Jane Reads: Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye

First, some backstory.

You're probably pretty familiar with the basic conceit of the Transformers franchise, the Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of The Decepticons, and all that, and while that describes quite a few Transformers properties, it's not really true in the IDW-published comics anymore for a number of reasons. 


Really, most of the well-known Transformers actually don't factor into this story in any way, and there are no major human characters at all (which fans of the cartoon, and some of the earlier IDW comics, will probably cite as a blessing).

Optimus is only a character here in the beginning, I'll let the blurb here fill you in on the plot so far, I assure you that this actually is a pretty good jumping in point for the IDW Transformers continuity (these are for the record, very loosely based on the original Generation 1 cartoon, but in my opinion they're far better).


Optimus Prime--whose dialogue I really must encourage you to read in the immortal Peter Cullen's voice--does not quite appear here as you might know him.


IDW Optimus is not exactly a cheery dude. He's rather sullen (Sullen Cullen?), and more resigned to his duty, and his position as the leader of the Autobots, than enthusiastic about it in any capacity.

They throw a lot at you here, but I'll not make the mistake of overexplaining things, after all:


There's a lot that goes on in the next few panels:

Optimus finds himself on a reborn Cybertron (it was blasted into a nuclear ruin earlier in the IDW continuity), quite confused. Thankfully, Rodimus (the former Hot Rod, if you've seen the original Transformers Movie) fills him--and us--in.


These fellows are called NAILs, in-story. That's short for "Non-Aligned Indigenous Lifeform". As Rodimus helpfully explains, basically, neutrals, or Cybertronians who sat the war out.

We're almost immediately introduced to their de facto leader:


If you were big on the G1 cartoons you might very vaguely remember the name Metalhawk. He was a Japan-exclusive G1 character whose toys never officially made it stateside, so he's pretty obscure, that will be a recurring theme in this comic.

Hawk and Optimus have some disagreements about the history of things:


Again, a lot of history is tossed around here, some of it was touched upon in earlier runs, but much of it wasn't, you're not expected to get all this on first blush.

The Decepticon remnants present on-planet have, meanwhile, been herded into this enclosure area, and are being kept as POWs.


I mostly embedded these panels because Ratbat is stupid and I like him a lot.


We'll be seeing a lot of both Rewind and that map. The map, in fact, drives the plot of this particular comic in a way.

A lot of stuff happens in the next few pages. To quickly summarize: Rodimus, and Drift (alias Dirufito, yes really, who we haven't seen yet but will be seeing repeatedly. Nobody likes Drift) want to go search for the legendary Knights of Cybertron, a group of mythological figures who left the planet eons ago to (direct quote here) "spread enlightenment amongst the stars". Bumblebee and Rodimus get into it because of this and insult each other a bunch, Rodimus wanting to leave and let the NAILs have Cybertron, Bumblebee calling him childish and wanting to stay. 

While all this is happening, there are a ton of NAIL protesters outside Autobot Command, protesting what they see as an occupation. Then, one of the NAILs lobs a homemade explosive, knocking several Autobots on their feet and just generally escalating things. Then, Prowl, who is again someone we'll be seeing now and again, head of autobot intelligence, general paranoid creep, and Easily The Worst Transformer, does this:


We learn that the Decepticon POWs have what are called I/D chips, which prevent them from switching to their altmodes or using their built-in weapons, and can even be detonated if they get too out of hand. Optimus is not exactly happy with this but at this point he can't really do anything.

In the ensuing brawl, the Decepticons are used to quell the crowd. Metalhawk tries to talk the NAILs down and is promptly shot for his troubles. 


Meanwhile, Autobot high command continue arguing about whether they should stay or should they go now. Rodimus and Drift (he's the one saying "two outcasts!" etc. below) resolve to leave, but are joined by an unexpected third 'bot.


That's Ultra Magnus, the rule-obsessed cop-type character of the Autobot army. He usually can't deal with things now, but this thing he can apparently deal with. He throws his lot in with Rodimus and Drift.


This is Prowl for the record. He is a garbage man.

He does give a reason for his vitriol (he tried to desert as well, but his escape ship was shot down and out of other options, ended up joining back up with the Autobot cause). I'm not inclined to give him the benefit of a doubt though, for reasons that'll become clear later.

Optimus Prime makes one last effort to defuse the crowd.


Dude knows how to give a good speech.

And with that, Optimus exits stage left. Rodimus and Bumblebee continue to bicker, but we'll get to that next update.

For now, I'll let these panels speak for themselves:


Funny thing about Megatron. But we'll get to him later.

Now, I must confess that I have very slightly misled you.

Because what we just read was not MTME #001. It was, in fact, the very last issue of IDW's main Transformers line.

From here on, it splits in two. More Than Meets The Eye follows Rodimus, and the sister series Robots In Disguise follows Bumblebee. We will begin reading the former with the next update.

'til all are one, and all that.


  • If you have any questions I'd be more than happy to answer them.
  • I'm up to Volume #9 of this book and cannot recommend it enough to everybody! :D

    Random thoughts and such:

    -I wouldn't call John Barber a bad writer, but he's less talented than Roberts, and when the two of them collaborate on a story (as they did here) the story will probably not be as good as it would be if Roberts had written it alone. Since the stories after this in MTMTE being written by Roberts while Barber was writing "Robots In Disguise", I think they're better.

    -I like Drift when James Roberts is writing him. (Okay okay, I'll try to stop gushing about Roberts...)

    -Having grown up watching the G1 cartoons and being most familiar with the Prowl from those, I never expected IDW Prowl to be such an asshole. So that was quite a surprise. (I also watched "Beast Wars" when that aired, and the IDW version of Rattrap is also a much worse person than he is in the tv show.)

    -I read this comic largely for the funny stuff, although there is plenty of good drama too. One example: there's a former Autobot (I say former because the whole Autobot/Decepticon division is gone, for the time being anyway) named Rung on board who nobody has ever seen transform and they're curious what his alt-mode is. So a few of the others make a bet on which one of them can find out what Rung's alt-mode is. Here's Tailgate's attempt to trick him into revealing it:

  • Well, we do know what Rung turns into now.

    We just don't really know what to call it. 

    I'm actually far too young to know the G1 cartoons firsthand (though I've watched some later on), my first Transformers series was actually Armada. Yes, Unicron Trilogy Armada.

    You can pity me now, it's OK.
  • Oh, we do? Thank you for not spoiling it for me. All the more reason for me to get completely caught up ASAP.

    I actually never watched Armada so I don't know whether to pity you or not. I pretty much stopped after Beast Machines, though I have caught a couple episodes of Transformers: Prime.
  • The Unicron Trilogy is widely regarded as being absolutely dreadful, and it's riddled with mistakes.

    It also means that my first Optimus Prime wasn't Peter Cullen, I forget Armada's dub Prime's name, he had a higher voice.

    Anyway Rung transforms into a weird stick thing. The Functionist Council classifies it as an "ornament" if you got to that part yet.
  • kill living beings
    I uh, think you under explained.

    Also where's wind Blade? This is bukkshgj
  • that's like a hundred issues & three series away.

    I realized while I was doing this that there's so much exposition that liveblogging it appropriately is going to be....rather hard, so now I'm not sure if I want to <__>
  • kill living beings
    Lemme try

    Transformers are robot people. They don't age and they can usually turn into an "alt mode" specific to them, which is a fire truck or a gun or a staff or whatever. They're from planet Cybertron.

    Cybertron had a boring old existence for millions of years whatever, with things like a senate and police. Eventually the senate and general governance began to suck terribly, and the government fell apart and exploded, and there was a civil war between the auto bots and the decepticons. The war started a billion years before this comic and lasted a billion, so "pre war" is so long ago and before so much change that it's practically irrelevant.

    Auto bots good, decepticons bad. Optimus Prime leads the auto bots. Megatron leads the decepticons. The auto bot logo is that red face, the decepticons one is a purple face.

    Optimus prime was called Orion Pax before the war. Prime is more like a title.

    The matrix of leadership or creation matrix or whatever is a mystic doohickey. Usually it's in Optimus prime's chest and is only active for plot. I guess just before this comic, Optimus exploded it in the heart of Cybertron (vector sigma) for whatever reason.
  • imagei will watch the heck outta this pumpkin patch
    i'm guessing perhaps when you start MTMTE proper, it'll explain some stuff since it's the start of a new series?  so then stuff will be clearer and there will be less need for expositioning
  • edited 2016-06-28 08:57:11
    That reminds me, Tachyon: for anybody who wants to read the books on their own as well as following Jane's liveblog of them, it's probably a good idea to read "The Last Stand of the Wreckers" first. It was also written by James Roberts. A bunch of important stuff happens in it which characters not only refer to in MTMTE, but which later has consequences for the crew of the Lost Light.

    Auto bots good, decepticons bad. Optimus Prime leads the auto bots. Megatron leads the decepticons.

    Something else which MTMTE explores and which I like about the comics: here, there's actually a reason for the war between Autobots and Decepticons instead of it just being "Megatron wants to conquer everything and steal everybody's energy for the evulz."

    This is stuff that was established in earlier series, so explaining it won't spoil MTMTE.

    Okay, based on reading this series and TFWiki, here's how I understand things...

    Before the war, if you were a robot on Cybertron then you had no say in what kind of work you would do for a living. If you transformed into something useful for digging, then you would have to dig holes. If you transformed into an aircraft, then you'd be assigned some job which involved flying around. Etc.

    So society was divided into haves and have nots, in a sense. There were people who had jobs that they were happy or at least content with, and there were people who hated their jobs but weren't allowed to do anything else. And it was all because of the luck of the draw, because of what sort of thing they changed into.

    It was basically a caste system.

    The Cybertronians who were unhappy grew restless. For those who wanted to transform into something different so that they could actually do work they liked, illegal modification businesses sprang up. You'd go and see somebody who'd change what your alt-mode was, have to pay them some obscene sum of money, and then you'd be set...provided you didn't get caught doing this, of course. If you were, you'd be punished. And in those days, breaking the law earned you very cruel punishment. The robot equivalent of lobotomization in some cases.

    The Cybertronians who were unhappy protested peacefully at first, but it didn't do them any good. One of the protesters was Megatron, and back then he wasn't a bad guy at all. He thought that if he and others like them made their voices heard, and if the word was spread that their society was unfair and needed to change, then everybody who'd been dealt a bad hand in life would get the freedom they'd been denied for so long.

    It didn't work out that way. The Senate refused to tolerate dissent, even peaceful dissent. So they cracked down, HARD.

    Megatron was imprisoned. He was a leading voice for change in Cybertronian society. The Senate didn't like him telling people that they should be free to choose their own paths in life. So they arranged to have him killed while in custody, coercing one of the police officers--Whirl--into doing the deed. Silence Megatron, they figured, and everybody who'd been listening to him would stop being uppity, fall into line, and go back to doing drudge work without complaint, like they were supposed to.

    Whirl beat Megatron almost to death, but was stopped by an honest cop at the last minute.

    It was this beating which put Megatron on the slippery slope toward being a villain. He was angry. He didn't think peaceful methods would accomplish anything any more. Violence was the only answer.

    That's how the Decepticons got started. The name comes from Megatron and others telling Cybertronians: "You are being deceived."

    So Decepticons versus Autobots began with Megatron and the Decepticons actually being kind of sympathetic. The Dog was Biting Back, as TV Tropes would say, and it was the Autbots who were fighting against them out of loyalty to the establishment--in some cases maybe reluctant loyalty, but loyalty all the same.
  • (Posts like that last one are why I decided to call myself @XsiveVerbosity on Twitter. Apologies for that giant text-wall. I hope it's at least an interesting giant text-wall...)
    Those first panels of the comic remind me of Dave's planet from Homestuck, vaguely.
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