Comic Review: “Transformers: Windblade” #1

TF_Windblade_01-pr-1In the world of comics, something new is always heralded as a big thing.  It could be a new story, a new writer, a new art team, a new mini-series, a new #1 issue of a long running series — or even a combination of several of the above.  Publishers will do their best to say that New Stuff makes for a comic Worth Reading.  (Sometimes they all but scream it in your ear.)  The problem with this is that bringing New Stuff has been done so often that there’s a big potential for a letdown.

Looking at The Transformers: Windblade #1, we see we have near every single new thing I listed above, and we also have a darn-near brand new character as the comic’s focus (said character being the product of an unprecedented fan-poll).  Put those all together and you’ve got the makings for either a book that’s worth all the attention or the biggest over-hyped story of the year.

Well, guess what. The Transformers: Windblade #1 is just that awesome.

SPOILERS AHOY!
It’s refreshing to get a new voice in Transformers fiction, and I mean that in two different ways.  First off, we have the voice of Windblade, a character that first started being shaped nearly one year ago to the day and made her first official appearance during the “Dark Cybertron” storyline.

Secondly, we have a new voice in the storytellers, writer Mairghread Scott and artist Sarah Stone.  Well, to be fair, Mairghread’s not “new” — she’s been involved with both the “Transformers Prime” and “Rescue Bots” television shows, and she wrote previous Transformers Prime comics (which, I admit, I wasn’t too impressed with).  But now she’s writing writing in IDW’s Generation 1 universe, and I’m amazed at how great this comic is.

I fully admit that this may have nothing to do with her skills; rather, it could be because of my own personal feelings on Transformers comics. Maybe it’s because I care more about this universe than the Transformers Prime universe.  Maybe it’s because the story here will matter more than the TFP story did.  Let’s face it — the G1 universe is the main focus of IDW.  The Prime comics were there to supplement the show, but Windblade will affect Robots in Disguise and More than Meets the Eye.  What happens here has major ramifications down the road.  So having a new writer playing in the big sandbox is a big deal.

As for artist Sarah Stone, if you aren’t familiar with her work, don’t be disheartened — I had not heard of her until this comics was announced. She is a freelance artist who was picked by Mairghread for this series, and honestly, I can’t imagine this comic without Sarah.  There’s something about how she draws Transformers that is so expressive.  In particular, the facial expressions of Chromia and Windblade bantering back and forth are perfect, and all the Transformers at Maccadam’s let their distinct personalities show.  It’s unique in a way similar to Nick Roche’s art was in The Last Stand of the Wreckers or The Transformers Spotlight: Kup — you are grabbed by the different art style, but it only takes a few panels for the art and the story to meld into this fusion of story that Just Works.

Enough set up; let’s talk about this story.  “Six Months Later” it begins, meaning that there’s enough of a change for this to be a blank slate to start the next story of the Transformers.  Windblade, as the only cityspeaker around, is charged with fixing Metroplex, as he’s the only habitable environment on the planet at the moment.

No pressure.

Unfortunately, Metroplex is prone to blackouts, and Starscream (still ruler of Cybertron) is starting to suspect that maybe Windblade is doing more to undermine his authority than get Metroplex working at full capacity.

No pressure.

It’s Starscream that actually drives this story, in a way.  Yes, Windblade and Chromia are trying to repair Metroplex, but Windblade is more concerned with just who Starscream is.  Is he working to be the leader Cybertron needs?  Does he have ulterior motives?  Just how in the hell did he get elected anyway?

Ironhide has been wandering Metroplex ever since the events of “Dark Cybertron” have caused him to question the premonitions he once had.  His wandering has given him vast information about Metroplex, but it’s not just that which Windblade needs from him.  No, she wants to know more about their illustrious ruler, and in one of the best lines of the comic, Ironhide says, “You wanna know who a ‘bot is, you gotta ask his friends, not his enemies.” Heeding his advice, she heads to Maccadam’s Old Oil House, where she talks to both friend and foe of Starscream.  In doing so, she learns a lot about him, namely that he’s out for only one robot – himself.

And perhaps this self-preservation goes as far as to make sure she’s blamed for Metroplex’s problems.  How?  By Starscream sabotaging the titan himself, causing the blackouts. Oh, and planting a bomb that kills three and injures Windblade.  Of course, Starscream just happens to visit her as she’s recovering from her wounds….

No pressure.

As a first issue, The Transformers: Windblade has everything you want – a great starting point, interesting characters, fantastic dialogue, and a hell of a cliffhanger.  The banter between Chromia and Windblade feels natural, showcasing the long history and friendship the two of them have. And you also can see that perhaps Chromia has a thing for Ironhide.  When it comes to Starscream, Mairghread’s dialogue of his thinly-veiled threats instantly put you on edge, and you can’t help but wonder what his gameplan is.

The scene at Maccadam’s is fantastic, giving you characterization of not just Starscream but also the robots Windblade talks to.  Windblade’s internal checklist of who’s who gives you a succinct yet deep insight into each of the players, and Sarah’s art captures each different personality in facial expressions and body language.  This goes for the rest of the issue, whether it’s Starscream’s menace or Windblade’s revelations, Sarah makes sure you can read each face clearly.  I’ve not seen such expressive faces in a long time, and it’s wonderful that each character has her/his own unique face.

If this is the future of Transformers comics, well, then, I’m sold.  Come along for the ride, folks — it’s going to be great.