Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Brandon M. Easton
Artist/Cover: Andrew Griffith
Colours: Josh Burcham
Lettering: Jake M. Wood
Release Date: 16th September 2020
Jumping-on points are notoriously tricky beasts. When you combine this with a rebooted franchise that’s already part-way through an extended narrative, it can be particularly challenging. So it’s a credit to the team at IDW that these (largely) self-contained stories in Galaxies are accessible to fans old and new alike, whether you’re coming in as a casual comic reader or die-hard G1 Junkion. Giving us a story centered around Magnus and the history between him, Megatron and Alpha Trion – so important and yet so limited in the Netflix narrative – is a huge win and a great way to engage fans.
This issue takes place parallel to events in the main IDW Transformers comic, its backdrop the Rise of the Ascenticons and the impeding civil war as characters choose sides behind Megatron and Optimus (though the latter is still merely Orion Pax). This has allowed the writers to mix up characters and establish new histories for them, which has also allowed them to add depth to characters major and minor alike (do not get me started on how well Flamewar has been written). In the Galaxies storylines this is doubly the case, giving multiple issues over to exploring motivations with a luxury most characters are rarely afforded. We’ve already had excellent, if tragic, backstories for the Constructicons and a genuinely hilarious Cliffjumper two-parter; having had a more philosophical side-story involving new bot Gauge, along with Arcee and Greenlight, it’s good to get back to scheming villainy and bot-crunching action.
Ultra Magnus is depicted as a weary officer, who wears his history almost grudgingly; stuck on a science mission as the token military commander, he clearly just wants to get the job done. We have flashbacks to his time in the first uprising alongside Megatron, his brash past persona a sharp contrast to his frustrated present. In the course of the issue, however, he finds himself getting drawn into a mysterious disappearance and dealing with sinister, pragmatic parts-dealer Spinister (reminiscent of the Netflix take on Soundblaster, only rather more creepy). Whilst the rise of the Rise is referred to, it never interferes with the story and so allows readers to take this story in isolation from the main run (though really why would you want to?)
The pacing is a little off in places, and it’s fair to say that it does unfold fairly predictably, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: Easton does a good job of getting us involved and immersed in the characters, which is always the challenge with Transformers, caught between incessant reboots and re-imaginings. But the characters absolutely have depth, convincing motivations and believable dialogue. Character designs are likewise sharp and snappy: Griffith captures the big players perfectly, with the eye drawn to key minor/lesser-known characters *cough*Alpha Trion*cough* whilst not obsessing over the bit-part players (which, to be fair, is exactly the point, as the issue unfolds). If you get the chance though, the variant B cover by B Deer is also well worth a look, echoing classic TF two-faced images in a really arresting way.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and a great way of getting back on the (astro)train. If you’re a fan of the classic IDW runs, where characters had room to breathe and be developed, you’ll be delighted with this; if you’re up to your elbows in grease and oil you’ll love the backstory; or if you just want a casual dip into a universe you have even a passing knowledge of, you’ll find yourself getting pulled right it. If anything, Galaxies has snuck ahead of the main TF comic for me now, as the slow burn of the build-up to war has started to drag a little, so as an avid reader this is a refreshing, exciting slice of robot action.
Till all are one!
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]