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Transformers lore can be hopelessly convoluted. You think the DC Comics and Marvel universes are hard to keep track of? Try being a Transformers fan: There are various comic book universes, Michael Bay’s movie universe, the one from Japanese anime, the all-ages cartoon universe from Cartoon Network, the all-ages cartoon universe from the Hub, the original 1980s cartoon universe, and one where everyone’s an animal, which may or may not be the same universe as the 1980s cartoon.
Making it even more complicated, this canon multiverse is often acknowledged by the characters themselves, and its existence frequently becomes the basis of storylines. In March, the Transformers: Regeneration One series, which boasts a lineage to the very first Transformers comic, came to the end at Issue 100 with the Autobots untethering their universe from the rest of the multiverse. That made the Transformers mortal, ending the original comic book universe continuity permanently.
However, even if you’re not a Transformers fan, chances are you know the basics: Autobots, good; Decepticons, bad. Expanding on that: Optimus Prime is the hero, Megatron is the villain. It’s white hats versus black hats, except the cowboys in this situation can transform into vehicles, cassette tapes and guns.
What if that formula got shaken up a little? IDW Publishing’s Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #28, written by James Roberts with art by Casey Coller (cover) and Alex Milne, kicks off Season 2 of the series. The latest conflict, a crossover called “Dark Cybertron,” has finally concluded, with the Autobots and Decepticons joining forces to prevent the end of the universe. Formerly deceased characters return to the world of the living, female Transformers exist all of the sudden. (If you’re wondering why this is a big deal, Transformers in the IDW universe were previously supposed to be genderless.)
The most surprising development, however, is Megatron, who, during the conflict, decides to switch sides and become an Autobot. Longtime Decepticon soldiers feel betrayed, while Autobots are suspicious of a leader who was responsible for the deaths of so many of their comrades. This can’t end well … can it?
The issue is split into two distinct points of time. The first happens directly after “Dark Cybertron,” as Megatron’s change in allegiance doesn’t sit well with the Autobots. “We have two options,” gruff lawman Prowl observes, “public execution, indefinite spark containment, or public execution.” (He chalks his repetition up to cognitive bias.) Optimus Prime insists on a trial, however. The majority of Cybertron identifies itself as neither Autobot or Decepticon, and views the war between the two as needlessly destructive. “Deciding Megatron’s fate in secret would only reinforce suspicion that we operate outside of the law,” Optimus explains. He names Prowl the principal prosecutor and the steadfast Ultra Magnus as the orator for the defense.
How does the trial go? We have yet to see it … but things apparently go in Megatron’s favor. The second point of time happens six months after the trial, with Megatron is now captain of his own starship. (This isn’t a spoiler, by the way; it’s the scene that opens the comic.) He commands the Lost Light, a ship tasked with finding the mythical land of Cyberutopia and had, over the past 27 issues, been under the command of Rodimus. What’s Rodimus doing now? To be determined. Compared to the flighty command of Rodimus, the stern and focused leadership of Megatron is probably an improvement … but can he be trusted? Transformers has never really had many stories about redemption, especially not with a high-profile baddie as Megatron … and that’s what makes Season 2 of Transformers intriguing. Suddenly, there’s a single character anchoring the narrative, as opposed to disconnected vignettes from formerly C-list Transformers. Suddenly, there’s a tangible air of mystery. How does Megatron, an admitted terrorist guilty of mass murder, tortur, and mutilation, gain a prominent position within the Autobot ranks?
The More Than Meets The Eye comics have always been a highly enjoyable read. With the addition of Megatron as an Autobot, Roberts and crew managed to keep things fresh and interesting. The search for Cyberutopia was never that interesting. Megatron turning a new leaf? That’s a hook you can sink your teeth into.