Transformers: Windblade #6 Review!
Mairghread Scott, Writer • Corin Howell, Art • Thomas Deer, Colors
Anything Beast Wars gets attention from the fandom these days, and there’s a lot of conflict about how to do it. Some people want only stories that will fit into the existing closed framework of the show, while others want to see Beast Wars get treated with the same reinterpretation that seems to hit all the other incarnations of the brand. I think there’s a lot of potential in the way the concept has been worked into the IDW universe, but unfortunately I think there’s some problems here as well.
The pacing of recent issues just feels off. Two issues ago we had a slow buildup to a single Velocitron issue, and now we have a single Eukaris issue with no preamble at all. I know which one I would rather have had a second issue to introduce. Of course we will hopefully and ideally see much more of all of the planets later, but here and now there’s this feeling of being in a headlong rush to just get through them all. I don’t get the feeling of world-building (universe-building?), but rather of a creative team just dumping all the ideas they have and promising to sort it out later.
To be honest, I do trust this creative team to do that sorting. Scott obviously enjoys writing Windblade and Starscream, and I enjoy reading them. The Eukarans unfortunately don’t get too much personality in this issue; Blackarachnia has a whole new prophet-shamaness personality that steals a lot of the show. Dinobot (I’m curious if he’ll ever meet “the” Dinobots and if they’ll have words) is really the only other Eukaran who gets to shine, mostly because he overreacts to everything with seething anger. It doesn’t really feel like the old Dinobot, but that could change as we see more of him. At the same time, he’s actually not the old Dinobot, so maybe it doesn’t feel like him on purpose. Time will tell!
Although there were a few confusing panels in the climax, I continue to be impressed by Howell’s work. I really love how her style brings movement to the characters even during “talking head” moments, which is good because a comic that explores interplanetary politics is going to have a bit of that. She also adds some mechanical aspects to the beast modes rather than featuring purely organic ones, and I think it nicely updated the characters into the aesthetic of the book while still being subtle enough to not sacrifice the originals.
Story-wise, Eukaris does better than Devisiun, the Micromaster Combiner planet, which is made into an offscreen side adventure for Starscream. I feel a little cheated to not actually see him get to be a slimy politician without anyone to restrain him. I’m also confused about this introduction of the Micromaster Combiners, as some of them were in the Drift: Empire of Stone mini just a few months ago. They were portrayed as individual, regular-sized Transformers and their alt modes were faked to fit that. Not only that, but one of the Micromasters here is Vanquish, who was in–and DIED in–the Drift mini. I’m sure some crazy explanation will come along at some point, but it still doesn’t send the best message. It already seemed like the Empire of Stone mini was poorly-done and inconsequential, and the people playing in the same sandbox seem to agree—so why did IDW bother? Why not give us four more issues of the Windblade World Tour here instead?
Anyway, back to the story. I think it’s rather clever that our Beast Wars characters are the “beast-type” Transformers who worship Onyx Prime, because there’s the Onyx Primal character/figure and all that. It might be coincidental, but I’ll give credit anyway. I also think the idea of tribes rather than factions is a fantastic one: Scale Walkers (dinosaurs and reptiles, presumably), Wave Walkers (aquatic creatures), Cloud Walkers (flyers), and… Fur Walkers. I’m really not sure about the name on that last one. It just lacks a certain punch that the others have; it sounds more like a line of plush toys than a tribe of beast Transformers. I’m also not sure where insects would fit into this arrangement (or for that matter Blackarachnia, who is in the issue, or the Fuzors we caught a glimpse of previously).
Unfortunately, our mad dash to get to the recruitment of Eukaris means we never get to actually see this tribe idea in play. In fact, while the tribe concept theoretically allows for mixing and matching of the “on-package” factions and such, all of the Eukaran characters in this issue are nominally Maximals. This is also grating because it seems to partly be an outgrowth of forcing as many existing female characters as possible into the issue. While I wholeheartedly applaud the (creation and) inclusion of more female characters in Transformers and at the risk of offense, I just can’t believe that Manta Ray was included for any other reason. It’s certainly not because she already had a great established characterization or that Beast Wars was lacking in other aquatic animals. This is the first time IDW has touched Beast Wars in years and it’ll probably be a while before we see more of Eukaris; having a Happy Meal figure as one of the seven cameos left me feeling a bit short-changed.
The resolution of the story also left me a bit unsatisfied. If Starscream and Windblade just left Eukaris that seems like it would have solved the problem. Whether Chela would try to destroy the spacebridge either way isn’t covered, and the Eukarans seem to be doing okay and don’t really like the Cybertronians anyway. Blackarachnia says “the web” decreed that the Eukarans would lose their Titan and gain an alliance, so they just go along with this and are part of the council now. I mean… their protector-Titan was just murdered for doing his job, so now they’re going to hook up with the murderers, whom they don’t trust or want. Blackarachnia actually calls this a “benefit”, but I’m seeing a net loss here. There’s a lot of leaning on the faux-shamanism to make this work, to the point that it almost feels like an attempt to convince the reader as well as the other characters.
The upside to this is that we get the promise of more Tigatron and Airazor, and I will always happily accept that. I have to confess though that I’m confused even on this development. The point was made with the Devisiuns that each planet in the council gets a single vote, I guess one of them gets the vote and the other is there for moral support? Are they going to merge into Tigerhawk when voting? I suspect we’ll see them lean on the “vote as one” criteria that Windblade mentioned, but then it feels a bit like Moonracer is getting shafted on her voting input.
Ultimately, my criticisms almost entirely sum up as disappointment at not getting a lot more of this. I want to take some time unpacking these new worlds and getting to know the new casts, not dash madly from one to another. Again though, I do trust this team to indulge my desire for more as things progress. I think we’re speeding now so we can better enjoy the scenery later.