Review – Optimus Prime #9 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: John Barber
Artwork: Kei Zama
Colours: Josh Burcham
Release Date: 12th July 2017

The latest issue of IDW’s ongoing Optimus Prime series sees us taking a step away from the main narrative momentarily as we follow the story of Sideswipe, who is finally given a new lease of life due to the technical advances provided by Wreck-Gar (or Wreck-Gar’s head, at least).

It’s an emotional issue, with Sideswipe struggling to come to terms with the way the world has changed since he has been ‘away’, and jetting off to Cybertron to try and track down his missing brother Sunstreaker.  Sideswipe has always been an intriguing character, and watching him trying to rationalise the fact that Autobots and Decepticons are working together now makes for a truly compelling narrative as he retraces his brother’s steps.

Arcee gets a lot of focus too, particularly given her close affinity with Sideswipe (or as close as Arcee gets to anyone, anyway), and she serves as a companion on his journey, quietly observing while her friend gradually figures things out.  It’s packed with understated emotion, and writer John Barber deserves all the credit in the world for plotting out this issue as well as he does, making us deeply invested in Sideswipe’s journey before flooring us with an absolute gut-punch in the final pages.

Artist Kei Zama’s typically scratchy and panel-packing style returns here as Sideswipe tries to put things right with his brother, and she provides some brief skirmishes along the way which positively crackle with energy.  There’s a level of polish and detail here that belies the outwardly rough aesthetic, and Zama does a fantastic job of nailing the emotional beats (and there are many) of this more or less self-contained story.

Josh Burcham’s colours are still a little garish in places, lacking the slick restraint of, say, a John-Paul Bove, but I’ll admit I’m still a huge fan of the slightly washed-out, almost sepia-tinged look that harks back to the classic four-colour Transformers comics of old.

It’s a difficult issue to delve into too deeply without spoiling the aforementioned gut-punch, but as a wonderfully nuanced look at an often overlooked character, “The Life of Sideswipe” is a thrilling, emotional read.  It’s clear that the events of this issue are going to reverberate throughout the rest of the series as it continues, and with several characters – Arcee in particular – getting a massive amount of development here, it’s going to be fascinating to see what sort of direct impact the conclusion of this issue is going to have.

Easily one of the best single issues of a Transformers comic that I’ve read for quite some time, and that’s even before the gut-punch of a finale.  Barber and Zama deserve all the credit in the world for putting this one together, and as an example of just how far IDW’s Transformers property has evolved beyond its “giant robots shooting each other” roots, you need look no further than this latest issue.

Rating: 4.5/5.

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