There’s nothing quite like the responsibility of being in charge of ending an entire Universe of comics yet, “Optimus Prime” #25 has the task of doing just that. Writer and IDW’s Editor-in-Chief John Barber is ending the entire Transformers Universe alongside the usual Transformers creative team with artist Kei Zama, colorist Josh Burcham and letterer Tom B. Long. After the abrupt and ultimately unsatisfying ending of “Transformers: Unicron” it’s time for Barber to tie up loose ends and leave us with a true final status quo. Is the swan song for the franchise a downer or a comic worthy of putting an end to a shared Universe of stories?
Written by John Barber
Illustrated by Kei Zama
Colored by Josh Burcham
Lettered by Tom B. Long
END OF THE ROAD! The battle is over. Heroes have fallen. Worlds have died. Now Optimus Prime faces his final ordeal—as past, present, and future collide. Who will stand with him? And when it’s all over, who will carry the mantle of “Prime?”
If the simplistic and forced conflict of “Transformers: Unicron” came as a disappointment to readers, “Optimus Prime” #25 serves as a solid antidote. In the issue, Barber presents his subtle tone for the series and takes time to check in with the huge Transformers cast. Barber even explores the fascinating nature of Optimus Prime’s current status quo. This is about as new reader unfriendly as a comic book can possibly be, but the nuance from the start of “Optimus Prime” and “Transformers: Robots in Disguise” is back in this script.
Barber gives the issue an impressive level of artistry by continuing to adapt the flashbacks into the series to prove a greater thematic point. The issue isn’t just about what’s going on with Optimus either as Barber lends creepy last moments for both Prowl and Shockwave. The characterization for both individuals are some of the greatest moments in Barber’s run and tracking the continuity and character progression for each antagonist is a monumental achievement in writing. The issue has lots of great small moments including the character notes with Arcee and Aileron. Both individuals say things about each other that have been open secrets across the Transformers titles for years.
Despite the sense of tragedy directly resulting from Unicron, this issue has a wonderful sense of hope and optimism. The last couple pages, in particular, show a different side of Arcee that readers have started to see develop over the course of “Optimus Prime” as a whole. While Optimus is largely absent from this script, the title has always heavily invested in developing and fleshing out a huge cast. Prime’s overall presence in the story has a great symbolism and is an element pushing the story forward.
Kei Zama’s art and Josh Burcham’s colors continue to be staggeringly beautiful. Readers likely wouldn’t expect a Transformers title to carry such a noir-influenced feel but “Optimus Prime” #25 contains just that. Zama has a chance later on in the issue to get creative with the layouts for the issue to celebrate a cerebral final moment for the franchise. There are only a couple of creative pages due to the issue being packed with detail and an extended run-time at 34 pages. Zama does a great job adding in lots of detail in busy pages full of robots.
There are even some smaller moments of action that get creative in how to arrange the pages and panels. As usual, the bright color palette from Burcham still sticks out in “Optimus Prime.” There is a slightly sinister element of shading and darkness to even the happiest panels of the issue. While the issue’s art team is adept at staging and framing robots, the humans in the story can come off as a little stiff. The proportions from humans to Transformers are also strange, especially in the Thundercracker scene. Sometimes Zama doesn’t pack in quite enough detail when two characters are engaged in a conversation with minimalistic backgrounds that can be dull to look at.
“Optimus Prime” #25 is a fantastic final note on the state of the Transformers Universe. Barber says so many interesting things about each character of the series in brief scenes. While the issue contains a slightly melodramatic feel, the dense script for the issue masks the emotion with fascinating narrative techniques. The flashback towards the beginning of the story and final moments of Optimus on-panel carry a really strong emotional weight. If you have been following “Transformers: Unicron” or any of the titles in the line for the past couple of years, this is a great final send-off for the franchise as a whole.Continued below
Getting a sprawling, beautiful shared Universe across multiple titles for several years was a great experience in the Transformers franchise. While IDW could have continued these titles for several more years, this endpoint feels like a definitive final statement for the book. Barber, Zama, Burcham and Long’s last contributions on the Transformers Universe demand your attention.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – “Optimus Prime” #25 is a great final send-off for a dense shared Universe of comics that will be missed.