“Prime, you can’t die.”
“Do not grieve. Soon I will be one with the Matrix.”
Oh, we won’t grieve anymore, Optimus. That’s because Transformers: Deviations #1 imagines a world where you never died in the Decepticons’ infamous assault on Autobot City in Transformers: The Animated Movie. If only I had known this comic would one day exist thirty years ago — young me would have been spared the indignity of crying himself to sleep for nights on end and tear-sullying his Transformers pillowcase.
How will the Autobots fare in their darkest hour now that the legendary Optimus Prime is still alive, well and in full command? Is it good?
Transformers: Deviations #1 (IDW Publishing)
- My little brother and I spent a lot of time as kids arguing how that ultimate battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron in the Animated Movie would have gone down without interference from an overzealous Hot Rod; the scenario that writer Brandon Easton proffers in Transformers: Deviations #1 finally gives us a definitive answer (one that I’m not ashamed to admit supports my lifelong stance on the matter wholeheartedly): with Prime absolutely wrecking Megatron’s shit.
That’s right, without Hot Rod leaping into battle to “help Optimus,” and only seconds later providing Megatron with a makeshift, flame-embellished shield — Optimus is able to rightfully blast the defeated Megatron to slag with his trademark Ion Blaster. Suck it, Jonny.
- The banter between Ultra Magnus and Hot Rod is one of the issue’s selling points, but makes you realize how much more fun Kup and Hot Rod’s grumbling old man and “turbo-revvin’ young punk” interactions were by comparison.
- Easton absolutely nails the characterization of Hot Rod, despite the divergent path he takes in this comic. He’s still brash and somewhat reckless but easy to empathize with considering he just wants to do what’s right for the Autobots and finds once again a kindred spirit in Spike’s son, Daniel. Also, the fact that he didn’t needlessly bungle during the Decepticons’ assault on Autobot City and get Optimus Prime, the most legendary Autobot of all time shot up and killed goes a long way in making one more forgiving of his mistakes. (Although, he does still exhibit his fair share of screw-ups in this issue before ultimately redeeming himself.)
- Artist Priscilla Tramontano does an excellent job on art duty. Her renditions of the Robots in Disguise are on point and as true to the designs of the 1986 film as you can get. Equally as impressive is her attention to detail in the coloring department, which matches the ambience of the Transformers world down to the very last hue — from the glint in Optimus’ blue optics when he delivers the famous line “One shall stand, one shall fall,” to the orange-blue, Sharkticon infested waters on Quintessa.
And stay down.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
- Optimus Prime might be my favorite Transformer, but if he hadn’t died, it’s pretty clear what Transformers: The Animated Movie could have been: way more verbose, way less dramatic, and as a result — kinda boring too. With the sagacious Optimus in charge instead of inexperienced Ultra Magnus and Hot Rod, plenty of the latters’ flawed decisions turn into situations that Optimus is able to diffuse pretty easily (and with way less violence).
- 5-year-old me never thought I’d say this, but where is Arcee? I miss her.
- MegaScream: Cool concept, but not quite as visually impressive or dread-instilling as Galvatron.
- Uh, so why can MegaScream combine with all the other Decepticons like that at the end, exactly?
Is It Good?
Writer Brandon Easton knows his shit when it comes to Transformers. As he says himself:
I’ve watched Transformers: the Movie maybe a thousand times between 1986 and now. I know every scene, every line of dialogue, all the alternate animation takes, all the color tests, all the script changes and just about any bit of arcane foolishness regarding the film. It was as simple as me sitting down and writing the script without notes or having to watch the movie again. It all came flowing out of my brain directly onto the page without visual reference.
Impressive. The problem is, his extensive knowledge of Transformers lore nearly becomes a hindrance to Transformers: Deviation #1 in the sense that Easton follows the rails of what happened in the movie a little too closely — which ends up making things a little too predictable, especially to fans who have watched the movie a few times. Sure, different characters are paired up and played off each other, but the same planets, villains and circumstances make for what is essentially the same exact story with a few small twists thrown into the mix.
Transformers: Deviations #1 is still worth a look, especially to those who’ll derive plenty of enjoyment by comparing and contrasting the subtle nuances between it and the Animated Movie — but I think overall the book would have benefited more if Easton had been given more creative freedom. As it stands, this issue of of Transformers: Deviations could probably be more accurately called Transformers: Slight Alterations.