Writer: Chris McFeely
Coming right before IDW relaunches its Hasbro Tie-In books, Transformers: Historia gives an overview of 13 years’ worth of comics set in the previous universe. It starts with the setting’s ancient origins and ends with the climax of the Unicron event. Unfortunately, it’s hard to figure out who this book is for. It’s mostly text, with art taken from the stories being summarized, concluding with some character profiles. It doesn’t offer much more than that. Those looking to get into IDW’s great Transformers content should skip this book, as it spoils major plot points for a few different titles within the first three pages and doesn’t stop there. And as in most cases, a handful of paragraphs can’t do a fully formed story justice.
Transformers: Historia takes a very broad focus which has some unfortunate consequences. The major events in the IDW books ranged from being entertaining to below average. But the real draw for me and many other readers were the smaller, more character-driven plotlines. Books like the Wreckers Saga and More than Meets the Eye had very insular focuses while also being some of the best stories IDW published. While Historia makes its best efforts to incorporate these events, it has over a decade of content to cover. Additionally, it ends up leaving out a lot of important context for the sake of pacing. Unfortunately, a lot of these events sound absurd in the way this book presents them when they were much more palatable in their original format. In its effort to recount everything at a reasonable length, the content that made IDW’s Transformers output such a draw for fans and newcomers alike is largely left out of Transformers: Historia.
However, this allows the book to deemphasize or entirely remove some of the more questionable details. It presents retcons made later on in the overarching narrative, such as the ones meant to address the Transformers franchise long-standing difficulties with the gender of their robots in disguise, as having been a part of the setting all along. Additionally, the book downplays the ill-conceived crossovers with other Hasbro properties. The book only addresses the G.I. Joes and Visionaries involvement when absolutely necessary. Transformers: Historia’s focus may be narrow but it is at least consistent. The character profiles at the end are the most interesting part of the book. They aren’t just dry retellings of their histories, as best shown by the section from Starscream’s biased biography. However, there are surprisingly few of them. Honestly, I think a book of profiles like these would have been more interesting.
Sourcebooks like Transformers: Historia are difficult to do with the internet being as prominent as it is. Where previously such publications were often the sole authorities on a media property, nowadays you have legions of fans obsessively gathering any information they can find for wikis, blogs, or something similar. Most modern sourcebooks try to produce new art or flesh out the world of the source material. But Transformers: Historia relies entirely on visuals and information taken from the comics themselves. And unfortunately, it doesn’t do an amazing job of presenting them. IDW’s Transformers line was already very accessible, so it leaves the need for a book like this questionable.