Thus far, the publication of IDW's Transformers series has seemed erratic and a bit hard to follow, as there have been miniseries and spotlights jumping all throughout the timeline and a couple different renumberings, leading to a somewhat chaotic storyline. Now, they're putting forth an effort to consolidate and organize all of that in a new storyline appropriately entitled Chaos, the prelude to which begins in this week's Transformers #21. Once it's run its course this December, there will be another renumbering, apparently counting all the G1 books IDW has published and starting with Transformers #125. It remains to be seen whether that's more confusing or less.
The Prelude to Chaos begins with a strange tack, giving us a narration from a Vector Sigma history file describing the events of the issue, ostensibly to give it a weightier feel when Hot Rod returns from his sojourn, bringing with him not only the missing Matrix, but a couple of Autobots thought dead and one who'd been missing for centuries. The grammatical awkwardness of some sections of this narration tend to undercut that effort, unfortunately, but we'll be charitable and blame typos instead of writer Mike Costa. It's a useful tool to officially imbue a heft onto Hot Rod himself, as his successful return of the Matrix to Optimus Prime earns him the new name of Rodimus, allowing them to banish the term 'Hot Rod' from continuity so as not to ruffle any weird trademark feathers about that name (such is a danger with licensing characters from a toy manufacturer, apparently). This way, we get a nod to the old G1 Rodimus Prime ascension without having to sacrifice the much more beloved Optimus Prime to do it. A nice touch.
The return of the Matrix also seems to return Optimus to his rightful place as Autobot leader. He'd had some kind of humility attack a while back as he granted the mantle of Autobot leadership to Bumblebee (thank you, Bay movies) while he went off to make the grand gamble of turning himself in to earn the trust of the human armies that were hunting them. Now that they've reached a detente, it's become obvious to just about everyone, including Bee himself, that the de facto reins are being turned back over to Prime. However, there's some questionable logic being applied to the situation by Optimus to try to pacify Bee's disappointment at being ignored when Prime decides to take any volunteers with him to go deal with Galvatron's army on the newly revitalized Cybertron – and of course, just about everybody who's anybody follows Prime's lead – because he's Optimus Freakin' Prime.
"You're not being usurped," he tells Bee. "I'm no longer the leader, and I'm free to follow fate,You are still bound by your duty. You have to make the choice you think is best for us all." What the hell is that supposed to mean? "You're the leader, but I don't have to follow you, and I'm taking most of the Autobots with me to go do something you haven't ordered, but you're still duty-bound to try and order us otherwise if you disagree, even though there's no chance we'll do what you say." That makes no sense. Just come out and say "yeah, I'm stepping up to lead again, and Bee, you can stay here with a small group of 'Bots to handle crap on the Earth end. I'ma go bust some Deceptichops and take our house back, yo."
Apparently, though, there's some serious secret stuff for Bee, Prowl and Ultra Magnus to deal with Earth-side, which is going to result in Transformers issues coming fast and furious, twice a month, alternating between the space opera and the Earth-bound intrigue – and that seems to involve Prowl's cold, uncompromising logic being turned toward investigating Spike Witwicky and the humans they've allied with. Something is going on, and since that arc is entitled The Last Story on Earth, it's likely a really damn big deal, but this set-up issue won't tell us what just yet. Fingers crossed that they can all leave Earth entirely and the Transformers stories can become cool intergalactic adventures that don't revolve around humanity like the big-time movies must. Let's also hope that Thundercracker striking out on his own again won't mean he's being written out.
After suffering through the highly unpleasant Ulises Farinas art during the Heart of Darkness miniseries, it's wonderfully refreshing to get some fantastic work from Guido Guidi and Brendan Cahill to remind us all how awesome Transformers are to look at. Their stuff here is beautifully detailed and a welcome return to solidity. Keep these guys around forever, please.
According to editor Andy Schmidt, the Chaos storyline is hoping to iron out some continuity kinks from all the stops and starts this series has had, but things don't bode well for that when Beachcomber appears alive and well after being nearly lobotomized and deemed nearly unsalvageable by Soundwave's meddling back during the Spotlight: Blaster issue. So let's hope Costa can iron out his own scripting kinks and Chaos will be something as epic as they want it to be.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 7.4/10