Robots in Disguise #21 Review:
The lead up to Dark Cybertron continues with the first of a two part story focusing on Soundwave. How does the issue handle itself? Find out in the latest review of Robots in Disguise.
ROBOTS IN DISGUISE #21
A: Andrew Griffith and Livio Ramondelli
C: Priscilla Tramontano and Livio Ramondelli
L: Shawn Lee
E: Carlos Guzman
John has not had an easy time during his run on RID. The fandom seems divided on him as a writer. He’s not controversial. No one actively hates him, At least not like when the fandom turned on Costa during his run, but he has not won the adulation of the fanbase as James Roberts (writer of sister series “More Than Meets The Eye”) has. However, I definitely come down on the favorable side with him and this issue is another prime example as to why.
Say what you will about the quality of Barber’s writing. His shortcomings and peccadilloes aside, there is one thing the man is stellar at: continuity.
He has made a real name for himself by showcasing his ability to fix the continuity gaffes that had plagued the franchise after Simon Furman was let go in favor of Shane McCarthy’s “All Hail Megatron” (looking at you Reflector).
However, John has shown himself capable of navigating deep continuity depths without a misstep. What this shows is that he has taken the time to remember these minor details in order to flesh out and provide a grand narrative epic that goes beyond his 21 issues.
In this issue what Barber does is remind everyone that this universe still contains the events of the –ation series that started it all nearly eight years ago.
This issue really drives home how deep and involved Barber is with the previous events in this universe by tying in the past association of both waves; Sound and Shock. I had forgotten that it was Shockwave that had fixed the alt mode problem that Soundwave had found himself stuck in.
More than that, in this this first (of a two-part story) issue, Barber brings back the long forgotten subplot of Soundwave having been ordered by Megatron to discover what Shockwave had been up to before he was taken offline for a millenia by the Dinobots.
This minor sub-plot that had been set-up years ago in a Spotlight and then abandoned and forgotten when Simon Furman was thrown off the Transformers books in favor of the “All Hail Megatron” mini-series, being brought back just highlights Barbers real talent.
In acknowledging this shared history of Soundwave and Shockwave, Barber is bring Furman’s original IDW work full circle and tying it into a huge event.
Further, in telling this story he is also filling in the gaps of time in some cases. They are minor touches but the add to richness of the story in my opinion.
His ability to take a cross-over and tie it back in to a plot thread left by Simon Furman and tie it back in almost seamlessly has to be applauded.
I’m geared for issue #22.
Andrew has really come into his own with the art aspect. His use in the present day contrasted with Livio handling the “memories” real well and gave a very full experience.
The use of Livio in handling the art for the scenes set in the past was a brilliant move. Livio’s sweeping landscapes and his paint style not only add a sense of an epic scale (which is what you should be going for when dealing with a huge crossover) but also ties itself in with the digital work that Livio has been doing.
Again, tying the continuity together through the use of Livio’s artwork of scenes set in the past is brilliant. It solidifies the IDW continuity even more and brings the –osity digital works even more into the printed media universe.
Andrew is no slouch and I have enjoyed watching him grow as an artist and learn from his mistakes and build on his strengths. His Soundwave is solid; however I am not completely satisfied with his Blitzwing. It’s a minor niggle at best.
The art just continues to grow on me here.
If there is one other little gripe I have is in the coloring of the birds. They have made a change to the appearance of one of them. So now, you have a bird that looks like the Generations disc shape, along with one in the more classic (and current Masterpiece) style.
The problem is that they are both colored red and I don’t think they have named which is which. However, if I have to hazard a guess I would say that the red disc shaped bird is Laserbeak. This would make the one with a more classic tape design; Buzzsaw.
I applaud trying to distinguish even more between Soundwaves minions, however coloring must remain consistent.
In looking back at this issue, the thing that sticks out the best for me is how this establishes who Soundwave and Shockwave are in this continuity. Who they are in comparison to each other and who they are within the very ranks of the Decepticons.
It’s interesting that it takes another characters view of Shockwave to set exactly what Shockwave is. To establish Soundwave as an outsider in order to bring home the point that Shockwave is even more of an outsider is an interesting thing,
The biggest thing for me is that this issue established Shockwaves character even more than the Shockwave focused issue did back in RID #18.
I thoroughly enjoyed the new status quo of both long established characters, adding in the fact that Dark Cybertron will have its roots and back in a plot that was set-up at the very beginning of IDW’s Transformers comic under the guidance of Simon Furman really adds to this story arc. In that regard, Dark Cybertron in some way will represent the end of the Furman era of IDW comics.
And for that I will always be a fan of John Barber, a man who has taken a sub-plot that had been left behind for years and dusting it off and reintegrating it with almost flawless ability to where it doesn’t feel forced in at all. If I didn’t know how unplanned this was I would have thought that this had been the idea since the days of Furman all along. Kudos.
The story itself has all the things you like about Barber and the stuff you don’t. At this point, Barber is writing in his style and some people just don’t like it. While he can be ham fisted and lack some of the subtle things that Roberts seems to master at times, there is an ease to his narrative and a simple enjoyment that leaves me entertained.
The artwork is fantastic and the two artists blend well together so that you’re not left confused as to the time period. However, Barber doesn’t have that synthesis with his artists that Roberts does. It’s nearly there but not fully. All in all, this is an enjoyable comic that leaves you fulfilled and takes that one step closed to Dark Cybertron.
With all the work Barber has been doing incorporating the entire timeline of the IDW universe of Transformers. Dark Cybertron seems to have three authors. John, James, and Simon. It’s a nice touch.
For those who need a scoring system
A reasonable *** out of *****