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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably at least peripherally aware of the Transformers franchise. It’s based on two simple concepts: (1) giant robots that turn into trucks or planes or monkeys, who (2) smash each other up. It started with a toyline that gave you two toys for the price of one, and spawned a slew of half hour commercials cartoons, comics, and movies where giant robots smash each other up.

While some iterations have more depth than others, they’re all still pretty much aimed at their young target audience, appealing to adults who are nostalgic or easily entertained. One notable exception, which you should be reading right now, is IDW’s “More Than Meets The Eye” comic. Writer James Roberts is writing his butt off, in a series that can be enjoyed by any comic book reader, not just Transformers fans.

Taking place after the war – that’s right, the epic, aeon-spanning war between the heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons is over:

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It follows an eclectic crew of adventurers on a quest. In space. Oh, and they still satisfy their quota of giant robots being smashed up. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a sampling of what makes this series on easily one of my favorite current titles on the stands:

1) The story!

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Within the over arching story, there are mini arcs. From cyber space vampires, to medical murder mysteries, to an uneasy hostage situation, there’s no topic too epic nor absurd. The action ranges from fun, to tense, to outright heartbreaking.

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Each mini arc has twists and surprises. But no matter how shocking or unexpected they are, they’re actually all very deliberate. The foreshadowing has been masterfully executed, so that you never see it coming… but once its been revealed, it sends you pouring through back issues to see how it was all set up from the start. Almost nothing is inconsequential, things that seem minor now, tend to pop up in big (and satisfying) ways later on.

2) The humor!

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This series has a great blend of comedic situations and hilarious dialog. I could seriously spend all day posting panel after panel of gags and you have no idea how hard it was to choose just a few. Unless you’re reading this comic already, in which case you understand perfectly.

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Author James Roberts said: “How do I feel about humor? I think it’s part of life, I think everyone makes jokes and laughs at jokes, and I think there’s wit and laughter to be found in the grimmest situations. I think we use humor as a coping mechanism. I think that in a story, when it’s used properly – and I’m trying to use it properly – humor can add pathos and heart and weight to the most dramatic situation. It can even make a serious situation more serious.”

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3) The characters!

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There’s a very large cast, so it tends to focus on a handful of characters at a time. They have depth, flaws, and (ironically) a humanity that many comic book characters lack. In spite of – or perhaps because of – the lack of romance, their interactions and relationships are fascinating and nuanced. And as the above-mentioned drama unfolds, somber characters have funny things happen to them, goofy characters have tragic things happen to them.

4) Did I mention giant robots smashing each other up?

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