Just when I think I’m out, they drag me back in. I said I wouldn’t check out any other IDW/Hasbro-verse comics after my experience with the lack-lustre G.I. Joe #7, but my curiosity got the better of me. I’m glad it did. OPTIMUS PRIME #9 is one of the smartest and most emotional stories I’ve read this year. Smart and emotional are not words I thought I’d be using to describe a comic based on warring factions of toy robots that change into trucks and jets. Yet writer John Barber and artist Kei Zama have crafted a beautifully rendered story that an audience of all ages can appreciate.
In this issue the injured Autobot Sideswipe gets off the side lines with the assistance of some Junkion technology. He assists Arcee in a mission to locate his estranged brother Sunstreaker on their home planet of Cybertron. The story is told in a first person narrative and we get to experience Sideswipe’s feelings first-hand as he adjusts to the changes that have taken place in Transformer society while he’s been in a Rip Van Winkle like slumber. For him, the war has never ended and the Decepticons are still the enemy. In fact Sideswipe barely recognizes them as being the same species. On the surface it’s about robots, but this is a story of a good soldier, traumatized by war and trying desperately to fit inside a still changing world. It’s brilliant, and the ending just might have you reaching for a tissue.
Barber’s subtleties and firm characterization really make the OPTIMUS PRIME series stand out among other TRANSFORMERS comics from various eras, and he aptly juggles action scenes and human/robot relations amid a politically charged atmosphere.
Kei Zama’s art is some of the best to grace the pages of a TRANSFORMERS comic. Her designs are easily recognizable and her style harkens back to the 1986 animated movie, only now the characters look more aged, worn, and battle-scarred. They look weary and it’s easy to believe they’ve been through a four million year struggle.
You’re not going to find any wisecracks or megaton explosions here like you would in the Michael Bay films, and IDW should strive for this level of quality in all their titles.
Story: John Barber
Art: Kei Zama