REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS – DARK CYBERTRON – VOLUME 1 / AUTHOR: JAMES ROBERTS, JOHN BARBER / ARTIST: P. PHIL JIMENEZ, ANDREW GRIFFITH / PUBLISHER: IDW / RELEASE DATE: MAY 4TH
Event-style storytelling is an odd feature of mainstream comic books. It’s a way for publishers to bring multiple storylines and characters into one greater tale, typically one with far-reaching consequences for the entire range. Usually these work well because the characters and storytelling are similar in some way. Transformers: Dark Cybertron brings together IDW’s two very different Transformers books – the light yet compelling More Than Meets the Eye and the much violent, darker and more po-faced Robots in Disguise – for one stellar adventure that attempts to resolve multiple in-universe issues with both series and give them a bit of a fresh, reader-friendly start.
As such, Transformers: Dark Cybertron is a gloriously messy affair filled with epic space battles and big robots punching each other, coupled with lengthy chats. This first volume brings together Dark Cybertron issue one, More Than Meets the Eye issues 23 to 25, and Robots in Disguise 23 and 24 and you can easily see the join, not only in changes in the art but also the pacing and dialogue. This is jarring but the story is so compelling you'll want to forgive its many tiny flaws. Roberts and Barber work well together here, laying a foundation of solid character building, never allowing the reader to get too comfortable with characters they’ve known for years. If you’re a Transformers fan then you probably already know that Optimus Prime was called Orion Pax before he became a Prime, but this book really does its best to get under the hero’s metal shell and make us care about the big, dumb hero guy. It then does the same with Megatron, in a surprisingly effective way, and it’s this mix of action and character-driven storytelling that really works.
Transformers: Dark Cybertron Volume One is the first step in an epic space opera tale featuring ancient enemies, old friends and a cosmos-spanning threat. The actual plot doesn’t seem to matter at this stage; the Decepticon Shockwave is up to something utterly monstrous and the deceitful Starscream is yet again trying to take full advantage of the chaos for personal gain. What this book does is bring together most of the key players and inform us as to their motivations; this is only the first part of what will inevitably be a very long, slightly unwieldy, yet epic story arc. Big changes are indeed coming to the world of Transformers and they promise to be amazing.
Fans of the classic Transformers work (including Simon Furman’s crazier story arcs) will get a huge rush out of this book, as it mines years of mythology. Casual Transformers fans are firmly advised to catch up on previous volumes of both More Than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise first, simply because this book contains spoilers for those series.