Transformers: Till All Are One #2 is a terrifyingly timely comic. I’m going to try to keep the focus of this review on the issue itself, but there’s simply no denying that Mairghread Scott’s allusions to American police brutality and corruption bristle with renewed sharpness when released on the same day as video of a police murder of the underprivileged, when between reading this issue and penning these words another video of another killing emerges. Fun as it is to watch Windblade and Starscream maneuver, Scott reminds us that it is deadly serious for the citizens of Cybertron, and absolutely not a game for we readers.
Amidst that backdrop, Scott plays a rapidly converging game of upstairs/downstairs, as the Council of Worlds and the Combaticons each try to spin the political tensions in Iacon to their advantage. It’s decidedly notable that these sections can almost feel like they belong in different books. Onslaught may be a strategist by trade, but there’s a very conscious lack of performance in his scenes that sets him up as sort of a hero. On the other hand, the Council sequences are frequently from Starscream’s perspective, which not only allows us plenty of time with the well-loved schemer, but also gives Windblade, Ironhide, and even Airazor a new perspective to work from. Honestly, after two, brief, series as a star, Windblade benefits from the freedom this new position affords her.
Till All Are One has quite a pedigree to live up to. It replaces Sins of the Wreckers in the brand’s publishing schedule, dwells in the shadow of More Than Meets The Eye’s award-winning brilliance, and follows Scott’s fantastic debut in the original Windblade mini. To be honest, a lot of this issue feel rather mundane compared to any of that. Windblade vol. 1 for instance was a particularly tight read. That’s not so much the case here. There is a lot of time where Scott slows down, encouraging readers to sit with the discomfort of a war that could start in a moment or never, but one can’t ignore that this is still a discomfort.
The simple fact is that the most effective storytelling is often not the most interesting storytelling. Many of the accepted rules of crafting your writing have a certain focus on utility. Holding too true to those rules can feel routine, but deviating too far can be alienating. Despite this, Scott seems intent on breaking down, not building, some of the mystique surrounding her setting. Starscream, in particular, has some moments of particular mundanity, as we see the king of Cybertron dealing with the needling annoyances of his post and reacting with a characteristic pettiness that undermines his strategic mind. Scott still turns this to her advantage, however, using these moments to show new elements of Screamer and throw his most glorious moments into contrast, and, trust me, Starscream is glorious this month.
One other thing that is fascinating about this issue is how wide the net seems to be cast. The other Transformers books have certainly put a spotlight on lesser known characters, but none have spent this much time defining such a wide array of characters. Characterization has always been one of the key features of the Transformers brand, all the way back to tech specs and bios, but even ‘beloved’ characters like the Constructicons or Dinobots have rarely had much beyond those original bios. So to see the Combaticons and Delegates given this much attention is not merely nice, but kind of a big deal. Scott is populating Cybertron and, while it could be argued that this is merely a novelty at this stage, there’s no denying that this strategy has correlated with some big moments and incredible fan reaction at IDW.
The pairing of Sara Pitre-Durocher and Priscilla Tramontano is pleasing, worthy of their work on The Transformers and Godzilla: Rulers of Earth. Nevertheless, I found myself a little disappointed to find that their talents had been added together rather than multiplied by each other. Tramontano’s colors are warm and energetic, but they don’t bring Durocher’s lines to life the way that Josh Perez or Yamaishi did in issues past. Clearly, I’ve gotten spoiled…
While the art is not stunning in to the degree that Durocher’s previous work has generally been, Tramontano’s colors are easy to like, melding the IDW house style and G1 Transformers easily.
As for Durocher herself, her skills are still crystal clear. Her trademarks are a little harder to spot, both in her linework and through the coloring, however, she does more than enough through her layouts and compositions to compensate for that. Mairghread Scott’s television background is clear in this comic and Durocher seems particularly well attuned to that sensibility, distilling ideas into static moments that practically come with some sort of dramatic musical cue.
Like Scott’s dialogue, this element is weakest during moments of exposition, where characters deal with the same concepts for panels at a time, but makes dramatic shifts or big flourishing endings absolutely delightful. It’s not entirely surprising that Starscream’s primadonna posturing makes him a natural subject for Durocher.
Transformers: Till All Are One puts the emphasis on ALL, looking at Cybertronians from every planet, faction, and social strata with an eye for character that practically promises big things and new favorite characters. This second issue confirms the methodical pacing and broad focus that gives Till All Are One the character of a novel or a prime time television series more than the traditional trade structure of comics. Scott, Durocher, and Tramontano are building something here and, while it differs significantly from the strategies IDW has employed before, I’m excited to be a citizen of Cybertron with them at the helm.