It’s crossover event time in the IDW Transformers universe, and you know what that means: spin-offs, tie-ins and one-shots up the wazoo as the publisher shows off its raft of licenses.
Optimus Prime: First Strike – written by John Barber, with art by Guido Guidi and John Wycouch, and colours by Thomas Deer – gives a little more focus to events shortly before the detonation that kicks off the First Strike, in which a clutch of Transformers and human allies become trapped on Cybertron and besieged by a new coalition of opponents.
Guidi and Wycouch’s art is crisp, clean and complemented neatly by the primary coloured-focus of Thomas Deer, even if a rare non-faceplate intro from ol’ Optimus just feels wrong somehow.
We have a bewildering cast of characters culled from the various Hasbro properties IDW enjoys access to – focused on characters brought together in the guest star-tastic Revolutions event – and while the script does its best to introduce them as new, you’re still going to be bouncing around TF Wiki pages before you’re all caught up.
Essentially, we’re establishing a status quo for the main groups of players before the invading Baron Ironblood’s forces land – amnesiac human/Transformer hybrid Centurion (fused with cyborg action hero Max Power) and human CEO turned Cybertronian crusader Garrison Blackrock are all set for ‘Unification Day’, Optimus’ proud achievement of bringing Earth into the Cybertronian Council of Worlds. Centurion and Blackrock both enjoy links to inbound Big Bad Onyx Prime (refreshed through Centurion’s jagged flashbacks), being set up now to await payoff later.
Elsewhere, Totally Awesome Spy person Action Man (the youthful latest agent to bear the title, or what would happen if the Americans created James Bond) is hanging out with Kup and Arcee, the former as grouchy as ever and enjoying an unlikely bond with the infuriatingly enthusiastic AM.
Down below, agent Mayday (back in G.I. Joe again after brief stints in a variety of teams) and Earth’s chosen liaison Marissa Faireborn are part of a triumphant parade through the heart of Cybertron, but when the bomb goes off and a horde of robots and ninjas pours in to attack, it’s action stations.
The art does an excellent job of keeping track of the variety of players, making their counterattack almost off-frame as chunks of robo-trooper and gunfire flashes in all directions. It’s all led by cyborg moustache-twirler Garrison Kreiger and bounty hunter sidekick Colditz, the latter spearing off amidst the destruction on his own secret mission.
Colditz confronts Blackrock and Centurion, only for the steampunk warrior to turn rogue and blast his ally in the back, and by the time Prime and Action Man arrive, all three are gone. Mayday recognises the vehicles the invading force are using as belonging to Cobra, the global terror militia thought destroyed (but as we know is now on the rise again, First Order style, courtesy of the G.I. Joe series), and as the allies regroup they realise they have a lot of work to do.
There’s obviously a complex plan at work in the First Strike storyline, bringing in a huge range of characters in a juicy cross-franchise mash up, but by spreading it out over multiple single issue titles, we’re faced with the usual morass of detail that proves difficult to get ahead of. These multi-title events always read much better when collected in a single volume down the line, as it leaves every one-shot like this feeling cut off just as its building momentum, relegated to telling one strand of a wider narrative.
Are you picking up the first issue in this crossover event? Let us know what you think in the comments.