When it comes to recommending comics, people appear to show a slight disdain for anything Transformers related. It’s understandable really, as the comics haven’t had the best track record and Michael Bay’s movies are complete drivel. Thankfully, publisher IDW manages to shake off that image of greasy objectified women and dull robots, with their ongoing comic series; Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye.
Nearing its 40th issue, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye is written by James Roberts, with artwork from series regular Alex Milne. Previously, Roberts caught the attention of Transformers fans when he co-wrote ‘Last Stand of the Wreckers’, which was a harrowing tale of sacrifice and betrayal. This attention led to him taking charge of his own title, which is arguably IDW’s finest publication to date.
The concept is simple, and it feels surprisingly fresh for a Transformers comic. A band of Autobots and Decepticons board the Lost Light, a space vessel in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron, a mythical group that was believed to have once existed on their home planet. Led by the cocksure Rodimus, his merry team of weird, dangerous and sometimes drunk Transformers get involved with whacky adventures in space.
Of course, not everything goes to plan, even during their departure from Cybertron. Following an unexpected quantum jump, the Lost Light is thrown into the depths of space, where a number of bizarre individuals attempt to overcome a stowaway predator, a fatal zombie plague and one of the deadliest threats in the entire galaxy. Throwing the Transformers into such uncharted territory allows for creative freedom and some innovative storytelling, which reels in the reader with every passing page.
It’s not just the quality of Roberts’ writing, but it’s the sheer quantity of it all. Nowadays, it’s not very common in this industry for comics to be so layered with action and dialogue, but it takes a decent amount of time to finish even a single issue, let alone an entire volume. Readers may even feel obliged to give IDW more money for a single issue, due to how ridiculously dense it always is. If you’re currently reading the title, do not hesitate to reread some panels as you’ll discover some clever foreshadowing throughout.
James Roberts also introduces a selection of fan favourites in More Than Meets the Eye, and he provides character development which hasn’t been witnessed in previous Transformers incarnations. Whilst reading, you’ll witness the hilarious bartender Swerve, the maniacal Whirl, and the Autobot who is almost never amused; Ultra Magnus. There’s a multitude of fantastic and unique characters in this comic and readers are sure to find a favourite amongst them all.
The series is currently in its second run having undergone a refreshing shuffle of characters, after the events of Dark Cybertron. Ex-Decepticon Megatron is now captain of the Lost Light, and not only are fellow travellers questioning his allegiance, but readers too. That’s the beauty of this comic, as Roberts’ manages to develop an already established character for the old and new readers, whilst maintaining interest.
Meanwhile, the comic has recently introduced a mysterious coffin, time travel hijinks and disappearing objects. It fulfils all the needs of a comic book reader, by utilising all of these fantastical science fiction elements. More Than Meets the Eye likes to keep you on your toes by keeping it fresh and this second run is no exception.
Of course, James Roberts’ script is aided by Alex Milne, who is arguably one of the franchise’s best artists to date. It’s a visual look that hasn’t really been approached before; stylishly cartoonish and colourful, whilst retaining a level of detail that is appropriate for a Transformers title. Milne has previously worked for the doomed company Dreamwave, but it is now IDW that benefits from his talent. He was underutilised previously, but now he’s firing on all cylinders.
If you’ve not been won over yet, it must be acknowledged that due to not confining to the strict formula of previous titles, More Than Meets the Eye manages to impress diehard fans, and new readers who are unbeknownst to the concept of transforming robots in space. It’s a grand accomplishment, as the transformers themselves don’t necessarily feel like soulless robots.
It certainly feels like an established universe, and whilst readers may have difficulty in differentiating their ‘bots from their ‘cons, they’ll soon be invested in these characters and that’s when the tears will flow.
It’s also due to the themes that it tackles, which really transcends this comic from every other version of the Transformers. There are in-depth debates about religion, politics and identity which appear all throughout the comic, and it is fascinating how rooted these problems are in their society. These themes are displayed heavily in flashbacks, and concurrent throughout.
More Than Meets the Eye even boasts its first unofficial gay relationship in the Transformers universe, and whilst that might not necessarily feel like new territory for comic readers, it’s worth noting that it’s a first for a franchise, especially for one based on selling toys. It’s a welcome change and yet another reason why this comic is so accessible. Just don’t go visiting some particular 18+ fan sites, unless you’re into that kind of thing.
To put it simply, the characters feel real. They have their own emotions, beliefs and motives. So, be afraid when Roberts’ lulls you into a false sense of security, only to have a horrible twist down the line. It will happen, and it will hurt.
Transformers comics haven’t fared very well in the past, and whilst the Marvel series has a special place in the fan’s hearts, it is More Than Meets the Eye that truly stands as being the finest comic book accomplishment in the Transformers history to date. It succeeds where other series have failed.
It is a sci-fi adventure that takes the reader for one hell of a journey, which never falters in telling a rich, compelling and emotional story. Milne’s artwork is utterly superb and near faultless, providing the reader with an incredible look into such a great universe.
If you’re still put off by the fact that it’s Transformers, then so be it. Just be aware that you’re missing out on of the finest publications on the shelves right now, in an industry that is run down by mind-numbing event, pointless reboots and average storytelling. Also, those other comics don’t have the ex-Wrecker Whirl, and that’s awful.