Revolutionaries (#1) – John Barber

4 out of 5

The curse of John Barber.  It’s a good curse.

I’ve liked the majority of what I’ve read by Mr. Barber.  He has a knack for taking overdramatic and complicated comic book soap and pitching it at just the right level of cheek to be entertaining, respectful of the source, and yet somehow welcoming for newer readers as well.  Having focused his skills on something as historically wackadoo as Transformers makes that end entertaining result all the more impressive.

That being said, I’m unable to build up much energy to care about the who Hasbro universe thing that’s being attempted, so even though John has consistently defied my don’t-care-about-the-Transformers feelings to make my 2.99 / 3.99 well spent, after I set the issue(s) down I don’t have much desire to return, so Revolutionaries – one of the series to spring out of the Hasbro crossover mini – will probably be my last taste of that world.  But it doesn’t mean I can’t help but recognize Barber’s talents.

Take the over-complicated setup for this issue, which has ancient Transformers, one thought-he-was-human-but-he’s-not Transformer, G.I. Joe, Rom, British secret agent Action Man, and relative baddies from each of those lines all trying to salvage a relic which seems to be turning humans into alien-like monsters.  We start in the middle of a firefight that doesn’t stop, up through the cliffhanger that leaves one of our primaries stranded.  John juggles explanatory exposition with chuckly jibes and light character-building dialogue, without shorting us on momentum or over-doing anything.  Artist Fico Ossio is equally responsible for that, with jam-packed panels full of movement, clearly defining the spaces in which all of these characters are interacting.  The book is a frikkin’ jumble, but it doesn’t read like it.

But it’s also very self-contained.  Unless, I’d say, you’re interested in one of these franchises, the conflict is very internal, so there’s not going to be much to draw in a new reader.  That’s no excuse to block them out, though, which is where the abilities of someone like Barber are precious.

A high-intensity kickoff to a team book, fully establishing the stakes and the primaries.  I think fun things will be in store for those who are on board.

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