28 March 2017

Review: The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Volume 4 by James Roberts, Alex Milne, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2013 (contents: 2012-13)
Acquired March 2015
Read March 2017
The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Volume 4

Written by James Roberts
Pencils by Alex Milne, Brendan Cahill, Guido Guidi, and Agustin Padilla
Inks by Atilio Rojo, Alex Milne, Brian Shearer, John Wycough, Juan Castro, Guido Guidi, Marc Deering, Phyllis Novin, and Jose Aviles
Colors by Josh Burcham with Joana Lafuente and Jose Aviles
Letters by Tom B. Long


I don't normally do this, but it seems warranted here: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE. That said, I went into this volume knowing some of what I'm going to talk about, and if anything, I think it made the book more effective.


I don't often cry at works of fiction. It happens on occasion, though, perhaps more as I get older. The death of the Tachikomas at the end of season one of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Penelope Wilton chaining herself to the bus at the end of episode 4 of Bob & Rose. Moira taking her suicide pill in the last chapter of On the Beach. Evelyn Smythe's contemplative last moments in Doctor Who: A Death in the Family.

But I don't think I've ever cried at a comic book.

I cried three times reading this one.

The first time came in the first issue collected here. The Lost Light crew assaults a rogue Decepticon stronghold. James Roberts tells the story in two parallel tracks, switching back and forth between the attack and its aftermath. Rewind is injured, and his conjunx endura Chromedome is freaking out about it. Now, I was spoiled a while ago on the fact that Rewind would die, so as the book came to a climax, I started tearing up. Rewind doesn't die here, but the end is still fraught with emotion, as we learn how Rewind and Chromedome first met, and then the last thing we see is the moment of Rewind's near-fatal injury. It wasn't a Decepticon who injured him; rather, Whirl purposely locked him in a room with an exploding bomb because Cyclonus was also in that room. Plus, misanthropic Cyclonus actually threw himself on the bomb to save Rewind. Oh wow so many feelings as everything that's happened throughout the issue slots into place.

You don't mean that, Cyclonus!
from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #12 (art by Brendan Cahill & Brian Shearer)

I didn't cry at the second issue here, but it was good fun: the Lost Light arrives at a pleasure planet, and everyone goes out drinking. Jokes are had, we get to see the crew's humanoid holomatter avatars, Ultra Magnus tries to lighten up (and fails), and Tailgate reveals his dark secret to Cyclonus. If you love when a tv show does the wacky side episode where the crew lets loose, you'll love this.

I like you Swerve. I guess because I think this is true of me.
from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #13 (art by Guido Guidi and John Wycough & Juan Castro & Marc Deering)

The fourth issue is where I lost it for real, not just tearing up, but genuine crying. Decepticon phase-sixer Overlord (late of Last Stand of the Wreckers) is let loose on the Lost Light, and Rewind dies for real-- but even aside from that the thing is filled with amazing character moments, paying off all sorts of character details from throughout the series so far. It's not the climax of the whole series, but it does feel like one for the first fifteen issues. Ratchet, despite being a medical officer, throws himself into battle one last time; Pipes, the ship's punching bag, is punched (to death) one last time, but using his dying moments to save the ship; Rodimus shouting "'till all are one!" saves the lives of everyone on board. That last one is a brilliant bit of writing, transforming a running gag into a key plot point and clever bit of trickery.

Of course, in the middle of all this, James Roberts still finds room for this amazing joke.
from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #15 (art by Alex Milne and Marc Deering & Brian Shearer & Phyllis Novin)

But worst/best of all is the climax: not only does Rewind sacrifice himself to save Chromedome/the ship, Chromedome is forced to kill Rewind in order to save Rewind from an eternity of torture at the hands of Rewind. It's horrifying and beautiful, the greatest moment in an issue of great moments, and across those last three pages, I wasn't just tearing up, I was genuinely crying.

Most heartbreaking image in a Transformers comic.
from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #15 (art by Alex Milne and Marc Deering & Brian Shearer & Phyllis Novin)

Finally, you get the aftermath issue: funerals and mourning and all that. We learn more about Chromedome's relationship with Rewind, and what we learn is all even more tragic, culminating in Chromedome watching Rewind's last message to him, expressed in the form of a montage of clips of other people speaking. Well, I teared up again. Some of it being laid over Drift's exile from the ship (and the way Ratchet stands up for him) makes it even better.

Don't forget this, Chromedome!
from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #16 (art by Agustin Padilla & Jose Aviles)

I can't believe it's a Transformers comic that made me tear up, but really, this might be one of the very best comic books I've ever read, full stop. It has jokes, complex characterization, well-organized long-running plots, tragedy, emotions, and giant robots. It's impossible for me to imagine what else I might want out of a comic. And really, I'm just scratching the surface of what it has to offer.

Next Week: Meanwhile, in the past... events are conspiring to lead to a Dark Prelude!

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