Lost Light #25 – Spoiler-Free Review and Retrospective
The final issue of the oft-controversial Lost Light is out today, and to commemorate it, the Allspark’s staff are giving their opinions with a retrospective of James Roberts’ Transformers saga. Read on to hear our thoughts!
Be aware, however, that Lost Light #25 contains minor spoilers for the post-Unicron status quo, including the status of some characters.
Lost Light #25
Writer: James Roberts | Line-Artist: Jack Lawrence
Colorist: Joana Lafuente | Letterer: Tom B. Long
I’ve made no secret of my disappointment with the latter half of the series I like to refer to as More than Loses the Light. Once my absolute favourite comic of all time and the pinnacle of Transformers media, since around issue 40 of MTMTE it’s been on a downward slide; barring some brief returns to form, the series has been nothing but a headache for me recently, culminating in “Crucible”: a painfully pedestrian finale that trudges dutifully through a series of “shocking reveals” that have absolutely no meaningful impact on the incredibly bland plot or the characters I once loved. With that in mind, I wasn’t expecting Lost Light #25 to impress me.
Imagine my shock, then, that this issue made me remember what I loved so much about MTMTE in the first place. It managed to avoid much of what has been disappointing me from James Roberts’ writing in recent years, sensibly avoiding the questions of “deep lore” in favour of the character writing that has always been the series’ strong suit, and the tone is suitably melancholic without going over the edge into full-blown “misery porn”; even the treatment of Megatron — which has been the source of some of my biggest criticisms of the comic — doesn’t offend too much, though it really would have been nice to see how he reached the point he’s at in here.
The issue isn’t flawless, of course. Megatron’s treatment is still a little too soft-handed for my liking, and the big conclusion — which tries to “have it both ways” — doesn’t really hit the mark, as clever and fitting as it is. Still, though, these are minor quibbles. On the whole, this issue just reminded me why I once loved these characters — and I suppose, still do.
After the rushed and frequently sterile climax that was “Crucible”, Lost Light #25 gets back to the series’ bread-and-butter of character writing. No more plot twists or explanations, just — as the saying goes — sad gay robots talking about their feelings. This feels like the conclusion the book wanted to have, as compared to the one it was obliged to have, and I’m glad that it’s going out doing what it does best.
Taken one page at a time, there’s a lot to appreciate in this issue, including some nice metafictional reflection on stories ending, and some touching moments that succinctly sum up how much some of these characters have changed since things begun. Some of these character send-offs feel more successful than others, however, with a few merely serving to remind me of my existing issues with their use by Roberts. Additionally, even with four extra pages, there simply isn’t space for some characters to get a proper final moment. Grimlock feels like a glaring example — while he was by no means a large presence in the MTMTE/LL story, I feel like his significance to this continuity as a whole should have perhaps earned him at least a brief wave goodbye.
Overall, these moments add up to a decidedly and deliberately bittersweet whole, which — despite a few contrasting bright spots — I can’t say I’m personally keen on. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the reader’s taste in endings, and there’s certainly an argument to be made that a partly melancholic conclusion is very appropriate for this frequently-tragic story. While it may not have pushed every button for me, it’s hard to disagree that Lost Light #25 is a fitting ending for this book.
My story is the same as many other readers: the dawn of MTMTE was a stunning revelation, a genuinely amazing explosion of engaging characters, clever plots and exactly the right kind of wacky nonsense. But those once-endearing Robertsian flourishes became tired and obnoxious. Was it him? Did he buy into the hype too much and become a bloated parody of himself? Did the editors give up on reining him in? Maybe it was my tolerance that changed rather than the quality of his writing. Either way, for the entire run of Lost Light a good issue was one that made me say “nothing in this book annoyed me”. Occasionally there was an issue that I actually enjoyed from beginning to end, but more often than not I was put off by the deafening wank of those tedious Roberts shenanigans. Intricate plots were stretched too thin, intriguing mysteries outstayed their welcome or dissolved in an unsatisfying climax. It just all became a bit exhausting.
One of my favourite things about the book was Autobot Megatron. While I know he was a divisive character, I couldn’t get enough. Every panel of Megs was a joy for me, even when surrounded by the absolute worst the book could be. I was hugely disappointed when he was written out, so his return in the final issues gave me some pleasure. I hope that those readers who despise the too-readily-forgiven tyrant can also find some solace here, with Megatron’s fate clearly designed to address some of those criticisms. It probably isn’t enough, but maybe it’s something.
The final state of affairs, half wishy-washy bollocks and half fun sci-fi genius, is very Roberts — mostly in the good way… it’s a bit daft, but maybe a fitting kind of daft. Ultimately while I haven’t always loved the book, the characters — and the Lost Light itself — will always be close to my heart, and to imagine that their journeys have ended entirely is just a bit too depressing. So indeed, they achieved something. Sometimes it was something dreadful, but at its peak it was among the best that Transformers fiction has to offer.
Aw, hell, Roberts. You got me.
I think I’m a relative rarity, in that of the two books that made up IDW’s “soft reboot” in 2012, I was always a bit more partial to John Barber’s contribution. That’s not to say I didn’t like James Roberts work or appreciate what it brought to the table. I think the Transformers franchise would be far worse off without Roberts’ contributions and he has written some indisputably all-time classic stories and characters. At times though, More Than Meets The Eye edged close to being a very quippy type of British sci-fi that I can’t stand where it is painfully clear that it’s very self-satisfied with how clever it thinks it is. But when More Than Meets the Eye was on, it was on.
The problem is, though, that when it rebranded itself as Lost Light, the book was never on anymore. After a ponderously long opening arc and a two issue storyline that offered a brief glimmer of hope by appealing to my nostalgia for the Simon Furman penned stories that kicked off the IDW Universe, the absolutely miserable “Mutineers” storyline damn near killed any enthusiasm I had left for this book. Everything after that was a meandering mess that I barely cared enough to keep up with. It wasn’t even annoyingly twee anymore. It was just a horribly, brutally dull shadow of its former self. And to make matters even worse, the Barber penned book I already preferred had started getting so much better. But Roberts, I think, is someone who possesses a strange talent to bring weak stories to strong conclusions. And that’s exactly what he’s accomplished here.
For as much of a slog as the preceding 24 issues of Lost Light have been, Issue #25 pitches all those problems of tedious lore, cheap shocks, and Flanderization and refocuses on what made MTMTE work to begin with. MTMTE’s cast of characters are arguably the strongest and among the most fully realized and entertaining ever seen in all of Transformers’ 35 year history. Lost Light #25 gives them room to breathe and be their best selves in a way they haven’t gotten to in forever. The timeline of the story jumps around a bit, letting us join the Crusadercons as they commemorate their quest’s end sometime after the events of Transformers: Unicron have transpired (a small spoiler warning for that series is warranted, but there’s nothing story ruining) and as they come together quite some time later to mourn the passing of one of their own. These far future sections, where we get tantalizingly small tastes of what became of Rodimus and company after their journey came to an end, are the highlight of the story and everyone’s fates, for good and for ill, all feel very appropriate.
As I saw characters exchange goodbyes and learned of the bittersweet fates they’d been given off panel, I felt emotional attachments stir within me that I didn’t even know I still had for the Lost Lighters. These are characters I genuinely cared about, and still do I suppose. Seeing the successes and failures they make with their lives now that there’s no war or grand adventure to focus on was incredibly moving. Even the book’s final “clever trick” I couldn’t be too bothered by, even if it does result in a bit of trying to have things both ways. After two years of frustrating comics, it was nice to have the old MTMTE back for one last ride.
When MTMTE started, I was hooked by the idea of a sprawling space saga that would take disparate bunch of big—and small—name misfit Transformers and send them off into the universe in search of adventure, hijinks and legends.
And to begin with, it was.
The detours and hijinks the crew if the Lost Light got dragged into built up some great characters, or shone the spotlight on them in new and fun ways. Except the detours kept coming and coming, and coming, until the Lost Light’s “quest” seemed to end as the side story to the quirky hijinks. As I read on, however, it felt like Roberts was better at potentially intriguing setups than satisfying conclusions, preferring to rely on quirky comedy, heavy feels, fakeouts, cliffhangers and tragedy — in some cases, all at the same time. Many of the arcs in Lost Light had great beginnings, but petered out very quickly into big, sweeping, not really answers.
Issue 25 focusing on the characters, so as to provide a good (if bittersweet) farewell to the misfit band of heroes, did manage to pull at the heartstrings a bit. While I won’t lie that I’m not a big fan of bittersweet endings and would have preferred something happier, it’s fitting, and showcases the strongest part of MTMTE/Lost Light: its characters.
Unlike many others, I never really fell out of love with MTMTE/Lost Light. That’s not to say I haven’t had my fair share of issues with many issues and story arcs—particularly since the re-title. But as critical as I’ve been of it lately, particularly during the final story arc, I do feel that Roberts absolutely stuck the landing. With the marathon session of checking off every unresolved plot point and mystery coming to its final conclusion last issue, this one gets to slow down and do what this series does best—character writing.
Bittersweet, thoughtful, and simultaneously both conclusive and open-ended, this was exactly the finale I was hoping for. For me, the non-linear way the issue unfolded worked very effectively; it let a lot of the character send-offs and reveals to carry the weight they needed without the hopeful ending lessening their impact. We get to see just what the Lost Light meant to the cast, and how they look back on it now that it’s a chapter of their life that’s behind them. It feels very much feels like a metafictional parallel to what the long-time fans of this comic will be feeling as they read it. My longtime worry concerning justice for Megatron’s victims was quelled, and as much as I expect to see complaints about how this issue has it both ways, I don’t feel the least bit cheated; given the in-story precedent it’s an ending that feels earned. The continuing adventures of the loveable misfits of the Lost Light has meant a great deal to many fans—many of which will have a very hard time letting go—and as we read about the characters coming to terms with the vacuum its absence has left in their lives, like them, we too need that flicker of hope that in some way it never ends. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect way to impart that hope to the readers as Roberts passes the torch.
May the light never truly be lost.
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