I get the need for preludes and prequels, I do. But I like them when they lead somewhere. Transformers: Robots In Disguise #21 has potential, it’s just not too clear where it is going.
The official description from IDW:
SHOCKPOINT! In the wastelands of CYBERTRON, SHOCKWAVE makes his move—and SOUNDWAVE and the DECEPTICONS step up to stop him! While the battle of the century rocks the ancient ruins of the Crystal City, dig back into the history of these titanic rivals!
So it’s very obvious that Shockwave is up to something – previous issues have already as much as pointed this out as well as showing his origin story off. With not much else to say – Robots In Disguise #21 has an element of fluff to it. It’s entertaining, but jumping around the narrative skipping rope only makes a unclear story more confusing. I guess it suits Shockwave’s character, but not the humble readers.
There’s no obvious faults to the writing, it gets to grips with the characters. The only problem, I guess, is that John Barber deals with some bland bad guys. Soundwave and Shockwave are nothing more than henchman #1 and #2. Shockwave can plot, sure, but his lack of personality and emotion make him hard to like as an anti-hero or straight-up villain. He’s no Starscream.
The art, however, is definitely a plus. The present day sections use the artwork of Andrew Griffith (pencils) and Priscilla Tramontano (colors) for the modern Transformers look, yet the past uses Livid Ramondelli (everything) to more easily define the time zones. It works best because the past uses the art style of Autocracy and Monstrosity (the latter even slightly refereed to in the writing) which makes it an instantly recognizable link for Transformers fans. A smart move.
In short, it’s not the best but it’s worth a look. I’d rather just get this prelude over with and get on with the ‘Dark Cybertron’ arc.