Well, here we go. Dark Cybertron has begun, the long-awaited crossover between IDW's two main Transformers series – the wild, fun, twisted, dense and completely stellar More Than Meets The Eye by James Roberts, and the less-great-but-still-compelling Robots In Disguise, by John Barber. One of the freshest thing about these two books when they launched is that it was a clear jumping on point, and seemed to be leaving some of the older continuity baggage behind them. However, this new event seems to be charging headlong back into that dark, chaotic abyss established by famed TF writer Simon Furman years ago.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, because a lot of those older comics were solid, but some of them were also confusing, since they came out so erratically, with random spotlight issues jumping all over the timeline. It just makes us a little wary, because Roberts has been doing such bang-up work with MTMTE, a stand-alone title that is bravely forging its own new path, that we're nervous about anything derailing that entertainment train. This event does seem to be wrapping up a mighty big loose end from the Furman era, though – the matter of what giant secret thing the former Senator Shockwave has been planning for millions of years – and it also seems to be factoring in all the world-building Roberts has been doing, so hopefully, it will all work out.
The big purple monocular logic-maven Shockwave has finally gotten all of the long-simmering parts of his master plan in place – a plan that seems to involve carrying on the work of his mad scientist mentor Jhiaxus. It involves, once again, the fabled Dead Universe, where before the great war, the ignoble conqueror Nova Prime and his band of explorers in the Ark disappeared and came back even more corrupt and crazed. Shockwave has his mysterious ores of various types – including a 'resurrection ore' – reaching their final synthesis, he's got the body of an ancient dead Metrotitan with its unique other-dimensional capabilities, and a sap named Waspinator willing to pilot the massive giant. There's one more painful bit of ruthless science he needs to enact.
Meanwhile, the crew of the Lost Light, Rodimus' ship in search of the fabled Knights of Cybertron, has responded to the distress call of the former Optimus Prime and current Orion Pax, whose small group of explorers was trapped in the collapse of the planet Gorlam Prime, which once held a portal into that ol' Dead Universe. Pulling their fat out of the fire, Pax boards the ship, and that's where we get a lot of the goofball character comedy that Roberts has made a signature of his run – including little dork Swerve making Pax's distress call his ringtone. Soon after, they get a message from Starscream, the freely-elected leader of the new Cybertronian society (now that he's banished both the Autobots and Decepticons from the city of Iacon), who asks Cyclonus for some help. See, Cyclonus was with Nova Prime (and Jhiaxus and Galvatron) when the Ark first went into the Dead Universe, and he's able to confirm that there's a new portal to that ugly place opening right over Cybertron – thanks to the newly raised Metrotitan and Shockwave's crazy shenanigans. It all seems to be designed to bring Nova Prime and Galvatron back into the land of the living – and considering how awful they made things last time around, we know it will be a bad scene.
On first blush, as soon as Shockwave utters the words 'my liege' in deference to Nova Prime, a wave of disappointment settles in. This was supposed to be Shockwave's master plan, not some giant indentured service to some other tin-pot dictator. Then, after a second read-through, there might be something else going on altogether. Shockwave is a machine of cold logic, but he's suddenly zapped with a strange cyclical prophecy of the future, and the final page of Nova Prime and Galvatron looks like they're either on a video screen from somewehre else… or possibly some kind of hallucination. His flunky Dreadwing seems to note there's some kind of 'complication' with the whole Metrotitan conduit business they're doing, and it's possible something has broken Shockwave's brain in the process. If it does turn out that Shockwave has just been a henchman for Nova Prime this whole time, though, that disappointment will be here to stay. The fact that IDW announced that there will be a "Purple Reign" era gives us hope that things are not what they seem.
That all said, it's fun getting Ye Olden Optimus back into the mix, and seeing the whole gang starting to get back together now that Starscream's actually asking for help. The art from Phil Jimenez and Andrew Griffith is very solid as well – the double-page splash of the Metrotitan erupting out of the very fabric of Cybertron and absolutely dwarfing Bumblebee and the exiled Autobots is actually breathtaking. So it's up to Roberts and Barber to make sure that this exploration of the past doesn't wind up just rehashing old stories – and they've both more than earned enough trust in their work so far that we can rest assured that it won't be. Elements here are great threads to hang a story upon, and Dark Cybertron promises to shake things up considerably for the whole IDW TF universe.
Fingers crossed. Let's do this, gentlemen.