After all the build-up, the Combiner Wars are finally here. The Combiners War arc will run through the ongoing “Transformers” series and the new “Transformers: Windblade” mini-series (we’ll refer to it as “Windblade (2015)” for clarity. The other ongoing, “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye,” will run completely apart from Combiner Wars.
“Transformers” # 39 is technically the prelude to the Combiner Wars itself: The cover bills the issue as “Combiner Wars: Opening Salvo,” but a cursory evaluation of the issue’s contents reveals it to be the actual first shot to be fired in this war.
After the end of the seemingly never-ending Onyx Interface story arc, the Enigma of Combination (which allows for the creation of non-insane gestalts) has been stolen by Scoop to be brought back to Cybertron and into the hands of the chosen ruler of the planet, the ever-devious Starscream. It becomes clear that this is the only real development of importance from the Onyx Interface story arc, leading credence to the observation that those issues were merely spinning their wheels in preparation for Combiner Wars.
In fact, “Transformers” # 39 is actually the continuation of the events in the one-shot “Transformers: Punishment.” Optimus Prime is back on Cybertron to celebrate the anniversary of receiving the Matrix of Leadership. This issue is also a spiritual continuation of the first “Transformers: Windblade” mini, as the Autobots from Caminus, Windblade and Chromia, are heavily involved—as is Caminus itself.
The issue begins with Optimus Prime and his Autobots still fighting off the Decepticon rabble in Decepticon territory as shown in “Punishment.” A closer look reveals that the ‘bots Prime and company beats down promise to play a bigger role: Swindle and Motor Master.
Meanwhile, Prime has tasked Wheeljack to help the Aerialbots. The Aerialbots had been lost in the dangerous wilderness of Cybertron and, in order to survive, were forcibly made to combine, leading to Superion’s madness and the death of Slingshot. Alpha Bravo has volunteered to take Slingshot’s place, and a worried Wheeljack is convinced by a scheming Starscream to use the Enigma of Combination to save the Aerialbots.
Of course, Starscream has an agenda (he always does). He approaches Swindle with a get-rich proposition. Swindle is given the Enigma, and he approaches his old pals the Stunticons.
We then get a very short cameo from the three big bots on the Lost Light (Ultra Magnus, Rodimus and Megatron) who promise to eventually send one of their own to sit on Prime’s council.
Right after the message, Windblade informs Prime that someone has broken into the Spacebridge area and knocked the assigned guards—Ironhide and Chromia—unconscious. “Somebody activated the Spacebridge,” Windblade says.
We then get our first look at Caminus, a planet that is kept in orbit by a white dwarf but whose Energon has been depleted. We can see that the Caminus dwellers have a more elaborate, stylized look than our usual Cybertrons.
Then, the Spacebridge receiver activates and out steps Menasor with Swindle, who says, “Okay, boys… let’s rob them blind.”
It’s a great beginning, full of character moments, but one that never stops the narrative ball from rolling. We jump from scene to scene purposefully, and “Transformers” # 39 lacks the weird standing around that plagued Onyx Interface. John Barbers wrote this issue proficiently—we know that he will write the “Transformers” parts while Mairghread Scott will write the “Windblade (2015)” parts—so the marching orders were clearly martial in tone.
I know I have criticized artist Livio Ramondelli in the past, but this issue is perfect for him, full of gloom and foreboding. He also finally manages to get the characters to stand distinct from one another. In particular, his Swindle is very good, and it is clear from our first look at Menasor that he is following the look of the new Menasor toy from Hasbro.
Combiner Wars is admittedly an arc we’ve been looking forward to for a while now, and “Transformers” # 39 gets us going just right. Let the war begin.
Next time: Transformers Windblade (2015) # 1!