Transformers #40 Preview and Review!
Written by: John Barber
Story by: Mairghread Scott & John Barber
Art by: Livio Ramondelli
Letters by: Tom B. Long
Editor: Carlos Guzman
The Possible Light
The Protectobots are heading for Cybertron, although they’re mostly the support staff for Mirage, who is having odd visions about Cybertron “burning”. Mirage stands with Ironhide… who wakes up and assures his houseguest Optimus Prime that it’s all just a weird dream. Ironhide won’t take it seriously unless Mirage shows up. Like that’s gonna happen, right?
Starscream puts on a show for the press to talk about what a Big Damn Hero he is to reunite Cybertron with Caminus, and how Cybertron will of course come to their aid in the wake of Menasor’s rampage. Of course it’s Starscream and you can’t trust him, but Optimus wants to help the Camiens so he’s going along with it. The rest of the issue shifts between the perspectives of those parties and a few more, setting up our chess pieces for the second half of Combiner Wars.
Right away I have to grumble a bit. In the middle of a heavily-promoted six-part crossover event, we have an entire issue of talking heads. There is absolutely no action to be had here. While I actually quite enjoyed the issue, it doesn’t give a lot of momentum to the overall arc and lacks the impact of the blockbuster that Combiner Wars was so often billed as.
But I digress and reiterate that this was a good issue. If you’re going to do an issue of talking heads then you need to make it worthwhile, and Barber does it magnificently here. There is so much subterfuge and subtext going on with so many characters that I’m still not sure I’ve unpacked it all. Be prepared to love the “Decepticon disaster relief team” too.
One of my favorite parts is the way Optimus, now vested with a measure of authority, realizes he needs to make the effort to work with Starscream when he can and not storm around enraged all the time like he’s been doing–followed by showing outright contempt to the Camiens (the ones who did said vesting) at the suggestion that he shouldn’t help with the relief efforts. It’s a very Optimus Prime moment and exactly the sort of thing I’ve been missing from him in the first two parts.
Ramondelli’s art lends itself surprisingly well to this issue. He gives Caminus a lot of grittiness that compliments Barber’s scheming characters very well, although at times it does get a little difficult to tell the difference between Cybertron and Caminus. His art’s really growing on me as I perceive him getting out of his comfort zone, using more color and less reliance on shadow (although perhaps he’s also just doing more daylight scenes lately). The usual portrayal of Transformers is pristine and “factory-fresh” and that’s great, but sometimes Ramondelli’s scratched and dented and dirty Transformers really cue up a necessary visual reminder that these are living beings on a mess of a planet.
So here we are, halfway through the Combiner Wars. It hasn’t been what I expected so far, but I’m enjoying it. It also looks like the second half is going to deliver a lot of what I expected, and I’m looking forward to that!
“It’s worse than the cell you kept me in.”
“Well, yeah. It’s a secret prison. You don’t make those nicer than the regular ones.”
–Scoop doesn’t approve of Starscream’s interior design skills.