Time for me to look at another issue of IDW’s Transformers, written by Brian Ruckley with art by Beth McGuire-Smith. This issue brings us an artist shift, a mini-heist movie, and some bittersweet musings from everybody’s favourite little yellow ‘bot (No, not that one. Not the other one you’re thinking of either) Bumblebee, and still manages to be a quick and enjoyable read.
This plot of this issue puts the focus back on Bumblebee, who we haven’t seen in a handful of issues (barring the alternate timeline version we got last time). He’s still working (semi) undercover as a Decepticon, operating in secret out of Swindle’s place of business. The main plot of the issue feels like a miniature heist movie, with ‘Bee and some Decepticon hire’s from Swindle breaking Elita-1 out of a ‘Con prison. It manages to be pretty fun and exciting, despite being only being given about half the issue’s total page count.
We also get some brief look at what Skywarp has been up to since materializing back into reality last issue, even ending the issue personally by asking a Decepticon soldier to be “taken to their leader.” With another popular Seeker joining the cast of the book, I can’t help but hope we get Thundercracker soon for a full reunion.
The characterization is where I had the most fun. Ruckley has such a strong grasp on every character he writes, even when he’s putting a bit of his own personal spin on it, and I cannot praise him enough for that. Bumblebee gets the most to chew on here, being both somber and regretful over the death of his apprentice (as we’ve come to expect from this version), but still showing that kind and gentle heart that we all love about the guy. And of course the way he plays Swindle’s game perfectly to get his assistance AGAINST his fellow Decepticons is both fun, and a good look at how clever ‘Bee really is.
Swindle himself is also always a treat, with his anxious yet smooth con-man shtick being massively entertaining. I couldn’t help but read all of his dialogue with the voice of the late Fred Willard (who played him in Transformers: Animated), which goes to show how strongly defined he was there. Even his crew of fellow con-artists have fun and unique personalities that play well of his, and they barely factor into the plot of this issue at all.
I also loved the characterization of Elita-1 while stuck in prison, with each panel of her in her cell showing it slowly being destroyed by bouts of her anger. Funny, and a good, subtle insight into her as a person. Even the very brief flashback we get of Optimus Prime (the character under Ruckley’s pen I apparently cannot stop praising every month whether he appears or not) is on point, showing the faith he had in ‘Bee to be his best self from the start.
We have another artist on board this time in Beth McGuire-Smith, replacing Anna Malkova, but she brings a lot of similar strengths to the table that make the transition nearly seamless. Without expressly seeing the different name listed up front, I hardly would have guessed a change. The art of this issue feels a lot like something out of the fan favorite More Than Meets The Eye series, which is nothing but a good thing. I really enjoyed how animated and expressive each character felt, leaving nothing about their emotions up to a guessing game. If McGuire-Smith sticks around for a bit longer, I certainly wont be complaining about it.
Overall, this was a pretty fun issue. Despite some heavy subject matter from Bumblebee, the issue maintains a great balance of drama and levity, all character driven. It’s rare that those elements can all blend so organically, but Transformers is no slouch in that department, and Ruckley continues to channel that masterfully. The art of the book matches it’s tone and energy level perfectly, and McGuire-Smith is a great fit. In conclusion, another really good issue of a really good run.
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