Writer: Brian Ruckley
Artist: Sara Pitre-Durocher
Transformers #11 finally made some progress with the series overarching narrative. Unfortunately, this newest issue completely derails all that. Issue 12 of the Brian Ruckley penned reboot follows Nautica, a member of Sentinel Prime’s cadre. She’s more interested in the largely unknown cultures of fleshy aliens than the ongoings of Cybertron. Consequently, she and her bodyguard Road Rage end up mediating the disputes between the organic civilizations living under the bots’ mechanical dominion.
This plotline is admittedly a marked improvement over the sort of stories the book’s focused on so far. But that isn’t enough to distance it from Transformer’s flaws. As always, Ruckley’s dialogue is far too wordy and self-indulgent to maintain interest. The franchise benefits from a writing style that shows respect and ambition while still acknowledging the commercial aspects. Ruckley clearly has a grand sci-fi epic in mind but with each issue, I’m less certain that Transformers is the place to tell it.
Nautica is one of the better characters to show up in this reboot series. The story bothers to provide her with a distinct voice and complex personality. However, the poor characterization of this series definitely makes her look better by comparison. I appreciate Transformers media that focuses on the smaller characters but Ruckley does a halfway decent job of that at the best of times, while entirely neglecting the important ones
Additionally, this was the worst possible time for this kind of “bottle” story. Yes, Nautica’s investigation into the genocidal Thaal’s secret plotting is a complete, decent story. It also fleshes out the setting in a way Ruckley has largely failed to up until this point. However, the previous issue finally got the overarching plot moving in an interesting direction. This Nautica story is almost a complete non-sequitur. But this certainly isn’t the first time Transformers stifled its own momentum.
The issue is at least illustrated by Sara Pitre-Durocher. Her art is a considerable step up from everything else that’s graced the pages of this series. That’s not because her art is particularly impressive, it’s just that the bar has been set so low. She does give every bot a distinctive design and hits a balance between artificial and human-like that I appreciate. She handles the alt-modes well and finally gives the book a decent vehicle sequence. The framing and layout are solid, and the action is never confusing. Pitre-Durocher’s faces also properly emote. All in all, I would not complain if she were to take over the main art duties for Transformers.
Transformers #12 did at least make Sentinel Prime a more compelling character. Typically, he’s Optimus Prime’s disastrous predecessor, who fails to prevent the war. Ruckley plays right into tradition, as Sentinel is a controlling, grandstanding brute. Unfortunately, he also seems to be the only character in the book who knows what he’s doing. With all of his fellow Cybertronians so easily manipulated and distracted by personal agendas, his constant frustration feels understandable. I don’t know if Ruckley meant for Sentinel to come off as reasonable or if it’s just another consequence of an aimless narrative and clumsy characterization. Regardless, I’d never thought I’d see Transformers media where I rooted for him to put the heroes in line.
The book consistently squanders its potential both as an entry into the Transformers mythos and a standalone narrative.