Optimus Prime Annual 2018
Writer: John Barber
Artist: Priscilla Tramontano, Andrew Griffith
Colorist: John-Paul Bove, Josh Burcham
Letter: Shawn Lee
Review by Frank Lanza
Full disclosure as I start this review: I haven’t regularly read a Transformers comic series since I was twelve years old. I have also only read the first two issues of the new Optimus Prime series from IDW. Not because I didn’t like it, I just don’t have time for it amid my every growing queue of books to read. The twelve year old inside me was probably not prepared for what I experienced as I worked my way through this Optimus Prime Annual 2018.
With that caveat emptor out of the way, I was actually pretty excited to read this book. As I said, I’ve read a couple Optimus Prime books and dig the slightly throwback art style and the new twists on our favorite Autobot leader’s past and present. I have absolutely no frame of references for what is going in the current IDW Transformers universe and that ended up being both a good and a bad thing as I worked my way through these 48 pages of… well I’m not entirely sure what I read to be honest with you.
The Optimus Prime Annual 2018 starts off with Prime giving some kind of political speech on Cybertron. After the first panel of the first page, this is literally the last time we will see Optimus Prime in the Optimus Prime Annual 2018. Seriously. I don’t know if this is a regular thing in his monthly series but I kinda expected to see him just a teensy bit more. Instead, this issue is actually centered around Thundercracker (who is now an Autobot sympathizer) as he attempts to fulfill his life’s dream to make a feature film about the rise of Starscream, the prophesied chosen leader of the Transformers. Confused yet? Yes? Good! Me too! The entire issue is a continuation in this same vein with Thundercracker (or T.C. as his buddies call him) continues on his mission to create a piece of art that not only documents Starscream’s rise to prominence but really makes you feeeeeeel something in your Engergon core. Whether he succeeds by the end of the issue remains to be seen, but what a long strange trip this one has been.
Despite my utter confusion as I plodded my way through this book, it was actually quite enjoyable. I knew going in I was going to be lost, so I took the book for the one shot that is was and treated it as a bit of a What If? Issues in the Transformers universe. Whether or not this annual accurately reflects the current state of the IDW Transformers universe was of no consequence to me whatsoever. That said, if the goal was to make this book accessible to new Optimus Prime readers, it failed miserably. But I don’t think that was the intention at all.
Barber’s story is full of humor, sarcasm, wit and satire. Much of it comes from Thundercracker being a bit of a goofball and walking into and among many Hollywood tropes that we love to make fun of. He’d be a big Michael Bay fan in real life. It was a lighthearted issue overall which was definitely not something I was expecting from a Transformers book at all. It’s usually all robo-posturing, transforming, rolling out and battles but this was none of the above. The book was never slow but it was never super clear on where it was going next either.
The art team of Tramontano and Griffith did a great job of keeping the book cartoony and not overly technical like some past Transformers offerings looked. I grew up on the 80’s Transformers cartoon and it was fantastic, but detailed it was not. I can totally appreciate expression, motion and storytelling over perfectly straight lines and every turbine fan delicately rendered on each page. The colors were perfectly suited too and very much reminded me of the animated series and movies, super rich, never muted and never overpowering.
Verdict: Skip it!
Wait a minute! I’m sure you’re asking, if I enjoyed the book for the most part, why shouldn’t I buy it? As I said, even without any frame of reference for the current state of Prime’s book and the Transformers overall, I really didn’t see how this book makes any connection to the current universe outside of acting as a humorous look at the “behind the scenes” events that might be going on with Starscream and his machinations as documented by Thundercracker. This issue doesn’t feel important and could probably be passed on by the majority of Transformers readers. Unless you need it to complete your collection, I don’t see a compelling reason to add Optimus Prime Annual 2018 to your pull list.