Transformers: Deviations Review!
When I first heard about this Transformers version of a What If? comic, “In a world where… Optimus Prime never died?”, my first thought was “which death of Optimus Prime are we talking about here?” But of course it’s Transformers The Movie, his most famous demise. So how DO things go when he doesn’t take a dirtnap?
Not very well, as it turns out. The story is extremely disjointed as it tries to change the entire concept of the story while also hitting many of the same story beats, often with no actual explanation. “That’s how the movie did it” doesn’t fly when you’re doing an alternate take on the movie. For example, in the movie the Decepticons call a retreat at Autobot City because they all saw Megatron fall. In this version Megatron dies and only Starscream sees it but a retreat is called all the same. It doesn’t really make sense that there’s a retreat at the same point in the story with the same wounded carried and ejected from Astrotrain, but that story beat needed to be met so it’s there anyway.
Unicron, not pausing to make any minions, shows up at Starscream’s coronation. Despite this comic ostensibly being something different than the movie someone has to be the new Big Bad, so Starscream demands a body upgrade. He doesn’t ask for more power and get a new body, he specifically and directly goes for the new-body deal without any proof whatsoever that Unicron has the ability to deliver it. Thus, Stascream becomes Megascream.
…Megascream. So that’s a thing now.
This really just the randomly-like-the-movie stuff from the first few pages. There are multiple other examples, most of them requiring characters to act on things they don’t know or make contrary choices in order to keep the story running parallel to the same basic outline of the movie (all while spouting stilted dialogue cribbed from the original script) instead of doing anything remotely interesting.
Not that you’d know they’re the same characters anyway… apparently the movie only has to be stuck to enough to hit the story beats, but not enough to make you like any of the new guys. Everyone bullies Hot Rod for no real reason, with Ultra Magnus threatening to beat him and Kup actually swatting him for the “blasphemy” of even mentioning the Matrix. After Hot Rod has disturbing visions that he’s supposed to be in a better story where Optimus dies, Ultra Magnus accuses him of treason and threatens to beat him again. Even when Hot Rod saves them all from being killed, their only contribution to the story continues to be insulting him. I seriously hoped for a plot swerve where Hot Rod was upgraded by Unicron and delivered the rest of the Autobots to be eaten, because he’d still seem like the hero of the piece.
The whole thing rushes to a final battle that would have had a shocking twist if not for the last two years of toys, and a climax that is nonsensical even by Transformers the Movie standards. Having stuffed the last ten minutes of movie plot into the final page, Easton plainly defaults to the reader’s familiarity with the movie (and the G1 cartoon overall) in order to make it work.
I don’t want to ride this book so hard, really I don’t, but at the same time I just can’t find anything enjoyable in it. Tramontano’s art makes it fun to look at, but that’s not great praise for the overall product. It really just feels one of those times when a writer haphazardly moved a few things around and thinks he’s doing something awesomely original.