IDW Transformers: Optimus Prime #9 Review

Whatcha gonna do, brother? Whatcha gonna do when Jake “the Jackhammer” Jackson runs wild on you, brother? WHATCHAGONNADO?


Thoughts and Synopsis

Ahem. Sorry.
This issue is a masterful work. I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been rough on Barber before when it comes to some sloppy attempts to draw parallels between the Transformers narrative and contemporary social issues. He’s certainly improved his craft in that regard, but I think this might be the apex. The best example of a single Transformers comic issue attempting to tackle a complex social issue.
Think about that. James Roberts built up much of More Than Meets the Eye/Lost Light’s good will on the back of world building that wasn’t afraid to tackle contemporary issues like race, religion, and class. No disrespect to Mr. Roberts. His continued ability to do that is one reason why I look forward to his work each month. Barber simply hit a home run.
This issue is about Sideswipe. How the war affected him. How so much of what he knows is changing. We begin with him waking up. The positron core that was seemingly destroyed during the Junkion invasion has been repaired. Sideswipe’s injuries can be repaired. And yet…he finds himself unable to accept his new lease on life.
Sunstreaker didn’t even stick around to see if he recovered. Decepticons have a home now. A place on Cybertron side by side Autobots, neutrals, and colonists. Sideswipe doesn’t understand, or get it. He fought for the Senate. For Optimus Prime. He did these things because he saw that the Decepticons represented something rotten. He fought for his planet. The war is over, and the peace isn’t what he fought for.
Sideswipe needs to learn. Learn that the peace isn’t what he fought for, but it’s still good. That the enemy didn’t need to be defeated. Understanding worked to secure a peace just as stable. This is the story of Sideswipe not just coming to terms with a changed world. He needs to accept it.

Final Thoughts

This issue isn’t all serious. Sideswipe makes a legitimately funny crack about Optimus Prime needing to say everything in as grandiose a way as possible. There’s a funny dig at Sunstreaker’s vanity. Kei Zama embraces the chance to draw Sideswipe as he looked in the G2 Marvel comics. There’s even a 1986 movie line-drop that doesn’t feel forced!
In the grand scheme of things though? This book is about the struggles veterans face when returning home from war. How often the peace they won doesn’t resemble the world they were fighting for. War is a fundamentally transitive act. It rarely preserves anything intact. Veterans realizing that the lives and world they shed blood for, and watched friends die for, no longer exists is an issue that has been with us since man first raised a weapon against another man. It is a timeless issue. And it is a complex issue.
Barber only scratched the iceberg in this issue. I won’t pretend he did anything but that. Yet what he did write shows an understanding of the subject matter he was writing about. About the struggles of recognizing the war you fought didn’t preserve the world you fought for. And the importance of accepting that change as not necessarily a bad thing.
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