25 April 2017

Review: The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Volume 5 by John Barber, Livio Ramondelli, Andrew Griffith, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2013 (contents: 2013)
Acquired March 2015
Read April 2017
The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Volume 5

Written by John Barber
Art by Livio Ramondelli, Atilio Rojo, Dheeraj Verma, and Andrew Griffith
Colors by Livio Ramondelli, Priscilla Tramontano, and Joana Lafuente
Letters by Tom B. Long, Chris Mowry, and Shawn Lee

This volume is sort of a mixed bag-- there's clearly a lot of set-up going on here for the imminent Dark Cybetron crossover. While in More than Meets the Eye, that was seemingly all done in a bonus text story at the back (and one throwaway comment in the final issue), a lot of what's here are stories about the secret agenda that Shockwave's been running in the background for almost the entire duration of Robots in Disguise. We get a flashback tale that integrates some of the revelations about Shockwave from More than Meets the Eye with the backstory shown in Autocracy (appropriately drawn by Autocracy's artist, Livio Ramondelli), yet another tale of Orion Pax and company chasing Shockwave's mentor Jhiaxus but failing to accomplish anything, and a two-part story that parallels Shockwave and Soundwave fighting in the present with their relationship in the past.

This stuff is okay. Some of it feels belabored and stretched out: Shockwave and Soundwave's fight, for example, was never particularly interesting. I did really like the insight I got into Soundwave's relationship with his cassette servants; probably the best bit of the whole two issues is where we see their first meeting. Soundwave has the power to basically hear all things, which leaves him overwhelmed, but the Cybertronians who will become his cassettes reach out to him and teach him how to filter his perceptions to make them manageable. It adds a bit of pathos to a Decepticon character I hadn't really thought about before. (I still don't get why his cassettes are cassettes, though.) Other aspects of the flashbacks, though, were informative, but not entertaining, more like reading the Transformers wiki than a story-- as always, Barber seems to be sewing up a lot of continuity details for the faithful.

And then they all became evil.
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #22 (art by Livio Ramondelli)

Orion Pax chasing but not getting Jhiaxus is becoming dull, but I suppose this formula will come to an end with Dark Cybetron. It was fun to see a Beast Wars character make a significant contribution to the story in the form of Waspinator. Those are the Transformers stories I'm nostalgic for!

I'm assuming there's no timeline where Waspinator isn't put-upon and oppressed.
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #19 (art by Dheeraj Verma)

The best two chapters of the collection are the ones showing the character impact of the events of volume 4. Arcee, who has been a mysterious background character for most of the series, briefly comes into the spotlight with a story that explores her attempts to become an Autobot, which aren't entirely successful-- the other Autobots seeing her as more akin to a Decepticon than an Autobot. It's a nice insight into a character we haven't really seen inside before, and I also like what Barber's doing with the Constructicons. (Despite being Decepticons, they want to serve Prowl because being a combiner with him was so awesome.)

Complicated feelings! She wants to belong, but not to compromise herself.
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #18 (art by Atilio Rojo)

The other strong story focuses on Starscream taking over as leader of Iacon. Now, I still contend that Starscream is a bit dim for the consummate politician he's supposed to be, but I like the idea that he is really trying in his own way, but the only people he can speak the truth to are those he's screwed over and incapacitated: dead Metalhawk, imprisoned Megatron, comatose Wheeljack. Also, it's fantastic to see Rattrap, my favorite Beast Wars/Beast Machines character (and thus my favorite Transformer, full stop). I'll be curious to see where this series continues to go with the new, legit Starscream.

This page made me laugh. Politics at its finest. Though, the Beast Era Rattrap had a noble core this version seemingly lacks.
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #20 (art by Andrew Griffith)

So overall, two very good issues and four issues of perhaps necessary set-up. After the strengths of volume 4, it's a bit of a comedown, but I am looking forward to Dark Cybertron.

Next Week: Meanwhile, in the Dead Universe... Shockwave has a plan for a Dark Cybertron!

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