The times are a changing’: the Autobots are under new leadership! Transformers leader Optimus Prime is trying to protect both Earth and Cybertron. The new installment of his ongoing series is the home of his return to the planet he annexed and features a couple more surprises fans of all the comics in the line will no doubt appreciate.
Written by John Barber
Illustrated by Kei Zama
Colored by Josh Burcham
Letters by Tom B. Long
“THE FALLING, PART 1!” Darkness falls over Cybertron as the legendary Onyx Prime returns. What does this mean for Optimus Prime—and the Earth? Windblade defends an already tense planet against a secret that could shatter Cybertron forever.
You might be surprised to hear just cohesive the Transformers comics are as a whole. Events that happen in titles spanning over the past couple weeks have bled into the “Optimus Prime” ongoing series in a big way. Cybertron, homeworld of the Transformers have elected Windblade and with the new hero at the head of the world comes a brand new set of rules that drastically changes the tone and direction of the line. Readers actually get the chance to discover a fair amount regarding Windblade spanning back into the history and creation of these old robots in this particular comic.
Writer John Barber is leading towards something big with this installment of the series, but the more reserved and steady pace of “Optimus Prime” is both good and bad here. Thankfully, due to major reveals towards the conclusion of the chapter, readers are finally in for the next big Transformers story set to take place right in “Optimus Prime” which is refreshing as the comic has had a leisurely pace up to this point.
The mythology of the Transformers is interesting but only up to to a point and “Optimus Prime” #15 enters a point of no return with nearly half the book devoted to a flashback sequence. With so much of the comic devoted to the past, you could make a strong case “Optimus Prime” has a bad habit of meandering towards the next plot point issue after issue. Words cannot describe how much promise this title shows which is perfectly realized by the last couple pages and the B cover of the comic by Casey W. Coller directly touching on all the heroes while tipping a hat to the in-story villains.
Kei Zama’s pencils and Josh Burcham’s colors convey the sleepy narrative beautifully which descends into a horrific nightmare as the story progresses. Getting these two separate halves of the comic to coalesce shows off the craft from Zama and Burcham. Because the plot is devoted to some of the mythology aspects of the characters, the pencils get a heavy Jack Kirby influence boosting the narrative with a strong sense of confidence and wonder. The outlines and shadows Burcham leaves blank with only hints of colors are extraordinarily menacing in a couple panels. The weak point points of the art start to surface once Zama attempts to draw the figure work of a regular person as the anatomy becomes oversimplified and really stick out as compared to the robots.
While “Optimus Prime” #15 does seem like a huge step for the ongoing, fans don’t get a sense of how why the villain is bad or a more clear outline of what the writer is trying to accomplish. I understand Optimus is currently trying to protect the Earth but outside of a strong character design and shadows, the chapter still has set up to do in order to get readers properly invested in the story-arc. Thankfully, the solicitation for the upcoming story teases a more direct level of context which should start to bring the story towards a really dark, foreboding direction Barber will likely be able to get a lot of mileage from.
One of the consistent criticisms I can level at the scripts is how difficult the ongoing can be in finding new readers. Without a more concrete introduction to Windblade and the other Caminus heroes, the audience could potentially struggle to find some reasons to like certain cast members. The script pays off the smaller moments between heroes incredibly well, but the bigger plots and storylines can feel a bit too subtle and don’t have the same impact as “Transformers: Lost Light” in that regard, the problems of this comic feel two-fold and this particular chapter will hopefully be addressing both nitpicks in the months to come.Continued below
Aside from an oral history lesson on a pack of Transformers, the chapter touches on the current political state of both Cybertron and Earth. Barber continues to examine the greater political landscape of both planets very nicely. Barber also pays attention to the greater cast of all the different ongoings as well as his own team. While the protagonist was away, the cast had lots of conflicts. Little touches and strong, personal character beats are the series’ main asset and I think Barber is able to hone in on those scenes very nicely.
Final Verdict: 6.9 – “Optimus Prime” #15 fills readers in on politics, mythology and a villain ready to punch some Autobots.