10 April 2018

Review: The Transformers: Combiner Wars: First Strike by John Barber, Andrew Griffith, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2015 (contents: 2014-15)
Acquired October 2016
Read July 2017
The Transformers: Combiner Wars: First Strike

Written by John Barber
Art by Sarah Stone, Livio Ramondelli, Andew Griffith, and Brendan Cahill
Colors by Josh Perez
Additional Colors by Joana Lafuente and Thomas Deer
Letters by Tom B. Long

Unlike its sister title, Robots in Disguise didn't lose its leading article... it just lost the whole rest of the title! Now plain old Transformers, but at least it's gained full subtitles in lieu of volume numbers, as this volume is called Combiner Wars: First Strike. To my surprise, it actually opens with a Windblade continuation of sorts, keeping up that series's development of events back on Cybertron, and even using Windblade's artist, Sarah Stone. Awakening after his apparent death (back in volume 5, I think? I lose track), Wheeljack is confronted with a strange new Cybertron, ruled by Starscream and inhabited by women! (like Windblade), and he has to decide where his loyalties lie. It's slight, but I like Wheeljack.

A girl!?
from The Transformers: Robots in Disguise vol. 1 #33 (art by Sarah Stone)

After that, though, it's just confirmation that the new direction of this comic book is not one that I am enjoying. Pompous journeys into Cybertronian history are becoming increasingly dull to me. They're just a cheap way of attempting to add weight to banal proceedings (so is Livio Ramondelli's artwork). And then we're off to four whole issues of Prowl being an asshole to everyone, another thing I have rapidly become tired of. It doesn't even make sense for Optimus to leave the mentally compromised Prowl in charge, something he seems to acknowledge:
Everyone says Optimus Prime is a Great Leader, but when I read scenes like this it's hard to believe it.
from The Transformers vol. 2 #35 (art by Andrew Griffith)

Prowl dominates the book so much in its current form that there's not much enjoyment to seek elsewhere. I've never really cared for this version of Spike Witwicky since he was introduced in All Hail Megatron, and though I liked Jimmy Pink in Simon Furman's stories, he's not really the same without Hunter and Verity alongside. I like Arcee, but she's mostly a bystander here, and the rest of the Earth-based Autobots are barely interesting at best.

Even when Prowl's not there, all everyone else does is talk about him!
from The Transformers vol. 2 #38 (art by Andrew Griffith)

I just don't get why the series has gone in this direction, throwing aside its unique selling points in favor of generic, uninspired Earth infiltration while everyone chases after some kind of generic, uninspired maguffin. Why make Optimus the leader of the Autobots and then send him out in the field? Why isn't he leading his people? Why can't he delegate? It's a weird and not very organic development of the series post-Dark Cybertron.

Next Week: Meanwhile, in space... even the Decepticon Justice Division can be More than Meets the Eye!

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