Transformers (2019-) #1
Writer: Brian Ruckley
Artists: Angel Hernandez and Cachét Whitman
IDW’s last rendition of Transformers reimagined the robots in disguise and their setting into something developed and modern, without losing sight of the franchise’s core identity. But it took a considerable amount of time for IDW to bring their Transformers content up to that level of quality. With the Unicron reboot ending that universe, they have to start from scratch. The first issue of Transformers seems to indicate that IDW is once again going to need some time to get everything in order. Thankfully, it’s otherwise off to a good start.
In this series, Writer Brian Ruckley delves into the state of Cybertron, the Transformers’ homeworld, before the iconic war between the Autobots and Decepticons. One of the strengths of IDW’s previous Transformers content was how it explored that otherwise overlooked era. Ruckley’s take on Cybertron takes some inspiration from the previous approach but it introduces a number of new concepts. Chief among them is that Optimus Prime and Megatron are now senators, former friends driven apart by differences in ideals. In most renditions, those two are outsiders who gained prominence during the chaos of the war. It’s interesting and a little more logical to see these two hold power long before they set foot on a battlefield.
The most memorable scene in this issue implies that the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons isn’t too far off. Optimus struggles to prevent a conflict between Megatron led “Ascenticon” revolutionaries and the rest of Cybertron. As previously mentioned, it takes enough from established Transformers mythos to be familiar. However, there are some largely implied differences, namely everyone’s fixation on the dead Termagax. Focusing on politics and cultural practices was part of what made IDW’s Transformers so unique, so it’s comforting to see that survived the transition. The second plotline gets more focus but doesn’t have the same strong characterization or intrigue. Bumblebee shows the newly forged Rubble around Cybertron, the curious bot oblivious to the chaos starting to consume the world.
Rubble is currently just an excuse to introduce some much-needed exposition. Those exchanges aren’t as long as I feared they would be but it’s still a little less than I expected. Even with the intentional air of mystery, Optimus and Megatron’s interactions speak volumes. And not just about the characters but the circumstances and stakes of the entire book. Rubble and everything he stumbles upon doesn’t come anywhere close to that. Even the introduction of Windblade fails to bring a spark to that plotline. Transformers #1 does suffer from some unwieldy dialogue. Everyone has a distinct voice, which is vital for any book but especially licensed fiction. Unfortunately, the Dialogue can be too blunt with the concepts and ideas it wants to explore. This approach feels more than a little overdramatic and hopefully, the book can justify it going forward.
The bulk of the issue is illustrated by Angel Hernandez, who relies on a lot of digital imagery. His backgrounds stand out and his depiction of Cybertron’s “wildlife” is an effective mix of the artificial and natural. Unfortunately, the actual Transformers feel very stiff, especially when it comes to faces. It seems like Ruckley is going to take a more introspective view of the franchise and I’m not sure how well suited Hernandez’s art will be for that. Cachét Whitman handles the four-page appearance of Optimus and Megatron. Her art is much livelier, at least compared to Hernandez’s work. Transformers #1’s art certainly isn’t bad but it remains to be seen if it’s a good match for the writing. Aside from that, the book seems like a promising start to IDWs new take on the beloved franchise.
It's not up to the standards of IDW's previous Transformers books but it was unrealistic to expect that. However, it does show the potential to reach those heights.