IDW TRANSFORMERS GALAXIES #1 “Constructicons Rising” Spoiler-Free Review!

They’re green. They turn into diggers and stuff. They all stand on each others’ shoulders and turn into a big bloke. We all know the Constructicons, plural – but in their debut issue of IDW Publishing’s brand-new anthology, Tyler Bleszinski and Livio Ramondelli lay the foundation for a tale which will finally let us tell them apart. We’ve been provided with a review copy of Galaxies #1 in advance of its release on September 25th, 2019, and wadapan’s taken a cheeky look at what lies ahead…

Transformers: Galaxies #1

“Constructicons Rising”

Writing: Tyler Bleszinski | Art: Livio Ramondelli | Letters: Tom B. Long | Edits: David Mariotte & Tom Waltz

When the announcement for Galaxies first broke, there was a sense of vertigo to it: over the last six months Brian Ruckley has been crafting one of the most imaginative Transformers universes we’ve seen this decade, and I felt trepidation at the idea of other writers snatching up his shiny new toys (or, well, toy-inspired narrative concepts). At the same time, however, the general impression I’ve had from the fandom at large is that some people have effectively checked out of the ongoing – an attitude which I don’t share, but do understand; though I’m still enjoying the book, it’s shaken out to be something with much less pace and focus than I’d hoped in my review for its first issue. Ruckley’s work reads better the more of it you can read in a single sitting, and even the comparatively brisk biweekly schedule has proven a little too slow for many, so I’m a little worried that the new monthly schedule accommodating Galaxies will do the ongoing no favours.
With all this in mind, it is with great pleasure that I can report that “Constructicons Rising” is shaping up to be every bit the worthy companion to the ongoing, and every bit the worthy successor to IDW’s own long-departed Spotlight series. Its connections to Ruckley’s narrative are tastefully done: few enough that the story is completely accessible to those who haven’t been following along (indeed, at a very strong squint, you might be forgiven for thinking this to be a prequel to the Sunbow cartoon or IDW’s last continuity), but not so sparse as to leave the story feeling inconsequential.

I was initially very bewildered to learn that the opening arc of Galaxies would be written seemingly not by an established writer – nor even a name we’ve seen before in proximity with Transformers – but rather by a founder of Vox Media. From the moment I saw Tyler Bleszinski talk about the Constructicons, however, it became clear that IDW had somehow found themselves the team’s biggest fan. It is that spark of passion which binds the pages of this issue – and it’s a very infectious kind of excitement.
Tonally, Bleszinski seems to be drawing much from the ongoing itself. It’s a story where people look at ruins and see foundations; a story about seeking an ideal which has drifted just beyond your reach. Unfortunately, this kind of rumination means that this issue is paced much like the first issue of the ongoing, which felt less like a no-holds-barred pilot episode and more like the first chapter of a novel. Like the first issue of the ongoing, however, it’s spared from dourness by its likeable cast, whose dialogue gives the story some well-needed levity.

Livio Ramondelli’s artwork has drawn criticism in the past, but I’ve long believed that this is merely a product of the fact that he’s often been brought on as a fill-in artist alongside other artists with much cleaner and brighter styles, on stories which – again, tonally – don’t suit his murky colouring and harsh linework. His work on Autocracy was, believe it or not, one of the things that drew me into Transformers comics in the first place, and I later found myself blown away by his art for John Barber’s Redemption of the Dinobots trilogy. “Constructicons Rising” might prove to be his best work yet; his lines are a little cleaner, his characters a little more expressive, and never before has a story so neatly suited his style. Tom B. Long’s lettering hardly bears mentioning at this point – he’s been with IDW since Infiltration and his work remains as considered as ever.
Though Ramondelli does a decent enough job of differentiating the Constructicons, I found myself identifying them more by their dialogue than by their kibble. It has long been my belief that the Transformers should be larger than life – both in stature and in characterisation – and it seems the Bleszinski shares that instinct, one rooted in the Tech Specs and introdumps present in the franchise since the beginning. One need only look at his twitter, where’s he’s been posting profiles for all the Constructicons and even his original ’80s Tech Specs for Scrapper!

Perhaps the most ubiquitous theme in Transformers is that of identity – factions, alt-modes, personalities – and while it’s hard to guess at the direction of this story, I’m hoping that it’ll lend lip-service to this theme as it unfolds. Aside from Scrapper and Hook, this issue’s leads, the remaining Constructicons are fairly one-note, if in an endearing sort of way. The story’s flashback sections take place not long after their forging, and this is neatly reflected in temperaments which feel more like those of children than adults; at turns overconfident and insecure.
In fact – and I might be reading a little too deeply into things here – it seems like the Constructicons are parts of a whole not just in that they are components of Devastator, but in that one might imagine each of them to represent some part of Bleszinski’s own self, maybe even in terms of his experience writing this very issue. He’s doing the heavy lifting, and the launch of Galaxies is on his shoulders. He melds disparate raw concepts into a new narrative. He wants to watch the explosions. He thinks he’s got what it takes. He’s scared he doesn’t. And he knows that the only way to do what needs to be done is by pulling these parts of himself together.

It’s that sincerity, that honesty, which makes this issue feel entertaining and meaningful. See, one way or another, it’s only the first in an arc, and there’s only so much it can do;  between all the interviews and press releases, there’s little in this issue which cannot be inferred from what’s been said (though, to be certain, it holds a few surprises, which I hope you’ll discover for yourself). The nonchronological storytelling compounds this effect, making it all too easy to predict how things progress between the flashback sequences and the present-day framing scenes. Once all the pieces are in place, however, you’re suddenly left with little idea how things will progress – this issue’s cliffhanger is a good one, and I hope that future issues see things go off the rails a little more.
All of this is my way of saying that, if you’ve ever looked at Devastator and thought “wow, cool robot”, there’ll definitely be something for you here.

Looking forward to Transformers: Galaxies? Let us know over on the forums or in our official Discord server, and be sure to pick up the first issue when it’s released on the 25th of September!