Road Trip with the Transformers is what happens when you take a guy who grew up with Transformers (well, Robots in Disguise and the Unicron Trilogy, anyway), who was mildly interested in IDW’s Transformers comics — but too scared to dip too far in — and give him a rebooted Transformers comics line. With this, I’ll be quickly reviewing and then commenting on IDW’s new Transformers comic universe that began in March of 2019! The review will be spoiler-free, while commentary will not. With this, I’ll be chronicling my experience as someone who is a lapsed fan of the franchise from childhood, who has only read a few of the previous IDW Transformers comics. Expect me to forget characters’ names, find it hard to tell them apart and have little to no understanding of references to previous continuities! Does that sound like fun? No? Well, you’re coming along anyway! It’s a road trip! Roll out!
No new toys this time, because I am thoroughly broke. But that’s okay, because, frankly, the last two issues of this series have done a good job with killing my enthusiasm for Transformers. Previous issues placed so much emphasis on world-building that I genuinely found issue 3 to be a slog to get through. But we’re only a quarter of the way through this story, so will it recover? Let’s find out with our look at Transformers (2019) #4.
Transformers (2019) #4
Written by Brian Ruckley
Art by Sara Pitre-Duroche, Angel Hernandez and Andrew Griffith
Colours by Joana Lafuente and Josh Burcham
Letters by Tom B. Long
Published by IDW Publishing
Cover price: $3.99 USD
Transformers is a comic that has established its characters, main plot points and world. Yet it still feels the need to slowly establish more and more concepts, to the pint that I am certain at least half of the things it introduces will not be relevant to the plot.
Not much happens in this issue. The events can very easily be summed up in a sentence each, yet writer Brian Ruckley stretches them out to encompass an issue. While this could’ve given some character moments and pay more attention to each scene, the characters still feel remarkably one-note: Windblade is nonchalant, Prowl is well-meaning but a douche, Rubble is innocent, etc. It all makes for a boring read, especially because the characters, again, still almost all sound the same. Ruckley does introduce a few more characters — namely, Cyclonus and Barricade — but they still sound just like everyone else who isn’t Windblade. Cyclonus is given a bit of uniqueness, but it’s not well-written enough to feel important; rather, it feels like an attempt to make him stand out at all. The world-building continues, but the plot is moving so slowly that it is beginning to almost feel disconnected from the world Ruckley is building — almost like the plot itself is a side note.
Part of the problem of this issue is the art. Sara Pitre-Duroche and Angel Hernandez deliver some fine pencils, but action is very lacking. Every attempt at rendering anything besides walking and/or talking — essentially any high energy moment — does not land, with awkward pacing that makes the scenes confusing. This may be due to limitations on length, as both of the most prominent examples feel like they are missing a panel or page, but it is noticeable and takes away from the comic. However, Pitre-Duroche’s character work is still solid, with expressive characters who are very human and slim, but Hernandez’s pencils feel a bit unfinished and his faces a bit flat. Still, the styles flow nicely into each other — helped by each artist handling a different scene to minimise any jarring shifts. Third artist Andrew Griffith has a much more different style from Petre-Duroche and Hernandez, with a more detailed look. Despite this, Griffith’s characters feel just as expressive, with great use of blocking and some understated but effective layouts. While extremely detailed art isn’t something I’m usually keen on outside of the biggest of superhero event comics (especially given the toys the characters in this comic are based off have a large amount of detail), Griffith’s work is great, with just enough detail included. Joana Lafuente and Josh Burcham’s colours truly shine here too — while they do good work with Pitre-Duroche and Hernandez’s parts, bringing the usual vibrancy, the moody colours during Griffith’s section make it stand out all the more.
Transformers is continuing to spin its wheels, further building the new world of the Transformers as one ripe for stories, filled with political schisms and strange lifeforms. Sadly, it still hasn’t decided to use what it’s established in an engaging way, the plot taking a backseat to more world-building and lore — despite Ruckley seemingly trying to pick up the pace. Transformers is a comic that I am beginning to dread reading every two weeks, and that makes me sad, given it’s part of what got me back into Transformers not even a year ago. This issue is only saved by Griffith’s art, a fresh look after so long.
3/5 – Above average
“The World in Your Eyes, Part Four”
Here comes the commentary, where I basically give you a much more detailed look at what I think about the issue while somewhat summarising it. Obviously, spoiler warning. And don’t take anything I say here too seriously, most of it is for my own benefit, though I do like to put focus on some moments here and there.
We open with a ton of jargon from Geomotus that instantly puts me in a bad mood. Brian Ruckley seriously needs to stop throwing jargon and exposition at readers in an attempt to world-build. There’s also a weird instance where characters react to something for a few panels without showing us what it is… and it’s not meant to be a surprise, it’s just poorly planned. Chromia and Windblade see Cyclonus and Chromia tells Windblade to get after him because she’s “faster from a standing position”, whatever that means, until Chromia herself gets there. We then get a page with not much movement where Windblade brings Cyclonus down. Just as Cyclonus is about to hurt Windblade, Chromia rams him. So… apparently they’re not much faster than Chromia. I don’t know this moment needed so much dialogue and why it was so badly executed.
We learn that Cyclonus has destroyed his comms and thus hasn’t learned about Brainstorm’s death — though he did see Brainstorm at the sub-station “not long ago”… I think it’s been a few days though, so… that’s a while ago. He manages to get out of going back with the trio, in part because they don’t want to start a fight — establishing that Cyclonus is a badass — but Chromia gives him a day to show up at the south security tower. Once they leave, some ghosts of dead Transformers appear around Cyclonus, and make clear that he won’t show up and that Cyclonus saw a bot, possibly blue, at the transmission line, furthering the idea that it may have been Rubble. I think at best he saw Rubble near the body, because the murder being Rubble makes no sense.
We cut to a forging celebration, with the newest Transformer forged since Rubble himself. Bumblebee and Rubble are there, and we see that this new Transformer will be mentored by Arcee. And let’s hope that Arcee isn’t a vehicle for a writer to take out their weird anti-Transformer gender stance this time around. Bee says that having Arcee as a mentor also means that the new Transformer will have another mentor in the form of Greenlight. Rubble says something that’s meant to be a joke but isn’t funny before he and Bee move along
They walk for a Bee mentions the Reversionists, who see this type of thing as a mystical experience — Rubble actually agrees, but Bee just says he doesn’t like people who claim to have all the answers… which is a dumb way to show him as being anti-authoritarian but also a bit of a douchebag himself. The two then find themselves running across a fight between an Autobot and Ascenticon, the Autobot offended at the Ascenticon flag for their association with the Rise’s murder of Brainstorm, to which the Ascenticon says they aren’t involved with, and that the Rise aren’t even proven to be the killers. Then a really badly drawn fight happens.
Prowl and his partner Barricade show up to break things up but also establish that he’s annoyed that he has to be here instead of doing his job of finding a random Voin scavenger, while Barricade is meant to be hunting Risers (that is a terrible name for them, by the way). Prowl reiterates — yet again — that Cybertron’s security is understaffed to deal with everything and that they were half the size they needed to be before Brainstorm’s murder and are now a tenth of what they need to be. He also, weirdly, says he’d almost want Starscream back. I don’t know what this is meant to mean. was he a cop? A politician? It wants you to be intrigued, assuming you’re familiar with Starscream, but with how this series is a reboot and has altered characters… it’s weird to try to do this. Anyway, Rubble says he could help by identifying the Voin, but Prowl and Bee say no one can tell them apart before Prowl tells them to go away and stay out of things — though he does defend Rubble when Barricade starts talking shit after the two leave.
Finally, we Bee leaves Rubble to be at Brainstorm’s funeral. A Reversionist is there to give a speech and it’s actually pretty nice, but Ironhide says Brainstorm would’ve gone all r/atheism on them. Orion has a decent scene where he tells Ironhide that not allowing the Reversionists to be present in the funeral and the forging celebration would lead them to rallying with the Ascenticons, which is a nice way of connecting the Reversionist stuff with the rest of the plot threads. Finally, Megatron shows up and Orion asks him to denounce the Rise’s actions, which he says he’s done repeatedly — Orion then suggests Termagax doing it, but Megatron reminds him of her self-imposed exile. Ironhide tries to start a fight, but Megatron reminds him of his place and the funeral comes to a close
This post took way too long to come out. Apologies, but I had assignments, then had to unwind. After that was tabletop stuff which has eaten a lot more of my life, especially when it comes to time for reading. I think, going forward, I may end up only summarising every other issue or the like — or at least only issues with stuff worth commenting on, or even only commenting on those specific parts. With a series as slow and meandering as Transformers (2019), something needs to give. There’s also the announcement of the second ongoing, Transformers: Galaxies, which will finally give us something besides this series in this new universe — plus, the “Entry” part of the titles will actually be different from the issue number — but it’ll increase the workload a bit, so I’m figuring out how to approach this going forward.
On the other hand, I also want to do something similar for Jonathan Hickman’s upcoming X-Men run — at the very least, I’ll be reviewing the issues. Stay tuned for that, but I’ll try to catch up on Road Trip with the Transformers.