08 October 2013

MTMTE is a masterpiece, but what about other IDW Transformers titles?

I just cannot get enough of IDW's MTMTE (More Than Meets the Eye) title.

Over the weekend, I pulled Volume 1 of the TPB from my shelf and began re-reading it, again, for perhaps the 6th to 7th time, if not more.

Saturday brunch with E - Lobster Brioche with curly fries and MTMTE volume 1. Does-not-get-any-better. Thank you James Roberts.

I have previously talked about MTMTE being the best thing for TF comics since sliced bread, that by any other name, it would still be just as magnificent. However, I have not said too much about other titles and why MTMTE is so much better - after all, things do not stand alone and can only be 'better' or 'worse' relative to other things and in its appropriate context.

Here, I will discuss my thoughts on prior and present IDW Transformers titles. Except for life-action-movie related titles, I have read them all. It is my belief that having read them all, I'm in a (relatively suitable) position to compare them. I will make an effort to be objective, but tastes and all are pretty subjective matters so I may not succeed in being objective.

A full collection of all IDW's Transformers titles in TPB form (I do not have TPBs that reprints either Dreamwave's or Marvel / Marvel UK's materials however)

I won't go into the background of what led to MTMTE and it inter-relation with other IDW titles (if any). If you want to read into the development background, check out either TF Wiki or The Gassy Autobot's blog here and here.

So here we go, after the jump, my thoughts on the other IDW Transformers series'... [spoiler alert]

I'll go through things 'chronologically' (as per timeline set out in TF Wiki), but note that the below is not in order of publication.

Megatron Origin (4 issues)

I'm a big fan of this series and really enjoyed the writing of Eric Holmes and the 'early' art of Alex Milne. I have already said lots about it (see below) and about the abundance of 'easter eggs', so I will not say more here.

Chapter 01: The Mini Series
Chapter 02: Issue #02 easter eggs
Chapter 03: Issue #03 easter eggs
Chapter 04: Issue #04 easter eggs (part 1)
Chapter 05: Issue #04 easter eggs (part 2)
Chapter 06: Quotes from Megatron Origin

My recommendation - go read it!


To be honest, I was really excited when I read the forward for this - co-written by Flint Dillie! And he wanted to do some things that he didn't get to do when working on the vintage TF series. Wow. This is as 'big a deal' as Bob 'the godfather of Transformers' Budiansky writing more about TFs, I thought.

I did not enjoy most of this, partially due to the uninteresting plot and script and partly due to Ramondelli's art (which I don't like). When I got near the end, I downright appalled - the writers went and re-harshed Transformers: The Movie (1986). Seriously?!?

My recommendation - okay to read once, but not worth a second sitting.

The "a-tion" arcs: (1) Infiltration - 7 issues;  (2) Stormbringer - 4 issues;  (3) Escalation - 6 issues;  (4) Devastation - 6 issues; and  (5) Revelation - 4 issues
- these 5 are the 'Furman' arcs, as I like to refer to them.

Infiltration was actually the first TF series that IDW published after DW's bankruptcy and IDW getting the licence. Understandably, IDW wanted to start things slow and steady and not go with the 'all flash and no bang' DW formula that was really getting tiresome back then.

Many did not like the "a-tion" arcs due to the 'slow pace', too many humans and EJ Su's art. I however, differ. I liked how Furman built up the pace in Infiltration, then took us to Cybertron for Stormbringer and back to Earth for the remainder of the storyline.

Illustrated and painted by EJ Su

Things I really liked about these stories:
- Nightbeat being all detective
- Sixshot and the whole Phase-Sixer concept
- Thunderwing, Bludgeon and the Pretender shell being poly-dermal armour concept
- the fight in Brasnya
- EJ Su's art. Su's art is sublime. There is so much work in there and the robots and parts all look like they can really transform. Back in the day, I rate him even higher than Figueroa himself.

My recommendation - Go read it! Stormbringer, Escalation and Devastation are the stand out arcs from this.

Maximum Dinobots (5 issues)

'All boys love dinosaurs' is what they say eh?

So, what is better than a mini-series that features the Dinobots (or erm... Dynobots), and, illustrated by (at the time) rising star artist Nick Roche? This is a good read, interesting concepts and a good story.

I'm not such a fan of the Dinobot designs, but I guess there must be limitations from Hasbro / IDW about what Furman and Roche could have done. Also, really enjoyed when the Monsterbots showed up!

My recommendation - yes, do read this.

Drift (4 issue mini-series)

First this guy gets a Spotlight and then now a mini-series?

This one is okay, I guess. It resolves a number of plot-point from previous arcs and also gives an insight into Drift's origin.

It's not terrible, but then I wouldn't say there is any 'wow' factor neither. It's competently written and competently draw and there's nothing wrong with that. It just was not exciting for me is all.

My recommendation - okay to read, I guess.

All Hail Megatron (16 issues)

Note - the below do not apply to the Roche and Furman short stories at the tail end of AHM.

'The war is over, the Decepticons have won' - yeah, the premise is attention grabbing and shocking, but sadly, that is all.

The stories just starts as per the above premise and does little by way of explanation. There are inconsistencies and plot-holes that one can drive truck through. There are hardly even misguided attempts to try and explain things. And if things were 'explained', they didn't really make much sense.

The only thing I remember from 16 (wasteful) issues of this arc is the conversation Skywarp has with Bombshell where the former was insulting the latter. I have not bothered to go back and re-read this series at all.

I would say that this arc sucks rotten eggs, but then, that notoriety is firmly reserved for Costa's run on Transformers (ongoing), which I will touch on later.

My recommendation - Best to avoid, not worth your time.

Last Stand of the Wreckers (5 issues)

This series draw and written by Nick Roche, with assists from James Roberts, and was at the time, the very best Transformers series from IDW, so far.

Given, it was about a bunch of characters I did not even care about (The Wreckers), but Roche / Roberts got so much mileage out of every single panel of every page - in 5 issues, the use of characters, the dialogue, the concepts, the art and everything else just came together in a grand tapestry of brilliant story-telling that all 16 issues of All Hail Megatron can only aspire to.

There are too many things I like about this series to list in one blog-post, honestly.

So I'm just going to say, that Overlord is in there, in there a lot!

My recommendation - Must read. Not to be missed.

The Transformers (ongoing, 32 issues) - in TPB form, this is "For All Mankind"; "International Incident"; "Revenge of the Decepticons"; "Chaos Theory"; "Police Action"; and "Chaos" - collectively, I refer to these as the 'Mike Costa arc'.

The best thing about TF ongoing are issues #22 and #23, which were written by James Roberts and drawn by Alex Milne - it follows that my comments below do not apply to issues #22 and #23 in any way, shape or form.

The second best thing about TF ongoing is that it is no longer ongoing.

Mike Costa shouldn't write Transformers. Period. During interviews, he openly admitted that he does not really know about Transformers and is not familiar about the lore, but yet he attempted to write about them, without much research or thought as it appears.

The plotlines were dismally non-existent. The dialogue is either strained, uninteresting, cliched or is downright dumb. At the time, some readers went so far as to say that Costa is destroying their childhood. I don't 100% share that view, but its not too far from the truth either. When this was ongoing, there were many frustrated fans and many (that I know of) left TF comics forever.

The hours I spend reading Costa's stuff are hours of my life I am never getting back.

There is almost nothing memorable about this arc, save that when I read #22 in the TPB, I thought 'WOW, Costa is getting better! There may be some hope for this series yet'. Yeah, and then later I discovered that #22 and #23 were not actually written by Costa.

It is a slight against reason that this pile of mediocrity could have gone on for close to 3 years.

Transformers (ongoing) by Costa takes the Razzy award for being the worst Transformers series from IDW, so far. All Hail Megatron comes in a close second.

My recommendation - Avoid at all costs. Those are hours of your life you are never getting back if you chose to read it.

Bumblebee mini-series (4 issues)

This is quite a good read. Touching, down-to-earth story. But I'm really not a fan of the art and for that alone, I hesitate to recommend this. That and because in recent years, since the 2007 live-action movie, we have been getting way too much Bumblebee.

My recommendation - Ok to read. Don't really matter if missed.

Ironhide mini-series (4 issues)

Yet another series written by the constantly disappointing Costa - he must be friends with someone, why would IDW like him write close to 40+ issues (in total) of mediocre crass? That's close to 3.5 years of crap, enough to cause a healthy person indigestion.

Anyway, this series, with an A-list character no less, took all of 4 issues to get precisely nowhere.

Admittedly there were a couple of good ideas, which was not built upon and just wasted. The plot attempted to be complex, but turned out to be confusing as heck.

It took me more than 5 sittings to finally finish this - each time I picked it up, I just could not hold the interest to go more than 6-7 pages. I won't be re-reading this anytime soon, which is a shame, because Coller's beautiful art is wasted on this series.

My recommendation - Better to avoid, but reading 4 issues won't waste too much of your life, so read if you have a spare 45 mins.

Infestation (a crossover event, only 2 issues on Transformers)

I don't remember too much, but there was a female helicopter Transformer. Kind of like a Whirl and Black Shadow cross(former), who was a vampire from another dimension. If vampires and zombies are your thing, this is a fast enough read.

My recommendation - Vampires and Zombies, why not? Go read.

Heart of Darkness (4 issues)

I don't remember much about this series, except that it was Galvatron trying to be a good guy, and trying to save the universe. Ah, I can't remember. I just picked up the TPB to flick through again and nothing rings a bell - ie: there isn't too much that is memorable.

The art for this series is terrible. Terrible with a capital "T". I will say no more.

My recommendation - I don't know. Did not leave an impression on me. Probably not worth reading.

Robots in Disguise, aka RiD (currently ongoing)

This is one of 2 'spilt' titles that Transformers (ongoing) became. The other 'spilt' title is MTMTE.

RiD is written by John Barber and takes place on Cybertron. To be honest, when volume 1 of the TPB came out for RiD and MTMTE, I thought RiD showed a lot of promise, and that it was in fact more interesting (not necessarily better) than MTMTE - after all, the events in RiD took place on Cybertron and Barber appeared to have a lot of the A-list cast.

Oh what stories about Cybertron Barber could have weaved. The high point was the RiD Annual, after which it all went downhill. It just devolved into your typical good vs bad guy bash down for a good 6-7 issues.

And it got stupid - one of the main plot points, set up from very early on in the series, was a mind-controlled Prowl, who did lots and lots of questionable things, bad things, evil things. And was later absolved of them because it turns out he was mind-controlled by Bombshell. Fair enough if this was a Sunday morning cartoon. But reading this in a comic series that purported to be complex and is aspiring to 'as good as' MTMTE, this single plot point flaw just brings the whole RiD series crumbling down like a house of cards.

It's like saying a good guy did a whole lot of bad things and at the end of the story, he wakes up and found that he'd dreamt it all. It's like cheating. It's childish. It's inane. For this alone (and the good 6-7 issues of senseless smackdown - Prowl transforming into the head of Devastator?!?), RiD has fallen many rungs down the ladder for me.

Another thing that was heartbreakingly disappointing about RiD is how Barber didn't actually use the A-list cast he had to much effect at all. He didn't make good use of such characters as Soundwave, Shockwave, Skywarp, Ratbat, the Constructicons, Megatron, Omega Supreme, Sky Lynx, Ironhide, and more... oh, and he denied Bluestreak to Roberts, but didn't even bother using Bluestreak much!!!

Bluestreak appeared in a couple of panels and got blasted in the face. Since I'm such a Bluestreak fan, Barber, you're on my sh*t list, I'm sorry.

My recommendation - A good read from the start up to RiD Annual, after which, it's probably better to skip. Somehow, I think a lot of people will be 'forced' to read it all anyway if they want to follow Dark Cybertron.

More Than Meets the Eye, aka MTMTE (currently ongoing)

Which brings us to the other 'spilt' title, MTMTE.

What more can I say? This is simply the best Transformers comic series, ever. And by ever, I include all the vintage TF comics as well. Yes, this is better. It is superior in its writing, its art, its inks, its colours - in short, its a better everything.

From a premise that I thought was sure to fall flat on its face, that of a crew of B-list and below Transformers on a spaceship looking for mythical beings, James Roberts has never failed to surprise and delight with each and every panel of each and every issue. Such is his ingenuity that he even manages to weave stories about Cybertron and about the cast that is in RiD, through flashbacks! What a genius!

From Sparkeaters to Legislators, to Red Rust, to Delphi, to the DJD, to point-one-percenters, to thought warfare, to Luna-1, to Cyberutopia and more, there is never a boring moment with MTMTE.

This is in a class of its own and I hope IDW keeps James Roberts AND Alex Milne as long as humanly possible on this series. I promise I will love it and buy every issue that these 2 guys churn out.

"Fully deserved!"


This was yesterday after dinner...


  1. You're pretty much spot on with your recommendations. I was sorely disappointed in IDW for changing directions after what I felt was Furman's best work yet. He did so much and created something that I've always felt was within the Transformers wheelhouse. Autocracy was, well, I don't know what it was because anything drawn by Ramondelli on art is unreadable; you just can't make anything out. I really wish E.J. Su hadn't retired. When he did his own colors, it was nothing short of amazing.

  2. I agree with you that the Furman “a-tion” arc was some of his best modern day work. I struggle to understand why people did not like those and why people did not like EJ Su’s work. Story-wise, Furman has created the foundations that stories today are still building on; art wise, I agree with you – Su’s paintings and colours were some of the best among TF painting, move aside Ramondelli! I’m very saddened that Su has retired, really sad. He did good work and had a lot of heart.

    Absolutely agree that the Ramondelli art is unreadable. I just can’t make it out most of the time and I just stop after awhile and just read the words.

  3. COVER ERROR! That Nick Roche cover for #2 with Skids - the gun is in his left hand. Just noticed that. Now. Just now. D'oh!

  4. Thanks for sharing this great guide buddy! : )

    Will definitely be very useful as I prioritize the reading for the IDW Universe.

    Will close by saying IDW MTMTE comics absolutely ROCK!!! The story is excellent and art is very nice as well. Thanks so much for recommending the series to me : )

  5. 100% with you!!! All Hail MTMTE!!!

  6. I have just bought the 4 MTME TPBs and Last Stand of the Wreckers based on what I've read here. My conclusion is that they are ... ok.

    My number one problem with these books are characters like Overlord, Black Shadow and members of the DJD. The previous two are the so called Phase Sixers who seem to cut through Autobots even Wreckers like butter, and yet the DJD does not seem to have any problem bringing down Black Shadow. So does that mean the DJD members are the most powerful bots in the universe? I am still scratching my head, with all of these super powerful bots, how could the Decepticon ever lose?

    I have to admit though that some of the jokes and characterizations are really funny, but inconsistencies like the above tend to ruin these kinds of comics for me.

    The other thing is that I don't remember seeing any of the bad guys die yet, with the exception of again Black Shadow and some inconsequential Decepticons in MTME. Killing off good guys alone does not constitute a good comic book i.e. in real life bad guys die too with good frequency.

    1. Hi, thanks for dropping by and first-off, would like to say it gladdens my heart that you have read MTMTE and LSOTW.

      I have reservations about commenting further until I understand whether you have read all, some or none of the other TF arcs mentioned above.

      Like I said, everything is relative and MTMTE / LSOTW have been widely regarded as 2 of the best arcs out there, relative to the others. If they happen to be just “ok” to you, then I guess TF comics may just not be worth your while to read at all. Or if perhaps you have compared them to other classics like Gaiman’s Sandman, Fables, Batman: Hush, Identity Crisis, Blackest Night, etc, and found that it fell short, then perhaps the comparison is not apples to apples.

      Inconsistencies – like I said, it’s all relative. MTMTE is pieced together better and has a more consistent flow than most of the arcs that came before it. If you thought that those things you mentioned were inconsistent, you’d be tearing out your hair if you read AHM or TF (ongoing).

      The war is over. There are no “good” or “bad” guys anymore, but there are “good” guys who do bad things (eg: Whirl; Pharma; Prowl) and “bad” guys who do good things (eg: Snare; Cyclonus) – it’s all grey. With that said, I don’t get the objection of how many “good” guys vs how many “bad” guys were dying. As long as it contributes to the story and is not outright stupid, I’m not really keeping count. [SPOLIER warning for the below] Outright stupid would be Prowl blowing Wheeljack’s head off in RiD or Bluestreak appearing for a few panels and getting blasted in the face.

  7. this is excellent !! I remember a time when All Hail Megatron was released , sitting there listening to other board members discussing it over lunch and thinking 'really,really its that good??' , i'ii def. try Maximum Dinobots next

    1. Cheers! I assume you've read Last Stand of the Wreckers? Max Dinos is good, loved it.
      (MTMTE still takes the gold medal though)

  8. Thanks for this! After reading the -ation series,Maximus, Wreckers, AHM, Autocracy/ Monstrosity been wanting to get back into reading a decent TF comic series. After reading a couple of pages of the Mike Costa series and artwork i was put off. Been wanting a comprehensive opinion of MTMTE and RID.

    Can I start reading MTMTE/RID without knowing the storyline in Mike Costa run or do I need to get some previous issues first?


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