Transformers MTMTE #13: Robots In Disguise As Humans
Galvatron famously called out Starscream for his bad comedy for assuming leadership of the Decepticons in Ye Olden Transformers: The Movie (and that notion was expounded upon in great detail in the recent TF Spotlight: Megatron). However, those big-ass robots from Cybertron are also capable of good comedy, as evidenced by Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #13.
James Roberts is hands-down the best Transformers writer of all time, because he understands everything that makes these characters cool (i.e., they are CHARACTERS and not just toys, and they shine when someone bothers to flesh them out) and has all sorts of fun with it. He's easily got the most natural and amusing gift for dialogue they've ever had 'round these robo-parts, and this issue is a full-on yukfest where the crew of the Lost Light gets some shore leave, and they think they have to disguise themselves as humans to enjoy it, due to the general intergalactic public's disdain for the warmongering Cybertronians.
The cover made me fearful that humans would actually be making their way back into the pages of these books, because as any longtime TF fans know, the humans are always the LEAST interesting thing about any Transformers story. We like the robots that turn into things, we don't care about their little fleshling buddies. Besides, it's unnecessary. Last issue, Roberts established a way to have deep interpersonal relationships between genderless robots while avoiding the pitfalls of creepy robo-porn and everything, making it so there's no legitimate reason that these mechs need to be mixing it up with organic creatures to 'make things relatable.' The robots themselves are as human as any character needs to be.
Thankfully, my fear was unfounded. It seems the glorious world of high technology has yielded the creation of something called 'holomatter avatars,' wherein giant robots can 'remote project' themselves into homo-sapien templates. This is important, because on the vacation planet of Hedonia, most of the fun spots are restricted to organics only. So we've got the effervescently blabbermouthed Swerve, the genial archivist Rewind, the weird ancient duo of Cyclonus & Tailgate, the memory-gapped theoretician Skids, the psychotic Whirl, the recently-resurrected doctor Rung and the guy most in need of relaxation, the obsessively anal-retentive Ultra Magnus, who is so addicted to by-the-book protocol that he doesn't even know the word 'relax,' and who is so humorless in his officiousness that Tailgate once called him "an O.C.D. control freak who uses learning to hurt people" when taking a class from him.
It turns out their holomatter disguises really only comprise a couple of quick jokes, and they're cast aside once the visual gag is no longer needed – but it allows for a one-panel cameo of an old IDW stalwart, one Verity Carlo, to show up as Magnus' chosen form, and it's enough to apparently put her on the cover of the issue. Other bits of fun – Tailgate's avatar is a baby, and Whirl's is a crazy little eye-patched girl with twin UZIs whose Autobot insignia also has an eyepatch. The whole story is basically a straight comedy (which means it's likely a breather issue before we get dark and twisted again with #14's return of the evil Decepticon Overlord), but it's not all just slapstick tomfoolery. Everything is very character-driven in Roberts's tales, and even amidst the shenanigans, we've got the gregarious-to-an-annoying-fault Swerve in the vain search for an actual friend who wants to co-habitate with him and the slow realization that he doesn't really have actual friends, and we've also got the pathos of Tailgate's long-standing lie about being someone important in ancient times being revealed by the not-really-a-Decepticon Cyclonus, laying the little guy's emotional void about being a nobody bare.
Roberts is just damn great at storytelling and he's constantly worldbuilding with little asides and references to things you know he's going to explore later. Plus, you just like all his characters. They have a natural charm, even when they're annoying. It's also amazing at how Guido Guidi has stepped in to handle the art, and it fits right in with all the previous work from guys like Alex Milne and Nick Roche, who I've said were born to draw Transformers. Apparently, a lot of guys were born to draw Transformers.
So MTMTE #13 is a fun romp that's not brainlessly so. James Roberts continues to give me the book I'm happiest to read each and every month, and I hope he never stops.