IDW Transformers Optimus Prime #6 Review

Greetings! I’m back! And so is IDW’s ongoing Optimus Prime series! The war between Optimus Prime’s colonists on Earth and the invading Junkion/Sharkticon army reaches its final stages.

Thoughts and Synopsis

Four million years ago Orion Pax learnt that Soundwave had lied to him. The Decepticons had been behind the gun-running operation after all. This proves to be Pax’s breaking point and all of the sympathy he had for the Decepticon movement seems to vanish. This helped explain why Orion went from being an idealistic cop to being a hardened enforcer of Zeta Prime in Autocracy.
It also came out of nowhere. This issue attempts to salvage that reveal. The story of Orion’s embittering is juxtaposed against his present situation as Optimus Prime. Prime is faced with an enemy that seems to have crossed many moral event horizons. He has them where he wants them. Despite this he chooses to put his gun down and offer the Junkions and the rebelling Sharkticons a chance at peace.
This works as an effective use of the two narratives, but it’s far from perfect. Optimus seems farm more comfortable in his role as Prime. He goes on about what being a Prime means, that it means knowing what it takes to preserve life. He knows he needs to chose peace now. Four million years ago he had chosen war. The problems inherent in that sentiment have been there since the current creative team chose to flesh out the early egalitarian roots of the Decepticon movement. We have finally reached a point where we must address them.

Final Thoughts

This issue bothered me. It is my opinion that Optimus Prime was not wrong to chose war four million years ago. Continuity is a tricky thing in decade-long comic franchises with multiple authors and titles, but nothing suggests the Decepticons were as noble as Prime seems to think they were. Optimus Prime chose to restart the war because Megatron had betrayed him, and had used his grab for power as a means to establish his own brutal dictatorship.
The problem with the Barber/Roberts soft reboot of the continuity was that they made the Decepticons too right. Every Prime prior to Optimus was retconned into being a tyrant of some kind. Previously only Nova was known to be a “fallen” Prime. Megatron went from being an extremist who addressed real social issues with disproportionate violence to being a pacifist and idealist at least partially corrupted by Autobot malice.
These plot points have been stressed and explored, and yet they still need to fit the narrative that Barber himself established back when RiD first launched alongside MtMtE. That narrative was that the Decepticons may have had a point, but the lust for power and violence corrupted them beyond saving. It’s gotten to the point where that doesn’t work.
IDW has invested so much in making the Decepticons sympathetic that previously established IDW canon needs to be retconned by a moralizing Optimus Prime. Even the flashback bits struggle with it in this issue. Barber wants past Soundwave to be both an idealist and a liar who deceived a sympathetic Orion about weapon smuggling. A longer book focused on just that story could maybe make it work, but there isn’t time or room to do it here.
All the positive hallmarks of this series are present. The art by Kei Zama is as gorgeous as it’s ever been. Barber’s handling of GI Joe remains unobtrusive and natural. And the end point of the story is intriguing in the best ways. I want to know what happens next. It’s just that the Decepticon issue is going to need to be addressed sooner or later. The connection between the sympathetic backstory and the brutal genocidal army have been ignored because the latter invalidates the former. And Barber doesn’t want to do that. He’ll have to find a way to make it fit eventually though. I hope for the best.
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