ROAD RAGE! While a DECEPTICON called TRANSIT wreaks havoc on afternoon commutes, Team Bee gets an unexpected visit… but will these new rivals combine forces without trusting each other?
Can they even deal?
With only a couple of weeks left until the end of season one of the animated series, the second issue of Robots in Disguise still falls a little behind plot-wise, but Georgia Ball delivers an entertaining, intriguing and suspenseful enough script to keep interest even in older readers.
After my own heart, the humour - a Cybertronian perspective on Earthling behaviour, media and general popular culture - allows for a number of puns, plays on concepts, wordplay via Fixit's pixlexia (yes yes yes I know that's not it but bear with me). All within a frame that does not jar with the silliness, at all.
Additionally, it keeps the light side in the running mystery we had been made aware of since the FCBD issue #0. While team Prime does make its appearance, and that is not spoiling anything, something else is definitely afoot with the various cast members, and Ultra Magnus in particular. Plus another special cameo, too...
Priscilla Tramontano delivers an excellent arrangement of panels - though I might have some comments at a later stage on the fluidity of the layouts - with some fan-tastic cameos from across the multiple incarnations of the Transformers fictions, not only Prime. Plus, we get some magnificent expressivity across the entire board, from background to main cast.
Oh hey Spike and Carly
You wanted a colourist? Well, you get three, as Tramontano is joined by the Joshes, Perez and Burcham, in colouring in her own linework. And as much as they usually have their own identifiable styles, the transitions and collaboration here are strikingly fluid. Which is never a bad thing, and leads to some excellently vibrant pages, in tone with the series.
Also, a title such as this one allow, nay, calls for some fun on the fonts and letters side of things, and Tom B. Long does not disappoint. Enjoying the multiple opportunities to play with soundwords and squiggles, Long adds the finishing touches of lightness even where scenes may get more serious. Cover-wise, Burcham returns from interior colours to overall cover work in the Subscription variant (thumbnailed), while Tramontano still has the great main cover we've seen for a while now.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Again, as for last month and the first issue, the target audience of the book is obvious, and may deter some of the older readers (who do have three other series at least, to be fair) - but what Ball brings to the table is the same good blend of lighthearted humour with enough of a twist to keep the mind intrigued and willing to go along for the (bus)ride.
But no DINOPILE?
And of course, the visual result of Tramontano, Perez, Burcham and Long are a feast for the optic sensors, too. The vibrancy, cameos, hints, slapstick and more subtle humour are excellently enjoyable, and work well as a parallel reflection of the animated series - obviously with its own take, and all the better for it.
Filling in for Va'al this week because he's a super-busy, super-desired, and super-successful dude, it's me, reservist-and former news admin, and comic reviewer Tigertrack. (I hope you check this out any way).
“I feel not unlike a small boy, waking from a bad dream to find reality not much of an improvement.” -John Byrne
Story so far:
Okay—Despite what we told you last time, it turns out GI JOE is real…and they’re the last line of defense against the Decepticobra alliance. With battlefronts on Earth and Cybertron, hope seems a a losing proposition—until Optimus Prime returns!.
In our last episode, Scarlett in paradise...lost and then found, and Bumblebee's head is returned!
Spoiler free review:
This issue continues to tell the story of the seemingly mad reality that Earth and Cybertron are in as Koh-Buru-Lah has started to cause havoc on Earth with the Decepticobras battling the Joes, and Cybertron has started to look more and more like a certain planet-eater that is feared from Transformers religion—that is also bearing down on the Earth with conflicts on it, and in it, as well.
Using creative layouts and lettering, and exaggerated characterization often inspired from sources both familiar and those you will have to do a bit of research on, Tom Scioli continues to drum out a very wide mix of feelings for us; from fun and silly, to horrific and mind-boggling, unreal to all too real.
We are now 8 issues in, and if you’re still with this critically-acclaimed series, you’re probably past your personal feelings about art and layout, and just trying to enjoy the ride and appreciate all the work and creativity that has actually gone into this series. And of course...Transformers. You’ll continue to be surprised in this issue in several ways… I won’t spoil them all, but a couple of my favorite moments involve Omega Supreme’s unexpected entrance into the fray, heralding the return of the Astro-train (I love this silly, but cool design ), and the commentary about a love-it or hate-it classic generation one gimmick(most of 'us' dislike it anyway)! Some perfect examples of fun/creative ways to rethink what has been thought before.
Ramifications from Issue #6 are continued as we see GI JOE take full responsibility for the protection of the Earth, violently wrenched from government control in issue #6 by FLAGG! Optimus Prime returns to Cybertron after retrieving Bumblebee's body from GI JOE--Cobra Commander celebrates on Earth with his disciples over a feast of...Snake Eyes? In this issue, we also seemingly learn the fates of favorite sons Billy and Bumblebee...and of course, one shall stand and one shall fall...
There’s plenty of human and robot action in this page turner, although as in previous issues, some of the leaps between chapter breaks are a bit too profound! The changing from Cybertron to Earth in separate sections/chapters can be a little jolting and confusing, unless you have followed along from previous issues and know who is where and use some powers of inference.
There are also a few rad splash pages that just leave you a bit awe-struck…in a good way mostly…and a surprise ending that no one ever saw coming.
Ultimately, if you’re still reading this series, you’ll continue to enjoy it, as I am, probably despite your personal feelings toward what should be done here or there, or how characters are or are not being treated with respect to your understanding of them from other media. The art and layouts are interesting and fun, and the fact that Barber and Scioli take time at the end of each issue to discuss the creative process and inspirations make this an enjoyable series for those who have a real taste for comic book history and wanting to know the inner workings on creating and publishing a book. And of course, there are Transformers too, some re-imagined and re-mixed in ways that were not thought possible before. I’m to the point where I can enjoy this for what it is…and I was very much against this after the very first issues. It’s gotten much less childish and random, and grown much more complex and a bit more dark--and still a bit random though.
COMBINER WARS FALLOUT! Because you demanded it—WINDBLADE and CHROMIA team up with ARCEE to put an end to the menace of the COMBINER WARS—but will they end each other first?!
The one-shot that unofficially accompanies the SDCC exclusive Combiner Hunters box set, obviously sharing its title, is also the first introduction, and so far only look at, the team of character that form and become Victorion, the first all-female Transformer combiner - and you can sort of place it during the Combiner Wars arc, between Windblade #3 and The Transformers #42. If you want.
And some more Chromehide, obvs
Mairghread Scott takes the helm in this insert issue, really, dealing with some not entirely consequential events (as the title unfortunately might suggest) in terms of the overall narrative - for now, at least - and at the same time, some very well-placed exchanges between the main characters of Arcee, Chromia and Windblade.
Like, whatever, I guess
Specifically, Arcee's reaction to Victorion's appearance/arrival. One panel in particular, which I will not spoil here, makes clever use of her IDW backstory to explain and give an actual, good reason to resist Combiners in general, and actually side with Galvatron on the issue (see The Transformers series), and furthers her development with another big step.
Not pictured here
Of course, not to be forgotten, are the Camien team of Torchbearers, their added piece to the combiner puzzle, and how they deal with the sudden change in their team dynamic - though with not enough time to develop some seriously intriguing stories that emerge from the experience. I do hope we see a lot more of Victorion and her individual components, there is much more to say.
Sara Pitre-Durocher, whom we have only seen up to this point working on some pretty well-received cover variants, is the artist for the issue - and her work is absolutely magnificent, and definitely the highest of highlights of the book. Her expressions and proportions, her poses and layouts, the interactions of the characters are stunning. Truly.
In addition, the way that her line-work and Yamaishi's colours blend so effortlessly, really helps convey the feeling of the general atmosphere of the Sea of Rust, and the lighter pause between the phases of the Combiner Wars. There's the sense of something lifting from the heavy reality of the duties of the characters involved, especially as the story progresses.
Something which is also helped by Tom B. Long's lettering work, as he gives some added voices to the characters varying in sizes, tones, volume and size (again). And he creates a great title page. We also get a slew of cover variants, including the sizable main Casey Coller/Joana Lafuente one seen in the preview, the futuristic Livio Ramondelli B cover, the SDCC Pitre-Durocher exclusive, and the excellently apt James Biggie Pan Cybertronian Spaceways incentive in the thumbnail.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Whatever else this one-shot is doing, it's with no doubt a promotional comic to accompany both the Victorion reveal and the Combiner Hunters Arcee, Chromia and Windblade. And that feels like a bit of a shame, really. I am confident that we will revisit the events at some point in Till All Are One (probably), but right now.. it just sort of happened. Which is unfortunate, given its title.
But hey, Victorion!
That said, some of its scenes were really well-thought and executed by Scott, and what does happen is well done, well drawn, well coloured by Pitre-Durocher and Yamaishi - if anything, overall, I am definitely looking forward to future collaborations between the two, as they clearly work well in synergy, and a freer hand at the plot should yield much higher results!
OPENING SALVO! The Autobots and Decepticons’ uneasy peace is threatened by the flames of war! STARSCREAM—ruler of CYBERTRON—makes contact with WINDBLADE’S homeworld—and the only defense against a new CYBERTRONIAN EMPIRE are COMBINERS—multiple CYBERTRONIANS forming together into huge, dangerous forms!
Days of Deception is over, Windblade was over a long time ago, Punishment saw both its digital and print run, and we have been really setting the stage for Combiner Wars for a long long time now. And yet, The Transformers #39 takes another small step, piecing together the various parts leading up to here, preparing the spark, the casus belli, if you will and giving it all just a gentle prod.
Oh hey random Starscream that has nothing to do with this at all
John Barber takes main writing duties for the issues, but both him and Mairghread Scott are palpably present in the plotting of story. The dialogue provides a great framework of power dynamics and hierarchy being subverted at every turn, with some further development for a lot of older faces - and Swindle, of all characters, whose perspective guides the story.
We have Windblade and Optimus and some intriguingly almost 'post-colonial' moments of perspective shifts; we get Wheeljack and Ironhide and Chromia just trying to do their jobs, and being almost entirely confused; we get Starscream being Starscream, and gloriously so; we are introduced to Offroad, and given a *fantastic* explanation for their presence; we get another addition to the chapter in Transformers fiction that is Alpha Bravo, and Powerglide.
The legend continues
As an introduction, the Opening Salvo of Combiner Wars does much more than wht it could've,and is an immensely enjoyable read, with good humour, a good establishing of the playing field and just enough references to older continuity points to keep older fans entertained while bringing in some new ones too. Kapoom.
Livio Ramondelli, as we knew, takes on the whole brunt of the artistic duties for this and the majority. And I have to unfortunately admit this time, we are not seeing the great work he provided in recent publications such as Punishment. The composition is great, and there are really good layouts in the issue, and some of the expressivity is well conveyed.
At other times, however, some of those same faces, especially the newer or less frequently used ones, fall a little short of the full enjoyment of the piece. The tone is captured, and the washed-up, grimy sense of a post everything Cybertron works well - as might Caminus - but sometimes it really does jar a little.
Not as successful
The lettering does work quite well, even so, and Tom B. Long demonstrates once more the craft of a good letterer in some great sound effects and speech modifications. And While we have seen the beautiful Casey Coller/Joana Lafuente regular Menasor cover, and Ramondelli's poster variant for B, the gem of the variants is undoubtedly Sara Pitre-Durocher's Menasor and Swindle - see the thumbnail!
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Being able to follow what is going on on Cybertron from Swindle's perspective is, in and of itself, a treat. Seeing the world how he sees it and through those purple eyes, with the cynicism, degrees of naivete and, well, Swindle attitude, is truly refreshing. We get all of that, plus some very good interactions, and a great cameo from the Lost Light, too.
If this what we are to expect from the crossover event, and the merging of Barber and Scott's plotting minds, then we're certainly in for a fun trip down six or so issues. Combiner Wars is playing on multiple angles without, so far, reaching too far out to be forced to justify the number of players, has a healthy dose of Swindle and Starscream, and is suitable for anyone under or over the age of Galvatron.
In Which Duke Drives Optimus Through a Sea of Quintessons (Spoiler free-ish)
IT GETS CRAZIER! The biggest space battle ever grows to universal proportions! Will the G.I. JOE team and the AUTOBOTS make peace—before COBRA and the DECEPTICONS end the war… the bad way?!
One Woman Army
I realise we have fallen behind on reviewing this series, and we will come back to fill in on the missing issues of the first volume of Transformers vs G.I. Joe. However, after a decent hiatus, the cosmic series by Tom Scioli and John Barber is back with its fifth issue, and we're here to remind you how amazing it is!
We're on Earth and Cybertron, as the latter moves closer to the former at the hands of Megatron, and G.I. Joe and Cybertronians alike are attempting to deal with the impending catastrophe - although each in their own way, with suspicion, and not all plans are working together, at all.
Who nose what might happen
One of the main storylines we follow is that of Rodimus, as the attempts to regain control of Metroplex and the Autobot troops, his clash with one of the G1-est Grimlocks in a while, and the consequences of giant robot egos meeting each other's match, Megatron included, for the first time seen as potentially fallible.
Clash of Kings
The writing is fantastically scattered across the pages and cosmic stage that Scioli and Barber have set up, and even then, there is a lot more coherence than in the first couple of issues. The interactions and uncomfortable alliances between humans and Cybertronians lead to both amusing and fairly tense scenes, and definitely worth following around.
Tom Scioli's double act as writer and artist still delivers in a fantastic correspondence between, arguably, intention and execution. He is not trying to do anything, he is not attempting to capture elements of *something* - this is his style, heavily influenced by early comics art, and it is something to amaze at, every time.
Have a Metropolygon
Every corner of every panel, even the round ones, has something going on, from the little tags identifying new characters to the Quintesson vinetacles, to the sheer amount on miniature scenes taking place across a single page, plus all the colour work, you can spend hours on an issue alone.
Three Are One
The addition of Chris Mowry's stellar lettering and design work make sure that all is in its place and with its own voice, too, and that the package matches the contents, with echoes of those comics art influences showing up in the book as book. Plus, to catch eyes from everywhere, we get an impressive array of covers by Scioli, Nick Pitarra/Megan Wilson on Soundwave and Slither and the thumbnailed Derek Charm [plus a slightly more questionable one by Jamie Tyndall/Ula Mos].
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
The marvellous incoherent cohesion of the multiple overlapping scripts and plots is what makes this series so appealing to many readers who are not generally into Transformers or G.I. Joe fictional universes. It's fine to get lost, we're actually invited to do so, and there's more to gain from it, if you want to.
Laughing one's head off
We get references to Transformers lore, battles of wit, humour and ridiculous amounts of action, and it still feels as though we're being pulled through a story that doesn't care whether we're paying attention or not - much like the rest of the universe. This is a series that does exactly what it wants, and what it wants is to have fun with the medium and the casts. We're along for the ride, so buckle up.
You got TRANSFORMERS in my Angry Birds! No, you got Angry Birds in my TRANSFORMERS! ERGH, OOF, MPPHH!!! Hey! Waitaminit! This is actually pretty great! That’s right, comic lovers, two of your favorite IDW comics have morphed into one amazing new comic! When the TRANSFORMERS lose their powerful ALLSPARK, it ends up on Piggie Island and the world of Angry Birds turns robotic! Prepare to meet… the AUTOBIRDS and DECEPTIHOGS!
Philip K. Dick would be hogrified
Before time began, there was the egg. Or maybe it was the bird. The egg, or the bird, what came first..? In any case, there was an egg, and a green pig wanted to eat it. To eat all of them. As they do. Apparently. But the egg was also a cube, and the cube fell, rolled away, and became an egg. With the properties of a cube.
John Barber is having a lot of fun with the script here, letting puns rip every other panel, juggling multiple identities, continuities, storylines and characterisations that fans of the Transformers franchise of the past decade will recognise, and aiming for a fairly contemporary target (with some nods to older fans too).
Some things never change
There is very little one can do to spoil the issue, but I am not going to simply summarise the story of the comic, and I am actually quite glad something as light-hearted and - simply put - silly as this actually exists out there, reminding fans that kids are into our favourite robots too. And the transition page is really quite clever, verbally.
The comic uses Livio Ramondelli to introduce and frame the story as part of a spin-off universe of the Transformers, something based on modern iterations of the Cybertronians, from Bayverse to Rescue Bots and some added G1 highlights to please a bit of everyone. And it works.
The artists who will be gracing the pages of the series from here on, however, are a great addition to my knowledge of visual creators: Marcelo Ferreira has a great sense of visual humour, in facial expressions, character, dynamism and page layout - and the cartoon style art is perfectly apt in tone for the series.
No fowl play here
And of course, all of it catches the eye even more thanks to the wonderful colour work by Nikos Koutsis, making sure all characters jump off the page, vibrantly and energetically, and Chris Mowry's brilliant lettering work, letting himself really go on the fun aspect of the job. Plus, the comic comes with three fantastic covers, that further show off the glorious silliness of the crossover, with Ramondelli, Ferreira and Koutsis being joined by action-packed Jorge Pacheco's variant (thumbnail).
I don't believe anyone was expecting a masterpiece of storytelling or the new rising star of the comics medium, but the issue is a whole lotta fun, pleasingly funny, enjoyably silly and most importantly, never takes itself seriously - something that the IDW Transformers titles can sometimes fall victims of (though less so as series progress).
The art is also extremely refreshing, and the framing of the story by a Transformers regular sets the scene nicely for the very cartoony, series-appropriate Ferreira and Koutis approach to the illustration. The lettering is fun, the writing is fun, the issue is, overall a non-serious
AUTOBOTS VERSUS EARTH! OPTIMUS PRIME and the AUTOBOTS discover the humans’ secret—and they aren’t pleased with what they learn! Will the DECEPTICON’s alliance tear down the peace—and will the world learn the CYBERTRONIANs are back?
A bit hard to miss, really
The past of couple of issues of Robots in Disguise have slowly been building up to the Alpha Trion discovery and recovery, seeding lies and lines about Prowl's true intentions and feelings, Jazz and Arcee's discomfort in their new-and-old roles, Galvatron's connection to it all, the Witwickys, Soundwave, Optimus and the rest of the gang. Slowly.
And then, suddenly, giant spaceships. Stories that were heading one fearfully predictable way go in a direction so different it's almost inwards. Characters more or less established by now are truly revealed for what and who they are. Changes come about so subtly and quickly and yet still make sense with everything teased so far, that reading 28-31 again is almost required to get more out of it all once again.
John Barber does an excellent job at keeping all the threads close, weaving a pattern so intricate that three out of two of us on the comics staff have no idea as to where the story will go from here, but are loving the ride read. This is what RID promised in its initial issues, both seasons, and the heights it can accomplish with its twisted political and social narratives.
And dogs called Buster
And on top of that, the entire issue is a series of well orchestrated, well paced, well placed action sequences, with Prowl and Jazz on one side, the Autobot team on another, and humans and Decepticons between and around the two. With exemplary stand-outs in Thundercracker, Buster and Marissa, as Barber does not forget the series' heart and humour, exactly when needed (the closing sequence is magnificently crafted).
Andrew Griffith is the main artist, taking care of all the gigantic spaceships, stupidly amazing visual references, fights, perspective shifts, interactions and running plot, flashbacks included. The opening scene, the title page, just examples of what Griffith can do with a page, something hinted at in Dark Cybertron. And the amazingness is topped by Josh Perez' colour work on Griffith's pages, giving a grittiness and darker hue to a truly bleak situation - lighting it up by fire, laser and destruction.
Brendan Cahill is confined (I use the term loosely) to four pages in total - but whoah are they some pages! Focusing on the interactions between Prowl and Jazz, and an amazing double page, reader shifting spread that delves deeper into the human connection to the story, both Cahill and Joana Lafuente's colours put the sci-fi back into the Transformers, reminding us of one of the many genres the comics line falls under. And how adorably evil Prowl looks while smirking.
To top everything off, Tom B. Long dazzles in his lettering work, with some wonderfully placed sound effects mirroring the chaos and confusion that must be ensuing during the attack on the human base, and a gorgeous ending sequence caption group. Then add to that the amazing Coller and Bove cover revealed yesterday, and the Coller and Lafuente variant hinting at where the story may be headed (see thumbnail).
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Barber was able to take all my fears as to where this series was heading, and spin them completely around into something unrecognisable and impossible to figure out, nearing its sister series MTMTE for twistedness. Griffith and Cahill's collaboration raises the bar even higher, with some mind-boggling art in terms of perspective and layouts, with the excellent Perez and Lafuente giving a decidedly significant boost, and Long's designer eye operating from the shadows.
You did, RID
Robots in Disguise #32 has action, lots of it. It has mystery, it has scheming, it has humans and Cybertronians. Lots of them. It has a good story, excellent pacing, great dialogue, fantastic art, amazing colouring and letters, gorgeous covers and is reaching a level of comic book writing worthy of any other action series currently published in the industry. I cannot recommend this issue enough. Lots of it.
THE WAR FOR CYBERTRON! Optimus Prime versus Megatron. Autobots versus Decepticons. At the dawn of the conflict, battle lines are drawn and sides are set… now legends will be made. The war that would define a planet begins in earnest—and its revelations will shake the TRANSFORMERS’ world to the core!
Autocracy did some really interesting things by taking politics to a whole other level. Monstrosity brought 'the Quintessons' and Trypticon back into the game. Primacy is supposed to shape the IDW Transformers universe as we know it - so what is the missing link between the fall of Trypticon and the rise of Megatron? It looks like issue 1 starts answering that question.
The focus of Chris Metzen and Flint Dille appears to be shifting between Optimus Prime and Megatron as they both 'recover' from the happenings in the previous two mini-series, with the latter in particular sometimes questioning (?) his actions - and yet, at the same time, we also have some nice interactions between Grimlock and Rodimus, Optimus and Ironhide, Megatron and.. well. You'll see.
There is one major snag in the issue, during Optimus' sections, which I'm hoping will get explained later in the series - but for now it's not too distracting (for me at least), and considering John Barber is editing the work, some kind of patching could always take place at another stage, or there's a better reason for it happening as it does.
All in all, there are some big set-ups for this run, with some nice interactions between the key players, and some past exploration and world-defining, delving into pre-established elements of the franchise and plots hinted at in both Autocracy and Monstrosity, and the wider IDWverse.
Livio Ramondelli resumes his task of showing us the beginning of Cybertron's dark ages, with his trademark darker style and colours, shining on big splash pages and spreads, and I mean BIG. The characters, the scope, the layouts - there's a sense of size and scale that follows from some of the later chapter in Monstrosity sliding into here, and not just in the art itself.
Big city lights
The colours obviously work well with the linework, and there are some nicely contrasting tones in some flashback sequences. The eye differences are a nice touch too, with Grimlock, Optimus and Megatron showing off different optics. And a very nice touch comes from letterer Chris Mowry, helping with giving a voice to the different characters, each in its own slightly unique way, and some great translucent sound effects.
I'll take a little longer on the covers, as the main one by Ramondelli is but a fourth of the series' run, but it is joined by an amazing Optimus Prime revealing the matrix by Windblade's Sarah Stone (a nice echo of one of the moments shown above) and an excellent 30th Anniversary variant by Casey Coller and JP Bove, commemorating the smelting pool and poor Scrounge (see thumbnail).
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Metzen and Dille's writing is slightly different from the rest of IDW's current output, but still holds its appeal with both older audiences and fans of the more modern ongoings. And their style fits the tone and time of the story, without any doubt, focusing on the two main players of the beginning of the war. Ramondelli's art returns to complement them, and I very happy to have Barber on editing, making sure it all fits in together - even with Omega's confusing statements.
And so do we
It's an easing into the story again, definitely. Some big stuff went down in what leads us to this point, and with this issue we're discovering bigger things still slowly emerging from Cybertron's past and leading into its future. And there are much much bigger things to come, if the last pages are anything to go by. Big things indeed.
Once again, fellow Seibertron.com user chuckdawg1999 brings us a video review of Transformers figures, and this time it's the turn of the Target exclusive Age of Extinction Silver Knight Optimus Prime and Grimlock! Check out the chrometastic redecos of Dark of the Moon Deluxe Optimus Prime and Fall of Cybertron Voyager Grimlock, including a G1 Predacon sword, in the embedded video below - and make sure to flag these up in the Sightings section and forums if you come across them!
This is the first set I've gotten from the Target exclusive Age of Extinction line. Both Grimlock and Optimus Prime are decked out in nice shinny chrome, especially Prime who is practically covered in Silver. Grimlock features the same accessories from the FOC figure while Prime comes with a G1 Predacon sword. I highly recommend this set especially if you missed out on getting either of these figures.
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