Review: TRANSFORMERS #2 Building Tension With Immaculate Style

FIRST IMPRESSION

A murder mystery and a tale of civil unrest forms the basis of this new series of Transformers. And the narrative is a success on both fronts. A clever building of tension is set in a magnificent world created by the large art team. Get in on the ground floor for this series as it's going to get massive.
Writing/Story
Pencils/Inks
Colors
Lettering
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This week sees the release of the second issue of Transformers from IDW Publishing. Still basking in the glow of the new,  The World In Your Eyes part 2 continues the story of Cybertron before the civil war and the civil unrest brewing on the horizon.

Breathing new life into these giant robots is no easy task but Brian Ruckley has a large artistic team helping him do just that. Drawing on Transformers lore to bring something new to the readers is the driving force behind this reboot and IDW Publishing are committed to making this a success.

Cover art detail
Transformers #2 Credit: IDW Publishing

Writing/Story

After the shock of finding a dead body at the end of the last issue, Rubble and Bumblebee attempt to go about their business as if nothing has changed. For Rubble this is easier as he lacks experience in almost everything but for Bumblebee this proves to be harder. No unnatural deaths have occurred on Cybertron in generations.

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Brian Ruckley splits this issue into two sections. The first is a classic police procedural with a murder mystery at its heart.  Ruckley gives the readers a victim, some suspects, and an investigating team. Like all good ‘cop’ stories the effects of the crime are far reaching. Ruckley makes this very clear but then reins it in so the reader is left in the dark as to the true consequences.

This is a wonderful play on pulp fiction novels; the inconsequential aspects of the story often feature heavily in the final outcome. Because of the way Ruckley structures the narrative, the reader can make this literary connection and in turn starts to suspect everything.

This leads into the second part of the story where Megatron is leading an Ascenticon march. An unknown assailant attempts to assassinate the future Decepticon leader which adds more layers to the overall story. At each turn Ruckley teases the reader with information producing a surprisingly thrilling comic.

Ruckley has also used the structure of this issue to slowly increase the underlining tension relating to the coming civil war. As a stand-alone issue it might not be as obvious but when compared to issue 1 of Transformers, the civil unrest element of the story has grown. It only took up a few pages from the last issue but here more pages are dedicated to the Ascenticon’s and their rebellious nature. The increase in page number in turn increases the importance of the storyline. Ruckley is using the structure of the ongoing comic to enhance the narrative.

Interior art detail
Transformers #2 Credit: IDW Publishing

Art

Just like last issue, the two different storylines have different artists working on them. The style between Angel Hernandez and Cachet Whitman aren’t too dissimilar and the transition from one artist to another does not jar the reading experience. Hernandez’s fluid style matches the innocent characters featured in the first part of the narrative and his scenery is beautifully alien. In contrast Whitman has a more mechanical look suited to the inner city settings.

The artists, along with the two colorists Joana Lafuente and Josh Burcham, make each section of Cybertron physically and tonally different. The emotional reaction from the reader to the two halves of the story is controlled by the subtly different art styles.

Tom B. Long layers the speech balloons across the panels directing the reader. His caption boxes for Rubble’s inner monologue on the opening page have a mechanical, computerised edge but with a naivety reflecting Rubble’s new life. Long also uses short balloon tails for most of the speech except on rare occasions, such as the appearance of Orion Pax as a hologram. By altering the tail length it distinguishes the speech and gives the impression of distance. Long is making a point about the different locations and story elements: not only is Orion Pax physically further away but the action in the city is thematically distant from the quiet life in the wilderness of Cybertron.

Interior art
Transformers #2 Credit: IDW Publishing

Conclusion

As a murder mystery, Transformers issue 2 works beautifully. A range of suspects and motives have been laid out by Ruckley; a number of which will be red herrings. He is building a story to engage the reader without filling each page with violence. These Transformers are just trying to live their lives which makes them relatable: not something you can often say about giant alien robots.

The other aspect of the comic, the civil unrest, is also unfortunately relatable in today’s political climate. The fact that most people reading this comic will know where this is heading, Civil War, only adds to the growing tension of the situation. The creative team use that to manipulate the reader.

This new Transformers comic is a pleasure to read and the focus on a few characters works to its advantage.  There is plenty here for long time readers and new readers alike. The style of the narrative is also a fresh direction for the giant robots. By building the narrative slowly the creators engage the readers and hook them into the expanding storyline.

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Darryll Robson
Darryll Robsonhttp://www.comiccutdown.com
Comic book reader, reviewer and critic. Waiting patiently for the day they announce 'Doctor Who on The Planet of the Apes'.
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