‘Transformers: Robots in Disguise’ #1 Continues IDW’s Addictive Space Opera [Preview]
Are you a big Transformers fan? I’ve never been one. My knowledge of the enduringly popular Hasbro franchise about sentient robots who can turn into vehicles and weapons is limited to the toys I played with as a child (I still have my Fortress Maximus U JELLY?), the original animated series, and the 1986 animated film — which I love unreservedly and without irony (Unicron > Galactus). Obviously the three recent Michael Bay films are aggressively offensive in every respect but I’ve always been told that there are loads of excellent Transformers comics going back decades. I love space opera and robots but as is often the case with comics, the mythology seemed too daunting and I never investigated those rumors of great Transformers fiction… until now.
On sale this week from IDW Publishing is Transformers: Robots in Disguise #1, beginning a new sci-fi saga that sees the millennia-spanning war between the Autobots and the Decepticons come to an end, and thousands of refugees return to their home planet of Cybertron after millions of years. As weird as it might sound, this Transformers story explores important ideas like a divided people’s harrowing reintegration, compromised civil liberties and cultural discrimination. There are also giant robots transforming into things, and you can check out of a preview of it after the cut.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise spun out of Transformers: The Death of Optimus Prime, a recent one shot that sets up both Robots in Disguise and its sister series, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye. Written by John Barber and James Roberts and illustrated by Nick Roche, the Prime one-shot was surprisingly immersive and existential, and provided this sci-fi fan with a sophisticated platform from which to launch into IDW’s new Transformers mythology. The book is available on comiXology, and tells the story of a leader who finds himself incompatible in a world without war — or, if you like, a robot without purpose now that his function has been fulfilled.
Prime leaves the newly liberated Cybertron in the hands of Bumblebee, which was quite a shock to me, and it is that diminutive Autobot’s story that takes center-stage in Robots in Disguise. We see Bumblebee try to create a new and benevolent government and, really, a new society in which the Autobots’ cousins, the Decepticons, are brought back into the fold along with a bitter group of robot refugees who’ve returned to find their home world torn apart by war.
Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye follows a splinter faction of Rodimus Prime (Hot Rod from the movie!) and other Autobots who’ve chosen to leave the strife at home and quest for the legendary Knights of Cybertron, supposedly the founders of the Transformers culture and a lost tribe who may still live somewhere in the universe, with an eye towards bringing them back and ushering in a new Golden Age.
As I said, it’s not the sort of thing I expected to find in what I’d always assumed — ignorantly, I confess — was simply a throwaway licensed nostalgia franchise, but I find myself waiting eagerly for the next chapters of this new space opera in the same way I became hooked on those early episodes of Battlestar Galactica. I wonder if it’s been like this all along? If so, I’ve got some catching up to do.
Issue #1 of More Than Meets the Eye is on sale now in finer comics stores and digitally via comiXology. There’s also Transformers: Autocracy, a digital-exclusive series that follows similar themes. Robots in Disguise #1 goes on sale tomorrow in shops, and you can read a few pages below.