Transformers: Unicron #4

Writer: John Barber
Artist: Alex Milne
Colorists: Sebastian Cheng, David Garcia Cruz
Letterer: Tom B. Long
Publisher: IDW

Review by Frank Lanza

The dreaded event book! As a long time Marvel Zombie fan, I have come to loathe them as of late. I mean, how many times can one read the claim that “nothing will be the same, EVERYTHING CHANGES!!” only to pick up the relaunched titles three months later only to find out that nothing meaningful has changed. A few major deaths with the proverbial resurrection six to twelve months later and maybe a few teams mix up members, but otherwise no one is truly the worse for wear. This was the same reaction when I heard that the Transformers: Unicron series was going to herald THE END OF EVERYTHING for the IDW Transformers universe.

While I’m a lifelong Transformers fan I didn’t keep up with the franchise when it went to IDW. On a whim, I picked up the Transformers: Unicron Free Comic Book Day issue and something about it piqued my interest. Okay the big crossover event “end of all things” chatter was there but something about the tone of the book and all the supporting interviews and marketing made me want to see how they were going to pull this thing off. After all, the Transformers universe is no small franchise to just kill off. Also, they plan on going out with a bang as Unicron, one of the biggest bads in Transformers history, finally takes the stage to destroy everything in his path. And so, here we are five issues in (counting the #0 issue), and we’re almost to the end. Have the promises held up thus far?

Transformers: Unicron #4 finds the current Transformers universe on the very brink of destruction. All of Cybertron’s 13 colonies have been devoured by Unicron and now he’s bearing down on Earth to put an end to Optimus Prime and everyone else. Shockwave’s scheme to have Unicron destroyed when he consumed the poisoned Talisman backfired, Prowl shows up for the first time with a secret plan of his own while OP, ROM, G.I. Joe, and anyone else ready to fight, prepare to save the planet.

While much of what IDW advertised for this mini-series has come to pass (there have definitely been more than the two deaths in Transformers the film) with oodles of fan favorite biting the dust and the current state of the Transformers universe very much on the brink of destruction. Barber has had a lot to juggle even with these oversized issues, with so many characters, plots, and loose ends to tie up, I think he’s done a fantastic job keeping each issue moving along without becoming mired down in all the previous history, nor has he copped out and just given the fans an all out action book. Sure, somethings aren’t explained as well as I would have liked, like, where the hell did the Maximals come from and why are they all evil, but his tale is working quite well so far. I’ve also enjoyed the backup stories in each issue tying IDW’s other 80’s franchises into this mega event. With tales featuring ROM, G.I. Joe and the Micronauts, it truly feels as if this book will affect the status quo of all their current properties.

My only complaint with the story thus far has been the handling of the main villain himself, Unicron. Yes, he’s huge, he’s scary, and he’s nigh unstoppable. But, he’s also done nothing to reveal his own motivations for all this destruction other than showing up as the prophesied doomsday weapon told of millenia before. Unicron is a great villain with machinations all his own, so I can’t see a being as powerfully ancient as he is being a pawn in someone else’s revenge scheme. Hopefully we’ll learn more about Unicron in this universe and what he’s actually up to. Heck, some spoken dialog would be great, too.

While I haven’t been following all of the current IDW Transformers books, I have been a long time fan of Milne’s work. While a lot of old school Transformers comics fans will recall Don Figueroa and Pat Lee as legends of the relaunch days at Dreamwave, Milne has more than put his stamp on the Transformers with his stellar work at IDW. He can evoke the 80’s cartoon vibe, while still making things look vibrant and frenetic with his work on the newer bots that have much more complicated designs. Most of all, his work is consistent no matter how many crazy robots are on the page, and, for a book that is as technical to draw as Transformers: Unicron #4, this is quite an accomplishment. There were only a few pages this issue, or heck for the entire event thus far, that I felt were rushed or rendered much more loosely than the rest of the book. Every panel is easy to read and every ‘bot distinguishable from the others. Visually, it’s a real treat for a longtime TF fan like myself.

Verdict: Buy it.

Initially I had thought of tagging this book with a “Wait and See!” verdict as it’s almost smack dab in the middle of a large continuity-changing event, and sometimes these sorts of stories are better read all in one sitting. But I don’t think taking the trade-wait approach will do this book any justice. It’s been a real treat reading it each month as it comes out, knowing that every issue pushes inexorably closer to a massive status change for the IDW Transformers universe. While I’m sure they won’t completely scrap it and that we’ll always have some kind of TF book to read, I’m excited to see who makes it out to the other side and how they’ll manage to defeat the greatest of all Transformers’ villains.  

Frank Lanza
Ruined for life by the Goblin Queen at age 13, Frank is a lifelong comics enthusiast. Somehow he finds the time to read funny books while being a husband and father to three amazing kids. With collecting passions that range from the entire run of Uncanny X-Men to the world of original comic art and commissions, Frank tries to share his love of comics with anyone that will listen. Feel free to bug me on Twitter @lanzajr26

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