Review – Bumblebee Movie Prequel #1 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: John Barber
Artist: Andrew Griffith
Colours: Priscilla Tramontano
Letters: Tom B. Long
Release Date: 4th July 2018

The hype for the upcoming Bumblebee movie is already buzzing, pulling in new and old fans alike with an adorable Bumblebee, sexy Starscream, the promise of some Iron Giant-esque themes and a feeling of all-round wholesome entertainment.  So how does Transformers legend plan to tie into all this hype? With spies, of course!

It’s the ’60s, and the Transformers are well founded on Earth, with Decepticons scheming and Autobots already allying themselves. Bumblebee himself is working with MI6, alongside human partner Agent David Reeve, to save the world from all manner of unstoppable threats, complete with theme song and all.   But when a new enemy starts being two steps ahead of the agency at all times, a plan is put into motion that could tear MI6 – and the world – apart. And with the Decepticons at the helm, it’s up to Bee and his partner to take them on alone.

If the title of the arc, “From Cybertron With Love” or the fact Bumblebee is called “Goldfender” hasn’t tipped you off yet, this is a fairly head-on James Bond parody. The tropes, the quotes, the quips, the looks, the style, the villains and the gadgets are all ripe for parody here – alongside giant robot battles, of course – something which quickly becomes this issue’s biggest strength, and also a potential weakness.

When it comes down to it, this is a fun Spy story. It shows off a firm knowledge of the genre for both smart and stupidly hilarious jokes, some great comedic timing and a strong pace that keeps you chugging through all the hijinks you would get in any good spy tale.  However, with a simple and by-the-numbers plot that brings you through all the tropes you could ask for, the blend of comedy and action becomes the crux of the book. And if this kind of comedy doesn’t grab you, the draw of Bumblebee alone might not be enough keep you satisfied with this series.

That said, Bumblebee himself is wonderfully written by Barber. Drawing on his G1 self, Bee is quippy, sometimes a little too snappy, and always endearing to the reader. He also does a good job of being a rather effective straight man for the ridiculousness of the spy comedy.  Other characters, like the spies themselves are fun, if a little paper-thin for the jokes at hand, and the Decepticons don’t really get enough time to display enough characterisation for us to really care about him.  However, knowing this is just a first issue, the ideas on display so far are making me fairly excited to see how the story evolves in the next three issues.

Andrew Griffith brings a sense of style and panache that you’d expect with all the suits and golden cars, as well as flat-out knowing how to draw crap out of a great and detailed ‘bot.  The colours by Tramontano add a real pop to the big action, style and explosions, and while it could possibly have been a little less muted in parts to have a more “golden” book, this feels like a perfectly matched artistic team.

Simple yet engaging, the first issue of the Bumblebee Movie Prequel delivers a successful blend of Transformers and Spy action goodness. While perhaps not the most revolutionary book hitting the shelves this Wednesday, and with its mileage varying based on your attachment to its humour and parody, Barber’s love for the concept and strong artistic team still makes for a delightful and all-ages accessible read that will leave you excited to return to see what happens next month.

Rating: 3.5/5.


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

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