Bumblebee: Win if you Dare OGN review

Out Wednesday 12th September is the first ever Transformers original graphic novel, Bumblebee: Win if you Dare, from IDW Publishing. For our review of this Generation 1-inspired tale, read on!

Transformers: Bumblebee: Win if you Dare OGN review
Writing: James Asmus | Art: Marcelo Ferreira and Áthila Fabbio
Colors: Valentina Pinto | Letters and design: Tom B. Long | Cover Art: Nicoletta Baldari
Edits: David Mariotte, Justin Eisinger, and Alonzo Simon

In recent years, as the comics industry and direct market have continued to shrink and struggle to attract new readers, one corner has shown a surprising degree of growth – the book market, with trade paperbacks and graphic novels. Titles like Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Iceman and Ms Marvel have all seen a lot of success in the book market despite relatively unimpressive direct market sales. IDW’s first foray into the original graphic novel field, Bumblebee: Win if You Dare, is a self-contained story written by James Asmus (Gambit, Quantum and Woody) and illustrated by Marcelo Ferreira (Back to the Future, Angry Birds Transformers), written for younger readers.

The aesthetics and world of Win if you Dare are rooted heavily in the “Generation 1” Transformers cartoon, featuring jazzed-up versions of the original character models and the Autobots operating out of the cartoon’s Ark – with the notable outlier of Windblade, who, in keeping with Hasbro’s recent efforts to make her a major legacy character and their premier female Autobot, has been folded into this otherwise heavily 80s-inspired story. Personally, I’m conflicted about this choice; while I like Windblade well enough, and in principle like the idea of retroactively introducing later characters to classic settings, I don’t think she’s interesting or notable enough to be the only later character retrofitted like that.
The story is centered on the eponymous kid-friendly little brother of the Autobots, who – following an injury that took him out of field work – feels a determination to prove himself as a valued member of the team. While this need to prove himself was a big part of Bumblebee’s original character bio – and, consequently, the G1 Marvel comics – it never really came up in the cartoon that the graphic novel is based so heavily on, but the additional context of his injury stops it from particularly feeling out of place.

Win if you Dare has a fairly simple, if well-executed plot: Bumblebee meets a new human friend who’s been caught up in a Decepticon scheme, and tries to help him with his personal life while stopping the evil plot. Mateo, Bee’s new buddy, is a likeable and solidly-characterised deuteragonist, and his arc ties in nicely with Bumblebee’s need to focus on his own strengths and accept himself, but the story definitely doesn’t reach the heights of some of the high-concept or high-drama issues IDW has released in recent years, especially for older readers who want something more substantial.

Ferreira’s art pairs nicely with Pinto’s colors, creating a story with a distinct, stylized look – though the exaggerated expressions of Ferreira’s characters frequently look somewhat goofy on the relatively simple faces of the Autobots. The panelling and lettering, too, are executed with a stylish flair that adds to the lighthearted feel of the story.
Though Win if you Dare probably isn’t worth picking up for older readers, it’s a great story if you need a gift for a younger Transformers fan – especially if they enjoy the classic G1 cartoon!

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