When we last left the universe’s worst Decepticons their business partner was dead, they couldn’t transform, and they were starring down an Autobot famous for his body count at a battle that cut the Cybertronian race in half. So, yeah, not a good place to be.
There’s something wonderful about a situation where your…let’s say heroes are truly, hopelessly outmatched and this issue gives us that. But it gives us much more. Non-preachy, non-easy redemption arcs? Check. Honest discussion of mental health issues? Check. Clever ideas coming with consequences? Check. Excellent team dynamics? Check. Heartfelt monologues being immediately called out as BS? Check! It’s not terribly surprising, but this is such a fun issue. And yes I am aware that it deals with trauma, body horror, and Mengele-esque atrocities.
The Scavengers remain utterly delightful to read. Yes, Crankcase remains underutilized, but each of the bots get at least one great moment in the spotlight. Misfire, Krok, and Fulcrum have a great interplay and Spinister, while not quite the comedic genius he was last month, will likely cement himself as a favorite character for more than one reader.
We also get the return of Red Alert. I forgot how much I missed this guy. He and Fort Max have a great rapport that gives the issue a little variety. In fact, the small ways in which this Scavengers story crosses over with the Lost Light’s quest are both fun in the moment and deeply exciting for the series as a whole.
The core of this issue is probably Krok’s speech. It’s great to see this comic openly and honestly addressing central issues like this, but I will admit that it feels a little bit disconnected from the rest of the story. Obviously the reality of the situation was important, but the story suddenly breaks into an after-school special moment that doesn’t quite feel justified by the character writing. This is probably my biggest issue with the comic, but it passes quickly and, if you’ll excuse an odd metaphor, the aftertaste is noticeably better than the speech is in the moment.
Despite this flaw, I adore the direction that James Roberts is taking this story. This issue effectively functions as a strange mirror for MTMTE #39’s look at the DJD, introduced in the same issue as the Scavengers. Once again the focus is on the direction and ownership of the Decepticon movement and the relation between being a member of a faction and being a Cybertronian. In keeping with the themes of this issue, on some level, the Scavengers have figured out the true purpose of this series, not in spite of, but precisely because of their ‘loser’ status.
It’s not like it’s rare for this series to blow you away with clever character work or complex plots, but by slightly changing perspectives – focusing on a team of Decepticon losers and Autobot outliers, rather than a team of Autobot dorks or a team of terrifying Decepticon extremists – the quality that we’ve come to expect is subtly refreshed.
Alex Milne is on art chores this month, with Joana Lafuente on colors, ensuring that this issue reads cleanly and looks lovely. To be honest, I suspect that someone, quite possibly Milne himself, has overworked themself a bit. There are three inkers assisting Milne this month and not all of them are equal, at least in consistency. Some panels have a cartoonish bounciness about them, while others lack polish. It’s only something you’d notice if you were looking for it, but I was. Also, Grimlock is rocking some serious Bronto-thighs.
Either way, Milne is a natural Transformers artist. He knows just how to hit that sweet spot being anthropomorphism and angularity to ensure his creations are both expressive and technologically attractive. Comparing his normal fare vs. the Roboids or the mysterious duo at the end of the issue and you’ll see just how much thought and control Milne puts into each design. Actually, you don’t even need to go that far. Just look at the Scavengers. It’s pretty incredible that Milne can paint Krok and Misfire as serious actors but draw Spinister as comic relief. Spinister is about as inherently evil looking as a Transformer gets without just throwing horns on him, but there’s no doubt what role he plays here based on the art.
Milne is also obviously having fun with Fort Max, using his massive shoulders and looming treads to play up his hunter’s drive.
The storytelling is strong, and the layouts both diverse and interesting. It’s easy to draw different panel layouts, but the artistry comes into it when you draw an arrangement that plays up the story beats of each page.
The shaded corridors of Demus’ warehouse allow Joana Lafuente plenty of opportunities to play with light and shadow. I seriously doubt that this issue would look nearly as good , or Fort Max so frightening, without her attention to lighting. Admittedly it’s a little hard to make out details in Grimlock’s gunmetal, but Lafuente does a great job of using the monochromatic elements of the characters to give their brighter colors some serious pop.
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #46 closes this check in on the Scavengers out wonderfully. These are easily some of my favorite characters that MTMTE has to offer and their interactions are just great. Even better, this isn’t just some amusing fluff, it almost seems as though this is the start to the next chapter of MTMTE, after “Elegant Chaos” closed out so many of the original plot threads.
Admittedly the technical quality of the writing isn’t quite able to keep up with Roberts’ best, but the content he’s working with is excellent and Roberts on an off day is still better than most comics out there.
Fairly early in this issue, Fortress Maximus drops a bombshell on the Scavengers and the readers, but it’s easy for this incredibly horrific story beat to get lost behind the revelation about Krok’s missing comrades. Both are excellent moments and both highlight why this series is consistently one of the best out there. Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye makes the fantastic ordinary and makes the ordinary fantastic.