Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #1
The more I think about it, the more I realize I’m not really all that invested in the IDW Transformers universe. The cartoons, aimed at children, usually line things up with good guys vs. bad guys. White hats vs. black hats in the classic Hollywood cowboy parlance, if you will. (Or in the case of transformers, the Reds vs. the Purples.) IDW comics are aimed squarely at the adult nostalgia market, and thus it can’t be that simple. Everything must be a shade of gray.
Which is fine to an extent. I love seeing Thundercracker agonizing over allegiances or Cyclonus hanging out with the Autobots. We grew up with these guys, we collected their action figures, and right now they feel more like family than anything. But it also leads to a lot of needless self-absorption when all you want is to see robot men go on adventures. I’m also not really sold on Megatron being a Vladimir Lenin-type who lost his way, or the post Cold War implications that everyone else in the galaxy hates both the Autobots and Decepticons for waging war for millions of years. Does it add nuance? Probably. But this is also a story about robots that turn into cars. One of the big problems critics had with the Michael Bay movies was that they took themselves way too seriously. I wonder what they would think of the current IDW Transformers universe.
Which is why, I think, everyone has latched on to “More Than Meets The Eye” as THE Transformers comic to follow. Oh, man, robot men are going on adventures again! At last! Finally, a Transformers comic that isn’t self-obsessed about how the good guys are really no different from the bad guys when you think about it! This is going to be the Transformers Voyage of the Dawn Treader, man, with brave new worlds and everything is fun again!
Which is a really cool concept, but it’s a scenario that hardly plays out. I’m going to go issue by issue on this series, which is at times fun but more often than not seems to lose sight of its own mission statement.
You can’t fault it for the premise, though. Transformers, most of them minor characters, going on a space adventure does sound like fun! They’re being led by Rodimus, who is one of my favorites (Hot Rod may have been the fifth Transformer I ever owned). Quickly, they’re joined by Galvatron, an old soul who feels no place in the new Cybertron that rejects Autobots and Decepticons qually; Tailgate, who’s only been resurrected and is mistakenly brought aboard; Whirl, a crazy psycho and fan favorite; Drift, resident Japanese swordsman and probably the one most hated by fans; Swerve, a loud-mouthed party dude; Chromedome, a sadistic space detective; Ultra Magnus, the stuffy stickler for protocol that everyone loves for his squareness; Rewind, one of Blaster’s cassette buddies; and Rung, a psychologist. Oh yeah, as the cover shows Ratchet is also totally on board, which is a development I approve. There are also cameos by fan favorites, but they never get the spotlight. (Except in the “Spotlights”. And the pack-in comics that come with the toys.)
Rodimus brings a ton of other crewmembers on the Lost Light to search for the Knights of Cybertron, whose guidance, he believe, will lead the planet into the future. But it seems most of the crew are grizzled veterans, unable to live in a world where Autobots and Decepticons are not constantly shooting each other. (They should have stayed around, though, since the companion series, “Robots In Disguise”, shows that the shooting begins in earnest again plenty enough.)
But someone’s sabotaged the ship, and… it leaps into an unknown corner of space, where the crew of the Lost Light have no contact with Cybertron at all. So… basically this is Star Trek: Voyager. And this is where the problems start for me, I think. But we’ll get into that when I get into later issues.
Still, this is a strong start. Writer James Roberts remembers that Transformers are supposed to be fun, and he populates More Than Meets The Eye with personalities who would seem right at home on a Saturday morning cartoon. (Especially Swerve, who everyone seems to love, but who puts me off with his Scrappy-Doo-ness.) Niche Roche’s art, by the way, is fantastic. It’s easy to see why the most recent toys follow the same stylized design scheme. I remember when Transformers first came to the forefront with the Dreamwave comics and being impressed by those designs that harkened back to the toys and the cartoon. (I didn’t like the ones from the Marvel Comics. They seemed too static.)
I think I like these designs better. They’re fluid, expressive, and yet still give you the impression that they’re transforming robots.
By the way, if you’re on board because of Rodimus (as I was)… he sorta disappears after this issue. He’s still around as the leader, no doubt, but he’s overshadowed by Swerve, Tailgate, Chromedome, and Ultra Magnus.
Rating: 5 (out of 5).