SPOILER Review – Lost Light #21

Out tomorrow is Transformers: Lost Light #21, continuing the finale story, Crucible. Read on for our SPOILER review from Allspark staff Jo and Callum!

Lost Light #21

Writer: James Roberts | Line-Artist: Jack Lawrence

Colorist: Joana Lafuente | Letterer: Tom B. Long

JO: So. I don’t think either of us have been huge fans of Lost Light – a lot of the “spark” that early MTMTE had seems to be just gone, at this point. And yet, the past couple of issues showed some promise – so what were you hoping for or expecting from this issue, Callum?

CALLUM: We’d known from the solicitations that this was going to be the one that finally revealed the Grand Architect’s identity, so I think I ultimately just wanted to be surprised! It’s been one of the book’s key mysteries, stretching back nearly three years now, and after the somewhat perfunctory reveal of Cyberutopia in issue #18, I was kind of hoping for something with a bit more punch – something to rev things up and, if I’m honest, bring back some of my lost enthusiasm for this series. Things… did not exactly pan out that way.
I was so, so hopeful. I wanted something that would rival the Onyx Prime reveal from over in Optimus Prime – and, for a brief moment, I thought I’d got it. Ever since I read a certain crack theory about the Grand Architect’s identity, I desperately wanted it to be true, and when we first saw our villain in silhouette in this issue, I managed to fool myself into thinking it was – a mistake only aided by my skipping to the last page, which seemed to confirm my theory.
But, no. As much as I would have loved the twist of the Grand Architect being Megatron – something that would have revitalised my interest in the plot of the series – we didn’t get it. And, in fact, the actual identity of our villain was perhaps the least interesting thing possible, to the extent that I think it’s completely destroyed what vestiges of attachment I had to Lost Light!
The Grand Architect reveal honestly just confuses me – not in a “how does this make sense?”, but in a “this barely feels like a reveal” way. We spend the issue building up to the big moment, with silhouettes and shadows teasing us, and then…! It’s Pharma. The guy who (along with Froid and Sunder) had been incredibly conspicuous in his absence from “Crucible” so far, and who in fact appeared in the checklist of Things To Expect In The Finale which Drift’s issue #1 vision presented us with. And not only is this extensively-hyped reveal of a guy we were expecting to turn up anyway, it… it doesn’t really mean anything.
If you look at previous reveals in IDW’s Transformers stories, the ones that universally blew people away, it’s because (at least in part) they made us recontextualise things that had come before. The reveal that Orion Pax’s senator friend was Shockwave. The reveal that Onyx Prime was, uh, also Shockwave. They weren’t just surprising, but also changed how we viewed past stories, cast new light on previous events. The reveal that Pharma is the Grand Architect? You just kind of nod your head and say “I see.”

It’s such a dull choice – and it’s not helped that the “reveal” doesn’t actually make it obvious that Pharma’s the Grand Architect at all! On my first reading, I thought “Oh, and I guess Pharma’s here for some reason”. I actually needed you to point it out to me that his dialogue indicated he was the Architect.
The other “big reveal” in this issue isn’t much better. We all knew Megatron was coming back in some shape or form, but the fact that he shows up as “the cavalry” to oppose the villains just punctuates how disappointing and by-the-numbers this issue was.
Yeah, it’s another case of “this isn’t surprising because we all knew he was coming back”, and that’s not even the only way this reveal falls flat! The “five Cybertrons” were teased five whole years ago during “Remain in Light”… and (barring any additional arrivals through the portal) they’ve turned out to simply be a plot device for bringing Megatron back for the finale! This feels particularly odd in that Roberts has claimed that this finale is essentially the same one he always wanted to tell, and yet the Grand Architect’s Grand Scheme revolves around a character whose addition to the series was not always planned… The fact that said scheme is the result of a comedic misunderstanding is the cherry on the cake.
Yeah, I feel like there has to be more to the finale than “Megatron vs Pharma”, because there’s no possible way that… well, that ANY of what we’ve seen so far could have been the planned finale. And yet… I’m so incredibly tired of fakeouts and twists, you know? We’ve either got an incredibly boring twist or a double-twist that’s going to get revealed to be false, and I’m not looking forward to either possibility.

Now, despite my distaste for the mytharc stuff, I did really like a lot of the character moments in this issue – mostly, the ones about Rodimus. “Obviously you’re forgiven” and “all of us or none of us” exemplify our hero’s compassionate side (seen far too rarely in Lost Light in favour of making “Rodimus is a selfish shallow jerk” jokes), and metalworkers Anode and Swerve being able to “taste” the age of a planet is a lovely bit of conceptual worldbuilding like that seen in early MTMTE – not to mention Froid’s dialogue continuing to be horribly kinky. Still, though, none of that is enough to make up for the massive letdown of the big twists of this issue, which have sapped all interest I had in the MTMTE mytharc.
I’d definitely agree that, for what it’s worth, the characters-being-characters material in this issue is pretty good! In a more routine story, those kinds of moments might well have been able to prop up a weaker plot, but now that we’re in the end game, when we’re supposed to be getting payoff for a six-year story, it just doesn’t cut it.
On a more positive note, many of these smaller character moments are sold excellently by the art team of Jack Lawrence and Joana Lafuente, with Lawrence returning for his first issue in this seven-part finale. Facial expressions and body language do a great job of saying just as much as the dialogue, although some of the less-intimate scenes in the issue, of outer-space goings-on, do perhap suffer from a lack of scale at times.
Agreed on that front, definitely – Lawrence’s art remains magnificently expressive, with characters like Scorponok and Rodimus making some excellent faces.
There are a couple of aspects of the plot that I’m still interested in – we still don’t know the relevance of Rung’s altmode or the Magnificence, and I admit that I’m curious about that fusion cannon on Megatron’s arm – but on the whole, I think this issue may have done more to sap me of my enjoyment of Lost Light than any other issue. With only four issues to go, I’m not sure that it can turn itself around for me.
As you said, it’s possible some of this issue’s reveals may turn out to be fake-outs ahead of more interesting answers, but I’m definitely now beyond the point where I’m willing to this comic the benefit of the doubt. I’m still curious, in perhaps a detached sense, to see where it all ends up, but I really don’t feel any great attachment to this story anymore. It’s a pity that this once-revolutionary book is coming to such a by-the-books end, but at this point I really can’t offer more to that than a shrug.

Do you agree with our assessment of the big reveal? Share your thoughts in our forums or on our Discord server!