Among a series famous for resonating with its fans and willing to eschew nearly any element except quality, Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #7 & 8 stand out as a pair of issues that have captured the imagination of its fanbase. I can’t say for certain that I think that they’re the best issues of the series, but they are certainly among the most complete and innovative of Robert’s comic efforts. I mean, I’ve already written about the sheer passion that Transformers fans feel for the DJD, but while their ominous presence has been a shadow over the series ever since, there are some Roberts creations in those issues that are actually almost as brilliant but much less appreciated.
I’m, of course, talking about the Scavengers. I could, and may, go on about their classic comedy structure or the highly relevant ideas about ownership and hypocrisy within a movement inherent to their former stories, but for now I’ll just say how wonderful it is to see them again after almost forty issues(!), twenty-four if you count a brief cameo.
While the opening sequence is perhaps a tad unnecessary and overly devoted to hooking the reader through misdirection, the energy of the Scavengers team remain ebullient, even without poor Flywheels (Primus spare his spark). Misfire solidifies his role as our viewpoint character with his abundant screen time and bizarre ‘boy and his dog’ story, but Roberts does a fine job of highlighting each member of this losers of losers team. Krok remains both relatable and mysterious and he and the appropriately named Fulcrum give the team a great philosophical balance. These three are clearly the heart of the team, but, while Crankcase does get a little bit of the short straw, Spinister is absolutely great. With Sixshot’s spark and GIR from Invader Zim’s brain module, his frequent gags are a little obvious, but undeniably entertaining.
Even better than the Scavengers’ personalities is their ability to comment on the core themes of MTMTE. Being both grunts and Decepticons, the Scavengers naturally lend themselves to examinations of how warriors adapt to peacetime and, by extension, struggles letting go of who you are. This last concept is in high gear as Krok bemoans the success of the idiots who served with him, while he remains stuck in the past. Maybe it’s just being a twenty-something, but it’s a great hook and lends itself to some incredible gags. I mean, how long have you been waiting to see a Decepticon comedian?
Unfortunately, this issue is very much a warm up for the story to come. There’s not a lot of plot and what there is isn’t the most interesting, save for the dialogue it supports. That dialogue is excellent, mind you. Roberts is a master of smalltalk and you know that, while half of it is simply comedy, half is world-building and at least another half is foreshadowing. I mean, there are Decepticon comedians and Decepticon social media services! That’s gotta come back in some form, right? Plus we get another clever justification for Grimlock’s limited vocabulary that makes the Dinobot commander as lovable as any post-movie G1 episode. Even if the story is only slightly less aimless than its protagonists, it’s at least as amusing as they are.
And before we move onto the art, we’re gonna have to talk about the recap page, because it’s great. Not only does it serve as an excellent reintroduction to the characters and a clever reminder that they’ve been off on their own having all manner of mysterious misadventures while we’ve been dealing with the Lost Light, but it presents a suite of strange and wonderful challenges for them. I will admit that the last couple of scenarios are a little too meta for my tastes, and an understandable waste of an opportunity to show off any hypothetical custom Fulcrum figures, but if you don’t like it, guess what? Each one’s a panel long and they’re all are fan fics waiting to happen. I would honestly love to read about Shockwave’s haunted datapad. Despite the tongue-in-cheek jokes about their non-existent trade dress, this sequence reminds me that I’d totally buy a Roberts-penned Transformers: Scavengers miniseries.
Alex Milne’s expressive artwork is a fine fit for the Scavengers. Sturdy lines and malleable designs make even the smallest reaction shots pop and even the most inhuman faces capable of complex emoting.
At its core, this issue is a criminal comedy and Milne’s storytelling makes sure that it feels like one. Even without the dialogue you can tell that these guys are losers and what the dynamics between them are. Milne has a great understanding of how to give their world a Star Wars-esque worn down look without overcomplicating his panels. Little cracks and blemishes speak volumes, especially considering that Krok’s face doesn’t look too much worse than most of the rest of his crew. Speaking of faces, Misfire’s earns his position in the story. It’s subtle, but Misfire is kind of the perfect Decepticon face, a fusion of Starscream, Megatron, and Blitzwing at their lankiest and most incompetent. We also get to see Milne try something fairly different in depicting Grimlock’s Tyrannosaur mode. Though the Furman-era design is starting to show the excesses of its age, Milne makes the appearance of a giant metal dinosaur feel natural and appropriate for the art style.
Like the characters themselves, the book is awash in a sea of cool greens and purples, with carefully chosen islands of orange. It’s not a particularly innovative palette for a decepticon story, I suppose, but the vibrancy of Joana Lafuente’s colors is a great gift to the eyes. This is especially noticeable in combination with Milne’s use of negative space. I’ve also been noticing Lafuente’s skill in lighting effects over the past few months there’s no exception this time around. Particularly in the final scenes of this issue, the noir-ish, black-market character of the story shines through in the colors. The gradients are subtle and the light sources dramatic.
Though the plot is a little limited, James Roberts and Alex Milne turn out another amazing issue based almost solely on the strength of their characters. The Scavengers remain some of the characters who most directly tap the strengths of Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and getting another full issue of their shenanigans feels like an industrial grade dose of MTMTE shot straight into your eyes. From implied musical episodes to Self Hating Decepticons (tm), the madcap originality and energy of the series is in full swing, narratively and visually.
Ultimately I feel like this is bound to be a beloved chapter in an eventual trade but it's still a very fun single issue. It won’t be replacing “Rules of Disengagement” for anybody, but if you’re willing to take a month to soak in the fun of this universe - and let’s face it, if you’re reading this series you probably are - this will be a welcome addition to your collection.