgeous. It is, happily continuing the style that the best of the last few volumes have nailed for the Transformers. John Barber is happily expanding the Transformers universe and I’m certainly happy for him to continue.
I read the comic in TPB form on ComiXology, which I still find the best way to read comics.
Thankfully I have the next chapter of the Combiner Wars to go straight into…