Rating if the Book Were a Movie: PG-13
Writer: Daniel Warren Johnson
Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colors: Mike Spicer
Letters: Rus Wooton
Cover: Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics
Story: 4.0 Stars
Artwork: 3.8 Stars
Cover Artwork: 3.9 Stars
Dialogue: 4.0 Stars
Mechanics: 3.9 Stars
Editing: 4.0 Stars
About the Book:
Spike and Carly are high school students that are going up a mountain on a stargazing expedition. The ground gives way from underneath them unexpectedly, and drops them into a cavern. This cavern is made of metal though. It’s part of a spaceship! Spike does some exploring and soon realizes that there is an assortment of large robots in an adjacent part of the ship. Life as they know it will never be the same after the robots come to life and begin fighting one another.
I remember exploring the woods near my house when I was about nine. Some developers were preparing to clear out a parcel of land. They had not started any of the work yet. In fact all they had done was park a backhoe and green bulldozer in a clearing on the property. I was convinced that Megatron had sent the Constructicons on a reconnaissance mission.
I told Dad about it. He didn’t seem too worried about the situation. I was in a panic. How would I tell the Autobots about what I had seen?! For months I was vigilant, keeping a sharp lookout for any cars that didn’t belong in the area and airplanes that didn’t have normal markings.
This is just one example of how the Transformers franchise has captured the imaginations of children across the land ever since it burst on the scene in a blaze of glory in 1984. Over the years Transformers has given us 8 movies, at least 15 different television/streaming series, more than 50 different comic book titles, and countless toys to continue to stoke the flames.
Nearly 40 years later Daniel Warren Johnson has given the icon franchise a reboot with Transformers #1. With this story he hits all the right notes. We have a good introduction to most of the humans we’re going to be seeing in the first few pages.
After that we get right into the action.
There are a couple of spots where we get to see plot enhancements. The touching moment between Optimus Prime and Jetfire/Skyfire helps establish that Transformers and Void Rivals are in the same universe. My personal favorite moment was seeing Starscream getting a chance to be in charge of the Decepticon army. The reader can almost hear Chris Latta’s voice in the dialogue. I’m curious to see how Starscream’s rule plays out in this rendition.
With taking on this franchise and rebooting it, Daniel Warren Johnson has put himself in an interesting and difficult situation. Hell hath no fury like a pissed off fan base. Don’t believe me? Ask Star Wars fans about movies seven, eight, and nine. I never thought I would actually miss Jar Jar Binks, yet here we are.
Transformers purists are going to be nitpicking and complaining about every little detail that strays from the original story that they hold near and dear to their hearts. I love these fans because they will keep a death grip on that original story in their head. It’s unfortunate that you can’t get them to accept the notion of a reboot.
Other fans will essentially be saying “They get it. The Ark crashes on Earth. Autobots and humans meet. Decepticon does something bad to a human establishment. Autobots get blamed by human governments. Decepticons begin to fight with humans. Humans realize Autobots are the good guys and free them. Autobots get an unlikely win due to unexpected human help. Can we get a new plot?”
Those fans aren’t necessarily wrong. They are asking for something that may not be attainable, though. Almost every Transformer story either focuses on the civil war on Cybertron, how the civil war is being fought on Earth, or character origin stories. “King Grimlock” is the only title in the franchise that I can recall reading that does not check at least one of those boxes.
It’s a given that if humans are going to be involved in the story either the Ark has to crash on Earth or mankind encounters the Cybertronians during space exploration. The Ark crashing on Earth makes more sense. It allows for more realistic scenarios. It worked when the Marvel bullpen did it.
I’m okay with the similarities if we can get a good story along the way. It’s like Spider-Man spin-offs or reboots. Somewhere along the way Peter Parker (or whoever will be taking up the mantle) has to be bitten by a spider. Once we have cleared that established point in time where does the story go?
I’m enjoying Mr. Johnson’s spin on this. Reading his work it’s easy to tell that he’s a fan of the franchise. He knows what other fans want. That gives me hope that we’ll get a story that will blow our hair back.
I liked how the artwork was done for this cover. Rather than having multiple characters which make for a busy cover Johnson kept it simple. All of the focus is on Optimus Prime. He looks determined. He’s not going to give up until all are one.
The artwork on the interior pages is well done. I appreciated that the lines weren’t as rigid as they seem to be in some renditions of the title. I was pleased to see that the Cybertronians we’ve seen so far have not had any major overhauls in their appearances. Prime, Starscream, Skywarp, Rachel, Soundwave, and Thundercracker were all immediately recognizable. Seeing this was another indication that the franchise is in good hands for this story.
As a geek on a budget I believe Transformers #1 is worth checking out. We get to see characters that we know and love while getting a new look at this universe. Autobots, roll out!