Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018

Transformers News: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018 3:26PM CST

Categories: Comic Book News, Reviews, Site Articles
Posted by: Va'al   Views: 21,447

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Velvet Thunder
(Spoiler free-ish)


NOTE: The Annual is out on Wednesday, but to avoid discussion about it clashing too much with the other Optimus Prime comic book also out this week, this review is published before the release of the book. There are no spoilers insofar as we were able to keep them in check.

Synopsis
THUNDERCRACKER IN: STARSCREAM: THE MOVIE! The good news: somebody finally gave Thundercracker money to make a film. The bad news: it's Starscream, and he wants a biographical picture to win over the people of Earth. Will Thundercracker stand by his principles or... well, no, he makes the movie.

Transformers News: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018
His FACE


Story

Annuals are a strange thing, in comics series, arriving as they do from outside the narrative, but still usually relevant to the main strands of stories told in the main series they refer to. In Till All Are One's case, we saw it actually being a conclusion; in Optimus Prime, we see a long-frame of rounding out and rounding up some moments regarding Starscream (in deferred time) and Thundercracker himself.

Transformers News: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018
our noble hero


And the result is something that truly excels at highlighting the troubled past of the Seekers and the Decepticon ranks and faction, through the focus of the former's leader Starscream, and the lens of Thundercracker - and it does so injecting some actually surprisingly serious, resonating moments in an apparently light-hearted framing.

Transformers News: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018
what humour


The story, then, takes place across a number of moments that follow Starscream's rise to power and later fall (hence my reference to the TAAO annual above), as Thundercracker starts the work and only concludes it much, much later. Barber's script, as I will say in the other Optimus Prime comic review this week, is a mine of delights for anyone with any interest in Transformers lore, and choc-full of cameos and references.

Transformers News: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018
you're gonna need a bigger bot!


And that is something that Barber is very good at, leaning onto it in full force for a lot of beats in the issue. Using the framing of Thundercracker to give us a story about Starscream was good. Very good. It then turns to Thundercracker again, almost suddenly, and it gets perhaps even better, reminding us of how powerful he actually can be, and what his background is.


Art

The general framework of the light-heartedness of the script suits Priscilla Tramontano's art style perfectly, and John-Paul Bove's colours just help it that little more, keeping in line with the likes of MTMTE #57 in Titans Return, and the general silliness-but-not-really of Thundercracker's emotive side, even just as we open the issue on the title page. It's just.. fun.

Transformers News: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018
niiiiiiice


An unexpected - though entirely by my own fault - surprise comes in the small parts in which regular Thundercracker artist (from xRID and Transformers days) Andrew Griffith was brought in, with colours by Josh Burcham, to round out some flashbacks and cutscenes. And paired with Tramontano, and the framing of the narrative devices, it just works. Beautifully so.

Transformers News: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018
Seekers: Origin


As for the joyous touches added by the lettering, we see Shawn Lee feature back in, and having probably as much fun as the rest of the creative team on this, with some particularly fun parts in Buster's various noises, and the sound effects that manifest in various forms throughout.

We've seen both of the covers available for the issue, and both are viewable in our database entryhere, but I chose the Andrew Griffith / Josh Perez for the points made above: having him show one of his old 'creations' was a lovely touch.

Thoughts
WARNING: this may contain spoilers

A script that takes itself nowhere too seriously, with art that combines the more significant beats with the overall joyful, gleeful fun that the team clearly had while working on this project, with a spotlight on some of the lesser seen moments of Decepticon and Cybertronian history, and a bot-load of character work worthy of the best bottle episodes out there. You really should pick this annual up, with one caveat...

Transformers News: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018
me, humbly, with this review


...Barber's strengths may also be the hurdle to new readers coming to see Thundercracker doing fun movie fanfic things and being more influenced by humanity than Decepticonism. The references, the interviews, the cameos - they may not work for a newer Transformers fan (but which also speak to readers of Revolutionaries, GI Joe, xRID, and more). At the same time, they do not, in any way, detract from the overall enjoyment of the story, as those very same references also branch out to wider points, such as commentary on fandom, and popular media in general, references to specific franchises, and more. I repeat myself: pick this up.


. :SG-CONS: :SG-CONS: :SG-CONS: :SG-CONS: out of :SG-CONS: :SG-CONS: :SG-CONS: :SG-CONS: :SG-CONS:
Credit(s): IDW
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Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1942969)
Posted by Targetmaster Kup on February 27th, 2018 @ 9:23pm CST
Where in continuity does this issue for?
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1942972)
Posted by Daniel Adkins on February 27th, 2018 @ 9:37pm CST
Targetmaster Kup wrote:Where in continuity does this issue for?

It appears to take place between Optimus Prime #14 and #15, before the TAAO Annual.
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1942993)
Posted by Va'al on February 28th, 2018 @ 12:57am CST
Daniel Adkins wrote:
Targetmaster Kup wrote:Where in continuity does this issue for?

It appears to take place between Optimus Prime #14 and #15, before the TAAO Annual.


I think it's also after, as we have Starscream in his rise to power commissioning the movie, and after his confession in the TAAO annual (he has the hologram of his 'good' self) towards the end of the movie's production. :-?
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1942999)
Posted by Sunstar on February 28th, 2018 @ 1:39am CST
Va'al wrote:
Daniel Adkins wrote:
Targetmaster Kup wrote:Where in continuity does this issue for?

It appears to take place between Optimus Prime #14 and #15, before the TAAO Annual.


I think it's also after, as we have Starscream in his rise to power commissioning the movie, and after his confession in the TAAO annual (he has the hologram of his 'good' self) towards the end of the movie's production. :-?


Sooo... do you think I'll like it?
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943014)
Posted by Va'al on February 28th, 2018 @ 3:53am CST
Sunstar wrote:
Va'al wrote:
Daniel Adkins wrote:
Targetmaster Kup wrote:Where in continuity does this issue for?

It appears to take place between Optimus Prime #14 and #15, before the TAAO Annual.


I think it's also after, as we have Starscream in his rise to power commissioning the movie, and after his confession in the TAAO annual (he has the hologram of his 'good' self) towards the end of the movie's production. :-?


Sooo... do you think I'll like it?


It's a Thundercracker story that revolves around Starscream. It's not a Starscream story, though he is the catalyst, if you will.

Briefly: I have no idea. But it's a good book. ;)
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943019)
Posted by Chibi Starscream on February 28th, 2018 @ 5:44am CST
Sounds great. I gotta have it. My Seeker fangirl self yearns to read it.
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943058)
Posted by Ironhidensh on February 28th, 2018 @ 9:32am CST
It was nice to see a reminder that Thundercracker was once a bad badass warrior.
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943069)
Posted by Va'al on February 28th, 2018 @ 11:12am CST
Falling Pains
(Spoiler free-ish)



Synopsis
The Falling, Part 2: The arrival of Onyx Prime throws Cybertron into chaos—because he hasn’t come alone. Onyx’s treacherous companion forces Soundwave to finally make a choice: is Optimus Prime a friend... or foe?

Image
...


Story

John Barber is extremely busy this week, with his handiwork appearing in two major stories for the Optimus Prime series, and one of his greatest strengths appears loud and clear in both: his knowledge of the franchise and how to weave together multiple pasts into something that makes complete and utter sense in a new story thread, be it through one line comments to Aligned, cameos from Beast Wars, or anything in the Annual (see review here!).

Image
Hey, it's Alpha Bravo!


To add to all that, Barber's Soundwave is one of the better developed, multi-faceted, and narratively functional for experimentation in script and page layout characters that has emerged out of the IDW universe of Transformers - and this issue cements it. You almost miss the point of view just before the climax of the issue, until you realise you hadn't, you just skipped a beat.

Image
my heart just did again


That said, I'll also reiterate what I had mentioned previously to ScottyP about Onyx Prime, with an added caveat that comes out of this issue specifically: he is terrifying, imposing, well-crafted and grounded in enough lore and versions of reality to make him come across as the threat that he is, and what his presence means to the different characters who face him.

Image
More Beast Wars!


With those two major points in mind, though, there is one dangling issue I want to address with regards to the pacing and the narration: the story will most definitely feel chaotic, fragmented even, at times - but hold on to those fragments, as they serve a purpose, and they're never entirely unintentional.


Art

Kei Zama on lineart truly does wonders with her darker inks and shadows, even for an issue that deals a lot more with nuance than it might initially look like. The art, then, perfectly fits the script, the fear and threat that both Onyx Prime and Liege Maximo have brought to Cybertron are physically palpable. Additionally, the page and panel layouts are gorgeous and gorgeously functional, especially with Soundwave at the centre.

Image
literally, at times


And if Zama's art is well suited to the script, Josh Burcham's colouring work on the lineart just makes sure that is most definitely indeed the case. It helps us work through the fragments and the parallels alike, where the art might at times throw a little more shade over comprehension than is perhaps necessary.

Image
unf


What is left of the visuals, then, is what holds the narrative together - which would otherwise be a headache-inducing task, were it not for the balancing act of Tom B Long and his careful lettering of dialogue, captions, and placing on the page and in the panels. There is no unintended misdirection.

As for the covers, the one thumbnailed spotlights Casey Coller and John-Paul Bove's variant for this arc, with the silhouette suggesting the point of view taken in the issue. The other two, the main Zama/Burcham early Cybertron take on a happy family (*my heart*) and the Marcelo Matere (no colour credit given) Prime on Prime action can both be seen in our database entry here.

Thoughts
Spoilerish ahead

Any story that features John Barber's Soundwave is already looking good to me (there are some exceptions in the recent past, but let me have this), and linking current day situations with the character's parallels from his own personal and ideological past is a great way to frame a story that already did something similar, yet entirely different, with the Mistress of Flame last month.

Image
lol jk


There is politics, there is personality, there is a strand of dark humour that just works when spoken deadpan (again, Soundwave) and with the artistic team working so hard to make this story come across for the weighty matter that it is, you might even miss a twist that may or may not be there - but if it is, and once it kicks in, you'll grin worse that Onyx Prime's apparently permanent grimace.


. :RUBSIGN: :RUBSIGN: :RUBSIGN: :RUBSIGN: out of :RUBSIGN: :RUBSIGN: :RUBSIGN: :RUBSIGN: :RUBSIGN:
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943070)
Posted by Randomhero on February 28th, 2018 @ 11:18am CST
I had a hard time following the last couple pages. It kinda looked like Soundwave was overwhelmed and unleashed some kind of sonic explosion but it wasn’t. I waited for the wiki summary to explain it was an unknown explosion.

That said I loved the issue all around. Really great!
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943074)
Posted by Sunstar on February 28th, 2018 @ 11:46am CST
I read both, but I need to re-read #16 when I don't have a migraine. I adore Thunderbuns <3
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943089)
Posted by Va'al on February 28th, 2018 @ 1:08pm CST
That is a thing I do not have a hard time imagining. As I said in the review, it works for having Soundwave as the narrator/POV - but it doesn't make it easier on the brain power.
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943100)
Posted by ScottyP on February 28th, 2018 @ 1:55pm CST
Va'al wrote:That is a thing I do not have a hard time imagining. As I said in the review, it works for having Soundwave as the narrator/POV - but it doesn't make it easier on the brain power.
Yeah it tooks me a few days and a couple reads to really work it out. I got it in one read, but appreciated it after the second.
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943111)
Posted by Counterpunch on February 28th, 2018 @ 2:54pm CST
OP 16...

I think, it all comes down to, "Onyx Prime...have you come to draw us together or pull us apart?" -- "Sometimes, Mistress...a leader must do one to accomplish the other."

So, all the players are eventually brought into one place, literally drawn together.

The explosion happens. I don't know how or why.

Doubt is cast among them all. A unified Cybertron is in disorder.

Liege Maximo is left smiling.

>:oP

What I don't know...

Is Onyx Prime a part of Maximo's plan? I don't think so because he seems genuinely pissed off about Alpha Trion.

What happened to Soundwave? I think somehow Maximo influenced him and broke down the control Soundwave showed at the start of the book.

Is there an unreliable narrator here? Was some part of what we saw and read not truthful?
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943141)
Posted by Randomhero on February 28th, 2018 @ 7:14pm CST
So this is Power of the Primes right? this is everything John has been building up in the background since issue 30 of RID 4 years ago ever since we saw the flashback of Galvatron fighting headmasters and meeting Alpha Trion.

There has still been no talk of doing a POTP event like Combiner Wars and Titans Return for IDW and we know POTP line is only going till december.
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943179)
Posted by Sunstar on March 1st, 2018 @ 1:05am CST
In regards to the Annual:

Where Starscream wants to send a message to the outside, is he the reason the guys attack thunder?
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943204)
Posted by Randomhero on March 1st, 2018 @ 5:48am CST
So I talked to John Barber on Twitter. No power of the Primes event for IDW
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943234)
Posted by snavej on March 1st, 2018 @ 1:12pm CST
I'm going to be really annoying and point out a single-letter mistake in the OP Annual: Marissa's speech bubble, 1st panel, page 18, '... who's only it it for himself.' - should be 'in it'. :KREMZEEK:

Anyway, I liked the Annual overall: nicely irreverent. Thundercracker is a MACHINE (literally) for writing ultra-clunky dialogue. '... go back to writing fan fiction.' Ha! Burn! :twisted:

Hackensack is a George Lucas-type director. He's going to be very cheesed off trying to work with Thundercracker, who should really stick to fighting, transport and booming.

Trypticon 'classy'? That's serious sarcasm!

How in hell does Thundercracker (or most other Transformers) use a human-built smartphone with his giant fingers?! :-?
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943244)
Posted by Sunstar on March 1st, 2018 @ 2:45pm CST
snavej wrote:I'm going to be really annoying and point out a single-letter mistake in the OP Annual: Marissa's speech bubble, 1st panel, page 18, '... who's only it it for himself.' - should be 'in it'. :KREMZEEK:

Anyway, I liked the Annual overall: nicely irreverent. Thundercracker is a MACHINE (literally) for writing ultra-clunky dialogue. '... go back to writing fan fiction.' Ha! Burn! :twisted:

Hackensack is a George Lucas-type director. He's going to be very cheesed off trying to work with Thundercracker, who should really stick to fighting, transport and booming.

Trypticon 'classy'? That's serious sarcasm!

How in hell does Thundercracker (or most other Transformers) use a human-built smartphone with his giant fingers?! :-?


very carefully. I can barely use one with my tiny fingers.
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943299)
Posted by SW's SilverHammer on March 1st, 2018 @ 11:28pm CST
Is it wrong i wish the cassette bros' movie was titled 'Rumble and Frenzy Do America"? Also flamewar is way to cute. I hope because she has a similar body type to rodimus, Hasbro or somebody makes her mainline.
Re: Review of IDW Transformers Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (1943334)
Posted by ScottyP on March 2nd, 2018 @ 9:03am CST
Randomhero wrote:So I talked to John Barber on Twitter. No power of the Primes event for IDW
This pleases me. The narrative wasn't/isn't leading to anything resembling the toy line!

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