In this review of Transformers #1, Skybound’s expanding universe shows the classic hero in a new light as the epic battle between the Autobots begins their historic battle with the Decepticons.
Story and Art by: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colors by: Mike Spicer
Main Cover by: Daniel Warren Johnson
Variant Covers: Daniel Warren Johnson, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Chiang, and Francis Manapul
Page Count: 36 Pages
Release Date: October 4, 2023
This Review Contains Spoilers
Just based on Void Rivals alone, I am all in for the new Energon Universe spearheaded by Robert Kirkman. One might think when you hear the idea of G.I Joe and Transformers existing in the same universe is a weird concept. However, in an industry where the Green Lantern Corps or Doctor Who could team up with the crew of the USS Enterprise, anything is possible (take note Marvel and DC).
Void Rivals established the Transformers’ place in the new universe when Jetfire reactivated on the planetoid alongside Darak and Solila. With that in mind, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pickup the latest addition to the Energon Universe with Transformers #1 from Daniel Warren Johnson with colors by Mike Spicer. If you’re not familiar the creative team, they are the same duo behind the miniseries Do A Powerbomb from Image.
Before diving into the story, it’s important to establish where in time this story takes place within the Energon Universe. Darak and Solila re-activated Jetfire in the pages of Void Rivals #1. As he woke, he realized how much time had pass. He then leaves the two revivers strand in an attempt to get home to Cybertron. As he arrives on Earth and wakes his friends, he learns from Starscream of the 100-plus yer war on Cybertron. While we don’t know for certain how much time passed since Jetfire left that planetoid in Void Rivals, time clearly has passed.
Johnson’s Transformers series bring back some classic names from the animated TV series of the 1980s. While the movies of the 2000s introduced Sam Witwicky to the general audience, issue #1 returns Spike to the forefront. Carly also returns for the series as the two fall upon the hidden ship housing incapacitated Autobots and Decepticons. It isn’t hard to determine what happened with Jetfire between the time he left that rock in Void Rivals. However, it is clear what happened while he was deactivated. I’m happy Johnson established this as soon as he did.
Spike and Carly fall along the side of a mountain where the find an exposed vessel. They enter to find the motionless robot beings laying about. Jetfire arrives not too long after and activates the Teletraan system. It begins reactivating Jetfire’s fallen comrades beginning with Starscream. He’s not aware of the war that began on Cybertron. He’s shocked when Starscream blasts Bumblebee and is attacked himself. Fortunately for Jetfire, Teletraan activates Optimus Prime next. He makes the save. Unfortunately, the reactivation process is random. The Autobots, now consisting of only Optimus and Ratchet, find themselves outnumbered by the Decepticons. Retreat is their only option. However, before they leave, they collect their fallen friends. Optimus destroys the Teletraan to prevent more Decepticons from reactivating. He grabs Spike and Carly before they roll out.
Starscream and Skywarp give chase. They forgot about the wounded Jetfire who sets out to save his friends. He takes another blast for his trouble. The Autobots get away, however, as the pursuing Decepticons run low on Energon. Unfortunately, Jetfire doesn’t make as he dies from his injuries.
The Decepticons need to find Energon. They need to find some soon if they want to survive. Starscream, the self-declared new leader, sets out to find some. In his search, he comes upon a human who”s a friend of Spike’s dad. Unfortunately, he won’t make it to the second issue as the Decepticon leader squashes him in a really gory end.
Johnson’s World of Transformers
I will admit I haven’t followed previous iterations of the Transformers from publishers like Marvel and, most recently, IDW so I can’t give a fair comparison with that. However, I can appreciate the voice that Daniel Warren Johnson gives these characters when I think back to my younger years watching the series on TV (and to an extent, the movies). Prime is Prime no matter what genre he appears. The same goes for the egotistical Starscream, who quickly declares himself leader. There is great nostalgia here.
However, this issue also leads to a lot of questions. Where is Megatron? From the communication between Starscream and Skywarp, the Transformer most known as the evil leader of the Decepticons didn’t make the trip to Earth. Why not? What happened? Is it possible Starscream hunger for power had anything to do with it? The second glaring question… Why Bumblebee? The most beloved Autobot after Optimus took a point blank shot and, like Megatron, appears to be dead. However, he was laded into the back of the trailer that Optimus hauled away. Maybe, just maybe there’s a chance. This leads to my final question… if so, how? Optimus destroyed the Teletraan, which seemed to be the conduit to re-activating/healing the Robots in Disguise. What does Johnson have up his sleeve to bring them back – IF he brings them back?
I would imagine that Johnson’s Transformers will serve as the bridge to bring G.I. Joe into the Energon Universe considering their presence on the planet. I will imagine some sort of battle will eventually alert the Joes (and COBRA for that matter) to the presence of the giant beings. Perhaps we will see this in the upcoming one-shots for Duke and Cobra Commander. However, I would not feel disappointed if the Energon team held off on this. Allow Johnson’s story to grow and answer the questions I previously pointed out. Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici are already killing it on Void Rivals. I want to see Daniel Warren Johnson do the same with his story.
What About the Art
I have always been a fan of both Daniel Warren Johnson as a writer and, more specifically, an artist. The height of my fandom occurred recently in Do A Powerbomb. Unfortunately, this becomes a problem for Transformers. I see lot lot of similarities in Johnson’s Transformers when placed side by side with Do Powerbomb. Biggest example occurs if you compare Carly to Lona Steelrose, the female protagonist of the older series. While I am quite aware that an artist styles go with them from project to project, I have always been a fan of switching it up. Be assured, this is not a complaint, but a personal preference. Johnson’s and Spicer’s work is awesome.
While Johnson’s depictions of the Autobots and Decepticons look slightly different due to Johnson’s style of drawing, Spicer’s colors make clear who’s who. I absolutely love his palette choice for this issue. The classic red and blue of Optimus Prime is recognizable to any fan of any generation. You see this great collaboration between Johnson and Spicer not only in the pages of the issue. The creative duo produced three covers for this first issue (the main cover and two team covers). One could tell they work wonderfully together. Even if I didn’t like the writing, which I did, the art would save it.
Daniel Warren Johnson does a great job of introducing the Transformers into the Energon Universe after a brief cameo in Void Rivals. It’s safe to say that these are not your dad’s Transformers. It is more than meets the eye.
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