Even by the standards of IDW’s increasingly oddball franchise mash-ups, Star Trek vs Transformers is an oddity. With Trek represented by the more niche Animated Series character models, and the ‘Formers an anachronistic blend of classic 80s bot designs and kibble-tastic contemporary players, the end result… kind of works, I guess?
The story – such as it is thus far – last issue had the USS Enterprise answer a distress call on the mining planet of Cygnus Seven, only to run into an ambush by the Decepticon Seekers. The timely arrival of Optimus Prime saved Bones, Spock and Scotty, while Kirk, Sulu and M’Ress encountered Jazz, Bumblebee and Ratchet busting out of a sealed bunker. Oh, and Megatron forged an alliance with the Klingons menacing the mine, because that’s just what bad guys do.
We’re in a weird time for IDW’s Transformers continuity. The primary titles are all winding down with the catclysmic, six-part Unicron limited series, acting as a reboot point much like DC’s Flashpoint led into The New 52 (which was subsequently overwritten by Rebirth because comic publishers hate you, your wallet and the spreadsheets you’ve started using to keep track of everything). While this means titles like my beloved Lost Light have just released their final issues as the universe draws a line under itself, it also leaves oddities like this title existing in a kind of canonical no man’s land. Where does this fit? Does it fit? Is it just a bit of fun? Why is defiantly 1984-spec Prime rubbing shoulders with Windblade, a character who only debuted in 2013?
Luckily for us, we have Transformers maestro John Barber on script duties, which means that we can forget about the murky continuity and just have some throwaway fun. Barber has established himself as this generation’s Simon Furman when it comes to the Transformers, and with co-writer Mike Johnson delivers another solid issue of crossover hijinks.
Spock mind-melds with the injured Optimus to deliver a handy history lesson (continuing the Arrival From Cybertron throwbacks in some neat visual references), and once Kirk has calmed down a raging Jazz, we get the rest of the backstory – although this is where it gets both interesting and puzzling.
Your friendly neighbourhood Bumblebee (bearer of a truly horrific smile in one panel) casually mentions a ‘World War Three’ that decimated Earth and forced the Autobots into space within part-time Titan Fortress Maximus, after which a Decepticon ambush led to the survivors crash-landing on Cygnus Seven. Their accidental rejuvenation feels like another deliberate attempt to pay homage to Arrival From Cybertron – the debut story of the 80s animated series – but it leaves a frustrating amount of potential backstory beats both crammed into small panels and discarded rather than held back for future revelations. There’s no easy way to marry the continuity of the two universes, that much I understand, so this approach is probably the best compromise – the spaghetti-checking method of exposition.
In orbit over the planet, the Enterprise is attacked by a cloaked Bird of Prey, and while the Federation teams’ attempt to reunite is blocked by the attacking Seekers, we all know Optimus can take down dozens of Decepticons single-handedly, so next issue’s scrap should be worth the wait.
Philip Murphy’s crisp, simple artwork manages to maintain faithful renditions of the Animated Series-era Enterprise crew alongside the retro ‘bot designs, even down to a female Klingon warrior rocking an impressive afro. Extra credit to the script managing to work bona fide Shatnerisms into Kirk’s speech pattern, with enough dramatic pauses to really capture his personality. Even Megatron is still at his cackling, villainous best here – the reformed, heroic version currently off saving the galaxy aboard the Lost Light feels light years away from this.
While I still don’t really see the point of this, especially with such cosmic scale, dramatic events going down elsewhere in the IDW-verse, there are worse ways to spend half an hour than read this, and the obvious love for the two worlds represented here should warm even the coldest cynic’s heart.
Star Trek vs Transformers #2 is now available from IDW Publishing.