Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Last Issue: Transformers Robots in Disguise # 34!

THIS is the last issue of IDW’s “Transformers: Robots in Disguise”—technically speaking. But it’s not going away, it’s just changing titles next month to just plain “The Transformers” # 35. Read into that what you will, but “TF: RID,” though well-written and well-illustrated, still somewhat remains overshadowed by its even-better-written and better-illustrated sibling title, “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye.”

That is not helped by the fact that “TF:RID” is now jumping all over the place. Originally, the series seemed focused on the Earth-bound adventures of Optimus Prime and the remaining Autobots, but it’s since jumped back to life on a bittersweet Cybertron and then back to Earth now that the humans have aligned themselves with the Decepticons. But now, it’s going back in time with some surprising and defining back stories.

That’s a lot of moving parts and it speaks to writer John Barber’s ambition that he even dares to juggle so many ideas in one book. Last issue leads into this one, as Barber tells a tale from Cybertron’s history ten million years ago, one that speaks of a heretofore unknown alliance between the unstoppably barbarian Galvatron and the Autobot sage Alpha Trion. Trion tells Prime this story after they leave the Ark-7 in Earth’s lunar orbit without telling anyone where they’re going.

Galvatron was basically killing one Prime after another. Here, it’s Nexus Prime he slaughters, yelling, “I believe in no Prime!” It’s a bit trickier than that. It turns out that Trion aided Galvatron in his quest to take down the corrupt line of Primes—because it turns out that, shocker, Alpha Trion was a Prime himself, the last of his kind. Then Galvatron joins the warrior Nova Major, whom we know eventually becomes the corrupt Nova Prime (he takes Galvatron into that ill-fated mission into dead space before Galvatron comes back). Alpha Trion clearly has some baggage, claiming that he didn’t tell Optimus because Trion himself didn’t remember all this until recently, a fairly convenient narrative excuse.

There is a lot of new information here, much of it cryptic. Who is Megatronius? But it’s interesting to see Rhinox introduced into the current IDW TF ensemble; Jhiaxus returns as well. But the most important piece of information in the book is the fact that the last of Shockwave’s mysterious ores from the “Dark Cybertron” arc turns out to be the one that landed on Earth seven million years ago. The 13th ore is known as “The Enigma of Combination,” which enables Cybertronians to form a gestalt, something that only the Constructicons proved successful at doing. Now the Aerialbots—forced into a gestalt form to survive in Cybertron’s wilderness—may need that secret to survive. Prime then decides that he would share this information with the trusted Autobot who now leads the Constructions, Prowl—not knowing that Prowl and his team are already listening.

It’s Livio Ramondelli month at IDW apparently, as he provides the art for this issue (vice Alex Milne) as well as the current issue of “Transformers: Primacy.” This is because Ramondelli is the go-to artist for the seven- to-ten million years period. He does so capably, but one can’t help but wonder how Milne would have done doing the same thing. There’s still a murkiness in Ramondelli’s panels that obscure some of the details. He really is an acquired taste.

The issue moves fairly quickly and puts all its elements in place. This constant and somewhat convenient re-writing of known Cybertronian history is a bit confusing, especially since we’re still wondering what the heck is going on with the Decepticon-Human alliance while all this remembering is going on. Barber does well with the revelations of this issue, though, and the heavy lifting is necessary because the series will go on into both the “Days of Deception” arc as well as the upcoming “Combiner Wars” storyline.

The re-titling of the series should indicate a shift in focus, as IDW seems to want to highlight what used to be “Transformers: Robots in Disguise”—plus effectively moving it out of the way of the forthcoming, unrelated animated series of the same title.

Let’s see where the new era leads us.

Next time: More Than Meets The Eye # 34

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