A Highly Recommended Terrible Idea: Transformers More Than Meets The Eye (2012-2016)/Transformers Lost Light (2016-)

Are you looking for a new comic series to start reading? Or looking for a pile of finished trade paperbacks to pick up and read over the holidays? Do you not know I like using question marks and tangling people in my thought spirals? Did I just insult one of your favourite comic series if you already know which one I’m talking about?

The first two answers are all up to you, dear readers (and so is the third, come to think of it), but the answer to the final one is … nope. In fact, I am about to try the gargantuan, though maybe not Galactus-sized, task of recommending four plus years of a Transformers comic series to a non-Transformers audience. Just in time for that series to start a new season (yes, it comes in seasons) with a new number one issue.

In case the title wasn’t fair warning though (and it probably wasn’t), this post is most likely going to be long, and recommending and describing this series is not going to be simple. Starting with the fact that I am recommending a series that leads you to the ever increasing realization that the starting premise was a terrible, terrible idea. The worst of ideas. And yet you end up really liking the characters who came up with the idea and went along with it and enjoy following along on their adventures.

Yeah. Awkward.

There are other pages I really wanted to share (the original argument, plus the preceding page of this argument, for example) but - control, control, control.

I seriously think the alternate title for the series could have been/could be Transformers: Bumblebee Was Totally Absolutely Right. [The Death of Optimus Prime]

Sooooooo – Transformers. They’re More Than Meets the Eye, right? And my making that joke is even worse when the title of the comic series I’m trying to recommend is Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye. But, that is the concept in a nutshell and if anyone reading this already has glancing familiarity with them, like knowing that Spider-Man is a dude in red and blue spandex, it’s that they’re those (not always giant) giant robots that turn into cars (but not always cars). That aren’t the ones from, say, M.A.S.K. or a number of other giant robot/transforming robot/cars that are other things properties.

Hilariously the two Transformers here are actually roughly the same color as the pinkish accent colour used on some gear and vehicles in the original M.A.S.K. show. They've just made it the primary colour on their holomatter avatars' outfits.

Unless of course the Transformers decide to masquerade as members of M.A.S.K. (and their vehicles) for the humorous entry in the current Revolution crossover event. [MTMTE Revolution one-shot]

I say all of this to say – you do not really need to have an existing familiarity with the property at all or with the IDW Transformers comics continuity in particular in order to pick up, read, understand, and enjoy Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye (which becomes Transformers: Lost Light on December 14). And, especially as people already familiar with the wide, wacky (I’m being nice here) world of superhero comics and what happens with costume changes and artist changes and colouring issues – I don’t think trying to figure out who is who is going to be any worse than, say, trying to pick superheroes out in group shots or figuring out which female superhero an artist turned into living taffy (otherwise known as The Greg Land Approach to Turning Actual Human Beings Into Anatomically Wrong Comic Art).

Yes, she's made of living light but she's in solid form right then and I am deeply concerned for her skinny melting taffy legs.

Even without the fact that that’s supposed to be Monica Rambeau (which is an added layer of yikes) … hips and legs don’t work like that. [Mighty Avengers #1]

Other than being put off (potentially, hypothetically, etc speaking) by robots and/or being able to tell the robots apart as individual characters (which is enough to crack me up given that MTMTE is a very character driven book), what you need to know is that both MTMTE and ex-Robots in Disguise (releasing a new tv show called Robots in Disguise with its own tie-in comic kind of necessitated a change to just The Transformers) were/are set after the millions (or not – depends on the continuity) of years of war between the Autobots and Decepticons ended and that the two series, preceded by the The Death of Optimus Prime one-shot, together were effectively a reboot that wasn’t a reboot. I think they very well could have actually been a proper reboot (and given, uh, Spotlight: Arcee, some things really would not have been missed), but they aren’t. But you also aren’t going to be lost if you don’t read years of previous IDW Transformers output first and the post-war setting is also an amazing storytelling set-up that still hasn’t run out of fuel.

Also, Whirl having Whirl motivations. Because - Whirl. Nobody hates on the Senate better.

Rewind, you’re an Autobot archivist making an Autobot commissioned set of history documentaries. I think you need to look up the meaning of bias again. [The Transformers Titans Return/”The Last Autobot”]

Ravage would be the logical answer. Especially because the Decepticon brand is shaped like Soundwave's head.

I feel like everyone is ignoring Cyclonus’ extremely valid point about the continued fixation on badges and factions. Also, are those snacks shaped like the Decepticon brand? If so, who made them?

Sentinel Prime is like Donald Trump if Donald Trump were a giant robot that's actually a much smaller robot piloting a bigger robot suit they can eject from. And if he were buried underground for millions of years.

And, in fact, as the actual Titans Return event shows, like, in this same issue, Megatron is 100% telling the truth and Rewind’s documentary is wrong – Sentinel Prime’s head was very much not stolen at all and Sentinel Prime also didn’t die at all. And now he’s back to purify Cybertron by razing it to the ground. Whoopsies.

Since I’m going with this review/recommendation being aimed at people not already floating in a sea of Transformers enjoyment (I’d say a sea made of energon but that’s probably as safe as being in a pool full of gasoline and other car fluids) – the post-war set-up is not typical for Transformers stories and continuities, no matter whether as comics, tv series, or movies. You might get a group from the far future that ends up in the far past, but there is still an Autobot-Decepticon conflict (the two major factions in most all Transformers content) or an equivalent (Maximals-Predacons in Beast Wars, the show I’m referencing). Even when it seems like you might just get to follow a group of characters from one faction (that faction being … the Autobots, because, good guys) having adventures (Transformers Animated this time) … it seems to always end up in Autobots versus Decepticons, Optimus Prime (Autobot leader) versus Megatron (take a guess) plots and conflicts.

The quality may vary and there’s also the matter of personal taste, but at the same time – how many times do you really want to watch Spider-Man fight the Green Goblin? Or, going for my favourite superhero, how often do you really want to read a storyline pitting Catwoman against Black Mask? Especially when you could, say, instead have Catwoman: on a road trip with her best friend Holly; meeting up with Captain Cold in their civvies; participating in community action; getting kidnapped by a mummy to be his bride; being chased by an animatronic monster while rescuing hapless film crew members and trying to steal a non-existent script.

And, yes, all of those are actual Catwoman adventures. And they were fabulous.

Holly and Selina, I miss you so much. I also miss Holly's girlfriend, Karon.

There’s also the relationship with the fourth wall that some of MTMTE and some of Catwoman has in common.

Catwoman is confirmed bi in current DC Comics continuity and Catwoman's best pal Holly and her girlfriend Karon were important supporting cast in this part of this Catwoman's comics run. And MTMTE is just really really queer. Really really.

Plus, these two pages also go with my mention of superhero costume redesigns and what will be my later mention of queer characters and death in comics. Also – I think this means the Mighty Avengers pages might just be the only ones in this article with no queer characters in them.

So – now that you are (hopefully!) reassured that you’ll be able to tell everyone apart enough to follow the story and know that there was a (truly freaking horrific) millions of years long war that is now over and that this series and its companion series start after that point – what is MTMTE actually about? And why, if I haven’t pummeled your brains and ability to focus into a fine paste already, is the starting premise such a terrible idea? And is it a terrible idea like revealing that Gwen Stacy isn’t dead and in fact had Green Goblin’s babies? Or is it a different kind of terrible? And did I really need to remind everyone that that was a thing that happened?

Going in reverse order – It’s not the same kind of terrible idea (and in fact it’s kind of brilliant in its own awful way). And I really did need to, because that kind of suffering is better with company (and because I’m the type of person who picked up an old issue of Green Lantern just because the cover was of Hal Jordan choking to death in the vacuum of space). And the series, in short, is about a hapless, not very good captain (who kind of at one time used to carry the relic that decides who is leader of the Autobots/the good/”good” guys) who got his best friend to buy him a ship and recruited (using a speech he had his best friend write for him) a bunch of other Autobots to come with him to hunt for the mythical/legendary Knights of Cybertron so that the Knights can restore Cybertron (the home planet of the Transformers) to its Golden Age.

Also – the quest for the Knights of Cybertron is happening so that the recruited Autobots, for the moment, don’t have to stay on Cybertron and actually try living with Decepticons and NAILs (Non-Affiliated Indigenous Lifeforms – those Cybertronians who did not join up with either faction and who managed to survive elsewhere in the universe during millions of years of war while the Autobots and Decepticons trashed a ton of planets including Cybertron. Whoops.). And so that they don’t have to try working with those other Cybertronians to build a new world that won’t just replicate the suffering and strife that started the war and potentially reignite the conflict and finish off the species extinction the war started.

I think I'll call this That Fun Issue With Pretty Art Where Everything Is Foreshadowing Later Epic Sadness. Although calling the intro issue for the planet with the murder flowers fun is probably ... odd. But this 'is' an issue where no one dies or even gets injured.

That fun ensemble comedy where people laugh, love, get their heads blown off (and sometimes manage to get better), and … try to restore their society to the conditions that started the horrific war that killed billions, devastated planets, and literally made their own home planet uninhabitable (until it got reverted to a primordial state via shenanigans). Also, yes, that smaller ship is shaped like the captain’s head. [MTMTE #44 “The Not Knowing”]

Yeah. Besides being Bumblebee Was Right: The Series, MTMTE is also Well This is Super Awkward If You Think About It: The Series. And it’s good. Really quite good. I will not say perfect (perfect is like sharpening a knife and then intentionally putting it right where you’re going to sit down. it’s guaranteed to hurt in the end. and I didn’t even mean for that to turn out as a terrible joke), but it is really enjoyable to follow along with the adventures and personal development and not-development (millions of years of war kind of super messes up extremely long-lived beings and the ship of 200+ bots only has one therapist) of the Lost Light’s crew, and, interweaved with everything else and curling under it, is continued proof that Bumblebee was right that there was no Golden Age on Cybertron. And – especially the further you get into the series and the more you find out – the idea of the Knights of Cybertron actually existing and Rodimus (hapless captain and former carrier of the Matrix of Leadership – yes, it’s really called that) and co. one day finding them and the Knights being able to restore a Golden Age to Cybertron becomes more and more horrifying.

I'm not sure if the cosmic carnival and learning how to juggle (does that mean Ultra Magnus learned juggling??) or the time Rodimus went on leave to go to meteor fest and, uh, surf meteors is better.

Okay, so I’m spoiling the reveal about Rodimus’ series long annoying habit of carving his desk while the other officers try to talk to him but – burn it. Seriously. Finding the Knights is a bad bad idea regardless of who goes looking and [spoilers for end of season two]. Also this page is just hilarious. [MTMTE #44 “The Not Knowing”]

Again, it’s brilliant in its own awful, compelling way because a) it can completely sink beneath your radar that that’s what Rodimus and the crew originally set out to do and what the implications of that goal are b) if you do pick up on it, it means that you are then doing the equivalent of watching, say, Star Trek: Voyager and hoping fervently that the crew never makes it home (for those who haven’t watched it, the point of Voyager‘s overarching plot is for them to make it home after being stranded in a different galaxy). It’s a weird, unique narrative place to be put in where you want the hero’s quest to remain incomplete, where you don’t want the crew to get back home from a galaxy far far away, where success would be actually, genuinely terrible and a Be Careful What You Wish For that impacts at the very very least an entire species and multiple planets (at this point in time Cybertron has reconnected with multiple colony worlds that were “lost” before the start of the war).

IDW Starscream should ask Armada Starscream what happens to Starscreams who try to be factionless and to protect Cybertronians as a whole. Spoiler - they are first extremely lonely and then they die.

Angry Birds Cybertron (not the actual title) kind of has more than enough going on as is, especially since currently the Titans from the Titans Return event are, uh, still busy returning and trying to destroy the rebuilding Cybertron at the behest of returned from the dead Cybertronian Donald Trump. [Til All Are One #5 – “Ping” – subscription cover by Priscilla Tramontano]

Also – MTMTE‘s type of storytelling and plotting means that you should be prepared to get totally emotionally wrecked about that purple dude who turns into a giant gun in the original cartoon. And be prepared to actually enjoy a big crossover event wherein you get further emotionally wrecked about the purple dude. Not that I can really recommend all of the art on the Dark Cybertron event, but a) if you’ve at least read the Shadowplay arc (#9-11) of season one of MTMTE first, you will be emotionally wrecked in a very satisfying way by the conclusion of Dark Cybertron’s story (Dark Cybertron #12) b) the small number of people and titles involved in IDW’s Transformers continuity mean that the collaboration on crossovers is high and that it is a lot easier to successfully follow what’s happening and where compared to [fill in any number of Marvel and DC crossover events, which also often interrupt and consume the debuts of smaller, quality series]. I say this with the caveat that currently the IDW titles are undergoing the Revolution event, which is meant to incorporate and introduce a number of other ’80s properties Hasbro has collected, so there are a fair number more people and comic titles involved in that than with Dark Cybertron (which included only MTMTE and ex-RID – the first volume of Transformers: Windblade debuted after the conclusion of Dark Cybertron) or even the later IDW Transformers events (Combiner Wars, Titans Return).

Starscream, I don't think Shockwave is going to let you actually touch him.

In the G1 cartoon he literally turned into a giant floating laser gun thing. When he wasn’t just on Cybertron, being purple and and doing science and fighting the totally not actually extinct female Autobots (how did it take him 4 million years to realize they were there??).

I can't top Crisis on the Infinite Cybertrons. Sorry not sorry.

Also, one time the animators gave him a gun shaped like … the gun he turns into. Or maybe that’s somehow an additional Shockwave being held by Shockwave. Crisis on the Infinite Cybertrons?

It is really awkward trying to avoid spoilers while attempting to recommend this series because a lot of what makes it recommendable or that I can mention as reassurance or a good thing or what not is inextricably tied up in spoilers. Like, do I tell you I’m bringing you an awesome cake or do I let you potentially smack me in the face with a door and crush the cake to avoid you finding out early that there’s a cake? Or maybe I just want cake. But, anyways – as much as I am a jaded grump about crossover events, I am a lot less grumped about them when it comes to the post-2012 IDW Transformers comics, especially the Dark Cybertron crossover (imagine it as a set of specials in between seasons one and two of a really good tv series, because that is kind of what it is). And the storytelling and character and worlbuilding stuff that is done with Shockwave is soooo good. It is that amazing cake on the other side of the door. If a cake would make you cry at the end.

The Shadowplay arc + Dark Cybertron event may also be known as Senator Shockwave Made Me Run Out of Tissues [Dark Cybertron Finale “…And the Damage Done”]

I mentioned Star Trek: Voyager earlier on, and, as much as I think it’s really hard to pin down an accurate tonal description or comparative for MTMTE (and I do think indicating the feel of a book is important when making recommendations) and as much as I hate that film pitch thing where you say your thing is a cross of this and this existing thing (the list of stuff I used to do and used to know is weird and varied and I’m saving some of it as facts my loved ones can use to check if I’ve been replaced by a pod person) – it is a good comparison among many in the weird ’60s psychedelia painting that is my personal attempts to describe the tone(s) and genre(s) of the series.

Or I could just say it’s queer robot space drama. There’s that too.

Rereading stuff while writing this is Crying: Revisited. Sniffle. It's also a visual treat. Joana Lafuente's work as a colourist makes me really happy.

Periodic Crying: The Series. Aka, I’m going to need a moment because Skids looks so happy and cute there and is engaging in banter that is largely foreshadowing for horrible things that happen later on in season two. [MTMTE #44 “The Not Knowing”]

Using analogies still ultimately requires familiarity with something, but MTMTE and Voyager do both have the, accident leaves ship and crew suddenly somewhere far from where they meant to be and (at least to start with) unable to return home even if they wanted to, situation going on. And also the resulting permanent bottle episode feeling to them, which does get changed and played around with a bit (the Lost Light does go back to Cybertron during the Dark Cybertron event and the ships and crews in Voyager and MTMTE can and do both still have adventures with other planets and species wherever they are in space, while also doing proper bottle episodes within an overall bottle situation).

Also, yes, this is like if the fuels at the gas station were bright glowy colours and your car had the facial expressions to express how great the higher quality fuel and a full gas tank is. Although from left to right this is actually a helicopter, a (small) car, and a submarine.

Also Swerve is engaging in improper use of a subspace hatch connecting them to Luna-1 as of partway through season two (this is from the 2015 Holiday Special, which had stories for MTMTE, The Transformers, and Windblade/Til All Are One).

At the same time, MTMTE is like taking the types of stories and the … colorfulness of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and mashing it together with the lost in space bottle episode nature of Star Trek: Voyager. With sides of Justice League Unlimited (or Justice League International, which MTMTE has done three cover homages to) and picking characters out of the huge continuity toy box to have madcap adventures and/or heartbreak with, and with the constant “Aw, coffee, no.” feel of the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye run. All topped off with the spiritual kin of storytelling moments like, say, Luke Cage decking Superior Spider-Man in the pages (and on the cover of! – and yes, I have that single issue for that exact reason) of The Mighty Avengers and the proto-Mighty Avengers (start of issue #1) facing off against Parnival Plunder as drawn by Greg Land.

He says he's a fabulous python folks. I'd believe him.

This page is entirely worth clicking on and reading. Or at least that first panel. Plunder rays. Plunder. Rays. Plus Ava’s and Luke’s reactions. [Mighty Avengers #1]

To that end, besides the fact that everyone is not going to like everything anyways, I will say that, especially with the comparisons above, MTMTE may fall a bit more into the personal preferences/acquired taste category than some other comics or even other Transformers comics. At the same time, if you end up liking it, you may end up really liking it. Like the Moxie soda or weird aged cheddar that has crystals and is it supposed to have crystals and are you going to die if you eat this cheese of robot comics or comics generally. And, yes, I like both of those things even if I haven’t had them in … far too long.

Seriously. Brainstorm inventions include the Grenado (tornado grenade), metafictional bomb (it makes you break the fourth wall), and the Early Early Warning System.

Brainstorm would totally drink Moxie. And lick railroad ties. And then try to make some kind of theoretical and/or highly dangerous weaponry out of Moxie and railroad ties. [MTMTE #7 – “Rules of Disengagement”]

So, what do we have so far, other than the knowledge that I will willingly drink something that looks like Penguin from Batman Returns spat it up and that people say tastes like licking railroad ties?

We have a space action-adventure comedy-drama with a (originally) stranded ship, a grab bag cast for both pathos and punchlines, a post-war world that that grab-bag cast couldn’t cope with in various ways, and an ambitious, mythical quest that would be an absolute, at minimum species-level, disaster if the questers succeeded and if the mythical beings were capable of what the questers hoped for.

I needed to get the start of the Necrobot's monologue, plus the info here is important for understanding that monologue.

There’s also this too. [MTMTE #44 “The Not Knowing”]

Whoops did I do a spoiler? Oh well. Plenty of tear-inducing spoiler material that's still unspoiled. Plus. seriously, this is so so good.

Foreshadowing ‘and’ extremely valid points. Alas, poor Necrobot, did you not learn from Bumblebee what happens to those who are super right about stuff?

That is a pretty darn rad description without having to go into spoiler territory like I thought I would. And without giving in to the desire to post a metric ton of comic panels showing in detail how super duper right Bumblebee is (alas, poor Bumblebee, the kid attachment character that, across continuities, ends up falling off cliffs, dying, though not as often as Optimus Prime dies, losing his voice, getting resurrected, though again not as often as O.P., and in general being a sweet yellow car/robot plagued by misfortune).

This is the most recent issue, so it remains to be seen if there will be any extra hauntings going on. Also, hopefully Starscream doesn't get forced back into the role of stock villain. But this is about MTMTE, not post-2012 IDW Starscream. ;)

This is spoilers, but, eh, yeah, Dark Cybertron is also Emotionally Wrecked About Bumblebee: The Event, and when he does come back it’s as a ghost haunting the dude now trying to do what Bumblebee was trying to do – unite and rebuild a post-war Cybertron. Yeah. Doesn’t really bode well for Starscream. Who could just be manifesting Bumblebee from his subconscious but Transformers is, err, no stranger to ghosts. Although usually Starscream is the ghost, not the one being haunted by a ghost. [Til All Are One #5 “Ping”]

Now for the rest of it. Feel free to cry if necessary. Or not. I’m only trying to circle around the shape of four plus years of extremely dense comics narrative backed by thirty-two years worth of continuities and characters and fandom. Not overwhelming at all.

It's kind of harder to identify characters correctly and easily here. Especially Brainstorm. Yes the guy on the very bottom left is the seafoam green/white/grey from the previous comic page I shared.

It’s not overwhelming just the way that waking up to a mouth full of deadly nanocons and miniaturized crew members is not overwhelming. Also, the solution ends up being that Ultra Magnus has to smile. Smile to save everyone on the ship from killer nanocons. [MTMTE Annual 2012 – “Primus”]

Actually, yes, it is. It’s really hard trying to decide what to prioritize (and I can actually tell this is becoming quite the lengthy post already) and what to say and how to avoid as many spoilers as possible while also still hopefully being compelling enough for people to give the series a shake before (or after) season three debuts with Lost Light #1 on December 14.

For example – Do I talk about individual characters (which for my intended Transformers-newbie audience means that a)they won’t know those characters from a hole in the wall yet and b) also falls on the side of Major Spoilers)? About deciding to recommend the series even though I have honestly had to nope my way away from it and its fandom at points (although I also have come back)? Individual story arcs? The time I ended up with conspiracy theories about me (on top of really nasty vitriol about me, my body, and my writing) because people have no idea of the time scales involved in comics publishing and so little faith in the individual integrity and the ability and willingness to change and learn of comic writers that it must have been an evil SJW forcing them to change something for the trade edition?

I'm running a little low on clever to use for the alt text here so ... I'll fill it by saying I can't think of something. :P

Yeah. There’s no way a writer could realize on their own that making the equivalent of Transformers blood types but then giving the only (at the time) definitely female character in the cast Blood Type: Girl was a mega bad idea. It was totally mind control and time travel instead that had it changed for the trade paperback. [MTMTE #31 – “Twenty Plus One”]

Orrrrrrrr do I talk about the alleged meaninglessness of death in comics, queerness, Ryan Murphy (I’m not sure if I Survived Glee or I Survived the Glee Fandom is the better shirt/sentiment. although Relationship Status: Complicated is also pretty darn accurate), and the continuing emotional rollercoaster of waiting to see if the two formalized relationship terms for IDW Transformers continuity end up settling out to the equivalent of (prioritized) romantic-sexual attraction and relationship with legal benefits and social recognition and … friends/best friends or if the realm of sci-fi possibilities and robots will finally cut me a break?

Oh, and not to forget the delight of having a female Doctor Who homage. Complete with her own version of a sonic screwdriver (in this case a heavily modified and souped up wrench). And with the emotional suckerpunch of happy big attachment group (of course the logical response to likely impending doom is to group marry all your cuties after unexpectedly popping the question to them all. in a dark room you dragged them all to. it’s the awkward nerd way. and I almost didn’t say group marry, but screw it. i’ll let myself ignore the way the relationship terms seem to be playing out for a moment and enjoy the maybe ace-spectrum? awkward nerd gal awkwardly marrying cuties of various genders) followed by Major Sadness of Much Spoiler-tude. Because it wouldn’t be a Doctor Who homage, especially in a post (can I say that, since it’s still going on?) nu-Who era, without the emotional suckerpunching.

Seriously. This spread is on another level. And Nautica and Skids dancing through the panels and then photobombing the last one is brilliant. And cute. And sad in retrospect. Oops spoilers. Oops the pain in my heart.

I’m just going to take a minute and pretend they’re still having their awkward dance party after this really ridiculous (I’d rate it five out of five on the Parnival Plunder’s Moustache scale of ridiculousness) two issue story arc instead. Pretty two page art spreads for everybody. [MTMTE #42 – “The Frail Gaze”]

Also, yes, Swerve totally went all Quantum Leap there at the end.

Dancing with three out of five cuties isn’t bad. Also, I lean on the side of the songs and the panels/characters they go with signifying something. Although in the case of “Velocity Girl” and Velocity it’s a bit more on the literal side.

Yeah, it’s going to be the sea of queer. The sea so big you might need a boat. Yeah, the Doctor homage turns into a submarine. If there’s a terrible joke, I am going to take it.

Largely because the ship's engines are a product of predestination style time travel shenanigans. Spoilers.

She’s so cute I might die. Also, she is named Nautica. Because. Boat. And she’s a quantum physicist. Which means season two was when they finally had someone maybe vaguely qualified to figure out how the ship’s engines actually work. Or not. [MTMTE #33 – “slaughterhouse Part 2: The Road Not Taken”]

So, this is where I kind of push my skirting of spoilers to the max (I think I’m to the hoop skirt level of skirting spoilers now) because part and parcel of getting any kind of queer representation is the subsequent question of, okay, how much am I going to end up getting suckerpunched and stabbed in the back by the narrative, author, show writers, etc etc, both in terms of the quality of the representation and in the sheer fact that whatever queer characters do happen in a given property tend to last about as long as milk left out in the sun.

And, I have to be honest – there will be fatalities. I didn’t want to say it earlier because I did not want to mispaint the tone of the series (I know something sounding like it’s constantly emotionally grueling and an endurance run of suffering would turn me right off), but MTMTE is emotionally grueling. It is also a lot of other bits of the emotional spectrum (again, ’60s psychedelia painting of tones and genres), but the series is about a Golden Age that wasn’t and the continuing impact of millions of years of war and intense factionalism on an anthropomorphized fictional species where individuals can live longer than that war was going on.

And maybe grueling isn’t the right word. It’s not trying to pound you with piles of (comparatively meaningless because sheer numbers) deaths, but it is an extremely character driven series and it can be brutally painful when someone does die, especially when they were making progress.

At the same time, however, there is a resurrection of sorts (the skirting is getting really difficult here) and – I do not mind it. At all.

There are standout moments in comics that just warm your heart and brighten your day - and not all of them are Luke Cage socking Superior Spider-Man in the face.

Don’t mind me. I just have every dust storm in the American Southwest caught in my eye. [MTMTE #33 – “slaughterhouse Part Two: The Road Not Taken”]

To start off, regardless of quality of execution, I would not mind because, as jaded as people can be in saying (and sharing, and reminding others) that death has no meaning in comics, a) that tends to be something more particular to superhero comics, which are not the entirety of comics and never have been b) that is not something that universally applies to deaths in comics, even superhero comics. By which I mean, do not dare tell me that, for example (and, yes, imagine me as a flame-breathing Dinobot if you wish right now. I’m still mad as heck), Rhodey Rhodes and Tony Stark are equally likely to come back in the comics and, especially, come back in a comparatively short amount of time. Because they are not. And don’t try pointing behind me and saying “Oh look! A giant bottle of Moxie! With a straw!” when I poke at how many times (skipping over to popular tv instead of comics) the Winchesters avoid and come back from death on Supernatural (yeah, easy blow, but it’s also a useful example for how pervasive both the tv series and its fandom is) and enquire as to why, among so many many others, lesbian hacker Charlie (who freaking had a thing going on with adult Dorothy of, ya know, Oz) had to die and stay dead.

So, yeah, even if the execution were pure garbage, I cannot be upset at a queer character (or any marginalized character) getting to participate in the miraculous death and resurrection/plasticity of death that non-queer (and otherwise non-marginalized) characters get to participate in. Sign me up for immortal queers, please and thank you.

Of course, at least in my opinion, the execution is not garbage. The character’s death really really hurts and the story impact is heavy and continues to be felt up until season two, when we get the (actually quite logical in a sci-fi with a dash of power of love kind of way) miraculous resurrection bit of the death and resurrection and then deal with the story and character impact of what had happened to each of them and what happens now and the fact that no, you really can’t just go yay we’re together again and will act just the way we were before, immediately and with no problems. And that’s even without the added impact of plot shenanigans. The series is, after all, an ensemble piece involving continuous mishaps/disasters/adventures.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets to have a mysterious death and resurrection. And it sucks (y’all can probably guess one of the deaths from how I’ve been splattering emotions everywhere in my image captions. whoops.). But I did want to make it clear that the big established been together a long time couple at the start of the series isn’t just tossed away to the Gods of the Misfortune of Being a Queer Character or a Queer Reader Looking for Queer Characters. So, no spoilers (as much as I could manage), but I felt that was a really important reassurance to give, especially because if you do take my recommendation to try out the series and I didn’t say anything, I could see a (very understandable) rage quit partway through volume four of the trade paperbacks.

And I think that’s enough on that, and without my actually having to touch Ryan Murphy and Glee (saying queer representation can be a mixed bag is probably an understatement when it comes to that show … which is why it was potentially going to come up). Or go into further spoilers. Or get into stuff that offers a lot of cool potential but can also get really contentious amongst fans. But I will mention that IDW Transformers continuity is one of the ones in which there are holomatter avatars and, at least in MTMTE, the technology has been changed and updated so that the avatars reflect the psyches of those using them. Previously, they were more on the side of … variably bland (and white white white, except for Jazz and sometimes Bumblebee – the MTMTE holos were that way to start too but the creative team is trying to course correct) and visual jokes that someone thought was funny (as in, female holomatter avatars for haha “wrong” gender reasons and this character is so vain their avatar is a blonde woman reasons. and also to make fun of Lindsey Lohan. yeah.).

Swerve would be Surfin' USA but they're like way way not on the right planet or chunk of space for that. But, hey, surfboard!

Drumroll please – first batch of holomatter avatars! Although Ratchet did use a damaged pre-MTMTE IDW holo in the Delphi two-parter (MTMTE #4 & 5), so technically not the first holos to show up in this series. [Alex Milne’s cover for MTMTE #13 – “Cybertronian Homesick Blues”].

I did mention the new holos were hella white to begin with, right? Right.

Aaaand now for Guido Guidi’s take on that same first batch of holos for the interior. And the characters who weren’t on the cover. Useful note – Tailgate and Whirl’s holomatter avatar designs are intended to reflect their maturity levels. Also, Tailgate likes piggyback rides so added bonus there.

Holo-Verity is probably my favourite out of this batch.

Yeah. Whirl does not merit having a holomatter avatar that looks like an adult. Yikes. Also, that up there at the top is Ultra Magnus’ holo, patterned after a friend from previous IDW storytelling.

The panel with Rung and Bluestreak cracks me up. Plus, Swerve's love of Earth media and Swerve liking comic books will both come back in a later story I really enjoy.

For Whirl, maturity means becoming a little bit of a better person (slowly. gradually.). And having gradient dyed hair on an older looking holomatter avatar. And using it to sneak out to movie night. [MTMTE #30 – “World, Shut Your Mouth Part 3: Predestination: A Beginner’s Guide”]

Seriously. The art on this issue is great, especially the style differences for Swerve's holo Earth and back aboard the Lost Light.

I’m just going to roll around in the art for a while, so y’all check out Nightbeat, Rodimus, and Nautica’s holos. And Bluestreak’s (bottom right corner). [MTMTE #43 – “The One Where They Go to Earth”]

Rodimus was voiced by Judd Nelson in the original cartoon so he is extra '80s.

Confusion and Distress: The Megatron Aboard The Lost Light Experience. This is, well, Megatron’s holo. And Rodimus’ again too.

Brb. Still rolling around in the artwork.

Swerve! Skids (de-aged to the 9th Doctor)! Cyclonus! Tailgate (older and with a Cyclonus and Whirl print skirt)! Rung! Ultra Magnus! Chromedome! Rewind! Cyclonus making a joke!

I am dead due to a case of the feels. Seriously. This issue is a favourite of mine for story and art. Plus, the season two finale makes everything hurt in retrospect.

And there’s a better view of Bluestreak’s holo and a whole lot of warm fuzzies.

I really kind of wanted this out before the first issue of Lost Light releases, so I think this is as good a stopping point as any because a) this was meant to be an at least somewhat spoiler-free intro/enticement to the series for non-Transformers-invested comic book fans b) there is seriously no way to run out of stuff to discuss with the series c) the crossover between reasons a and b. I have spent a lot of the writing (and proofing and writing and …) time for this with my hand metaphorically shoved in my mouth to stifle myself because, oh, is there good good (in a storytelling/worldbuilding/etc sense, not in the sense of killing off two of my favourite characters!!!) payoff not just for stuff seeded and set up throughout seasons one and two but for having to finally pay the piper on the very opening set up of having a ship full of Autobots who variably don’t want to and can’t cope with the post-war world and still want to kill some ‘cons (short for Decepticons) and are still obsessed with badges and factionalism. And exactly how far they’ll go as the results of those things (slight spoiler: who it turns out that [character] actually called and made a deal with at the end of season two really isn’t better than who you are lead to believe they called. like, damn. also, yeah sure, you can totally trust the word of that group in regards to how they’ll treat Cybertronians. suuuuure.).

I will note here that Cyclonus wasn't rooting for Tailgate to take any badge at all. Also, as I think I mentioned elsewhere, crew members persist in calling Cyclonus a Decepticon despite the fact that he never was one and in fact basically missed the entire war.

Last issue, Tailgate (aka compulsive grandiose lying robo Rip Van Winkle) got a summary of the war and why it started from Cyclonus (the only other non-affiliated Cybertronian onboard, who also missed the war – via being trapped in the Dead Universe) and decided to become a Decepticon. Because a) need to fit in (badges!!) b) decision based on why the Decepticons started fighting. [MTMTE #4 – “Life After the Big Bang”]

Seriously. This is still so so not right. In a very Autobot kind of not-right way. But that's its own discussion topic in and of itself.

Ethics and what’s happening here are so far apart even quantum engines couldn’t bridge the gap.

But, seriously, the Institute and New Institute. Always ... nice when you can just pop into someone's head and take care of their flagging support for the Autobot cause...

It’s always good to grab someone out of bed in the middle of the night and force a highly edited account of millions of years worth of war into their head in under twenty seconds just because the thing you can handle even less than someone not having a badge is them not wearing your badge. Yeah. Of course, Autobot war crimes are their whole own deal too, plus violence that isn’t just physical punch-y punch but … trying to wrap this post up.

Thanks for reading this far if you’ve made it and the credits will begin shortly. No mid-credit scenes here though and not just because Marvel Cinematic Universe Nick Fury does not belong to me. No Rodimus recruiting you to join the Lost Light crew either.

I am proud I resisted posting this whole scene. They are sooooo cute.

You can have a car whose holomatter avatar is the Doctor dancing with a submarine who is a Doctor Who homage though. [MTMTE #42 – “The Frail Gaze”]

Note: In case you haven’t been clicking through my small army of hyperlinks, there is a fabulous resource for (near) anything you might want to know Transformers-wise called Tfwiki. Who is this character? What is that thing that you mentioned? What are the most recent issues of the current ongoing comics, what are they called, when did they come out, and what happened and who was in them? Why are there so many red Autobots?? Okay, maybe not that last one (but you can also get help in figuring out if you’re looking at Ironhide or Sideswipe or Inferno or Cliffjumper or …), but it’s really darn useful and completely a fan-generated and -maintained courtesy for other fans and for those interested in taking a look at anything Transformers related.

Note 2: If you liked my work and are able and willing to, dropping a tip in the jar to support me and my writing would be super rad (although not Transformers Armada Rad. he’s mega annoying. and belongs to Hasbro). I also have a Patreon, but, honestly, right now I’d really enjoy and appreciate the immediate ability to get groceries and various sundries like soap that doesn’t make me want to peel my own flesh off. Yeah.

And now, time to roll the credits for all those images:

Catwoman Secret Files & Origins (November 2002) – “Why Holly Isn’t Dead” – writer Ed Brubaker, art & letters Eric Shanower, colour Matt Hollingsworth [credits not included for the three other stories and profile pages and pinups in the issue since I did not make use of them here]

The Death of Optimus Prime (December 2011) – writers James Roberts and John
Barber, art Nick Roche, colours Josh Burcham, letters Shawn Lee

Mighty Avengers #1 (September 2013) – writer Al Ewing, art Greg Land, colours Frank D’Armata, inks Jay Leisten, letters Cory Petit

The Transformers: Dark Cybertron: Finale (March 2014) – “…And the Damage Done” – writers John Barber and James Roberts, art Brendan Cahill, inks Brian Shearer, colours Josh Perez, letters Tom B. Long

The Transformers Holiday Special (December 2015) – “Silent Light” – writer James Roberts, art Kotteri, colours Joana Lafuente, letters Tom B. Long [credits not included for the other two stories since I did not make use of them here. I do recommend reading the entire special though.]

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Annual 2012 (September 2012) – “Primus: You, Me, and Other Revelations” – writer James Roberts, art Jimbo Salgado and Emil Cabaltierra, flashback art Guido Guidi, colours Juan Fernandez and Joana Lafuente, letters Chris Mowry

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #4 (April 2012) – “Life After the Big Bang” – writer James Roberts, art Alex Milne, colours Josh Burcham, letters Shawn Lee

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #7 (July 2012) – “Rules of Disengagement” – writer James Roberts, art Alex Milne, colours Josh Burcham and Joana Lafuente, letters Shawn Lee

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #13 (February 2013) – “Cybertronian Homesick Blues” – writer James Roberts, art Guido Guidi, inks John Wycough, Juan Castro, Guido Guidi, and Mark Deering, colours Josh Burcham and Joana Lafuente, letters Tom B. Long, cover by Alex Milne

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #30 (June 2014) – “World, Shut Your Mouth Part 3: Predestination: A Beginner’s Guide” – writer James Roberts, art Alex Milne, colours Joana Lafuente, letters Tom B. Long

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #31 (July 2014) – “Twenty Plus One” – writer James Roberts, art Atilio Rojo, colours Joana Lafuente, letters Tom B. Long

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #33 (September 2014) – “slaugherhouse Part Two: The Road Not Taken” – writer James Roberts, art Alex Milne, inks Brian Shearer and John Wycough, colours Joana Lafuente, letters Tom B. Long

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #42 (June 2015) – “The Frail Gaze” – writer James Roberts, art Alex Milne, colours Joana Lafuente, letters Tom B. Long

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #43 (July 2015) – “The One Where They Go to Earth” – writer James Roberts, art Alex Milne, inks Alex Milne and Brian Shearer, colours Joana Lafuente, letters Tom B. Long

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #44 (September 2015) – “The Not Knowing” – writer James Roberts, art Hayato Sakamoto, colours Joana Lafuente, letters Tom B. Long

The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: Revolution (December 2016) – writers James Roberts and Nick Roche, art Alex Milne, colours Joana Lafuente, letters Chris Mowry

The Transformers: Til All Are One #5 (November 2016) – “Ping” – writer Mairghread Scott, art Sara Pitre-Durocher, colours Joana Lafuente and Priscilla Tramontano, letters Tom B. Long and Chris Mowry

The Transformers Titans Return/”The Last Autobot” (July 2016) – writers James Roberts, John Barber, and Mairghread Scott, art Livio Ramondelli, letters Tom B. Long

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