The epic has ended, and there have been drastic changes in the status quo – which is par for the course for IDW’s twin Transformers titles.
When James Roberts’ Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and John Barber’s Transformers: Robots in Disguise first started, they shed the skin of the constant status quo of the whole franchise by ending the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons and posing the question ‘what happens next?’ The former went off on outer space questing adventures, while the latter dealt with actually trying to build a new society after four million years of hatred and isolation. They went about telling new stories for a year, but there was a lot of nagging old continuity to deal with, so when the two books came together in a crossover, it was to wipe out a lot of hanging threads and do it with the universe itself at stake.
Transformers: Dark Cybertron Chapter 12 opens with 70 billion Ammonite ‘bots swarming Cybertron to kill everybody, while Shockwave – the master of cold, unfeeling logic – prepares to take the Decepticon goals of conquest to its ultimately logical conclusion – the complete destruction of existence, folding it all in on himself to transform Cybertron into a fixed point of endless light in a massive void of nothing. Faced with this line of thinking, the feared Decepticon commander Megatron has had to realize that, while his war started as a campaign for equality against a corrupt governing body, it became something else entirely. He became something else entirely. Something horrible. Something Shockwave could pervert into his notion of ultimate domination. There’s a chilling moment where Megatron reminds Shockwave about those goals for equality, and Shockwave claims their goals are similar. “All life IS equal,” Shockwave says. “I merely assign it a quantifiable value — zero.”
However, just as Megatron is undergoing a drastic philosophical shift, Shockwave wasn’t always this way, either. He was once a gregarious senator, fighting against its corruption from within, and he was a mentor to Orion Pax – the future Optimus Prime. Pax impressed Shockwave back then by confronting the senate with a strident manifesto against its institutionalized inequality that he’d picked up from a poetic miner struggling to choose a path for his life that was not predicated on his alternate form’s function. That miner was named Megatron. As noted earlier, there has been a lot of old business to take care of, and that relationship comes into play as a crucial element of facing down the universal apocalypse.
Other old business involves The Dead Universe, an alternate dimension made up of, well… deathiness. That seems to finally be coming to a close, too, as Shockwave’s sucking all its power into himself and shrinking it to nothing. There are still some loose threads involving the recent resurrections of Nightbeat and Kup (and whatever’s going on with Brainstorm) that need to be addressed, and likely will in short order. But The Dead Universe has long been this weird, confusing, illogical, inconsistent element from the Beforetime, The Long Long Ago, before these two titles launched and quickly became the greatest Transformers fiction going. With any luck, we’ve heard the last of it, and we can move on.
By far, the biggest development is that Megatron has joined the Autobots – partly in an effort to throw Shockwave off his game, but after that’s done, it seems to stick. He’s effectively realized the error of his ways, and he was actually affected by the death of Bumblebee in the last issue – which is just crazy, given that he crushed the guy’s head just a handful of issues ago before this big story started. Perhaps it’s just ingrained from decades of being a Transformers fan, but I’m still having trouble buying the switchback. To be fair, so is Optimus Prime. However, this is a big enough deal that we can be sure Megatron is really going to have to earn it in the coming issues.
Also of note is that, when Dark Cybertron was first announced, it was supposed to be followed by something called Purple Reign, which I’d assumed was Shockwave exerting ultimate control, and I was looking forward to some variant cover featuring the one-eyed purple monstrosity riding a motorcycle with a ruffly shirt and a perm. However, that doesn’t seem likely anymore, leading me to think there were big rewrites since that announcement and significant changes. Then again, with Megatron and Shockwave out of the picture, there’s another purple guy stepping up to the plate to lead the Decepticons – a guy named Galvatron.
Roberts and Barber are still doing great things with Transformers, even if some of the old continuity baggage from before their time may have bogged them down in spots. But it’s a very solid ending, with their usual skill at juggling a massive cast of characters, delivering a lot of great character moments and entertaining dialogue, all while seeding hints for storylines to come and building out the world theese characters live in. It’s always appreciated and enjoyed. Phil Jimenez and Brendan Cahill team up for the art in this one, giving us some interesting layouts and a lot of highly detailed panels that have to be extremely challenging to craft, given the massive amount of Transformers there are and need to be depicted in so many of them – although half the fun is sneaking in your favorites in the backgrounds, I’d imagine.
I do have a nitpick here and there, though. I don’t see how Shockwave imploding on himself and forming a singularity is any better than him ending the universe – I don’t particularly understand singularities well, but I tend to equate them with black holes, and it sure looks like one here. A black hole would have destroyed the planet immediately, right? It’s not something you can outrun? Also, Brainstorm seems to have cured death itself. That will need to have some ramifications in the near future… that’s kind of a big deal.
Overall, though, Transformers: Dark Cybertron has been an interesting epic, full of dark twists, new surprises and hope for the future. The franchise is in great hands. At least as far as comics go. The movies… yeesh.