I’d like to start this review off by saying that I typically do not get the premise behind motion comics. To me, they often feel like someone thought of a good cartoon but didn’t have the resources to do it properly. Most of them that I’ve seen aren’t much better than comic art manipulated with Adobe Flash Studio. I’m sure that there are better examples out there, but I have not exposed myself to them.
IDW’s foray into this medium with Transformers: Punishment, while not dissuading me completely of my notions of motion comics, shows me that there is a way to do it better. It’s far from perfect, but I’ll touch on that later.Transformers: Punishment
is written by John Barber and drawn by Livio Ramondelli. Two powerhouses in their respective fields come together to make this book look as nice as it reads. Optimus Prime returns to Cybertron because for whatever reason, Galvatron on Earth just doesn’t seem like that big a deal to him? He arrives and immediately decides his original reason to visit isn’t as important as some murdered d-list Decepticons. He sets out to find the killer in a style that feels very familiar to MTMTE’s Shadowplay series; where the hero (Optimus, in case it wasn’t clear) spends several issues chasing a criminal, and lots of collateral damage happens en route.
The feel of this story captures very succinctly the atmosphere that IDW’S Robots In Disguise
series has been trying to capture; that everyone is trying to come to terms with what they did during The War. There is a lot of Prime narration and introspective that puts a lot of this in context as we begin to see that the Autobots may not have been as heroic as 30 years of propaganda have lead us to believe.
This story is led by Optimus as he investigates. This disappoints me as I was really looking forward to seeing more of Starscream, who in this story is actually a heroic character. There was no sneer to the voice that I imagined in my head as I read his lines. He is generally honest in his desire to see justice done.
There are other characters too. Slug and the Dinobots serve as the needed muscle and occasional foil for Optimus. Windblade is always in the background to counter Prime’s ‘millions of years of fighting has changed us’ mantras, which seem to occur once every issue. Sandstorm is the most curious addition to the story. Whereas the Dinobots are all too willing to fight and kill, Sandstorm does so because it’s all he ever knew. Prime confronts him and attempts to get him to change and move past what he did. Will he do so? I suppose that’s what was meant at the BotCon panel when it was stated that these events will reverberate in the main comic lines.
The Decepticon presence in this book is minimal (unless you include cadavers). The Firecons appear more to stir the pot than anything else. I would’ve enjoyed seeing more cons as protagonists. Starscream is for all intents and purposes a good guy and Barricade only speaks when there’s exposition to deliver. This is certainly an all-Autobot tale. The overall story arc is nothing unique. It’s been told before in other stories wherever war and violence have affected cultures. The killer(s) didn’t surprise me, but they may surprise you if you are new to the IDW comics.
Overall I liked the story, despite some distractions both artistic and technical. The writing is good, and the more open nature of this medium allowed the artwork to move the text along and a good speed. I wish this was a 6th issue to allow for more interaction between Optimus, Starscream, and Windblade. This was a fantastic opportunity for old vs new Autobot interaction but it was always cut short because there were more bodies to find.
The artwork in this was done knowing it was for a motion comic, and it shows. Sparks fly, laserbeams cut the air, fires burn with intensity and the lighting is dynamic. My main issue is that because it’s a motion comic, there is motion for the sake of it. Sometimes the impact of comic art is to show movement in a static frame. That’s because it relies on the reader’s imagination to fill in the details. Such impact is lost to me when there’s a tiny bit of motion and the impact isn’t as big as your mind is telling you it should be. The soundtrack gets disconcerting after a short time, especially when shifting between scenes there is no fade in/out. I like the inclusion of the sound effects, such as the transforming sound and the guns blasting away, but it’s lost in the often overpowering driving beat of the music.
I got this because it was free, and I would suggest the same to anyone who enjoys these comics. Personally though, I would’ve paid to get it in paper.