James Roberts, John Barber (Writers), Atilio Rojo, James Raiz, Nick Roche, Livio Ramondelli, Robert Gill (Artists), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist)
The Story: Ultra Magnus and the crew of the Lost Light meets some violent Ammonites, Starscream deals with people losing faith in him and the team in the dead universe discuss things.
The Review: Enjoying something is not necessarily a proof of its quality. Being able to love something for the greatness inside despite its fault is always something nice to see. It’s something that can go with every form of media or culture, which means comics aren’t expelled from this particular vision. There are many comics that some could consider bad, yet for nostalgic reasons or because of other inscrutable definitions, one can learn to enjoy something for what it is.
This is pretty much how I am feeling right now for the big crossover that is Dark Cybertron. It’s really not as great as MtMtE can be sometimes and there are numerous faults in terms of storytelling and presentation, yet there are several elements that do manage to entertain throughout each issues, with this one not being any exception.
One of the most enjoyable element is the characterization, with each bots receiving their share of the spotlight, shining through their dialogue and their personality. The boasting, yet hopeful Rodimus is here, along with Starscream and his partner Rattrap, who are both in deep trouble after the titan fiasco. While the cast is massive in this issue, most issues do tend to give some spotlight to different characters, with Ultra Magnus, Perceptor, Brainstorm, Rung, Prowl, Soundwave and Shockwave all being part of the whole tale. Not everyone gets to be memorable, but they do leave a certain mark nonetheless without just appearing for one panel in the background and that’s it.
Another good aspect is the humor, which is well put through the pacing and through the dialogue, bringing a certain sense of fun despite the dread of some scenes, like how Ultra Magnus tries to remember he needs to disassociate himself from the Tyrest accord, or how the ”Rodpod” looks like. It’s little touches like these that makes this story a bit more tolerable all along.
Where it begins to get problematic is the scope, with so many cooks in the kitchen that it begins to get a bit too much for a simple story. Not everything seems to be connected so far, with many scenes being fun, though not cohesive in the grand scheme of things. It’s fun to see what happens to Orion Pax and his team or with Starscream, but their scenes are rather disparate in terms of tones and themes. How everything will mesh up is intriguing, but so far many of these scenes are mostly standing on their own without contributing much to the overall imminent conflict with Nova Prime and Shockwave.
As a direct result, nothing much seems to have been accomplished in this issue in terms of plot, with some pieces set and some tease directly written for future developments, yet most of the substantial elements are near the end of the issue without anything else truly happening. There is of course a lot of action and some tense moments here and there, but for a huge crossover that’s supposed to be a big deal, this fourth part didn’t do much to further things along in exciting ways.
One of the other problem that is in direct correlation to the cohesion is the art, with simply too many artists here for the good of the issue. What’s worse, though, is how different in style they are, with Nick Roche cartoony sensibility not meshing well with James Raiz or Livio Ramondelli. Switching from Nick Roche to Atilio Rojo, going to James Raiz while passing to Livio Ramondelli doesn’t do much in terms of unity of visions. Each are talented artists and do manage to bring each pages beautifully, but at the cost of the story. Passing from Roche with his highly energetic characters to the more static and dark Raiz with the scenes featuring the crew of the Lost Light is not the smartest move, with the other artists stuck in the middle. The only one who does seems to be able to disconnect himself from the whole due to story reasons is Livio Ramondelli, who catch the eerie feeling of a dead universe beautifully. It’s a case of too many people working in the same place.
The colorization doesn’t suffer as much, with Ramondelli coloring his own pages, leaving Romulo Fajardi Jr. to give a certain unity to the scenes. He does not exactly succeed, yet it is mostly due to the script, with each scene being different in tone, requiring a palette for each of them. Through the chaos, Fajardi does manage to bring certain base contrasts and let the desired effects take place, like the red and hazardous waters the ”Rodpod” finds itself in, or the darker take on what is happening on Cybertron with Starscream. As a colorist, he does seems able to work with shading and with thicker lines, which is commendable of him considering the multilateral vision and the numerous directions of this issue.
The Conclusion: Some of the scenes are fun, the dialogue and characterization are pleasant, yet there are simply too many cooks in this kitchen. This has the result of giving an entertaining issue with severe problems in terms of unity and cohesion. A nice effort, but not what it could very well be.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière