Transform and Roll Out with These Transformers Comics
Posted on June 9, 2023
by Eric S
Transformers is one of those franchises that really depends on your personal frame of reference—and there are many possible frames of reference. For kids who grew up in the ‘80s, the original cartoon and the stellar movie from 1986 are formative texts. In the ‘90s, you had Beast Wars(and the criminally underrated Beast Machines), and in the ‘00s you had the live-action Michael Bay films. And on top of those, various toylines and cartoons (both Japanese and American) have popped up along the way to further complicate things. Just as messy and overwhelming is the almost 40-year history of Transformers comics. There are the Marvel years, along with the equally good (maybe better?) Marvel UK comics, the Dreamwave years (that Pat Lee art still holds up), and the lengthy string of stellar books from IDW, which continue to be great to this day. With the release of the newest entry in the film series, Rise of the Beasts, now is the perfect time to explore some of the other exceptional Transformers media—you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Okay, now transform and roll out!
Remember Springer, the green Autobot from Transformers: The Movie who didn’t really do much? Turns out, he’sactually pretty cool. When the Autobots need the best of the best to go on a dangerous, go-for-broke mission, they call in The Wreckers, led by Springer and composed of fan-favorites like Topspin, Perceptor, and Ultra Magnus. Building on the events of Last Stand of the Wreckers, Sins of the Wreckers follows the feisty team of Cybertronians as they track down the missing Autobot, Prowl—which wouldn’t be much of a concern if he didn’t have information that could lead to war. Like many of the best Transformers books from IDW, Sins loves to dwell in morally gray areas, and paints its heroes with a sense of complexity not seen in the original animated series.
In a lot of ways, Simon Furman is to Transformers what Chris Claremont is to the X-Men—the definitive writer who has had an inordinate role in shaping the direction of the book for years to come. And while he’s written some great Transformers comics in recent years for IDW, it all started with Furman’s Marvel UK work. While all the Marvel UK stuff is fantastic, I’ll direct you to the “Target: 2006” storyline, which finds the Autobots in an uneasy alliance with their greatest foe, Megatron, after some mysterious Decepticons show up from the future. If you love Transformers: The Movie and the characters introduced in it, then “Target: 2006” is essential reading. Nerdy side note: comics in the UK often come out on a weekly basis, so a big shoutout to the artists, whose rough but readable and energetic aesthetic is even more impressive considering the quick turnaround.
I don’t think that words are sufficient to describe this particular crossover between Transformers and G.I.Joe. Tom Scioli does it all in this big, zany adventure, taking on writing, penciling, coloring (with crayons, even!) and lettering—it’s truly his book, through and through. While I don’t find this comic to be as emotionally engaging as some of the other Transformers comics from IDW, it more than makes up for it by being uncompromisingly weird and experimental—a feat made even stranger when considering Scioli is dealing with two highly popular commercial entities. Scioli plays with texture, page layouts, text, colors, and basically everything else to craft an over-the-top story that truly looks like nothing else you’ll find on the shelves. Bonus points for all the nerds who notice the ways that Scioli incorporates features from the Transformers and G.I.Joe action figures into the narrative.
If there’s one takeaway from this post, it’s that the IDW comics are really, really good—and this is where they start. Luckily, this collection contains some of the best mini-series and single issues from the early years of the publisher’s take on Transformers. It starts off, interestingly enough, with a Megatron origin mini-series, which recounts the villain rising up from poverty in the mines of Cybertron, complicating the simple good versus evil dynamic we’ve typically seen. This is followed by a series of excellent spotlight issues, the coolest of which is perhaps the one featuring the cold, calculated Shockwave, whose sinister machinations lead to a memorable showdown with the always awesome Dinobots.
One of the highlights of the Dreamwave era of Transformers comics, The War Within once again showcases the exceptional world-building and character-development of Simon Furman. Set during the early years of the Great War (or rather, the Third Cybertronian War, if you want to be precise), this comic is a retelling of Optimus Prime’s rise to leader of the Autobots. The War Within adds a surprising layer of depth and emotional realism to a time in Transformers history that had often been relatively glossed over. This is a great place to start if you’re a little apprehensive about reading a comic about transforming alien robots.
A sequel of sorts to James Roberts’ incredible More Than Meets the Eye book, Lost Light introduces a lot of cool ideas to the Transformers universe. Continuing the adventures of Rodimus Prime and his band of Autobot outcasts, Lost Light finds the heroes trapped in an alternate universe with alternate versions of Cybertronians. If the multiverse stuff doesn’t do much for you, this is the first Transformers comic to feature LBGTQIA+ characters: the blacksmith Anode and her partner, Lug. If you’ve enjoyed any of the Transformers comics put out in the last decade or so, then this celebration of Transformers history isa Save must-read.
While Simon Furman was knocking it out of the park with Transformers UK, some surprisingly interesting things were happening simultaneously in the American Transformers book from Marvel. These early issues are ofparticular note for crossing over with the Marvel universe,perhaps most famously in issue #3 of theinitial Transformers mini-series, which features Spider-Man, but also with the introduction of Circuit Breaker in issue #8, an original character who would later show up in Secret Wars II. This Marvel series would feature some great art and offer fans exciting new stories that deviated from the cartoon.
Okay, okay, hear me out. While Transformers crossovers have been hit-or-miss over the years (if you must pursue them, check out their encounters with Star Trek, New Avengers, The X-Files, Mars Attacks!, Ghostbusters, and of course G.I.Joe), their adventures in Ponyville have been quite hilarious while still feeling familiar and authentically Transformers. As you probably surmised, the evil Queen Chrysalis casts a spell to find more changelings to conquer Equestria, but accidentally connects to a space bridge that brings Autobots and Decepticons into her world. It’s worth picking up just to see Fluttershy throw down with Soundwave. And Grimlock and Spike teaming up against Devastator. The whole thing is a delight. Being a Brony is not a prerequisite to enjoy this wild comic, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. And thankfully, there’s a sequel!
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