Review – Optimus Prime #4 (IDW Publishing)


Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: John Barber
Artwork: Kei Zama, Josh Burcham (colours)
Release Date: 22nd February, 2017

The latest issue of IDW’s Optimus Prime series sees the Junkions revealing their true agenda, Thundercracker continuing his analysis of the human condition, Optimus Prime dealing with some loyalty issues in Autobot City, Flint and Marissa continuing their troubled father-daughter relationship… and about a half dozen more intertwining plot points (at least!), which is about a good a place to start when breaking down the problems with this most recent chapter as any, I guess.

Unfortunately, after such a strong start, the series seems to be collapsing under the weight of itself, with the dizzying myriad of subplots and characters making it difficult for anything here to gain any real sense of traction.  Barber’s pacing and structure are erratic, with this issue essentially being made up of an extended sequence of one or two page scenes, making for an increasingly disorientating read.  Nothing is given a chance to really resonate before we’re whisked off to the next scene, and whether it’s a case of editorial influence or personal preference on the part of the writer, it definitely feels like there are way too many plates spinning here for this series to be anything other than a bloated jumble of ideas at the moment.

Visually, Kei Zama does a solid job, with his cramped pages matching the dense narrative style, for better or worse.  His layouts are kept relatively simple, and while things flow well enough from panel to panel, there’s a definite claustrophobic vibe at play here – a factor which isn’t exactly helped by the heavy-handed colours of Josh Burcham.  Zama’s action sequences work well to capture the chaotic nature of the conflict, but they’re unfortunately few and far between in what is undeniably a bit of a ‘talky’ series, with the ostensibly talented artist being given an incredibly short leash when it comes to really flexing any sort of creative muscle.

It’s a shame too, because the first three issue of the series, while undeniably dense and rapidly paced, still took at least a bit of time to let some of the storylines breathe a little.  That isn’t the case here, sadly, with each intertwining subplot meaning less and less as the unrelenting barrage of exposition and Hasbroverse interconnectivity becomes almost too much to bear.  It’s doubly disappointing because there are some aspects of the series – the street-level crime story set four million years ago on Cybertron, for instance – that really work, but there’s just no getting away from the fact that the overall execution and structure is really starting to drag this series down.

Rating: 2.5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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