Transformers: Punishment is an interesting title, as far as one-shots go. It’s been hinted at, yet the entire product still feels very much out of the blue. Similarly, it’s style and design is a little different to the more recent comics, suggesting an approach similar to Monstrosity and Primacy but without the grander, epic setting.
The official description from IDW:
OPTIMUS PRIME RETURNS TO CYBERTON! And someone is killing Decepticons. PRIME teams with WINDBLADE to uncover the identity of the vigilante… but the answers will uncover darker secrets than anyone expected!
As far as the idea goes, I do enjoy the concept of watching Optimus Prime’s return to Cybertron. That said, the plot very quickly dismishes any previous notions and instead gets down to murder mysteries (old ‘Prime never does seem to do what he originally came to do). Combined with the art style, this feels very much like an add-on to Monstrosity and friends, yet it doesn’t really gel with the current setting.
Part of this, I think, is because John Barber pushes the tension and atmosphere just a little too much. Barber has a way with characters, which is shown at various key times here, but his depiction of Cybertron goes against what we’ve seen so far. Yes, conflict is a big issue, but Punishment would suggest a world of ultra-poverty, crime and death. However, as I said, Barber’s key skills lie in character and there are a few interactions, notably with older cast members such as Prime, Starscream and the Dinobots, hidden away that are worth the read.
Visually, we have a similar issue. I thoroughly love Livid Ramondelli’s artwork, but his choice of color is dark and gritty. This works well in an older setting, but that’s so ingrained that it looks out of place for an issue taking place in the current storyline. Similar to Barber’s writing, it’s also full of dark skies, rusted metal and, heck, something is always on fire. It’s a little too much.
All in all, this is an interesting choice and I’m sure many people will enjoy it. Many, however, will also be scratching their heads or left wondering where this came from. At the very least, why isn’t it a mini series? Would that not have suited the ‘murder mystery’ better?