21 February 2017

Review: The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Volume 1 by John Barber, Andrew Griffith, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2012 (contents: 2012)
Acquired August 2014
Read November 2016
The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Volume 1

Written by John Barber
Art by Andrew Griffith
Additional Art by Casey Coller
Colors by Josh Perez
Letters by Shawn Lee

While the Lost Light gallivants through space having wacky space adventures, Bumblebee and the other Autobots have to figure out how to rule after the war is over back on Cybertron. The real strength of both these Transformers series is their strong character focus, but each writer takes a different approach to get there. While James Roberts's More than Meets the Eye is all about the dialogue, John Barber in Robots in Disguise uses narration; each issue is narrated in the first person by a different character, giving us a particular perspective on the events unfolding from Bumblebee, Starscream, Wheeljack, Prowl, and Ironhide in turn.

We get murder investigations, terrorist threats, ancient Cybertronian systems coming back to life, assassinations, and political machinations. Probably Starscream was my favorite character here, as he makes the ultimate power play: deciding to genuinely, actually, nicely help the Autobots... so that he can come out on top as always. Also he has a sense of humor, which always helps:
Megatron never cracked jokes this good.
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #2 (art by Andrew Griffith)

The real heart of this series is the question of when the war actually ends. Bumblebee is an idealist, and now that the fighting's over, wants to do things without compromising, as ethically as possible-- hence his forming a government that includes representatives for both the Decepticons and the non-aligned Cybertronians. Prowl, on the other hand, doesn't believe that the war can ever end, and is determined to be as cunning and manipulative as ever. Most of the other Autobots are somewhere in the middle, as Wheeljack's narration here indicates:
The ends justify the means... but how do you know when you've actually got to the end?
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #3 (art by Andrew Griffith)

I also really liked the ongoing saga of Dirge, a Decepticon who was abandoned by both sides when he escorted Autobot prisoners across the space bridge during All Hail Megatron and got stuck on Cybertron, where his partner was killed by the Insecticon swarm. He survived alone on Cybertron until the end of the war, and now wants nothing to do with either side, but every attempt he makes to build a new life is doomed to failure. Those he reaches out to die, but going it alone doesn't work either when he's perpetually a victim of others' machinations.

Poor guy.
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #4 (art by Andrew Griffith)

This book is not quite as good as the first volume of More than Meets the Eye, mostly because I had a harder time keeping track of all the characters, especially in action scenes, where I had to spend too much time attempt to decode significant events. (Thank God for the Transformers wiki.) I look forward to seeing where this goes, because Barber has the foundation here for a whole new kind of Transformers storytelling.

Next Week: Meanwhile, back in space, the Lost Light discovers the terrors of a space plague that's More than Meets the Eye!

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