Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Switching Sides: More Than Meets The Eye # 28

Each of the three covers to IDW Publishing’s “The Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” # 28 features something jarring which Transfans have never seen before: Megatron as an Autobot. That’s not an alternate reality Megs; that’s the actual Megatron rocking an Autobot badge. This is the third and last of the three series that constitute IDW’s “Dawn of the Autobots” story arc; one of the Autobots apparently dawning is Megatron.

How did he do that? That’s explained at the end of the “Dark Cybertron” story arc, when he and Prime joined forces to defeat Shockwave’s universe-threatening plans. Part of the genius of James Roberts’ plot for “TF: MTMTE” # 28 is that it deals with what happens next.

The story, called “World, Shut Your Mouth Part 1: Towards Peace,” is ostensibly set six months after “Dark Cybertron.” The series picks up from where the original “TF: MTMTE” series left off, as the starship The Lost Light has obviously been rebuilt and re-crewed for it to continue its original mission of finding the Knights of Cybertron and the legendary Cyberutopia.

There’s just been one change. The Lost Light has a new captain: Megatron.

How did that happen? The issue then flashes back six months and we see Megatron being prepped for his trial as Optimus Prime wants to make sure Megatron gets a fair shake even as Prowl agitates for an execution and Starscream basically just continues to annoy everybody. Rodimus can’t wait to get back to tracking down the Knights of Cybertron (something that starts with a search for the suddenly missing Autobot hero Thunderclash) but Prime insists they hold the trial first. In the meantime, Swerve plays an elaborate but ultimately futile practical joke, Chromedome mourns and Rung deals with an unexpected patient.

How Megatron went from war criminal to the captain of the Lost Light will be revealed in the following issues and that aspect of “TF: MTMTE” is really intriguing. Megatron has a terrible day as the Lost Light’s unpopular skipper (Whirl has a claw in it) and they encounter something unusual floating in the dead of space that may not bode well for their mission.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Megatron’s switching sides is the fact that he hasn’t been tampered with. He’s still the same old fusion cannon-wielding revolutionary from Tarn whose had a change of heart and a change of mind. Roberts goes out of his way to show that Megatron is still the same old kick ass warrior with a different faction symbol.

The charm of “TF: MTMTE” was its crew-lost-in-space premise and Roberts returns to that with this issue. There are numerous intriguing and potentially hilarious plot points (Whirl is working with an unseen someone in an attempt to provoke Megatron, Ultra Magnus is Megatorn’s first officer and the regular crew of the Lost Light gets some new blood in Bluestreak, Perceptor, Nightbeat and Nautica, among others).

Let me just say for the record that I really dig how the IDW TF comics and Hasbro have conspired to make sure that the on-page characters and the actual toys resemble each other. It’s amazing to see Sandstorm look exactly like his toy (we need that new Leader-class Broadside right away) and we know that the new Swerve toys is designed based on his comic look, igniting a most amusing game of the robo-chicken or the robo-egg. It just gives the TF universe a seamless, consistent feel.

That point naturally leads to my realization that penciller Alex Milne is now THE Transformers penciller. His work on “TF:MTMTE” basically defines the current TF design aesthetic, making him the true successor to Dreawave-era penciller Don Figueroa. Aside from the distinctive yet aesthetically-pleasing body shapes of the TFs, Milne is somehow able to give facial expression to all Autobots—even those with no mouths like the aforementioned Whirl. I’ve gotten used to Milne as the producer of the new “house” TF style and look forward to more starcrossed adventures on the Lost Light.

That brings me to my final point about “TF: MTMTE” # 28: Roberts is the best TF writer out there right now, no mean feat considering how well Maighread Scott and John Barber are writing the other two IDW TF series. This issue exemplifies the ridiculously high level of quality that Roberts brings to this assignment. It’s breath-taking and yet Roberts tells us he is only getting started on his second “season” of “TF: MTMTE,” which easily makes this the best TF series out there right now. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

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