PopCultHQ received an advance review copy of TRANSFORMERS #2 from IDW Publishing. Available March 27th, 2019, the creative team for this issue features writing from Brian Ruckley, art from Ángel Hernández & Cachét Whitman, colors by Joana Lafuente & Josh Burcham, and lettering from Tom B. Long.
Here’s PopCultHQ’s spoiler-free review of…
Main Cover Artist: Nelson Daniel
FC • 32 pages • $3.99
“Your life is yours to shape.”
These words form the backbone of the Transformers’ society. But Cybertronian police officers Chromia and Prowl learn there’s a dark underside as they investigate the murder that’s caught Bumblebee in a web of lies and secrets.
PopCultHQ’s Comic Book Review:
The future Optimus Prime, Orion Pax, stands by to witness sometime friend Megatron hold a rally for the Ascenticons. Meanwhile, young Rubble’s coming of age is interrupted by the discovery of a destroyed Brainstorm. A discovery that seems to have dire ramifications that could interrupt Bumblebee’s guidance of Rubble.
Following a fan favorite series like Transformers: Lost Light was never going to be simple. It was satisfying and rewarding from start to finish and left the slate completely clean for whatever IDW would do with the license next. Putting the franchise in the hands of Rogue Trooper’s Brian Ruckley was an interesting move.
Ruckley leans hard on a political story and juxtaposes it against some police procedural and rite of passage threads. Think of it as The Wire shot on Cybertron.
The question is…does it make for a good Transformers story? While interesting, the slow pace and jilted timing of story-beats dent the hide of proceedings a little bit. There isn’t a great deal of characterization, aside from what is defined by the occupations of each figure.
What the writer DOES do well is convey the scale and awe of Rubble’s experience. The concern and tension between Pax and Megatron. There are some big ideas that this story lays out and begins to inch towards, it’s just ambitious of Ruckley to expect the reader to stick with it if it isn’t always going to be gripping.
There’s plenty of Transformer knowledge on display for hardcore fans here, and the fresh start SHOULD encourage new readers, but there’s also too much technical terminology that may undo that and scare away that same audience.
I hope Ruckley gets this thing into a higher gear in issue 3 and really lands this opening story arc in grand fashion. There’s enough to like to hang around and see it through and support a burgeoning writers’ efforts at least.
It’s another interesting move to split the artist duties in a new book launch. Usually reserved for further into the run, it’s a little eyebrow-raising. At least each artist is given a different side of the arc to work on, so the distinction isn’t a jarring interruption.
Angel Hernandez did some solid work on Star Trek/Green Lantern and the landscape work of Cybertron really does hit some breathtaking heights. His layout and perspective work is strong too. Where it falls over is conveying the body language of characters to emphasize the words. Perhaps a difficult task when you’re dealing with robots, other artists have found their own ways around this to give feeling to the script. It also must be exhausting to draw nothing but robots and technological ware in every panel, and some panels really seem like they took their toll or were too hard on the artists.
Cachét Whitman is the reverse on the slim three pages she gets. Her figures, expression, design, and storytelling are what the previous pages should reach for. It’s surprising that this title is her first work, surely more beckons. Whitman is clearly at ease with the characters and raises the quality of the script as much as she can with the short allotment.
The two colorists are the all-stars of this issue and recover whatever fumbles the illustrative side of the art team may make. Josh Burcham brings his wealth of experience from virtually every recent IDW Transformers series to liven up Megatron’s rally and really stamp the universe with a distinctive and familiar feel.
Joana Lafuente, again renowned for an Omega Supreme-load of Transformers projects, is the star of this issue. Her work on the first 16 pages gives the book its flare. Its character. The future/retro synthwave feel. The majesty and awe of a galactic setting. She adds to each character design and supports the figure work with all the might her talent and palette can generate.
It’s a dialogue-heavy issue but that doesn’t deter Tom B. Long for finding creative ways to make his mark on the issue. Everything from clearing space and placement of text boxes to distinguishing who is talking. Doing his bit to add performance into the speech of characters. The unique ZZZRAK in an all but silent scene. The sheer release of the effects in the final three pages. It’s all top-notch. This book relies on the work from the IDW regular features and Long is happy to oblige that.
PopCultHQ’s overall assessment:
Forgive this issue and its pacing problems, it’s a doubleheader that offers some explanations of the new world and re-introduces the characters to the readership. Enough happens here to keep the reader interested, even if it’s almost bereft of action. This story feels like it’s going to go somewhere, just don’t expect it to transform and roll out in anything but its own time.