Sunday, April 27, 2014

Back to Earth: Robots in Disguise # 28

I’ll be honest with you, I’m a bit of a Cybertron snob. I have always been fascinated by the Transformers’ adventures in space. Even when I watched the first episodes of the classic Sunbow “Transformers” show, I was enthralled by the out-of-this world forms of Wheeljack, Bumblebee and those Seekers.

The result was that I was always kind of bored with the adventures on Earth. The on-planet escapades always felt too melodramatic and contrived, save for the destructive shuffle that was “Transformers: The Movie.” I mean, I was OK with the Earth tales, but the Cybertron stories were more diverting. My favorite issue of the original Marvel Comics G1 series was “The Transformers” # 17, also known as “The Smelting Pool!,” where, after so many issues set on Earth, it swtiches to a Cybertron running out of Energon, where Blaster—and the rest of Perceptor’s Autobot cohorts—battle Straxus’ Decepticons while a space bridge is being built. It was so different, so refreshing to see that setting with those characters.

The comics have a somewhat of a mixed attitude about the Earth-against-Cybertron setting. The IDW continuity began with a weighty, spy-like feel on Earth, then later kind of grew space wings up to the “Dark Cybertron” crossover. By the time “Dark Cybertron” ended, readers had been away from Earth for months.

Now, it’s apparently time to go back. “Transformers: Robots in Disguise” # 28 continues the “Dawn of the Autobots” era. Written by regular scribe John Barber and with art provided by the Andrew Griffith, “Earthfall Part 1: Hello Cruel World” basically brings the Autobots back to Earth after their victory on Cybertron. There’s a fair bit of exposition explaining where everyone is going and what they’re doing post-“Dark Cybertron.” After all that is cleared up, setting the stage for the rest of “Dawn of the Autobots,” Optimus Prime leads a team (Sky Lynx! Cosmos!) to a suddenly well-defended Earth. There they will find one heck of a surprise. I’m not going to spoil it here, but, even for someone who prefers Cybertron-centric stories, that is one well-done twist, Barber.

The character bits are funny, especially with a dopey Thundercracker and a monologuing Cosmos. That one comment from Jetfire (“2,000 years of studying at the Institute so I can pilot a spaceship on account of I turn into an airplane…”) proves that point.

Back to my line of reasoning about the Cybertron-based stories: It should come as no surprise that the first part of the book, which happens half a million years ago back on the TF’s home planet is the best part of the issue—until we get to that twist, again. Damn you, Barber!

The relationship of the Transformers with the humans has always been center to the TF mythos, swinging in the past from an altruistic co-dependence to a darker, more paranoid mistrust. I mean, the TFs are “robots in disguise,” right? During the run of the IDW continuity, the writing has steadily swung towards the latter, finding traction and intrigue in this particular direction.

The art is somewhat problematic only in the sense that Griffith draws amazing robots but his humans are odd-looking. Well, human. For several pages, I didn’t even realize that was Marissa Faireborn I was looking at (she’s a bad ass human soldier introduced into the IDW G1 continuity). That’s kind of worrying for a title that apparently deals with lots of humans (and one cute dog). Still, I can’t be hard on Griffith, because his robots are excellent! That whole-page shot of Sky Lynx and Cosmos running the Earth defense gauntlet is really memorable.

“TF: RID” has ostensibly been about the happenings on Cybertron and Earth while “Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye” has been about wandering about the universe. Now it seems “RID” will do the “Earth” part in a pretty hardcore fashion. Let’s see where this take us, especially when one considers that “TF:RID” has been essentially established as the closest thing to the traditional TF comic book series that we have today.

Next time: “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” # 28!

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