Brian Ruckley’s reboot of IDW’s take on Transformers has continued to impress me. With his methodical and moody, yet uplifting and hopeful take on Hasbro’s robots in disguise, I’ve found myself soaking up the subtle details in every issue so far. Though his slower pacing earns him flack from some, I’ve yet to feel that any of that time has been wasted. His latest issue may be one of my favorites thus far, with a reinvention of a character from the previous IDW Transformers continuity: Pyra Magna.
Pyra Magna was originally introduced to fans during “Phase Two” of the previous canon, where she served as the leader of the Torchbearers from the planet Caminus. She acted as something of a foil for Optimus Prime — not villainous in any sense, but thinking herself more worthy of the Matrix of Leadership than he was. While her introduction into this continuity came earlier on in the run, this is the first time we’ve really had a chance to get inside her head. Here, Ruckley re-contextualizes her dynamic with the Prime somewhat. While she’s no longer vying for Optimus’ position, she makes it clear that she has her own ways of doing things, and is not necessarily bound by his exact morals or his orders.
Pyra and Optimus really are the star players this issue, each getting somber moments of reflection that allow us to feel the weight they carry. Pyra shows her prowess as one of Cybertron’s “great generals” by helping Optimus turn his idealistic appeal to Megatron (which she was sure would lead to his certain death had she not acted as his proxy) into a military advantage, allowing the Autobots to escape to fight another day. She’s pragmatic, whereas Optimus is yet to be jaded enough by the ongoing war to think in those terms, which helps balance them both out.
I enjoy how cunning and reserved Ruckley writes her, giving the sense that there’s a lot going on beneath the surface that we aren’t yet meant to see. It makes me interested to learn more about her outlook and what other moments in her past define her. By the end she seems firmly decided that Optimus is a noble individual worth believing in, and is more in line with her ideals than the war-mongering Decepticons. It’s a solid adaptation of the previous incarnation I would say, being similar in the ways that matter, but different enough that it keeps things fresh.
I love how the issue ends on a really somber note, with Optimus taking a moment away from the Autobots to stare out over the the ruined cityscape, taking in the loss and death the war has brought. It’s a scene with real weight and sadness behind it, and you can really feel the sorrow and regret within Optimus. His peace-loving nature is part of his core appeal, and I’m glad that we’re taking time to explore his remorse. The fact that so far, he’s used nearly every non-violent action available to him before he even considers attacking the Decepticons directly feels completely right for this version of the character.
There’s also some pretty good action, which is owed to the continued fantastic work of Anna Malkova. As I said last time, I love how Malkova draws these characters. She brings a great level of cartoonish charm and expressiveness to them, and still manages the gritty, somber realism the book needs to sell its depiction of war. The fights tend to be somewhat short, but brutal and impactful, which cannot go underappreciated. I also love the cover, the symbolism of Optimus cultivating a flower on a battlefield dirtied with death while Pyra watches on touches on so much about what makes the two characters different.
Overall, I enjoyed this issue. It’s a very quiet one, if I were to put a word to it. There’s no shortage of dialogue, but things feel fairly low energy and contemplative, something that I am admittedly fond of if done right. I think Ruckley and Malkova are a perfect team for the book right now, and I hope to see what lies in store next time with the promise of a small time skip, which may alleviate some concerns about the pacing issues fans have had with it thus far. I’d say it’s more than worth a look.
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