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Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #1

Written by James Roberts

Art by Nick Roche and Josh Burcham

Published by IDW Publishing

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Being a boring old married guy in his mid-30s, it feels a little strange to still find a passing interest in Transformers. I'm never going to be the rabid fan of my youth, in the days of Ronald Reagan and good Arnold Schwarzenegger movies — or at least that's what I tell myself. The only thing that stops me from buying yet another version of Optimus Prime has more to do with adult responsibilities and budget than it does actual fandom, clearly evidenced by the fact that every time I find myself getting boring old grown-up stuff from Target, I just have to make a pass through the toy aisle. And yes, when I first heard Peter Cullen deliver a line from Michael Bay's Transformers, my breath caught just a little, as my spouse chuckled at my childlike enthusiasm the next seat over. This is really just a long-winded way of saying I still dig those denizens from Cybertron, and just because I don't snag every iteration doesn't mean I don't want some robot-on-robot fun. Which brings us to Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #1 from IDW — and from page one I can tell you, it sure looks pretty but I have no idea what's going on. But we'll get to that later.

The issue opens after the events of the last major Transformers storyline, Chaos, and for all intents and purposes, the Autobot/Decepticon war is over. Peace has finally come to Cybertron. Real peace. Wanting to recapture the glory of eras past, Rodimus plans on taking an all-volunteer expedition into deep space and find the lost Knights of Cybertron. Meanwhile Bumblebee, current leader of the Autobots (I know, right) urges his troops to stay home and work on the rebuilding of their war-ravaged world. Mixed within this primary story are unaligned protestors literally transforming themselves to death, a “converted” Decepticon Scourge that just might have a robo-necromancy fetish thing going on, and a six million year-old Cybertronian digging out from the middle of their planet. Coupled with these plot elements are themes of rebirth, regret and the age-old dilemma of winning peace when all you know is war.

I honestly wish writer James Roberts had spent more time exploring these issues rather than jamming all the various story lines into this debut issue. I understand he needs to drop a lot of information to bring the story to full speed, but in doing so, we lost much of what's driving these characters in the first place. Why is Rodimus so intent on leaving Cybertron, and why is Bumblebee equally driven to keep them planet-bound? A lack of answers is to be expected in an introduction issue, even desired, but I still need some indication as to the reasons and a bit of the backstory. These characters have gone through insane amounts of change in the past few years, and unless you've been a regular reader of the IDW series, you'll be hard pressed to understand what's happening. One could argue this comic isn't really looking for the casual Transformer fan, but I'd counter that filling the multiple covers with classic Transformer characters means the casual fan is exactly whom Roberts and IDW are going after. As one of those casual, though no less interested fans, I am so very lost. Still, when Roberts focuses on more personal aspects of the various Autobots, the book works very well.  Maybe I'm showing my age, but I like the idea of Ratchet questioning his ability to heal after so many millennia. I like Ultra Magnus as the loyal but weary warrior. I wish Roberts had spent more time giving us a reason to care for these characters beyond nostalgia.

Artist Nick Roche is the real star for me in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye. Talk with any artist and they'll tell you that drawing robots as expressive creatures is hard. There is a fine balance between maintaining what we all know Transformers look like and giving them a real personality on the page. Roche's characters are extremely expressive, without being overtly cartoony in their presentation. He also has a firm grasp on the scaling of these characters, and that gives them a real sense of weight and presence within their world. The action scenes are well planned and convey real energy. These are big ol' robots bashing and blasting the heck out of each other. When even a smaller character cuts loose, there is some serious collateral damage, and it shows on the page. The coloring by Josh Burcham is not as vibrant or defined as I'd want, which is a shame because it tends to mute and blur Roche's rather clean and crisp lines. Overall, though, Roche has a firm grasp on the visual appeal to the Transformers and knows how to exploit them for a reader's enjoyment.

There is potential in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #1. Is there enough to bring me back for another issue? Perhaps, but just barely. I know it's weird to say about a franchise that's all about cars and jets turning into robots fighting each other, but slow things down a little. Give the story a chance to grow. It will make those big moments have all the greater impact.



The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #4

Written by Justin Jordan

Art by Tradd Moore and Felipe Sobreiro

Lettering by Fonografiks

Published by Image Comics

Review by Lan Pitts

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

I've been really digging the pace that Justin Jordan has been setting in Luther Strode, but here it sort of slows down and acts more like set up to the remaining two issues. It's not a bad thing, per se, but it certainly slows down the flow at the beginning, before kicking back by the end. Here we have Luther and the Librarian: Round One. There is still the massive, over the top amount of violence we've come to expect from this mini-series. The ending evokes some elements from The Dark Knight at the end of the issue, which demonstrates the cunning criminal mind of the Librarian.

I guess the real treat of this issue is the origin of the Atlas Manual and how it came to be. There's some cool sequentials that Tradd Moore lays down telling the story, while also telling man's love affair with violence. There's a slight nod to Gordon Gekko during the Librarian's monologue while this gory history lesson is going on. You get to understand that this book has been in some dangerous hands, and it's more powerful than expected. Moore actually did some of his best work on the series so far in this scene. It really shows his knack for visual storytelling and doing a comprehensive layout. Felipe Sobreiro does some fine coloring work and really lets the blood flow here.

I'm really looking forward to how things unfold, but this seems like it should have been maybe an issue ago as the halfway point. There are still some intense moments, but the payoff seems weird. Jordan and Moore have established a great story so far and I'm eager to see how it ends and I'm sure it won't be an easy clean up, but after this issue they really have to turn things up to 11.

[Newsarama note: An early version of this story mistakenly labeled the lead review as Transformers: Robots In Disguise #1.] 

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