Review: Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Vol. 7 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

After the sixth trade shook up the title's status quo, Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye Vol. 7 begins with what feels like a typical story when four Autobots find a dying Cybertronian on a war-torn planet. It takes a few pages to remember that you should never trust James Roberts to write a "typical" story. While the majority of the trade covers the "Elegant Chaos" arc, it begins with a fake breather episode that doubles as a flashback to Megatron's earliest days. Parts of this era had been covered in the Megatron: Origin mini-series, but Eye takes a deeper look at the master work of the tyrant-to-be. Megatron's equivalent of Mein Kampf is called Toward Peace; an entire page of text is devoted to an excerpt wherein Megatron questions the Autobots' mode-based hierarchy.

The result is an exploration of Decepticon philosophy intercut with Autobot philosophy since it runs parallel to medic First Aid and the now-sober Trailcutter doing everything to save a member of the Decepticon Justice Division. When the latter dies, it's a huge shock, especially when you consider that the character had just gotten a new toy and some much-needed development in his own one-shot issue. While this goes on, Megatron's dying mentor Terminus is revealed to the audience and we see firsthand the steps that made Megatron into his murderous self. And if all that wasn't enough for one issue, a time-traveling Brainstorm arrives in the past on an unknown mission.

Thus begins "Elegant Chaos," Eye's portion of the "Days of Deception" branding event, but the next issue takes an unexpected route with the book pulling a Back to the Future Part 2-style rewrite of history. Rewind and Minimus Ambus (a.k.a. Ultra Magnus) make their way through a Cybertron that never had a Decepticon revolution and therefore kept the oppressive caste system. Societal classes no longer deemed necessary are "recalled," including Jetfire from the Transformers: Energon cartoon ...  actually it's just a reused character model, which actually drove up that old toy's value on the secondary market. Not only is this glimpse into dystopia a great twist in the storytelling, but it makes you wonder exactly what Brainstorm's plan is and who he's working for.

The resulting time travel caper almost feels like it could have been the grand finale of Eye in its entirety. Assuming that Brainstorm is headed for Orion Pax before he can become Optimus Prime, the crew ends up in the "Shadowplay" era to follow up on the events of that arc. If the Outliers from that arc were X-Men homages, then Orion has turned them into a freedom-fighter X-Force, with himself as Cable. There's a brilliant sentimental core due primarily to two conversations. First, Rodimus tries to avert the death of Trailbreaker/Trailcutter but is stopped either through happenstance or the will of the universe reacting to time travel. But the second finds Orion Pax talking to Megatron four million years in the future. Not yet knowing what Megatron will become, Pax gives him words of encouragement which solidify his choice to change sides.

Another time jump takes the crew back to shortly before "Chaos Theory" and the minor brawl that would lead into catastrophic warfare. We find out that the entire situation begins due to the ever-impetuous Tailgate whining for a curly straw for his drink. It seems silly, but it's brought up that the odd events the time-displaced crew find themselves in were likely predestined. This issue also brings back Impactor, who hasn't been seen since the text story from the end of Last Stand of the Wreckers. It's been announced that a sequel mini-series, Sins of the Wreckers, is coming in November, so Impactor's role in these past events is likely to regain importance very soon.

When the final jump leads to a standoff between Brainstorm and the Autobots over the soon-to-be-born Megatron, all of the pieces fall into place. We finally find out how a simple miner got the power to lead the most brutal army in the galaxy thanks to an unlikely shot in the spark from a third party. The attempt to return home explains some of the longest-lasting mysteries in More Than Meets the Eye, like how the Sparkeater got on board the ship and who made the mysterious phone call shortly after the Lost Light was catapulted across space. Of course, all of these answered questions were just a fraction of the story potential, and I'm happy that the book will be continuing for quite some time. The final pages of this trade are either a red herring or the set-up for something massive.

Because there was so much chaos in the previous trade, it takes the storyline collected in Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Vol. 7 for the cast to get settled. Megatron, Rodimus, and Ultra Magnus take on the roles of the id, ego and superego of the group's leadership, while Chromedome works to reestablish his relationship with the newly returned Rewind. One character who seems out of place is Riptide, who seems to exist solely to act as comic relief. My other character complaint is that Brainstorm's motives end up being a little unconvincing and anti-climactic. I have my suspicions that there's still much to be revealed about Riptide and Brainstorm; the fiftieth issue is quickly approaching and huge revelations might be in store. Sadly Ravage isn't present in these issues, although the next trade will make up for it.

I'll revisit the Transformers (and their persistent plague of annoying humans) later this year for Trans-giving. Next week, it's time to look at the second half of Avengers: Time Runs Out now that Secret Wars is halfway told.


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