Entries in Transformers (1)


Worth Your Time & Money #1: Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye (MTMTE)


@WOTFANAR: “seriously, it’s a bit like if douglas addams wrote a muppets version of a book written by jk rowling about robots on star trek.” - re: Writer James Roberts’ run on Transformers: MTMTE

As a child of the 80s, I owned several classic Transformer toys, watched the series regularly, and bought the first two years of the original comic book series. I watched Optimus Prime die on a movie theater screen as a 10 year old. But as I aged, I left the Transformers behind and focused more on Star Wars.

When the iPad appeared in April 2010, I immediately began using the Comixology app to rediscover comics. The “Transformers: All Hail Megatron” series brought me back into the Transformers fold. Initially, it all seemed the same... which was a good thing. Comforting. More of the heroic Autobots fighting the dastardly Decepticons. Just like what I remembered.

But like what happened with the Star Wars novels, it got old quick. No new ground was explored. The same old platitudes and threats from the same old characters. Something had happened to me in the interim where I wanted more than the Michael Bay “rock’em sock’em” approach. The comics hadn’t changed, but I had.

Luckily, I kept reading, because something happened with issue #22 in July 2011 of the main Transformers series.

I had never really followed comic writers up to this point. I knew names based on comics I liked. Moore. Morrison. Ellis. Ennis. Etc. But reading Transmetropolitan or Planetary was different than reading a series based upon a franchise you already knew and felt a certain affinity towards.

And seeing something you knew well and liked suddenly turn into something more is just plain magical. And that’s what James Roberts does with The Transformers: MTMTE series.

Back in TF #22, which is the start of the “Chaos Theory” storyline, the central scene has Optimus Prime and Megatron just sitting and talking about their 4 million year conflict like old comrades (these days Megatron is more than just the robot equivalent of a mustache-twirling villain tying the human race to the metaphorical train tracks) with differing ideologies.

On the first page of MTMTE #1, Roberts introduces the term “rigor morphis” when a Cybertronian dies and converts to their preferred form (robot or alternate in the common vernacular). Now, Roberts may not be the sole reason of these and other examples of clever writing and change occurring in the series, but it seems to me that in the time that he has been working on the Transformers comics, the issues of religion, philosophy, medicine, PTSD, and humor all from the viewpoint of a distinctly alien world filled with sentient robots have evolved the franchise beyond the simplistic Michael Bay cinematic vision of humanity caught in the midst of a struggle between good and bad.

Without humans around, it’s like the Transformers have become more human. And that is a very good thing. The Tweet at the start of this review uses a series of other well-loved franchises to describe the level of depth that has been added to what could simply be issue after issue of robots fighting. Instead, there is warmth, heartbreak, and humor… though there are still some great battles as well.

I recommended the first trade of MTMTE to a friend. After he read it, he said that he liked it, but felt like he was missing some backstory. I agree that when I first read it, I was a little lost due to not remembering some elements from earlier comics, but the other thing is, in those early issues, Roberts is also setting up some mysteries that unfold several issues later. He is a talented storyteller weaving science fiction mysteries on par with top Doctor Who episodes.

So here is my short list of pre-MTMTE reading recommendations:

1. Last Stand of the Wreckers

2. Transformers #22 & 23: Chaos Theory: You can continue reading after these two issues if you like as the series itself stops at #31 and is followed by MTMTE and its sister series, Robots In Disguise.

If you want to read even more, this cross-title issue by issue list in chronological order should help (I wish I had known about it when I started reading).

For those using Comixology, here is the direct link to the MTMTE collection.

Finally, Mr. Roberts publishes (or published) unofficial theme songs for the series as well as individual issues of the comic which I have found as a wonderful way to discovering new music.

SO, if you're like me and enjoy seeing beloved franchises from your childhood taken and lovingly worked on by fellow fans into something even better than they were, then MTMTE is for you.

Optimus Prime & Megatron sharing a moment (Art by Alex Milne).