Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer(s): Mairghread Scott, John Barber
Artist(s): Sarah Stone, Livio Ramondelli
Release Date: 12th August, 2015
Collecting issues #39–41 of Transformers and the first three issues of Transformers: Windblade–Combiner Wars, this latest release from IDW sees turmoil engulf Starscream’s reign as ruler as war threatens to break out between Cybertron and Windblade’s home planet of Caminus. The Enigma of Combination is fair game now, leading more and more groups of ‘bots to combine into gestalt war machines, and all hell breaking loose in the process… to say the least.
Okay, to the first question on everyone’s lips… “I’m not up to speed with IDW’s myriad of Transformers series’, so is this one for me?” My answer to that is a resounding yes. After a brief introduction page, you’re pretty much up to speed, and the writing here is so sharp and focused that the distinctive character traits of the main players practically jump off the page at you. Yes, there are a lot of moving parts here; a lot of political scheming and machinations that serve as the backdrop to the jaw-dropping Combiner battles, but that has always been the appeal of IDW’s Transformers franchise for me. Sure, we’re dealing with giant robots who can turn into cars, planes and trucks, but the characterisation and rollercoaster plot developments here are second to none, almost to the point where you find yourself forgetting the main characters are Transformers at all, which might sound like a backhanded compliment, but coming from a lifelong Transformers fan, is anything but. It’s simply a testament to how fully-realised these characters are. These aren’t one-dimensional caricatures created to sell toys, these are multi-layered personalities with depth and emotion, and it makes for bloody scintillating reading, I can tell you.
As impressive as it undoubtedly is from a visual standpoint, one of the few issues I had with this collection was the jarring contrast between the two artists. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of both Stone and Ramondelli’s work, but it’s safe to say that they adopt very different styles, and the continual shifting between grimy and cartoony from issue to issue did end up distracting from the overall flow of the story, for me at least. That said, taken in isolation each artist does a truly impressive job, with the expressive reveals, twists and turns proving to be just as engaging – well, almost – as the eye-popping giant robot battles.
The transition between the writing of Barber and Scott is far more seamless however, providing a unified voice throughout the course of the story – albeit one which understandably focuses more heavily on Windblade during the issues that feature her name in the title. No bad thing, given the fact that the aforementioned Windblade may be one of the best things to happen to Transformers for years, providing a brilliantly intriguing protagonist to build this particular conflict around.
Involved, dramatic and surprisingly accessible, Combiner Wars is just the latest volley in the ongoing salvo of top quality Transformers from the folks at IDW. Highly recommended for die-hard fans and curious newcomers alike.