One of IDW’s best-licensed series of comics was their Transformers Generation One continuity. It modernized the Autobot/Decepticon war for the 21st century and eventually told stories that explore stories beyond the franchise’s core conceit. It was a wonderful 11 years of comic books storytelling, but everything gets rebooted eventually. IDW released the debut issue of their Transformers reboot last week, written by Brian Ruckley with art from Angel Hernandez and Cachet Whitman.
What sets this reboot apart from IDW’s previous continuity of stories and the Dreamwave reboot from the early 2000s is the focus on the origins of the Autobot/Decepticon conflict. Rather than beginning the story with the Transformers arriving on earth for the first time, Ruckley’s story delves into the origins of the Cybertronian Civil War. However, there have been many excellent comic book series focused on the origins of that conflict (War Within and Megatron Origin among others), so writer Brian Ruckley needed to have that hook which differentiates his story from its predecessors.
Transformers #1’s story is working with a neat concept. The idea of exploring a peaceful world that is experiencing its first murder is a really promising starting point for a reboot. Seeing the fallout and how it affects a fragile Cybertron should make for a great first story arc. Transformers #1’s hook is also an interesting way to approach previously used elements of the Transformers mythology. Similar to Megatron Origin and Autocracy (another pre-civil war IDW series), Ruckley’s reboot uses societal upheaval due to the unfairness of Cybertron’s class system as the motivation behind the Decepticon cause. Megatron leading a Marxist revolution isn’t innovative, but having the narrative play out like a murder mystery is pretty clever.
Ruckley also tackles another problem with writing an origin story for the Autobot/Decepticon Civil War, balancing the cast of characters. The scale of this story is huge, and Ruckley’s plot will inevitably bring in more faces from the franchise’s history. Rather than fill his first issue to the brim with characters, Buckley focuses on a relatively small cast. Admittedly, many of the characters exist to provide exposition for world-building purposes. However, Ruckley does provide some character work in his depiction of Autobot leader Optimus Prime.
During a short scene, readers are introduced to Optimus Prime and Megatron, both senators in this continuity. In their conversation, Prime tries to reach some point of understanding with the future Decepticon leader, but to no avail. This scene is the only time the issue’s narrative breaks from it’s primary focus: introducing the character of Rubble and setting up the murer mystery plot.
Rubble is the POV character in this issue, and most of the exposition laced dialogue is directed towards him. He isn’t given much of a personality, but his youth makes Optimus feel old. Prime is a tragic figure, desperately clinging to the old ways in a rapidly changing Cybertron, making him the most compelling character in the book thus far. Hopefully, future issues will flesh out more of the cast, specifically Megatron, whose dialogue consists mostly of political rhetoric.
Angel Hernadez’s art is wonderfully cartoony, balancing a more realistic design sense with cartoonish facial expressions. His linework is energetic, expressive and recalls to the ’84 cartoon that started it all.
Cachet Whitman provides the artwork for the four-page sequence that introduces the new versions of Optimus Prime and Megatron. His depiction of the Transformers characters leaves something to be desired, almost feeling like he traced over pictures of action figures. His rendering of the characters – apart from their more animated faces – feels stiff and lifeless when compared to the work of Hernadez.
Transformers #1 is a decent start to what very well could be an amazing Transformers reboot. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.
Rating: 3/5 – Decent start.