After all the hype and hooplah surrounding its release, does the first issue of Mairghread Scott and Sarah Stone‘s Windblade (read our interview with Scott here), which gave the franchise a much-needed lady robot infusion, stack up as quality entertainment? Or was all the hand-wringing and fan angst justified?
More importantly, will this book make any damn sense to a newcomer like me? I’m new to the Transformers fandom. I mean just-joined-at-thirty-years-old-after-watching-a-cartoon-on-Netflix new. Literally, I can remember this kid in grade school, whose name was Curtis (for reference, I can’t remember the name of my own fiancé half the time, so the fact that I remember Curtis is something to behold), whom I used to tease for liking things like Ninja Turtles and Transformers. He had a Ninja Turtle backpack and I had a smug sense of superiority.
Completely unjustified, Curtis. I owe you ten beers. TEN BEERS.
Point being that I’m a fresh face in the fandom, and the Transformers fandom is staggeringly huge. Will this jumping-on point be a drowning point or a nice calm pool to blissfully wade into?
Well, that’s handy, at least.
The story begins with our titular hero gargoyling above the rooftops on Cybertron in Batman-esque fashion, angsting and brooding about being so far from home before sweeping down and transforming into a sweet-ass jet (oh god Curtis seriously I am so so sorry I was such a shit about this because holy cow this is AWESOME). Then the scene switches to her at combat practice with her bodyguard, Chromia. You get a little exposition on how they got here and a lot of a sense that they work together well but not without conflict, when suddenly this gem is dropped on us:
WHAT THE WHAT.
Like I said, I’m new to the fandom, so my understanding is very simplified. Optimus and Autobots good, Megatron and Starscream and Decepticons evil. Everyone’s kind of a badass. And while Megatron’s defection to the Autobots is hinted at in the opening sequence of the book, this is where I start to worry that I know too little.
Here is also where the book has a brief aside to address the main question that caused most of the fan handwringing in the first place, so I, too, will deviate from the narrative to post the first explanation we get of Windblade’s controversial pronoun usage:
There is a non-zero part of me that hopes that that is all that is ever said on the entire subject.
Without ado we rejoin the plot of this book, which appears to be that the city-sized Transformer Metroplex, whom they refer to as a titan (and with such reverence and respect that it’s pretty clear that association with near-godhood is apt), is broken, hurt, and unable to speak in anything but some ancient tongue, one which our hero, Windblade, is able to speak. That makes her the Cityspeaker, the Metatron to Metroplex, and the person in charge of helping him heal and fix the city that is also him.
Pretty heavy stuff, and I can’t lie and say I’m not eating it up with a spoon. Both this book and the series that made me love Transformers, Transformers: Prime, have one thing in common: Writer Mairghread Scott. So I can’t say I’m particularly shocked that Windblade recaptures exactly the same joyous, childlike wonder at giant robots while still managing to be a fairly emotionally complex. But I can say that I’m thrilled to be dragged into the lives of these characters this way.
At this point the book transitions into introducing a bunch of secondary characters, ones with whom I’m sure any long-time Transformers fan are intimately familiar and happy to see. Luckily for me, who even a few years ago couldn’t tell Optimus and Megatron apart, they’re handily labeled.
More importantly, let’s give credit where credit is due: The artist, Sarah Stone, does an amazing job of differentiating the robots from each other. The more recent Michael Bay Transformers movies suffered from a lack of this kind of art direction, and it’s absolutely fantastic that the artist here manages to capture personality, wit, stature, and all the other defining things that make a character notable and interesting without making all the ‘bots look alike. Again, as a newbie, I had some reservations that I’d be dumped into a bewildering cast of same-faced robots whose only distinctions are different color schemes, and I’d be lost as to who was talking and why. The art is important in any comic book, of course, but when dealing with a primarily non-human-but-still-humanoid cast it’d be all too easy to draw stiff and static bots and rely on fan recognition to set each one apart.
Lucky me, hell, lucky everyone, the artist here did not take that route, and again I am excited to meet new characters instead of fearful that I won’t know who any of these people are in a page or two.
At any rate, whether you’re fairly new to the fandom like me or an old-timer, I can say it’s a fairly unsurprising… spoiler? I don’t know if you can call it a spoiler when it turns out the bad guy is a bad guy. Starscream, as mentioned above, is basically a pretty big jerk, and while he is the ruler of Cybertron at the moment (a point which still boggles my mind, but I imagine also that finding out how that happened means getting dragged ever further into the fandom and the comics in general, oh no), it appears that he hasn’t had some revolutionary change of heart or of methodology, and he tries to teach Windblade some kind of lesson about loyalty and power and something something. Or he’s just flat trying to kill her, I don’t know, because the book ends with Windblade in the hospital and me itching to know exactly what the hell is going on around here.
JEEZ WINDBLADE, EVEN I KNEW THAT
Which is perfect, really. Absolutely perfect. Once again I find myself not only giddy and supremely interested in the lives and stories of these giant robots (as well as deeply apologetic to my friends and former schoolmates whom I have mocked for such enthusiasm), but with just one book I am a hundred percent invested in this story.
Good job, Windblade. Thank you for being awesome.
Windblade is written by Mairghread Scott and drawn by Sarah Stone and is available from IDW.