Some things are hard to screw up and Transformers is one of them. If you have robots fighting robots and other cool stuff, how can you go wrong? Robots in Disguise and More Than Meets The Eye were fine titles – so what the f*ck was Dark Cybertron about?
(If you haven’t read it yet, expect some spoilers ahead…)
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
If I said “underwater on an ocean planet”, “a dead universe”, “zombie robots”, “destroying time and space”, “a giant robot’s missing thumb” and who knows how much other stuff, could you coherently explain the plot I’ve been reading for the last few months?
I get the general angle Dark Cybertron was going for, but did it have to be so crazy? The story opened up with three different arcs with three different art styles in every issue. While this reduced to one for the final chapters, the opening was rough, hazy and uninteresting.
Likewise, I still don’t get Shockwave’s angle on this. Sure, destroying space and time sounds cool but, for a character primarily based around logic and explanation, Dark Cybertron made no attempt to logically explain it. What could Shockwave possible gain from destroying reality/existence? This is the same stick Davros tried on Doctor Who and even then it was wearing a little thin. Blowing up the universe seems to be the standard approach in bad guy 101. To be honest, I expected better from John Barber and James Roberts.
WERE THERE ANY SAVING GRACES?
Speaking of Roberts and Barber, let’s discuss what the arc managed to do right. Aside from some big action pieces, the main charms were in the character development. Before this all started, Barber was kicking ass in Robots In Disguise by following Starscream as a character and his interactions with Metalhawk. It was interesting, thought out and made him so much more unique. Similarly, Roberts was showcasing a high understanding of the Lost Light crew in More Than Meets The Eye with an amazing arc that had it all; character interaction, mad villains, revelations and excellent storytelling. And Dark Cybertron nearly threw it all away.
These were some of its best moments, hidden between the pages and panels. The lost friendship between Metalhawk and Starscream could’ve been embellished more, Megatron’s redemption arc was very short and obviously thrust into the last few chapters. Likewise, Rodimus and Prime’s views on leadership were quickly dropped for big battles and flashy sequences. Barber and Roberts thrive at making these robot, mechanical characters come alive with emotion, so this is big event could have been so much more.
DON’T MESS WITH THE SYSTEM
Finally, there are a few things you just don’t touch when it comes to Transformers. At its core, it should be about Autobots and Decepticons. Sure, other things come and go and there are plenty of other bad guys but, deep down, Megatron is the badass of the franchise. He’s the foil to Optimus Prime and, when he’s at his best, he’s a gloriously evil robot bastard.
But it turns out the whole point of Dark Cybertron was to introduce Megatron the Autobot! Because Friendship is Magic is already taken…
Now, looking at the future, what’s the plan? If Megatron is an Autobot, who do you fight? Recent history has focused on other bad guys, sure, but you can’t keeping using Jhiaxus when you need to pull something out of thin air. It also makes me question what happened to the longer goals: Robots in Disguise was all about rebuilding Cybertron (SPOILER ALERT – it got wrecked) while More Than Meets The Eye was about finding the Knights of Cybertron, only for the ship to start all the way back where it came from. All the progress was rendered useless and, save for a blunt McGuffin to re-set everything in the future, makes the journey itself disappointingly unfinished.
In short, Dark Cybertron may have had a worse impact on Transformers than Michael Bay did… and he thinks you can ride Grimlock like a donkey.