Thank the Matrix, 'Transformers' and Daniel Warren Johnson are One
We review the premiere issue in the new Skybound series and find a union that enhances both parties.
We know we're not alone. The nanosecond we learned Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer were attached to Transformers, a shiver went through our systems. The creative team behind Murder Falcon and Do a Powerbomb would crush the assignment. The pain was in the waiting, the months of witnessing panel teases and contemplating Autobot rosters. Thank the Matrix, praise the Allspark. The first issue is finally here, and it's everything our fragile little human hearts were hoping it would be, and it promises an emotional gauntlet we've come to expect from Johnson.
I was all in from the first page—six panels offering flashes. We see helicopters charging across a setting sun, the Ark plummeting toward Earth (is that also a Battleship homage drawn in there?), a soldier cradling another as they bleed out, Optimus Prime collapsed and broken, and a shuttle rocketing skyward. It's unclear precisely what's occurring, but you can sense a lot of agony and a need for healing. Yup, Daniel Warren Johnson is cooking.
From there, we meet our human characters: Spike and his dad, suffering from a tragic loss. One finds solace in the bar, the other in the stars. Spike leaves his pops pickling and joins his girlfriend Carly for a trip up Hanger's Rock, where the best skyline awaits them. Of course, you've probably already seen the preview pages; the moment they get a chance to reflect, the ground beneath them cracks, and they find themselves within the Ark and in the presence of numerous fallen Transformers.
You don't need me to ruin the details of what happens next or how exactly it ties into Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici's Void Rivals. What's impressive is how quickly Johnson establishes the lore and the division between the Autobot and Decepticons. Those with even the tiniest understanding of the Hasbro characters will have their curiosity ruffled by who is and is not present within the group. Daniel Warren Johnson also doesn't waste time establishing the stakes, obliterating a few icons fearlessly.
The initial melee delivers in several arenas. This is a DWJ comic, so you'll get Optimus Prime clotheslining Starscream before initiating a devastating suplex. However, just as we've seen in Beta Ray Bill, the character moments between beatdowns secure the reader's devotion. Optimus Prime recognizes the frailty of Spike and Carly, which is followed almost immediately by Spike observing the love between Prime and a seemingly expired Transformer. Once again, Johnson circles themes of loss and grief while providing unparalleled comic book action.
Colorist Mike Spicer pumps life into everything. There's no denying Daniel Warren Johnson's linework, and we were lucky enough to score the San Diego Comic-Con black and white ashcan earlier this year and marveled at its stark badassery. Nevertheless, once Spicer's colors are applied, Transformers becomes Transformers. The first issue screams, and that roar only occurs when these two are jamming together.
If you've listened to our Energon Universe episode, you have an understanding of where Daniel Warren Johnson is going with his Transformers series. He spoke with us about the awe Optimus Prime has for the Earth and its preciousness. We begin to see that understanding form in issue one, but I'm most excited to see that realized in the comics to come. How Prime holds a human versus how Starscream holds a human gets to the very heart of the book.
Quickie Review: Transformers #1 is the Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer comic you want it to be. Although, if those names mean nothing to you, and you're only here for the Transformers, don't fret; you'll be satisfied, too. Also, I envy your journey into other works like Murder Falcon, Extremity, and the rest. By the issue's end, I wasn't crying, but I could sense tears in my future. DWJ is always going for that gut punch.
Transformers #1 by Daniel Warren Johnson & Mike Spicer
Writer: Daniel Warren Johnson
Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound
On Sale: 10/4
Synopsis: Transformers #1 begins an all-new era for the iconic Robots in Disguise from Daniel Warren Johnson (Extremity, Do a Powerbomb, DC’s Wonder Woman: Dead Earth) and colorist Mike Spicer (Stillwater, Murder Falcon). Optimus Prime was supposed to have led the Autobots to victory. Instead, the fate of Cybertron is unknown, and his allies have crash-landed far from home, alongside their enemies—the Decepticons. As these titanic forces renew their war on Earth, one thing is immediately clear: the planet will never be the same. New alliances are struck. Battle lines are redrawn. And humanity’s only hope for survival is Optimus Prime.