My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An open letter to James Roberts:
Dear Mr. Roberts,
Thank you. I have lots of questions, certainly, and I have plenty of comments, but I need to start with that: thanks. When I read a work I love, that seems the first and most necessary response. I know that writing is a difficult labor– no matter how easy some people make it look and no matter what a reward it must be to see those stories given form by Milne’s artwork. It’s probably still worth something (I hope) to hear a heartfelt thank you from a reader.
But let’s talk about why we should be thanking you for a moment, shall we? Obviously there were a lot of us who grew up loving Transformers, who filled afternoons with sagas enacted by forms of molded plastic on bedroom floors. There were probably less of us, but still a significant number, who bought wholeheartedly into the mythology that Furman created in his brief stint on the original Marvel run, who realized that of course these characters were scions of a god and the universe’s last line of defense against the Chaos-bringer, that of course they were more than simply robots that transformed into cars.
And then we grew up.
We passed the broken survivors of garage sales that hung on in basements and attics to our kids. We went to Botcon maybe once or twice, taped Beast Wars when it was on television, and tried our hand at fan fiction with embarrassing results. We had our hopes dashed by the live action movies. We waited. We knew what we had glimpsed once upon a time, but it appeared as though the deep well of mythology and potentiality in story and mystique– in the epic of a million years’ war– would remain untapped.
But then there was More Than Meets the Eye, and now six volumes of trades into it, here we are. We can talk about the journey that it’s been– what it was like to realize that someone else got it and was going to start telling those stories– but the primary feeling throughout has been: of course. It’s about time. It felt as though these were stories being uncovered as much as they were being created. They were in the bones of the thing itself– spark, cog, and marrow– waiting to be told. We knew they were there. We half-remembered them ourselves. And now, we can nod and gasp and laugh and cry over the pages with recognition.
Except, of course, surprises linger. I read and then I re-read volume 6, trying to imagine the voice of Frank Welker speaking the lines you’ve given Megatron. You are doing a new thing here, because you refuse to let anything be taken as a given. You’re going to give us character and depth, even in what had been the most single-dimensional villain in the entire franchise. In each volume of MTMTE so far we’re provided a new angle, a new insight, and in this one it is the character of the former Decepticon leader himself.
Very well done.
We get new characters as well, showing your continued determination to make this a series about the second-stringers, and pushing against convention when the second-stringers themselves begin to feel established in the limelight by bringing in new faces and introducing them in ways that don’t seem contrived. We get what we expect as well in the sense of science fiction tropes done well and done with Autobots. We also get all of this given form in the continually impressive, subtle, and just so darn wonderful artwork of Milne. Can we talk for just a minute about the care he took in eviscerating everyone’s favorite spaceship?
Okay, so you obviously don’t need any advice besides: keep doing this, but I’m going to give some anyway. Feel free to skip over this to the part at the end when I say thank you one more time and promise to keep reading.
1. Can we all just agree that we’ll do everything we can to keep Milne happy and drawing these comics? I’m not saying that there’s no one else out there who could do it as well but– no, I think I am saying exactly that. Please, guys, don’t ever break up.
2. Do anything you want. Really. I was a bit annoyed at first (okay, I still am) that characters aren’t getting killed off fast enough and that some of them have started coming back. I get it. It’s a comic thing and a franchise thing. But–
3. Kill off at least one cute sidekick. With Swerve and everyone it’s great. With Rewind and Chromedome it’s sweet. With Tailgate and Cyclonus it’s getting old.
4. Spoiler: start dropping some hints about who or what the Lost Light transforms into. I know, I know, I’m a bit slow. It took me until this volume before it hit me: she’s going to transform some day, and it’s going to be awesome.
That’s all. You’re a British subject, right? I think we could probably make a case for you being knighted for service to science fiction literature and sentient robotic lifeforms. It’s probably not how these things work, but you’d have my vote.
Thank you. I promise to keep reading.