SPOILER Review: Optimus Prime #18

Optimus Prime #18 was released today, and it’s an issue that everyone’s talking about! Read on for our review, but beware of MAJOR spoilers for Optimus Prime #17!

Optimus Prime #18

“The Falling, Interlude: The First Who Was Named”

Written by John Barber, Art by Sara Pitre-Durocher & Livio Ramondelli, Colors by Josh Burcham, Letters by Tom B. Long

Have you read Optimus Prime #17 yet? No? Go read it now. We’re not kidding.

Have you read it now? Are you sure?

Really sure? Okay, let’s proceed.
Optimus Prime #17 ended on a cliffhanger that was years in the making: Onyx Prime, master of beasts and looming threat of the past few years, is Shockwave! But how? That question is what Optimus Prime #18 exists to answer.

Following a brief bookend, in which the triumphant Shockwave gloats over the captive Optimus Prime, our arch villain launches into explaining just how he went from vanishing into a singularity to unveiling himself as one of the Thirteen Primes. It’s quite the story, to say the least.
Optimus Prime #18 sees John Barber flex his continuity-wrangling muscles like never before, revealing how Shockwave fell back in time and assumed the Onyx identity. Tying together flashbacks going all the way back to Robots in Disguise #30, we finally learn the unexpurgated history of the IDW Thirteen, a tale which is not quite as familiar as we had been led to believe. We knew the stories, but now we know the truth! As the issue progresses, a grand time-loop is unveiled, as Shockwave sets in motion his own past, laying the groundwork for plans he has already carried out and shaping the face of Cybertronian civilization.
Before these revelations, “The Falling” was simply the finale to Optimus Prime, to the third “season” of John Barber’s Transformers comics. But it now becomes clear that we’re seeing a story six years in the making, and the start of a grand conclusion to every Transformers comic Barber has written in this continuity. And going beyond Barber’s tenure, even, it’s fitting that as we approach the end of this universe, we return to Shockwave, whose Regenesis machinations underpinned its earliest stories, written by Simon Furman.
Serving as an interlude to “The Falling”, this issue features guest artist in the form of Sara Pitre-Durocher and Livio Ramondelli. As previously seen in her pages for Optimus Prime #11, Pitre-Durocher employs heavier inks than her work on Till All Are One, in deference to the aesthetic established for this book by regular artist Kei Zama. Paired with regular colourist Josh Burcham’s colours, the bookend sequences of this issue feel nicely “on-brand” for the series, whilst still retaining Pitre-Durocher’s own unique style. Meanwhile, the main section of the issue sees Ramondelli returning to his regular duty as flashback artist for this series, and his moody visuals nicely contrast with the saturated modern-day scenes. His characteristic use of coloured lighting works to particularly good effect here, clearly delineating different scenes during the flashbacks’ break-neck ride through history.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this issue is what it doesn’t show us. The implications that the grand time loop has for this universe are vast and mind-boggling – take a moment to sit and think, and you’ll see Shockwave’s fingerprints across all of history. Even the Autobot symbol itself is revealed as an ontological paradox. And furthermore, for all that this issue explains, we still have no answers as to what Shockwave’s plans in the present day are. Why has his beast army been raiding planets around the galaxy? What is his connection to the dead world of Antilla? What is his end-game on Cybertron? These questions, and more, will have to wait, but whatever the answers may be, “The Falling” has already placed itself among the greatest of Transformers comic stories.

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