Spoiler-Free Review: Optimus Prime #19

Out today is Optimus Prime #19, continuing the climactic tale of “The Falling” with a spotlight on Starscream. Read on for our spoiler-free review of the issue!

Check out our review below, and then once you’ve read the issue, head over to the Allspark Forums to discuss it with other fans!

Optimus Prime #19

“The Falling, Chapter 4: The Hallowing”

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

Returning from both its flashback interlude and a length real-world delay between issues, Optimus Prime #19 launches back into the story of “The Falling” with a spotlight on Starscream. While each main chapter of this story has focused on a different character, this issue perhaps dives deeper on its subject than any of the others. The customary flashback opening sequence is “narrated” by Starscream’s autobiography, its words painting a very different picture of the Seeker commander to the true events portrayed on panel.

As issue #19 continues, we see Starscream and the other players around Iacon begin to react as Shockwave, née Onyx Prime, continues to put his enigmatic plan into motion. We check in with Arcee – who gets in an all-time-classic quote – and the other Autobots, but the real meat of the issue remains with Starscream. The Seeker has been on an interesting trajectory of late: after seeing his “true self”, he initially sought to make amends for his actions, but by the start of “The Falling” had begun slipping, wallowing gleefully in his newfound lack of responsibility and convincing himself that he wasn’t such a bad leader after all…

Here, we see Starscream fully relapse, practically cackling as he imagines a grand new destiny for himself. Some readers may be uncomfortable with the seeming undoing of his development in the pages of Till All Are One, but ultimately, this move feels true to Starscream as a character. If you were to make a list of characters likely to make a success of turning their life around on the very first try, Starscream would probably be at the bottom! And this definitely isn’t just an unimaginative regression to a stock Starscream, because things soon come falling down around him, leaving the Seeker’s character immediately open for further development.
Starscream’s emotional journey through this issue is supported fantastically by the talents of Sara Pitre-Durocher: there could be no better guest artist for this issue than the former Till All Are One creative, whose familiarity with the character pays off in spades, leading to a delightful display of facial expressions and body language from the Seeker. As with her bookends last issue, Pitre-Durocher employs heavier inks in keeping with regular artist Kei Zama’s style, and paired with regular colorist Josh Burcham – who delivers excellently as always – you’re never distracted from the story by the guest art.
As “The Falling” enters its final stretch, writer John Barber’s storytelling continues to deftly balance character and plot, each serving to advance the other. Whilst the past two issues were perhaps defined by their plot revelations, #19 swings the focus back towards character, to great effect. But back on the plot front, Shockwave’s machinations have still yet to be fully unveiled, and the two remaining chapters of this story – the status of which as a prelude to Unicron becomes ever clearer – promise to provide a thrilling conclusion to this rollercoaster ride. There’s much we know about what’s to come – for instance, our spotlight character for next issue has already been revealed by covers as the long-dead Bumblebee! – but there’s just as much that’s a total mystery. “The Falling” has yet to disappoint, and the rest of the story can’t come soon enough!