The Terminator storyline has become convoluted after many attempts to revitalize the franchise and rewrite its history, or alternate history. Past, present, future, and alternate realities are par for the course, but in struggling to right the ship, fans of the original film and its astounding sequel have waned in their interest. Transformers vs. Terminator #1 provides a unique take on the series by combining two of the 1980s’ most iconic science fiction robot franchises. Transformers vs. Terminator #1 sets the stage for this over-the-top confrontation while subverting expectations. The issue serves to acknowledge the Terminator’s cinematic origins while introducing readers to this new reality. Terminator is the series protagonist, protecting the world, or, more specifically, SkyNet, from robotic alien invaders, the Transformers. The issue may not move the needle in a permanent direction, but it provides enough action and nods to both series’ pasts to keep fans in the know ready to see what comes next.
1984: When a deadly race of machines emerge from another time, will a robotic guardian be able to protect the Earth from a dire future… or will the T-800 fail in his mission to prevent the world from becoming a plaything to the Decepticons?
From the opening page, the art style is noticeably darker in tone compared to most Transformers comics. When working on two franchises with distinct art styles and color palettes, either one stylistic choice will take prominence over the other, or a palpable medium will be met. In the case of Transformers vs. Terminator, artist Alex Milne and colorist David Garcia Cruz opt for the latter, blending the two worlds but leaning slightly towards the Terminator’s darker colors and dimmer hues. The choice brings the two worlds together, allowing for a more seamless transition into the crossover.
Artist Alex Milne is no stranger to the Transformers, having worked on Transformers: More than Meets the Eye. His comfort with the franchise is evident; his robotic designs, line work, and ability to convey scale serve the issue well. After all, the human-sized Terminator battles it out with the Transformers, and his talents for scaling and communicating action is a benefit to the series. Milne also redesigned the Decepticons for the 2029 of the Terminator’s potential future. Even providing versions of Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp modeled after the Seekers, the spaceships from the Terminator that ominously loom in the dark skies of the future. I look forward to seeing his work throughout the series.
In terms of storytelling, it’s exactly what you’d expect: a fun story rewarding fans with Easter eggs, nods to both franchises, and an interesting perspective on an alternate reality. If you came to Transformers vs. Terminator looking for a deep story with metaphors and allegoric beats, you’ve come to the wrong place. The writing here is geared towards fans already in the know, using your knowledge of the franchises’ rich histories to play with your expectations. The issue opens in an apocalyptic 2029 as we follow a man seeking refuge from Seekers in the sky as their tell-tale spotlights search for survivors. But this man isn’t what you expect; he turns out to be a terminator, and surprisingly the protagonist in this story.
In Transformers vs. Terminators, the Transformers, or more accurately the Decepticons, are a threat to the future. The Terminator is seeking to save humanity, but only to ensure Skynet’s inevitable inception. The Decepticons are a menace to the very existence of the machine uprising. It’s the terrestrial robots vs. their extra-terrestrial counterparts. The comic depicts a future where the Terminators have their metallic backs to the wall, with Decepticons savagely hunting them down. The twist here is unique, and I appreciate the turn of fortune, allowing readers to take the Terminator’s perspective. There are familiar faces in the issue, and Sarah Connor is featured prominently in Transformers vs. Terminator; however, her relationship with the Terminator and his mission in 1984 is very different from the films.
Transformers vs. Terminator #1 features a three-person writing team with David Mariotte, Tom Waltz, and John Barber sharing storytelling duties. There is very little in the way of narration, but clever usage of moments pulled directly from the Terminator film helps fill in the blanks. Rather than use narration boxes, certain panels offer a first-person perspective through the Terminator’s eyes, as his systems provide a situational assessment and even a list of possible responses to one of Sarah Connor’s questions. One option being “[KILL SARAH CONNOR].” No other narration is used throughout the issue save for the opening scene, where short dialogue boxes dictate the draconian future. It’s reminiscent of Sarah Connor’s voiceover from the films; you can practically hear Linda Hamilton’s voice while reading.
One setback is how the story moves at a breakneck pace, with little in the way of nuance or detail. While I understand that the core of the story is to have the Terminator engage in battle with the Transformers, things move so quickly that there is no room for subtlety or in-depth storytelling. The issue is pleasurable overall but felt rushed to deliver the setup for the following issues in the series. I hope that subsequent issues provide a greater understanding of how the Decepticons came to dominate Earth. However, issue #1 does end on a single splash page that speaks volumes for the series as a whole. I’ll refrain from spoilers, but suffice to say that this single image is enough to have me coming back to see where issue #2 picks up.
Overall, Transformers vs. Terminator #1 is an enjoyable read, but it is most definitely geared towards fans picking up the issue with prior knowledge of both IPs. It sets the groundwork for what looks to be a spectacle of sci-fi battles, pulling from both the worlds of both franchises. Issue #1 is a quick read that feels rushed, but looks to set the stage for precisely what the title of series promises.