Review – Optimus Prime #19 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: John Barber
Artist: Sara Pitre-Durocher
Colorist: Josh Burcham
Letter: Tom B. Long
Release Date: 30th May 2018

After the chaos of issue #17 which tore Cybertron apart (again), and issue #18’s delving into the history of that one-eye purple guy who ruins everything, issue #19 features those left on Cybertron trying to pick up the pieces and prepare for the impending onslaught of Shockwave.

Oh, and best of all, it’s a Starscream-centric issue.

The Metrotitan has fallen. Optimus is gone and now Starscream, carried by Devastator, is left to ponder his role as a leader of Cybertron. Elsewhere, Shockwave prepares his Maximals for the assault to claim Cybertron from its current rulers, while those left in the downed Metrotitan prepare for a desperate fight against for survival.

In my review of #17, I said that its biggest fault was just how crammed together everything felt, with little breathing room being given for characters to properly shine. To that end, this latest issue makes itself stronger by just focusing on the three groups mentioned above, blending incredibly strong character moments with a more cohesive tale. Pacing tightens, confusion leaves and we’re left with what made the first two issues of this arc so incredible.

Most importantly, we get to spend time with Starscream, seeing events unfolding from his perspective and discovering how he plans to make the most of it. Building a lot from Mairghead and Pitre-Durocher’s Till All Are One series, Barber masters Starscream’s hilarious dialogue, while also continuing the introspection of the character as we delve deeper into who he is, who he was, and who he wants to be with this prophecy of his future leadership coming to light.  And when Starscream finally comes face to face with Shockwave’s revelations that have torn Cybertron apart, there’s also an incredible moment of weakness that cuts particularly deeply for those who have followed this character since the start of Phase 2.

Shockwave also gets a greater turn in spotlight here. Now being able to interact as his one-eyed self with more than just Optimus allows for some wonderful moments of villainy that has, even as a big Shocky fan, helps to make me more involved and invested in him as a big threat than “Dark Cybertron” ever did. He’s menacing, brutal and he effortlessly outsmarts everyone at every turn. It’s glorious to see.

What this issue also manages to do well is set up some of the main players for the fight against Shockwave. Decepticons like Soundwave, Colonists and Optimus have been the main stars of the last three issues, but here the focus lands on Arcee, Jetfire,The Torchbearers and Aileron, giving them a stronger presence as they’re pushed into their role as Cybertron’s first line of defence. And, much like Starscream, this issue gives them plenty of exceptional character work and defining moments of strength and weakness that can only help but fuel our continued love for these characters.

Pitre-Durocher remains as series artist here, continuing the distinct style that she, Zama and Burcham have perfected.  The more focused roster and measured pacing also means that Pitre-Durocher is allowed more defined profiles, effects and panelling that pretty much instantly puts her up there into the upper echelon of Transformers artists.  Burcham gets to not only bring his typically marvellous colour work here again, but is also able to explore coloring with effects and powers that give off stunning full-pages that could only be described as immense.

I’ve had a problem with the end portion of Barber’s Transformers run as just being a series of cataclysmic events happening one after the other. However, this issue proves that these events are always capable of providing thoughtful character work if handled correctly. And if the strong pacing and character focus continues for the next issues of “The Falling” and beyond, this arc is guaranteed to be one to remember. And with plenty of Starscream thrown in for good measure, what more could you really want?

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens
Connor Tweets from @diddlesMVP

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