If you’ve followed this blog or have known me in real life for any significant amount of time, you know that I love me some Transformers. That baffles people, mostly because the Michael Bay films are all they know. Even if the last one was comparatively decent, that’s still a shame for this multi-layered, multi-faceted science fiction franchise (which obviously exists to sell toys, but it does so because it gets us to care about the characters).
The biggest slap in the face to what Michael Bay has done to the franchise is the comics IDW Publishing has been putting out since 2006. Taking place in a new iteration of the Generation One continuity (that’s the original ’80s cartoon, comics and toyline), the line was initially a succession of connected miniseries and one-shots written by the Major Domo of Transformers writers, Simon Furman. In 2008, the maxi-series All Hail Megatron which had the Decepticon leader formally conquer Earth was released and kicked off events that led to an ongoing written by Mike Costa that, after three years, ended with the most daring storytelling anybody had done for Transformers yet.
The Great War between the Autobots and Decepticons–y’know, the thing THE ENTIRE FRANCHISE is based on–actually ended. Cybertron was restored to life after eons of barrenness and loads of NAILs (Non-Aligned Indigenous Lifeforms, those who left the Great War) arrive back home. From there, the franchise split in two directions in 2012, with IDW’s Transformers editor John Barber writing and Andrew Griffith drawing Robots In Disguise, about the efforts to unite the new Cybertron, and fan-favorites James Roberts and Alex Milne writing and drawing More Than Meets The Eye, where a bunch of characters, led by Rodimus (aka the guy who became the new Prime in the 1986 movie), leave in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron to help restore the planet and…well, pretty much everything but that happens.
It’s those two series that are the focus of Humble Bundle’s new Book Bundle, which started last week and concludes on Wednesday. Like all Humble Bundles, the focus is towards charity–here, it’s the Hasbro Children’s Fund–but the staggering greatness of the deal offered here is incredible.
For as little as you want–yes, even a penny–you get 37 issues of More Than Meets the Eye–that’s every single issue ever published but the current one. That’s an astonishing deal. If you pay more, you can also get nearly every issue of Robots In Disguise (which has been renamed to avoid confusion with this) as well as the “Dark Cybertron” crossover, which bridges the gap between the first and second “seasons” of both comics (but really isn’t required reading). But if you can’t pay that much, just get MTMTE.
Roberts, Milne and colorists Josh Burcham and Joana Lafuente are the most underrated storytellers in comics today. Yes, even if they’re working on a licensed book put out by a Top 5 comic book publisher, they’re still written off. It’s a branding thing, obviously. Because the public perception of Transformers has come to be “shiny shit blowin’ up REAL good” for four films now, other media gets written off as similarly stupid.
More Than Meets The Eye is the complete opposite of that. Milne’s gorgeous pencils are distinctive and emotive; you clearly know and feel for these characters. Burcham and now Lafuente compliment that with astonishing colors. And Roberts–himself a long-admired figure in the fandom–leads the way with absolutely incredible scripts that either redefine old characters or define characters who never got much or any backstory in the first place.
The series is full of wit, humor, Big Ideas, dysfunctional personalities, epic space-faring adventure and small-scale introspection. In short, it’s everything you can get in great science fiction. The fact that this has a lot of firsts like, say, the franchise’s first canonically gay married couple (really), only is more points in its favor.
This is an incredible comic that is only going to get better. If you don’t believe me, read Lindsay Ellis’ take on it. Then get your butt over to Humble Bundle, donate and download. Even if you don’t like Transformers–hell, especially if you don’t–read this. You’ll be so glad you did.