Spoiler-Free Review: Bumblebee Movie Prequel #1

In anticipation of the upcoming Bumblebee movie, this prequel comic miniseries reunites IDW Robots in Disguise creatives John Barber, Andrew Griffith, and Priscilla Tramontano for a spy adventure that teams our hero with the spies of Britain’s MI6. But does it shake things up with a new take, or fail to stir up excitement? Read on for our review!

Bumblebee Movie Prequel #1

Writer: John Barber | Line-Artist: Andrew Griffith

Colorist: Priscilla Tramontano | Letterer: Tom B. Long

Bumblebee Movie Prequel #1 opens with a tuxedo-wearing British superspy working for MI6 – with authorisation to use lethal force, of course – infiltrating the expansive secret base of a terrorist organisation with a silly name designed to fit an acronym, led by a portly bald German with a scar over his right eye, before following up a gadget-heavy action scene with a theme song singing the praises of its main character. In other words, it starts exactly as it means to go on.

While John Barber’s previous spy adventure Action Man brought the classic Bond film feel into the 21st century, the Bumblebee Movie Prequel is a full-on pastiche of 60s-era James Bond films, embracing their campy silliness in full sincerity while taking full advantage of the comedy potential of an anthropomorphic car being an employee of the Secret Intelligence Service. Slotting in nicely with Barber’s previous action-comedy jaunts like Revolutionaries (and, to a lesser extent, Angry Birds Transformers), this first issue serves up all the laughs and spy action you could want from a Transformers comic.

Griffith and Tramontano are on fine form here; Decepticon trio Runabout, Wildrider and Diabla look like they could have jumped off the screen, while Bumblebee’s redesign – jarring as his humanoid face may be to some – feels right at home with the other bodies we’ve seen him sport on the screen. While there will surely be some assuming that Diabla is the Plymouth GTX Decepticon from the set of Bumblebee (rumored to be a female Transformer and leader of the Decepticons in the film), her coloration is far more orange than the screen Decepticon’s deep red – and though the name Diabla has been used in Transformers before, it doesn’t quite feel fit for the main villain of a big screen event. (My current theory – John looked at the TFWiki and asked “what are some Transformers names that aren’t being used right now?”)

Despite Barber’s clear love for what he does, it does feel a little like he used up some of his spy agency characterisation on his previous work; while agents Reeve and Lux are likeable enough, their personalities aren’t as solidly defined and enjoyable as Action Man’s cast proved to be in his first issue. Bumblebee’s “voice” doesn’t quite feel appropriate for the character we’ve seen in the Transformers films – putting aside the fact that he’s very rarely spoken, of course! As well, the extended prologue takes up a big chunk of pagecount, and so the story proper only really gets going about halfway through. Still, when one’s biggest complaints are “it’s not quite as good as one of the best comics IDW has ever put out” and “I wish there was more of it”, you know that you’ve got a hit on your hands.
While it remains to be seen whether John will work his signature continuity magic to fit this miniseries into the IDW Transformers movie tie-in timeline, Movie Prequel #1 roars out the gate with a first issue that’s definitely worth picking up.