Why you should be reading Transformers: More than Meets the Eye
Okay, considering that it is a comic book starring a group of robots that change into things based on a toy line from the 80’s that was itself cobbled together from two or three toy lines from Japan, Transformers has had a heck of a run all told. Multiple cartoons, many incredibly profitable (if not always good) movies, Grimlock — there’s a lot of history in the Transformers name. People love Transfomers, a lot of them more than I ever can or will love them.
In fact, I’m willing to admit to you here and now that until recently, I was fairly ‘meh’ on the whole Transformers idea. They had multiple continuities across several settings, each new cartoon and movie and comic series only muddied the waters further, and my favorite (Grimlock) never really gets the screen time he deserves. In fact, Grimlock’s best appearances all took place during the original comics published in the 80’s.
But one comic book has managed to get me to rethink everything about Transformers, it’s confusing canon, and whether or not I actually like the setting. Because that comic has consistently done the most to challenge the setting and its assumptions. And that comic is Transformers: More than Meets the Eye.
This isn’t going to be a review of the comic — I bought a ton of it during the big Humble Bundle sale and I’ve been working my way through it ever since. Really, all I can say is that the series upends everything you think you know about Transformers. And the best way it achieves that is through the character of Megatron.
Yes, that Megatron.
There are a host of fun, interesting characters in More than Meets the Eye (abbreviated to MTMTE by fans) but while I love seeing Rodimus’s ego overload, Ultra Magnus’ stoicism, Swerve’s… whatever that is he’s doing, Nautica’s upbeat competence, the fact of the matter is that Megatron is the best thing about this comic. And he’s still Megatron. He’s still a war leader, a bit of a maniac under the surface, gruff and ruthless — but he has an amazing arc all told. The really astonishing thing about MTMTE is that it isn’t afraid to deal with the consequences of a four million year life and all the good and evil one can rack up in that span of time. Megatron really almost serves as an objective correlative for the series, a means of imposing a kind of narrative weight you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Not that the story is all grim, not at all. It’s actually amazingly deft, well-written, at times funny and charming, and it uses that big cast I mentioned before very gracefully to set up moments.
The story as of the most recent issues is the quest of the crew of the Last Light, lead by Rodimus in a manner as spectacularly hyperkinetic as it is surprisingly effective, as they search for the long lost Knights of Cybertron. Pretty much every member of the crew is unusual in some way, but the addition of Megatron to the crew really added a pathos and darker edge that sets up the comedic moments brilliantly. Without spoiling much, let’s just say that you get to see how someone becomes a Megatron — how good intentions and the endurance of oppression can warp a hero into a villain, and the stain that leaves on the psyche even when there’s a sincere desire to change, to be more.
Not that this is all talking heads and character moments. There’s a lot of action scenes and they’re very well done, especially considering they’re action scenes that involve giant transforming robots and in lesser hands it could be very difficult to tell what’s going on.
Frankly, in MTMTE Megatron has become the most interesting character by a long chalk and he’s up there in terms of my favorite character that the franchise has ever produced. Again, without spoiling the book, dumping too many plot details, or trying to write a massive review of the series (it’s been publishing since 2012), I can but recommend you read it. It’s a rarity in the modern comics scene — a fun, four-color action and adventure title with humor, heart, and interesting characterization. I’ve left out far, far too many interesting people (yes, the robots are people) because if I tried to cover them all this would easily be a 5000 word post.
This is a comic book where a sincere and heartfelt debate about the ethics of forcing your view of the world on society and a planet based on sitcom tropes both appear, and both work wonderfully. It’s a delight and you should read it, even if you could care less about Transformers. It’s just a fun comic, without being an empty headed one, and it’s so much better than the Bay Transformers movies it’s outright criminal. This should become the template for what this franchise wants to be.
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