Transformers #50 Review!

All Hail Optimus, Part 1: Once Upon A Time On Earth
Written by John Barber, Art by Andrew Griffith
Barber starts this saga off with an interesting visual: Optimus literally comes storming in and plants his flag–traditionally the sign of a conqueror–yet claims to bring freedom. There are a lot of blatant and subtle moments like that throughout the issue, and while this initial moment is a bit heavy-handed, I really liked it.
If I may be allowed one complaint though, this issue is also really confusing. There are no less than half a dozen splinter groups in this issue, often mixed groups of Autobots AND Decepticons, with several of them hitting the battlefield at the same time. Things get more condensed by the end, but we’re still left with at least four distinct groups. This is the sort of comic that must be read multiple times to catch everything. Thankfully it’s a good issue and I really enjoyed re-reading it. Still though, I have no doubts that Barber wrote it while referring to a “serial killer wall” that maps out all the characters and their conspiracies.
Unfortunately, I’m not convinced Griffith quite keeps up. For example, the spacebridge evacuation isn’t very clear–Ironhide is holding Brawl after the “mindbomb” while the spacebridge is off, two panels later Aileron goes through the apparently just-activated spacebridge to find Brawl and Ironhide already on the other side (and in the middle of a fight). The time elapsed just doesn’t seem to work for the sequence of events. Please note that I’m not saying Griffith is doing bad work, just that he stumbles a little during the marathon that Barber has him doing.
The “New Worlds Order” backup story feels like it really should have been its own issue. Before I’m even done digesting AHO’s kickoff, I turn the page and find myself smack in the middle of the kickoff’s aftermath. While it was a great sidebar, I really would have liked the main story to get more of its own space. I realize I’m dangerously close to complaining about “compressed” storytelling here, but I just keep coming back to the confusion I felt in reading some of these sequences and a cast that is in the triple digits. I would have rather had the backup expanded into issue 51 and these pages were reclaimed to let the main plot spread out a little more.
I’ll say again though that I’m not truly bothered by this. I wouldn’t want every issue to be his packed, but an issue that needs to be read multiple times to fully understand (and is actually good enough to support multiple readings) is a great way to begin a saga.
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