Review: Transformers #1 (2019)

A fresh start. 

Written by Brian Ruckley, Art by Angel Hernandez & Cachet Whitman

So last year, in 2019, IDW publishing pushed the big-red reboot button on its Transformers comics. IDW’s initial run on the transformers included not only the main series and promotional tie-ins but also both multiple on-going and limited series, crossovers with other brands and even animated (web) series clearly using their work as the basis. Suffice to say, their previous run with the Transformer was very successful. While I enjoyed that entire universe a lot I do think that bringing it to an end and starting anew was the right call. I could tell that the universe was running out of steam, that it had run through most if not all of its story potential. Nothing lasts forever, and I feel that they ended it at the right moment. That brings us to today’s comic: Transformers #1, the first issue of said Transformers reboot. How does the first issue of the Transformer relaunch stack up? Is it worth your time and money? In my opinion, it is.

Let´s dive in.

Let’s start off with the issue’s setup. The book has two different stories with the first concerning Rubble, a newly born Cybertronian who alongside his tutor Bumblebee is travelling across Cybertron. They have an appointment with Brainstorm so Rubble can learn more about Energon. The two are eventually joined by Windblade, who is heading in the same direction. Once the group arrives at Brainstorm’s however, Windblade notices signs of a struggle. Meanwhile, within the walls of the city, a group of protestor are out on the streets. Orion Pax, councilman and head of security, looks at the protest from high up in his office. He’s just about to have a meeting with his fellow councilman and an old friend: Megatron. A meeting that will be filled with tension considering Megatron is the one responsible for the protest in the first place.

The issue is very much more relaxed than I thought it would be. I figured that IDW would start their big reboot in a much more ‘explosive’ fashion, that they would launch it with a bang but they didn’t. They instead chose to take the opposite approach. This approach serves to convey that this story is about more than just a war, more than just a basic conflict to drive forward the toy sales. The book has a political undertone that is clearly a parallel to the current US political situation and it depends on your own tastes if this a bane or boon.

The issue also clearly takes a lot of inspiration from the previous run. For starter, characters introduced in that run have been brought over. Having Windblade, a female Transformer, featured prominently in the first issue, this reboot already dodges one of the big problems of that original IDW universe so you can see that IDW is using the lessons it has learned to make this run better. Characters personality, backstory and (running) jokes are all lifted from said earlier comics. There are differences of course, but it’s not that far removed from what came before and that is both a good and bad thing, depending on your point of view.

A bit too on the nose, if you ask me.

If you’re a fan of those earlier IDW comics, this world will feel very familiar. You’ll better understand some of the references and the knowledge you gained from those comics can give you a better idea of where the series might be going. It’s also a bad thing as I feel that it was all a little too familiar. Transformers fans have seen the War of Cybertron play out many times already and judging from this first issue, I don’t see a lot to differentiate this version of the story from the ones that have come before. That might come later down the line, but right here those nuances aren’t present.

For new Transformers fans, I feel that the issue does a good job of explaining what’s going on. Even if this is your first piece of Transformers product ever, if for some reason pop-culture osmosis has completely passed you by, you don’t have to worry about getting confused. Like I said earlier, the issue does take a lot of cues from what came before but it does a fine job of introducing and telling the story in a way that you don’t need to know about that to understand it all. Previous knowledge is more something of a bonus than a necessity.

I spoke a lot about the story itself and how that relates back to the Transformers as a franchise and IDW’s previous run on it, but how does the issue stack up in departments like art, lettering, composition and writing? To start with the art, it’s pretty much what I expected. As the main characters of the books aren’t humans but robots, the characters themselves are drawn with more detail and tend to be a little boxy. The backgrounds aren’t as detailed, however.

The Transformers books have always placed more importance on the characters themselves, the once you can buy actual toys from (these comics are meant as a promotional tool after all), so the backgrounds have always had to do with the short end of the stick. It isn’t bad or anything, the moment when Rubble first looks over Cybertrons ‘nature’ is rather beautiful with its composition and colouring, but don’t expect too much from the backgrounds. For the writing and lettering, I don’t really have much to say. I didn’t notice anything particularly bad about it nor anything great either. It’s competent and shouldn’t give you any trouble.

Conclusion

Transformers issue 1 is an interesting start of IDW’s new Transformers comics universe. It uses a slow, much more thought out approach to introduce us to this universe instead of jumping into the Autobot/Decepticon war. It instead shows starts before this period and opts to tell the story of how the war started in the first place. It takes (more than) enough cues from the old IDW Transformers universe so older fans will feel comfortable and familiar (if not a little too familiar) but also tells its story in such a way that’s welcoming and easy for new fans. If you’re interested in the Transformers, if you want to see what the franchise offers beyond the toys, this isn’t a bad place to start at all.

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