Short & Sweet: Transformers & The Black Vortex!

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #37transformers37

James Roberts (W), Alex Milne (A), Joana Lafuente (C)
IDW Publishing
February 4th, 2015

January’s delayed issue of MTMTE has finally arrived. Continuing the third and final part of Roberts’ “Cybertronian Trilogy,” Alex Milne and Joana Lafuente return for the conclusion of the exploration of the events that led to the Autobots’ and Decepticons’ Great War in this latest issue of MTMTE. Both Milne and Lafuente illustrated the first part of the trilogy in 2012, the two part Chaos Theory, and Milne drew the lineart for the three part Shadowplay story in 2013. Issue 37 is the second part of the Elegant Chaos story arc, which delves into the pasts of many of the characters in the IDW Transformers universe. This issue is not newcomer friendly, which is quite unlike most previous issues of the ongoing. However, it rewards the longtime reader, those who analyze every panel and every line of dialogue.

James Roberts writes endlessly complex scripts that spiral in on prior issues of his work, even before the MTMTE ongoing. This issue pulls narrative tricks that I don’t dare spoil, but it is longer than a normal issue to accommodate integration of art in a method I did not expect. I can tell you this- it isn’t a gatefold, and I think many should be happy to hear that.

The dialogue remains golden, as do the facial expressions and body language of the cast. Joana Lafuente’s color palettes vary depending on the time period, and work beautifully in every case. She knows how to use light better than many mainstream superhero comic colorists, and is someone that you should keep an eye on. There aren’t enough words to express how great Milne’s linework is, either. It’s as detailed as Roberts’ scripting is complex. Few can make a robot with one eye and no face emote as well as Milne draws Whirl, and those who do have faces are ridiculously handsome. I remain unsure if Alex Milne can draw a robot who isn’t attractive in their default state of being. Little character moments are nailed because of his work, one of my favorites this issue being Rewind slowly transforming from panel to panel, his head hidden in his alternate mode. Milne’s Cybertronian cityscapes in the Clampdown time period are glorious.

The story itself is difficult to elaborate on without context of prior issues or spoilers for the reader, which is a pity. The very first issue was one of the most accessible comics I’ve read to date, and most subsequent issues would follow the process of implying prior character history and then subsequently building on that, with recaps aiding in the process of jumping in.

Basically, a traitorous crewman on the spaceship Lost Light is bouncing through time and is leading his former crewmates on a merry chase while they try to stop whatever he’s doing and prevent a dystopian alternate timeline, that is slowly cementing itself as the “true” reality in the present day.  The time travel mechanics are interesting and not quite like anything I’ve seen before, and I’ve read quite a bit of science fiction.

This issue is incredible if you’re already reading. If you haven’t been, it’s not too late to come on board. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye is a series about a bunch of funny and tragic misfits who are trying to make friends and keep themselves above water, and it’s worth reading for almost any adult fan of science fiction or comics.


Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex: Alpha #1 blackvortex1

Sam Humphries (W), Ed McGuinness and Kris Anka (A)
Marvel Comics
February 4, 2015

I’m sorry I wasted the $3.99, seriously. There was no lead up to any of this in any of the X-Titles, and apparently you had to have been reading Guardians of the Galaxy all along to understand why Kitty went to space to get Peter Quill out of trouble with his father, and why Illyana took the baby!X-Men, plus Storm and Blue!Beast to space to go help them. The checklist runs through both titles, before coming back to wrap up in Black Vortex: Omega #1. Very gimmicky crossover, nothing more.

Honestly, the Black Vortex appears to be some kind of mirror that hyper-evolves people of any race or species to their maximum potential (witness Solar Flare Storm when she looks into it), and a group of bad guys want to use it for–I’m not sure what. So Kitty and Peter steal it to prevent this–which is what the good guys do. Then Gamora steals it while the good guys are figuring out what to do about it. I don’t have the budget or the mental bandwith to keep up with this muddled mess. Somebody tell me how it ends.


Guardians of the Galaxy #24 gotg24

Brian Michael Bendis (W), Valerio Schiti (A)
Marvel Comics
February 11, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy #24 is the second installment of the Black Vortex event, and my enthusiasm isn’t much higher than Jamie’s. This issue features Brian Michael Bendis’s writing at its most decompressed, as the X-Men and Guardians mostly bicker about what to do with the mysterious artifact. Star-Lord thinks being transformed by the Black Vortex is their best line of defense against the Slaughter Lords, Kitty Pryde thinks that’s a terrible move, Jean Grey suggests they vote on it, and X-23 just wants to destroy the thing. Amid this chaos, another character submits to Black Vortex and is transformed into a Super Deluxe Action Figure version of himself.

It’s unclear to me why this needs to be a 13-issue event. The issue feels bloated and overstuffed (Nova also shows up, for no discernible reason yet) and the Black Vortex isn’t a particularly interesting MacGuffin. It’s not the “what is even happening and why?” clusterfuck that was Battle of the Atom, but so far feels very rote and predictable. Star-Lord says something roguish? Check. Someone name-drops the Phoenix Force? Check. Kitty is right, but totally sanctimonious about it? Check. Hank McCoy fucks up? Checkmate. I’m not abandoning the story yet, but it needs a stronger hook to avoid being completely forgettable. Luckily Valerio Schiti is on hand to make the squabbling look like very pretty squabbling, and double-page spread that ends the issue is killer. If nothing else, the characters transformed by the Black Vortex would make cool-looking action figures.


Jamie Kingston

Jamie Kingston

Jamie Kingston is a Native New Yorker, enduring a transplant to Atlanta. She’s a lifelong comic fan, having started at age 13 and never looked back, developing a decades-spanning collection and the need to call out the creators when she expects better of them. Her devotion extends to television, films, and books as well as the rare cosplay. She sates her need to create in a number of ways including being an active editor on the TV Tropes website, creating art and fan art, and working on her randomly updating autobiographical web comic, Orchid Coloured Glasses. As a woman of color, she considers it important to focus on diversity issues in the media. She received the Harpy Agenda micro-grant in November of 2015 for exceptional comics journalism by a writer of color.