I’m back today looking at another issue of IDW’s Transformers, written and drawn by the dream team of Brian Ruckley and Anna Malkova. Happy to have Malkova back on this issue, and even happier to get a solid read out of this one, so let’s jump right in.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Transformers #38!
The plot this time around is a bit of an aside from last time — the pin hasn’t fully dropped about Exarchon’s return yet, and it’s more about seeing more of the horrors the Decepticons’ occupation has brought to Cybertron. Megatron is informed by Ultra Magnus of the coming threat, but of course isn’t believed, requiring a daring rescue from the Autobots (and some looking the other way from Swindle). This means the meat of the issue is Smokescreen and his girl gang of Arcee, Chromia and Windblade having to save and smuggle Ultra Magnus out of Megatron’s political prison, which was lighthearted and fun where it needed to be, and equally a chilling reminder of Decepticon cruelty. We touch lightly on Cyclonus and his (unbeknownst to him) possessed comrade, but that’s all it is; a light touch. Overall it’s nothing fancy, but it works as a fun distraction and lead up to what will no doubt be a much more intense plot line when Exarchon reveals himself.
Characterization is serviceable all around. No one character gets total focus, so nobody has an arc in this issue (Magnus is the closest, but it’s not given much focus), but that’s fine since the dynamics on display are entertaining enough without that. Smokescreen’s smug confidence contrasts well against Swindle in the little bit of panel time they share, like two salesman trying to out-scam each other — it got a chuckle out of me. Also, while the other ladies brought along for the rescue don’t factor in much, Arcee’s touching moment with her family was a real highlight.
I’d also be remiss not to mention the funny beat we get between occasional Ninja Consultant Sixshot, and one of my favourite ‘bots from this run, Flamewar. She’s honestly so funny whenever she gets a chance to speak in any of these, I look forward to it every time she’s on panel.
As stated up top, Anna Malkova is back and I’m glad to have her. She’s definitely my favorite artist the book has ever had, and she brings a fun energy and strong pencil work to every issue she’s on. Half of why I find Flamewar in particular so entertaining is in how great Malkova is at showing expressive faces and body language. The colouring by David Garcia Cruz helps out a lot, too — it’s very eye-catching, but subtle, and I really dig that.
Transformers #38 is another good issue all around, I’d say. While it didn’t advance much in the way of plot, it had some fun character interactions and sometimes that’s all you really need. Swindle and Smokescreen had a funny rapport, Flamewar is always a treat to have in an issue, and we’re finally starting to get a better feel for this universe’s version of Ultra Magnus, which is a nice plus. Glad to have my favorite writer and artist duo back together after a brief absence.
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