For a series that dances with issues of clarity and simplicty, Transformers vs G.I Joe #5 pushes the envelope a little too far. Nobody can say these issues don’t pack plenty of action, but the coherency of said action often seems to be the collateral damage in the process.
First, the official description from IDW:
IT GETS CRAZIER! The biggest space battle ever grows to universal proportions! Will the G.I. JOE team and the AUTOBOTS make peace—before COBRA and the DECEPTICONS end the war… the bad way?!
The biggest issue here is that, from start to finish, this title is completely incoherent. The first few pages barely use any panels, with arrows and inserts galore being the only form of guidance. This would be find in many mediums, but this comic is a narrational format and the lack of flow often becomes a bit of an eye sore. There’s a reason these retro elements aren’t used any more and the over abundance of them in Transformers vs G.I Joe #5 makes this point evidently clear.
In terms of the actual writing, this doesn’t help when reading the issue. Even when you get your head around it, John Barber and Tom Sciolo often bite off more than they can chew. There are so many subplots and random elements thrown into nearly every page that simply aren’t needed. The near-infinite plot points creates a jumpy narrative and, while this has somewhat worked in the past, the current result is so jump-cutty it’s hard to gain any real focus.
Visually, this issue still holds up the retro vibe and, honestly, if you’re this far in then this will likely please you. While I’m not a fan of Tom Scioli’s faded colors, it is hard to argue against the pencils. They really do capture some of the old-school sense of drawing. While this often involves thick lining and simple boxes for ‘detail’, it does exactly what it’s meant to do, which is something to consider.
All in all, this series was always for a niche audience and this issue is no different. There’s a core following that will love it, but I feel many casual readers will be turning away at points like this.