The woman once said “It’s all just a little bit of history repeating” and so, once again, the eye is turned to the planet Cybertron, home to the living, sentient machines that would become known as the Transformers. But something is a little bit different. The war between the Autobots and the Decepticons has yet to begin and in fact there are no Decepticons at all.
Welcome to IDW’s new reboot of their successful Transformers comic franchise, the original series having run from 2005 to 2018 (following the collapse of Dreamwave Productions) and included multiple story arcs including the critically acclaimed ‘All Hail Megatron’ and ‘Last Stand of the Wreckers’. IDW made the decision to go back to the beginning, to give new readers a chance to get in on the ground floor with a new continuity and see a new take on the origin of these now iconic characters.
Does it live up to the high bar set by the preceding series? Kinda. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with an overview of all 6 currently available issues.
Issue #1 opens on a Cybertron at peace where Bumblebee is serving as mentor to the first new Transformer to be forged (given life) in what appears to be hundreds if not thousands of years, named Rubble, who is trying to find his place in society by spending time with other Cybertronians such as scientists, engineers and the like. It rapidly becomes clear that all is not well, though, as a protest is underway by the “Ascenticons”, citizens chafing under the restrictions that have been placed on their lives that dictate how often new Transformers can be made, how much energy they can consume and many other things to avoid another war. Megatron and Orion Pax are both senators on Cybertron, former friends, but now that Megatron has joined the Ascenticons they find themselves drifting apart as their beliefs pull them in opposite directions. The issue ends with an event that will shake Cybertronian society to the core.
Issue #2 picks up minutes later and introduces the reader to a third faction “The Rise”. Mimicking real life politics, these are a more militant and violent offshoot of the Ascenticons who are willing to resort to violence and sabotage in an attempt to have their demands met. Most of this issue is given over to the investigation into the events from issue #1 as well as to the Ascenticon protests. The rally goes ahead despite Pax pleading with Megatron for it to be postponed and ends in sudden violence as someone first bombs then fires on the crowd but manages to escape. Frankly anyone trying to take out Megatron, even at this relatively-early point in time, needs to bring both their A-Game and an entire moon full of guns and explosives if they expect to win, leaving the reader to wonder if this attack was ever actually meant to succeed at all.
Issue #3 continues to switch between the two main storylines – Rubble’s continuing journey to find his place in Cybertronian society, serving as a way of introducing this new take on the Transformers to the reader as he continues his exploration of the planet. We learn that even things such as alternate modes are a conscious decision on the part of each individual, and that some such as Termagax and Leviathan even choose forms to remain in permanently, serving the planet as a whole. There’s a slow escalation, both of the investigation and Megatron’s rhetoric, finally leading Pax to seek counsel from another Autobot named Codexa, the issue closing out with the sombre line “Something’s going wrong.”
Issue #4 introduces the reader to another familiar face in the shape of Cyclonus, a character who has certainly massively changed since his introduction way, way, way back in Transformers: The Movie where he was one of Galvatron’s lieutenants. In this continuity he’s a loner, isolated from society, haunted by ghosts. Another Cybertronian faction is introduced – The Revisionists – who attempt to put a more mystical spin on the origins and beliefs of the Transformers while most see it in a far more science-based and matter-of-fact kind of way, something previous runs have dabbled with. There’s always been something a little magical about the Transformers, this race of sentient machines and the “sparks” that serve as both the literal spark of life and their souls.
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Issue #5 starts with Megatron rabble rousing and Chromia discovering that things are most definitely not going at all well, the depths of the problems deeper than anyone had realised. It’s also a delight in this issue to see Bumblebee’s original alt mode, a sort of flying-saucer car that hasn’t been seen since the earliest issues of the comic and episodes of the show. Here Rubble gets himself into more trouble than he bargained for when he goes off the beaten path and Bumblebee begins his own investigation into events with a private meeting with Soundwave (who is irrefutably Best Decepticon, by the way. Starscream doesn’t even get a look-in in this continuity. Not yet, anyway).
Issue #6 introduces the Nominus Edict, the “chain” against which both The Rise and the Ascenticons chafe and you can kind of see why. Restrictive is certainly one word for it. Stepping away from Rubble and his imminent danger, focus is put onto Orion Pax and his conversation with Codexa, who appears to have merged herself with Cybertron itself and is.. .not entirely coherent, to put it mildly. The story flashes back to the past and the aftermath of the war, before the current unpleasantness, when Pax and Megatron still were truly friends willing to help and protect one another. Here the first hints of who and what Megatron would ultimately become with one simple statement – “I just don’t want us to be trapped by the past. Trapped by our fear of it.” This issue feels like a turning point, decisions being made for better or worse that will eventually lead to the war that we all know is ultimately coming.
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These six issues both have a lot going on, and very little. In terms of action there’s barely any really, but what there is instead is a huge amount of world building. The foundations are being laid not just for this story, but for this new continuity going forward. Characters are familiar, certainly, but not quite as long time fans might remember them, their relationships and allegiances subtly shifted, and readers will need to be prepared to be patient for things to truly kick off.
At the same time, this story follows in the steps of others such as ‘Autocracy’ and ‘Monstocracy’ which delved into the internal politics of the Transformers and made the lore all the richer for it. The writing is solid, if a little staid at the moment, hopefully as things evolve and the writers settle into the new continuity the characters will be given a little more room to breathe.
All in all, not a bad start to a new generation of Transformers; let’s hope it continues. Till All Are One.
Transformers #1 – #6 are available now from IDW Publishing.