Friday, 22 May 2015

Transformers- Robots in Disguise Vol. 1 Review

Transformers: Robots in Disguise Vol. 1
DARK-NESS!
NO PAR--
Sorry, wrong character.

Writer: John Barber

Artist: Andrew Griffith

Collects: Transformers- Robots in Disguise #1-5

Background Information:

There are really five things you need to understand before going into Transformers- Robots in Disguise.

1) This book bears no relation to the cartoon currently on air except for the fact that its focus is on Bumblebee.

2) This book is set after the Autobots have won the war and returned to Cybertron.

3) Optimus Prime and Megatron are "dead" (yeah, that'll TOTALLY be permanent), and Bumblebee now leads the Autobots.

4) In the meantime, Rodimus has taken a group of transformers and went off in search of the macguffin called the Knights of Cybertron. They've disappeared and everyone thinks their dead.

5) Michael Bay is evil. That's not something relevant to this book, but it needs to be said.

Review:

I know comics can deal with serious political issues. I know comics can make you think. I know deep characterisation can be achieved in just one issue.

I just didn't expect it from Transformers- Robots in Disguise.
When people say that Transformers comic aren't the "real thing".

So the war is over and the Autobot, led by Bumblebee are trying desperately to keep the very
unsteady peace in Cybertron. That's not easy; the Decepticons aren't happy with their lot, and are plotting revenge; Some Autobots are seriously doubting Bumblebee's leadership and a group of non-affiliated transformers- called by the racial slur of NAILS (non-affiliated indigenous lifeforms)- are coming back to Cybertron and are suspicious of what looks like a military regime.

I'm hesitant to say that anything is like Game of Thrones. These days, it seems like everything is like Game of Thrones. I'm not sure that we can use that as a measure of quality and I don't want to say that Robots in Disguise is even similar to Game of Thrones, but I don't think that there's any other way to say it. We've got different groups making bids for power, betrayals, assassinations and other such things that make for a great conspiracy story.

The book even gives entire issues over to telling the story from one character's perspective; something that you would only know is like Game of Thrones if you had read the book. Now, to be fair, some characters are better to read than others. Bumblebee, Prowl and Starscream are absolutely more interesting than Wheeljack and Ironhide, who almost feel like they shouldn't be there. It's a formula I like, though, and considering just how massive the Transformers cast is, it's possible we won't see the same perspective done twice, which is exciting.

But even for all the good I can say in this book, there is one problem that just grates on me. Even though lots happens in this book, there is seemingly zero plot progression. In series like Marvel's Moon Knight, that's okay. Their meant to be stand-alone and you can essentially jump in wherever you like. Not so for Robots in Disguise, which requires you to start at issue one, but doesn't really reward you for doing so. I'm willing to admit that this volume could be all about setting up the status quo, but for now, I don't know I feel rewarded for my time reading.

Man, this is awkward,
Art in Transformers books is usually great. You get to work with a range of body types and shapes just not possible with human figures, and you can see some of that in Robots in Disguise. By far this is best shown when Andrew Griffith draws the background characters. You can see panels where he's just gone "let's try this insect-like things," or "what if heads were drawn like this?" I mean, all the main characters look human (check your privilege, humans!), but it's nice to see Griffith acknowledge the possibilities amongst a robot race.

The best part about the art, though, is in Wheeljack. the guy has no mouth; just a faceplate and two eyes. As such, only a small part of his emotion is conveyed through the face. The rest is done through posing, and that's done cleverly. You don't realise how much skill is needed to do that until you see it in action, but I appreciate the effort made.

Robots in Disguise; it's complexity that, while enjoyable, goes nowhere. And for that, it gets four out of five thrones.

****

+ Great conspiracy story.
+ Great, weird art.
+ Bumblebee, Prowl and Starscream's issues are great.
- Ironhide and Wheeljack? Not so much.
- Not a lot of plot progression.

Alternate Option: Transformers- More Than Meets the Eye

The companion series to Robots in Disguise. Rodimus and other transformers are lost in space- er, I mean; IN SPAAAAAAAACCEEE!
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