Nick Roche is brilliant. So is writer James Roberts, but more Nick. Okay, 50/50 – an even split!
Not an objective opinion, I know – but warranted. It’s a shame ‘Robots In Disguise’ was released after this #1 issue, because reading *this* may give you high hopes for what the overall story can offer until you actually read *that*. Andrew Griffith is talented, as I mentioned in the previous review, but his design work relies heavily on a skilled colorist to compensate for what’s lacking. Roche’s lines meanwhile? They need no enhanced light source or complex color fields. Roche’s art, like Roberts’ prose, “speaks” for itself. To display just how good Nick is at what he does, I’ll punctuate this review with some inked, uncolored pages of this issue (released on his blog) and let them compliment the synopsis…
Liars, A to D Part 1: How to Say Goodbye and Mean It from IDW
Written by: James Roberts
Art by: Nick Roche
Color by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Editor: John Barbe
CYBERTRON, YESTERDAY: Hot Ro– er, Rodimus “Prime” sure believes his own hype. Granted, it’s very good hype. And it’s a glimmer of hope (however misguided and false it may prove to be) that many Autobots need after millenia of conflict. Many, but not all; Wheeljack and Prowl watch the Holo-screens as Rodimus, flanked by Ultra Magnus and Drift (the original proponent of this quest to find the ‘Knights of Cybertron‘), addresses the crowd with a grand speech only loyal readers would truly understand. Prowl – ever so arrogantly – is quick to dismiss Wheeljack’s assessment of what could be a mass-exodus as a mere “non-event”.
Autobot HQ – Ratchet performs an autopsy on the NAIL who transformed himself to death in protest of the Autobots perceived illegal occupation of Cybertron. Bumblebee watches to be sure suicide is confirmed for Metalhawk, when Ratchet begrudgingly informs him that – after eons as a field medic – he’ll sing his swan song on Rodimus ‘ maiden voyage of the Lost Light, picking up any Autobot stragglers along the way and eventually training a successor. Bumblebee, needless to say, is less than pleased.
Elsewhere – Cyclonus streaks over a vast, charred wasteland, lamenting over the once sprawling, bustling districts he’d called home during the Golden Age. He resigns however, reveling in the fact that he still has freedom. Freedom to fly via an AltMode unhindered by those I/D chips. Rodimus had kept his word. But would he keep his promise? Finding that out would have to wait – there was a familiar energy signature to investigate.
Autobot HQ – Prowl expresses extreme disappointment that Chromedome, like Ratchet, has also decided to embark on the Last Light’s “quest” with friend Rewind before an argument is sparked over the loss of ‘Dome’s scientific talents. Rewind, archivist that he is, decides to record the argument before calming Chromedome down while walking out. After throwing over a table in a fit of rage, Prowl opens a communication channel, informing of Chromedome’s stubbornness and sternly confirming the loading of “the cargo” onto Rodimus’ ship.
CYBERTRON, 6 MILLION YEARS AGO: Trapped in catacombs after a severely miscalculated detour through fragile terrain to get to the Ark launch on time, Tailgate runs a self-narrated self-diagnostic – he’s lost both his legs (retroactively damaging his Transformation Cog), and damaged his chronometer. He decides to blow a hole through the catacombs’ ceiling using the large Energon cache he was carrying that would otherwise doom the Ark and its crew’s maiden voyage.
CYBERTRON, PRESENT DAY: Autobot Whirl, unhinged ex-Wrecker, is about to set the bunker Cyclonus has locked on to ablaze with an Energon fire. He’s caught him talking to heavily damaged, deactivated Sweep drones – drones Cyclonus *thought* were Scourge due to the residual energy signatures. Whirl attacks Cyclonus, defending his actions flimsily. The aerial fight momentarily interrupts the mass-boarding of the Last Light before abruptly interrupting Ratchet, Chromedome, and Rewind’s walk to the boarding. Before any of them can explain anything, a huge beam of Energon erupts from the ground -– it’s Tailgate, who hasn’t realized – due to continuously shutting down and rebooting – that he has been trapped underground for 6 million years. After passing out, Tailgate is brought to the Last Light along with the incapacitated Cyclonus and Whirl, but not before Rewind makes a lone detour to pay Swindle off for some thieved Golden Disks.
Soon after, the Lost Light takes off, with Bumblebee openly curious towards Prowl of his supposed “plan”, at which point a huge explosion rips through the sky. Seemingly destroying the ship to those watching at ground level, it has actually been transported halfway across the galaxy due to a quantum engine malfunction. The damage causes a fifth of the 200+ crew to be jettisoned out of the ship, with Rodimus ordering an emergency landing on a nearby planet. Before a rescue can be mounted for the crew, their bodies are seen burning up upon entering the planet’s atmosphere. Back at HQ, a scrambled message “from the future” plays back, only to reveal dangers that await the now-doomed crew of the Lost Light.
When you read the issue completely, look for the subtle visual hint of rounded corners on several boxes from page to page – they’re there to let the reader know they are looking at events long passed when it’s not immediately apparent. This feature is utilized perfectly when we witness Tailgate slipping in and out of consciousness.
James Roberts may just trump Simon Furman as the best Transformers writer in ever. His dialogue is not only very situational but also extremely natural; there’s appropriate drama (Cyclonus’ introspective observation of the wastelands), heavy tension that’s balanced at the appropriate times (Prowl leveraging Chromedome’s much-needed skill against his wanting to leave, both of them angry during the entire scene), and small talk where there should be (read that scene with Chromedome, Rewind, and Ratchet walking to the launch — funny).
The Easter eggs here are mostly in this outstanding dialogue: Clever use of the term ‘Rigor Morphis’ (a play on Rigor Mortis) to describe the body of a dead Cybertronian that can still transform. Whirl, whose face is featureless save for a single, glowing optic sensor, brings attention to one particular expression with, “Look – this is my sincere face.” Tailgate refers to a ‘Rungian Analysis‘ of his psychological state, referencing the Cybertronian psychiatrist Rung (who we meet later in the story), both of which are a play on/reference to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Again, clever.
Beyond that, Roberts’ subtleties are nothing short of great. And his keen writing along with Roche’s stylistic choices make for a very fun read. It meshes very well with ‘Robots in Disguise’ – proof that IDW learned all they could from past script mistakes and mishandled artistic license. Here’s hoping the rest of the books in this series are just as good, if not better.
Might as well keep reading, cause you’re Comic Booked!