Transformers: Punishment Preview and Review!
Written by: John Barber
Art by: Livio Ramondelli
Letters by: Tom B. Long
Editor: Carlos Guzman
Optimus Prime heads back to Cybertron on a personal mission and finds that a serial killer is murdering Decepticons. Starscream has no great interest in bringing the killer to justice… after all, they’re only Decepticons. Who cares? Otpimus Prime, that’s who. He’ll follow the trail of bodies into the seediest places on Cybertron and face the greatest villains… but with the war over, does he know who the villains are? Did he even know who the villains were during the war?
I get a kick out of noir mysteries with a twist, so this was poised (you thought I was going to pun with “primed”, didn’t you?) to be a story I really enjoyed. For the most part, I did. Barber delivers a great, moody mystery tale and one of those rare stand-alone stories that really does work as one while contributing to the overall narrative. Similarly, Ramondelli was absolutely the right choice for this comic. His dark and gloomy style set precisely the right tone. A few panels were maybe a little too dark and somewhat confusing, but I never felt it took away from the story.
That said, the tone of the story IS an issue I had with this comic. A well-done noir tale is fantastic, but the strength of the genre is that it’s not something an audience gets all the time. The current IDW universe seems dead-set on making sure that no one is a hero and most of the villains have some small redeeming value, so in a muddy pool of gray we get a double-length comic of utter bleakness. It’s not just my opinion either, Barber actually ends the comic with an editorial about how the Transformers comics have been dark, but “this was just a dark, dark story… it’s not a specific emotional beat, but the unrelenting mood that got under my skin”.
“Unrelenting mood”. That phrase stands out to me. This was the story Barber wanted to tell, and he nailed it. Really, Punishment was a good comic and I recommend it. It’s just that the regular comics are already so moody that I wasn’t left pondering the questions and dilemmas raised in the story. Instead I wondered how much darker things can get and whether that’s really where I want Transformers to go.
Favorite Line: “I see the glances. The angry eyes. I led the Autobots. Not without reason, the Decepticons blame me for their fate. They live in the house that Prime built.