28 February 2017

Review: The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Volume 2 by James Roberts, Alex Milne, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2012 (contents: 2012)
Acquired August 2014
Read December 2016
The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Volume 2

Written by James Roberts
Art by Alex Milne & Nick Roche
Colors by Josh Burcham & Joana Lafuente
Letters by Shawn Lee & Chris Mowry

Even when reading a good Transformers comic, I still struggle. I guess I'll just have to accept this as a fact of life. But seriously, it is hard to tell robots apart when they don't have voice actors to provide you with another dimension of recognition. The problem with volume 2 of More than Meets the Eye is that the first two issues here are part of a story about medical robots-- and most medical robots are colored red. So keeping track of which guy is which was very taxing, and sometimes I made bad identifications that hampered my enjoyment of the story. The third story here introduces a group of scrappy Decepticon deserters, an idea I fundamentally enjoy, but man if keeping track of a whole new set of characters is just a bit too taxing for me. On the whole I didn't like this as much as the first volume, and I think it might be because of those factors; it's hard to get emotionally invested if you can't remember which robo-guy is which!

However, there's still a lot to enjoy. I do like Ratchet, the Lost Light's chief medical officer, a lot, and there's even a nice throwback to the Furman-written -ations series when Ratchet manifests his holomatter avatar, which I (like the characters) had totally forgotten about. Plus the way Ratchet gets his hands back is awesome and unexpected and dark.

The second story here was very good-- it's a hostage tale, where Rung the unassuming psychoanalyst is captured by Fortress Maximus, and the crew has to figure out a way to liberate him (as well as Whirl, Rung's current patient). A recurring theme of More than Meets the Eye is how psychologically damaged all these bots are by years of unremitting war, and this story brings a lot of that to the surface. My favorite moments are often those where the characters forge real connections between themselves, like when the hostage situation causes Whirl to confess something he never would in years of sessions with Rung:
Aw, poor Rung.
from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #6 (art by Nick Roche)

And like I said, though I found all the new characters hard to keep track of, I was predisposed to like a tale of Decepticon failures (the Scavengers) working to avoid the Decepticon Justice Division coming after them for desertion. The story is simultaneously dark and hilarious, something I'm quickly learning is a trademark of both James Roberts in general and this series in particular. Take for example this exchange:

I kind of want this to be true, though.
from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #7 (art by Alex Milne)

I could probably paste panels like this into my review for days, but I'll refrain. And yet it's still a story of death and destruction and high stakes. If only an issue-ending cliffhanger didn't depend on my ability to recognize the "shock" reappearance of a character who hasn't appeared in this story before-- or, indeed, any of the IDW Transformers fiction I've read (as far as I remember). Well, you win some, you lose some, and it's clear this series isn't aimed at me, anyway.

The book's myriad ongoing subplots continue to simmer, providing me with a lot of the enjoyment that carries me through the confusing parts. For example, I like Tailgate, the Transformer who slept through the entire war, but still finds himself trying to decide if he wants to be an Autobot or a Decepticon. The problem is, if he wants to be an Autobot, he has to get past Ultra Magnus's love of rules. Magnus insists they close read all ten thousand pages of the Autobot code together:
I bet Ultra Magnus loves Robert's Rules of Order, too.
from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #5 (art by Alex Milne)

It's not perfect, but it's still the best possible Transformers comic I could imagine.

The most dangerous of weapons!
from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #7 (art by Alex Milne)
Next Week: Optimus Prime may be dead... but what of Orion Pax? Volume 2 of Robots in Disguise!

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