This year’s Transformers Annual features two stories that are very different in style, but they’re tied together by the storytellers (Optimus and Pyra Magna, trying to work out their differences) and the eavesdroppers (Starscream and Bumblebee, though Bumblebee’s a figment of Starscream’s imagination of course, right? …..right…?)
See below for preview pages and a review of Transformers Annual 2017.
The first story is fairly straightforward: it’s about a much younger Bumblebee (Optimus was still Orion) and the shady dealings he was pulled into. I’m a sucker for Old Cybertron stories, and we get to see some of my favorite characters.
The directness of the plot makes the story feel like it could’ve worked very well as an episode back in the 80s (with a very clear beginning, middle and end to it) and it shows Bumblebee before he got quite so serious with the ruling of Cybertron. I like to see younger, more cheerful Bumblebee, but I’m getting a kick out of the persistent, wiser Bumblebee who keeps harassing Starscream. Maybe I just like seeing Starscream get infuriated so often.
The second story has been described as the origin story of Pyra Magna (part of the combiner gestalt of Victorion) but it’s more the story of how she became the leader of the Torchbearers.
I’ve read through it twice and I’m not sure if I don’t understand what’s going on because A) I’m not caught up on the main Transformers title, or B) I’m forgetting a piece of the (very complex) Transformers history, or C) something else. There was an attack, a mystery, a historic monster, a dream, and a resolution, but (other than the explanation for how two of the Torchbearers joined the team) I really don’t understand the plot there. (Though it was extremely nice to get personalities for all the Torchbearers, I look forward to seeing a lot more of them.)
There’s also a moment where I think we’ve got a word-bubble misplacement. We see in dialog later that it’s Praesidia Magna who says the word “Antilla” but the bubble is definitely pointing at Pyra Magna. If I’m right, it’s a minor quibble, and something that can happen in any comic. But it did add to the confusion, because if I’m wrong I’m not sure why Pyra Magna would be speaking there.
The art this issue is by Priscilla Tramontano and is (totally unsurprisingly) really excellent. I love the stained glass cover that recalls the classic cover by Nick Roche for the Chaos Theory collection, except even more elaborate. (I feel like it’s a tribute to something else as well, but other than Timothy Lim’s Optimus sketch I’m not sure what I could be thinking of.)
It was wonderful to see Tramontano’s take on so many familiar faces in the first story, but I loved her work on the Torchbearers in the second. She’s another IDW artist who’s really captured the G1 look of the faces, and they look fantastic on these characters we haven’t known for long.
She also handles a ton of details for all the characters, lots of hinges and joins and panels, but nothing seems overly complex or cluttered.
The color throughout the book was fantastic, but I especially liked the pages towards the last part of the second story, which I think was John-Paul Bove’s work but I could be wrong. It’s the coloring where you see each of the Torchbearers in several consecutive panels. I’m not sure exactly why they stood out to me, but the shades used and the balance of solid colors, gradients, and shadows just seemed perfect.
Aside from not really knowing what was going on in the resolution of the second story, I enjoyed the issue. I’ll wait for a few days before checking out the TF Wiki, because if you know what was going on, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.