A new age of the Transformers is upon us. Along with Hasbro teaming with Netflix and Rooster Teeth to bring an origin story for the Autobot/Decepticon conflict next year with Transformers: War for Cybertron, IDW has recently rebooted their comics universe to provide their own take on Cybertron’s fall into war. On the surface, this might look like no big deal, but fans have enjoyed the previous comic book continuity largely independent of other Transformers media for over a decade. Starting over fresh was a major move.
Ushering in this new era of IDW comics is Scottish writer, Brian Ruckley. Best known for his trilogy of epic fantasy novels known as The Godless World, Ruckley has had little previous comics work. As Transformers comics have traditionally enjoyed their own continuity from TV and movies even when covering the same arc or the addition of new toys, we can infer that while Hasbro may be providing occasional notes and larger story beats, this remains primarily Ruckley’s vision of the Robots In Disguise. With the first five issues of the bi-monthly comic out let’s look at the initial story arc, The World in Your Eyes.
The reader’s enjoyment of this opening arc is going to hinge on what they want from a Transformers story. If all they want to see is giant robots shooting and punching each other then these first five issues are not going to scratch that itch. Ruckley instead goes for a slower sociopolitical mystery thriller building this new vision of Cybertron. This series is designed to bring in a new audience, but that doesn’t mean that everything is a rehash. There are several fresh twists and turns for longtime fans. For instance, Bumblebee is not yet an Autobot and Megatron leads a faction know as the Acenticons. As far as we know, the Decepticons don’t even exist yet! We get to see the various factions, ideologies, and religions across the Cybertronian race. Also, this Cybertron is also home to various forms of organic life that have come to live there as part of interstellar trade or as refugees. Knowing what the war does to Cybertron we are left to ask if they manage to flee the planet or will we see them intentionally or unintentionally exterminated. With real skill, Ruckley dives deep into the more complex themes of Transformers (ecology, resource management, individual rights vs the collective, etc.) to build a Cybertron that is reflective of many real-world debates and conflicts without devolving into pretentiousness or sermonizing. To ease readers into understanding all this new information we have a new character, Rubble (see above), who was recently forged and who serves to provide the necessary exposition dumps as needed. Rubble stumbles across a murder, an act that supposedly hasn’t happened on Cybertron in millions of years, that calls into question everything the Transformers think they know about themselves and their world. And so the dominoes begin to fall.
The biggest negative with the book so far has been the varying art. To keep up with the bi-monthly schedule IDW has multiple artists working on every issue. They do their best to hide the transitions by having the artists switch between scenes and work on the same characters from issue to issue, but it makes events feel disconnected from one another. I fail to see the benefit of pushing the book out twice a month if they have to cobble the issue together from several artists every time. None of the artists are slacking, but the lack of any definite artistic voice does the book no favors. IDW needs to either divvy up the art duties between issues instead of inside them or move to a monthly format and let a single team handle the book.
This is a great jumping on point. It might be a slow burn so far, but that’s a good thing. Ruckley will have to pull the trigger and let the war rage eventually, I only hope that he isn’t rushed so that we can get to the actiony bits that everyone loves. By showing the slow descent into inevitable war every failed opportunity to avert the oncoming destruction and death is going to make it all the more satisfying when the war does start because the moment will feel earned. Given proper time and care this could well be a defining run for the franchise in any media. IDW and Hasbro are swinging big here and while things look good now only time will tell if they with this new vision can knock it out of the park.
All Images © Hasbro and/or Idea and Design Works, LLC