Written by Mairghread Scott; art by Sara Pitre-Durocher; colours by Joana Lafuente.
The short-lived Till All Are One holds a unique place in Transformers mythology, being to date the only series entirely produced by women. As the first woman to write an official Transformers comic, Scott was already something of a trailblazer before she got her hands on Windblade, the fan-created, kabuki-influenced female Transformer who would leap from her own mini-series to a starring role in TAAO.
The series takes place largely on Cybertron, unified once more and acting as the seat of the newly-founded Council of Worlds, formed by joining Cybertron with its long-lost colonies. Somehow, the ever-duplicituous Starscream ends up in charge of the planet, with Windblade and a cohort of foes and allies trying to keep him and the rest of the place in check.
Unfortunately, the 2017 Annual marks the end of the series after just twelve memorable issues, and it does so in its own distinctive style – eschewing conflict and explosions in favour of layered character conflict and interaction.
When we join Windblade – the series’ traditional POV character – she’s musing on the trials Cybertron has recently survived. Despite the series’ brief life, this included a near civil war, a rampage by Combiner Bruticus, an attack by a gaggle of undead Titans (city-sized ancient Transformers), an attempted possession by the consciousness of an evil Prime and the recent First Strike event. This is without the looming return of Liege Maximo, the Warmaster Horus of Transformers lore, a being of pure evil and darkness and, naturally lots of spiky bits.
There’s much reflection on how hard it seems to be for the denizens of Cybertron to look forward to anything new, given they seem to be rebuilding the place more times than downtown Tokyo in the 1970s. One terse confrontation with snooty religious figure Mistress of Flame later, and Windblade is out on her ear, booted from her place on the Council after opposing Starscream’s decision to hide the return of Maximo from the populace.
This is where we get to the meat of the story, and it’s in Scott’s flowing, comfortable writing and Pitre-Durocher’s neat, manga-esque artwork that TAAO showcases its top-tier character work. Everybody has a distinctive appearance – no mean feat when visualising an entire planet of brightly-coloured robots – and every player gets a moment to shine in the events that unfold.
Whether that’s two Combaticons on guard duty making quips, Starscream enthusiastically outlining his development plans for Cybertron to the ghost of the sadly-departed Bumblebee, or the lovably inept Waspinator’s authentic speech patterns (for fans of the excellent Beast Wars CG animated series) – there’s genuine love shown for these hunks of metal, and that’s something common across all the IDW titles. Even Metroplex, represented here by a literal brain module in an underground chamber, gets a sweet moment to converse with a self-doubting Windblade.
With Windblade persuaded to run for the leadership of Cybertron by her allies – the election a plan by Starscream to finally better himself following a vision of his potential future – she takes the time to sit down and listen to her future constituents. Starscream is confident in his reformed self and plans for victory, but his aide Rattrap brings a briefcase full of explosive secrets to Windblade’s table, leaving it with her to bring the seeker down once and for all.
The entire annual is littered with dilemmas like this, and again Scott’s strong grip on what makes her ‘bots tick helps the story reach unexpected but logical beats as it powers towards election day. Windblade makes a rousing speech but Starscream steals the show, confessing to all his (many) crimes and handing Windblade the win.
There’s a real sense of a chapter closing here – the cast aren’t going anywhere, most likely getting absorbed into other ongoing titles, and a plot as significant as the return of Liege Maximo is clearly building to its own event – with the fates of various characters settled in decisive ways. In some titles that would mean death, but here it’s just a series of full stops on strong character arcs, ready for the next creative team to take the baton and start running.
Windblade’s new role, Starscream’s redemption (itself echoing Megatron’s trial and subsequent affiliation with the Autobots elsewhere) and the myriad moving parts of smaller plots – such as warmonger Elita One’s plans for battling Maximo – leaves us both a self-contained run of stories and a great launchpad for the next phase.
We haven’t seen the last of any of these players, but in Till All Are One we were gifted an intelligent, nuanced take on Cybertronian politics and personalities, and IDW would be insane to let Scott go long without a fresh title to get to work on.
Transformers: Til All Are One is now available from IDW Publishing.