Spoiler-Free Review: Unicron #5

Out today is Unicron #5, the penultimate issue of the finale story to the IDW Transformers universe. Was it worth the wait? Read on for our spoiler-free review to find out!

The Transformers: Unicron #5

Main Story: Written by John Barber, Line-Art by Alex Milne, Colors by David Garcia Cruz

Backup Story: Written by Magdalene Visaggio, Line-Art by Fico Ossio, Colors by David Garcia Cruz

Letters by Tom B. Long and Curtis Fandango, Edits by David Mariotte

Jo: After a frustrating series of publishing delays, the penultimate issue of Transformers: Unicron is finally here, bringing the Uncreator inexorably towards the Earth of the Hasbro Universe. With all the delays, it risks disappointing – so, Callum, do you think it was worth the wait?
Callum: Absolutely! I’ve remarked previously on how nice it is that Unicron is a big finale event story that makes space for character-driven moments between the plot and spectacle, and issue #5 once again delivers on that. While things heat up towards the end, this is largely an issue about the calm before the storm. The final battle is about to begin, and everybody – everybody! – is ready to fight, giving Alex Milne plenty of chances to show off his prodigious skills with some huge crowd scenes. Jo, how did you like the literal army of guest stars assembled for this issue?

I’m honestly a little torn on it. While it’s obviously nice to see the rest of the Hasbro Universe shown up at all, the balance is tilted a little more in favor of Barber’s existing toybox rather than what other authors have contributed – though I won’t spoil too much, don’t expect to see G.I. Joe’s Spitfire or M.A.S.K.’s Matt Trakker join the big fight scenes. On top of that, there are a fair few human characters who don’t really look like they’ll get to do anything outside of being part of a crowd scene; it would’ve been nice to see a more varied cast battling with Shockwave’s Maximal army. Still, I can’t deny that what characters do show up are rendered beautifully in Alex Milne’s art, whether they’re part of a big splash page or just hanging in the background.
Yeah, I can see where you’re coming from here, and while on one hand I find it hard to begrudge Barber for sticking to his established Hasbro Universe cast, Unicron does find itself in the unique position of pulling double-duty as a conclusion to both Barber’s own ongoing stories and the universe as a whole. Regardless, as a fan of the writer’s previous crossover outings like Revolution and Revolutionaries, it’s fun to see cult-favourite characters from them get one last ride before the end. On that note, however, there will undoubtedly be readers for whom these non-Transformers will represent an unwanted intrusion rather than a welcome return. It’s an understandable viewpoint, but ultimately, with the final battle taking place on Earth, it would be inappropriate for the planet’s now-established host of native heroes to play no part in its defence.
Definitely – but while the human, Wraith and other cameos are nice, the Transformers are still pulling the majority of the weight. Much of this issue’s emotional core comes from Thundercracker, including the long-awaited Seeker reunion – bringing together the classic Decepticon jet trio who, if you can believe it, haven’t been together as one since All Hail Megatron! This is coupled with a nice quiet moment between Optimus Prime and Arcee, and a series of action-y setpieces – but as you said, this is definitely a more low-key issue, waiting for the big climax in the double-length finale.
That being said, things are already heating up by the end of this issue, with things really starting to take on an epic, everybody-against-the-universe feel. James Roberts has drawn comparisons between his “Crucible” finale story and Infinity War, but really, this is the Hasbro Universe’s answer to that! And on the topic of the wider universe, this issue sees what is presumably the last of Unicron’s backup stories, this time providing an epilogue for the Visionaries. The Transformers vs. Visionaries creative team of Magdalene Visaggio, Fico Ossio and David Garcia Cruz is reunited for the four-page stories, which serves to explain the current whereabouts of the Knights of the Magical Light. Jo, what were your thoughts on this backup strip?

I’ve got to be honest – I wasn’t much of a fan. Though I don’t want to go into too much detail, the villainous Darkling Lords never really came across as “well-intentioned extremists” as they were apparently intended to, and thus the baddies taking part in this optimistic, open ending for the Prysmosians along with the Spectral Knights rings a little hollow. On top of that, while I theoretically like the paradoxical “end state” for the Visionaries this backup gives us, it seems a bit of a shame that it seemingly precludes the Prysmosians having any role in the future of the Transformers and humanity beyond Unicron – and ultimately just serves to make Transformers vs Visionaries feel even more inconsequential than it did already.
Mm, whilst it’s nice to have some resolution to the Visionaries’ story, it feels a little… off in the same way that the original mini-series felt slightly confused as to its overarching message, and definitely reinforces their status as an odd addendum to this universe rather than an integral part. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see one last strip from Fico Ossio, an artist who’s been a personal highlight of the Hasbro Universe run for me, and imbues every character with rich expressiveness.
With one – albeit double-length – issue remaining in this mini-series, do you think we’re on track for a clean landing, Jo? Any hopes for the conclusion?
While I’m a little curious as to whether that issue, together with the remaining two issues of Optimus Prime, will be able to tie up all the hanging worldbuilding threads and major arcs, I have no doubts as to Barber’s ability to deliver a thematically and narratively satisfying finale – not just to Unicron, but to the whole IDW Transformers universe. With everything coming to its climax, I can barely wait to see how Barber concludes his story – though, considering what we know of art delays from Alex Milne, we may have to wait a while yet.

What did you think of Unicron #5? Head over to the Allspark Forums to share your thoughts with other fans, or join our Discord server and head to the #tf-spoilers channel!