The Transformers franchise arguably feels like it is on the verge of a renaissance, with Bumblebee stripping away previous preconceived notions and bringing the iconic fictional world back to its roots. Transformers #1, which hits comic stores today, continues a version of the kind of reboot seen in Bumblebee -- a prequel that feels wholly fitting, blending together Gen-1 nostalgia and fresh storytelling with unique ease.
Taking place before the war between Autobots and the Decepticons, the issue follows an ensemble of characters -- some iconic, and some relatively new -- through their life on Cybertron. But as the story goes on, it becomes clear that there's something more sinister emerging from the shadows, and that it could impact the Transformers' lives as they know it.
The issue bounces back and forth from a few different tones and moods, but rarely loses sight of itself in the process. The main story has all the makings of a great adventure while other set pieces come across as a surprisingly gripping political drama. There's an interesting sort of reverence that this issue has for the larger Transformers canon, to the point where you have echoes of the future events that everyone is familiar with to some degree, but you also can feel that they're headed towards some sort of new narrative territory.
Much of this feeling comes through in how Brian Ruckley presents the issue's characters, with the portrayals coming across as both lived-in and rather fresh. Optimus Prime as everyone knows him might still be in a sort of proto stage -- especially since he's still referred to as Orion Pax -- but you can easily tell the great leader that he's going to become. And there's a delightful sort of twist on Bumblebee, with him taking on a more weathered mentor role than his most recent film portrayal. The issue has several other standouts as well, including Windblade and new character Rubble, the latter of whom serves as a rather endearing audience proxy.
Angel Hernandez and Cachét Whitman share the artist duties in this issue, creating visuals that feel just different enough from each other without being too distracting. Admittedly, some panels are a little overwhelming to look at, but they are largely outnumbered by panels and pages that have something visually interesting going on. Both do a great job of making the Autobots so emotive, with certain moments between characters exhibiting an impressive amount of facial expression.
The colors from Joana Lafuente helps elevate the issue's visuals, evoking that nostalgic design of the Transformers cartoon while also keeping things incredibly modern. The backgrounds in particular are filled with gradients that are wonderful to look at, and in almost every panel, each character is given a distinct color palette.
Tom B. Long's lettering strikes an appropriate tone, with an overall typeface that fits both the political diatribes and quippy one-liners. The way sound effects are displayed in the issue stands out as well, as many of the onomatopoeias fit into the world of the issue in a charming way.
Whether you're a die-hard fan of the Transformers franchise, a cynic who misses what the characters used to be, or a newbie wanting to dive into the world, there's something in Transformers #1 for you. The debut issue is unbelievably accessible, crafting a reboot that has quite a lot of brevity, while also exuding a ton of charm and fun. With expressive visuals and a promising narrative, Transformers #1 captures the magic of what the franchise can be.
Published by IDW Publishing
On March 13, 2019
Written by Brian Ruckley
Art by Angel Hernandez and Cachét Whitman
Colors by Joana Lafuente
Letters by Tom B. Long