07 March 2017

Review: The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Volume 2 by John Barber, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, 98 pages
Published 2012 (contents: 2012)
Acquired August 2014
Read February 2017
The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Volume 2

Written by John Barber
Art by Livio Ramondelli, Brendan Cahill, and Andrew Griffith
Colors by Joana Lafeunte, Josh Perez, and Livio Ramondelli
Letters by Shawn Lee

Physically, all IDW trade paperbacks are thin. IDW as a company just doesn't like collecting more than four issues at once, and this is as true of The Transformers as it is for Star Trek, Doctor Who, or My Little Pony. And besides, I'm reading these Transformers volumes electronically. But despite that, this one collects four issues and still manages to feel thinner than most. Probably at least partially because the first issue collected here is not about the Autobots forging a new future on Cybertron, but Orion Pax nee Optimus Prime following up on clues from crazed Decepticon scientist Jhiaxus about Monstructor. Though I'm sure it'll play into events on Cybertron in the long run, it feels like filler: Orion is not a main character in this series, and I barely know who the other robots on this mission-- on either side-- even are. Livio Ramondelli's art doesn't help; his painterly style is attractive, but the storytelling is often difficult to follow.

Give him an amazing discovery in an ancient ice cavern, though, and he'll draw the hell out of it.
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #6 (art by Livio Ramondelli)

The remaining three issues here advance some of the plotlines of post-peace Cybertron: Wheeljack investigates a mysterious Decepticon recently arrived on Cybertron, while Ironhide and the Dinobots brave the wilderness of post-reformatting Cyberton and Bumblebee tries to balance his desire to be inclusive with his fear of giving Decepticons a bigger role in the global government. The stories are decent if not great, enlivened by the stuff Barber and his artistic collaborators do with voice and structure. One issue, for example, parallels happenings in Autobot HQ depicted in conventional comics formats with Wheeljack's explorations in a sixteen-panel grid filled with narration:
Forget the nine-panel grid, Alan Moore. John Barber is here!
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #7 (art by Brendan Cahill)

Also, the little touches make it sing, like the former Decepticon who produces terrible poetry at open mic night, or just how goddamned smug Starscream is all the time:
I also dig every little crack he makes about the elections.
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #7 (art by Brendan Cahill)

I've never really paid much attention to Bumblebee before, but I like him here-- a nice guy harried by every person, trying to live up to an impossible ideal in a difficult decision, always too hopeful that there will be an easy way out, and completely lacking confidence in himself. There's a lot simmering in this book, and it's an enjoyable simmer, but I look forward to seeing it boil over. Too often I feel like something interesting is about to happen, not actually happening.

Next Week: Meanwhile, in space... as always the Lost Light crew encounters something that's More than Meets the Eye!

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