Optimus Prime (#1 – 2) – John Barber

1 out of 5

This is… a pretty bad comic.

Thing is, no individual here is absolutely at fault.  Barber’s writing is cluttered, but standard churn for his Transformers work, sifting through all the excess for a clear throughline as best as possible.  Coming off of the Revolution crossover, things are even messier than usual, making this not a friendly new reader experience, but still, the writing works, with spots of humor and intrigue, although spread across way too many characters / factions.

Kei Golby Zama’s art is – abstractly – awesome.  There’s an animated quality to the character construction blended with a manga-esque dash of motion lines and shading that makes flipping through the pages exciting and dynamic.  However, diving in, the art is… pretty bad.  In that it’s a horrible match for big-ass robots.  Zama gives individuals no sense of distinction, which is bad enough with humans but worse when dealing with boxy un-human constructs like the ‘Formers.  Good fucking luck telling who’s doing or saying what to whom.  Compounding this is the paneling, which shows no sense of connection with the scope of a scene or the dialogue.  Characters speak from off-panel (or cutoff) without much thought for clarity, and forced perspective cheats the big / small character sizing discrepancies, but cheats ineffectively; again, as though without understanding of how it actually reads.  Cool art, bro!  Not great comic art.

Similar criticisms apply to Josh Burcham’s colors.  Just as the art, on one level, is nicely stylized, the colors use a quirky newsprint-esque set of pop colors, with dotted shading to boot.  But it’s a poor choice for the book, as its not very three dimensional and lacks the range of colors that might’ve helped to define characters from each other, from backgrounds.  Combo this with the layout woes described and the pages just become a blur.

Coming in to do his best is letterer Tom B. Long, who has to deal with trying to shove word bubbles in for characters who are illogically not focused upon while not blocking the busy art.  Besides the general character / dialogue disconnect this creates, there are also some reading order placement flubs.

Weee!  So long, Optimus!  My short time with you was… Y’know, what it was.

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