Robots in Disguise, (a.k.a. "The one with the Decepticons in it") titles this second comic book series to run parallel with More than Meets the Eye, a catchy title, but is the comic as good as its longer named sibling?
Obviously, spoilers aplenty ahead...
Ah, ah, ah, ah staying' aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!!
It is the Golden age of Cybertron, and peace has returned... Or has it?
Following the other side of the coin - thrust into leadership of Cybertron, up against it with half his friends believed dead on The Lost Light, this story of the little guy struggling to make huge decisions adds a new twist to a faction that has almost always
has its stalwart and dependable leader in the past, so its no surprise that Bumblebee is the focus here.
Turns out the welcome wagon does have that good coffee flavour.
Unlike its longer titled counterpart, Robots In Disguise initially suffers from taking itself a bit too seriously. After the epic-scaled intergalactic nonsense of the Chaos arc, this story begins with a tight focus on the difficult relationship between the Autobots, weary from their millennia-long battle to free Cybertron, and the Nails, those who hold the Autobots equally as responsible for the war as the Decepticons, egged on by Metalhawk. It's an uneasy balance of power where the protectors are regarded as conquerors, and the 'bots decision to use Ratbat's Decepticons as controlled enforcers makes it look worse, even if they are 'contained' under Prowls ever-watchful eye.
Cybertron's finest in action.
Andrew Griffith's art in the book has a 'familiar' feel to it. 'Bee takes on a design those of you familiar with War for Cybertron would be more accustomed to, Metalhawks stick-figure physique is reminiscent of Starscream from transformers Prime, whilst the Nails and the unnamed background characters seem to comprise of everything from the old school cartoon cuboids right up to Beast-era designs (and thankfully, there is little to none of the awful movie-style segmenting of facial features). Lesser-known characters such as Needlenose and Horri-bull can be easily identified to those who may have only seen them from the old Marvel comics, and the wider shots are well drawn and clear, however that isn't to say that all of it is good - one or two members of the Decepticons (I'm looking you YOU here Skywarp) just look plain weird.
But, whilst the art is familiar and easy, John Barber's story is set to be a slow burner. With the high impact climax to MTMTE this was never going to be an easy sell, unable as this is to blast off to pastures anew. Setting a story on a rebuilt Cybertron was never going to be easy and, as is the fashion in domestic-based stories, civil disorder and terrorism is a theme that everyone understands and rarely if ever has a clear 'winner'.
94% if you are really honest, eh Prowl?
In recreating a world in this fashion Barber engineers an unforgiving but oft-explored choice: Exactly how far is Bumblebee willing to go to ensure Cybertron's freedom, and how, if at all, can they prevent the existing ill feeling from escalating further into violence and bloodshed? The Decepticons, as are to be expected, are unhappy with their lot and the Nails themselves, overseen by self-styled ambassador Metalhawk, only add to the volatile situation. As the decision Bumblebee makes at the end demonstrates, civil unrest is never a black and white issue, and although the conclusion to this issue did seem a little predicable, its knock-on effects will hopefully bring this story to life.
Cassettes always have a plan.
This is a longer read. As opposed to the light-hearted jaunt that MTMTE delivers, the long term arc within RID will raise a few eyebrows - and a few hackles no doubt - but with even Cybertron itself fighting its own population one must ask oneself, how much worse can it get for Bumblebee now? Depending on what Ratbat is planning for 'tomorrow night', the answer could well be 'much, much worse.'