IDW Publishing: "Windblade" Issue #1 Comic Book Review
Title: "A 'Bot and Her City"
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publishing Date: April 16, 2014
Writer: Mairghread Scott
Art: Sarah Stone
Letters: Chris Mowry
Editorial Assistance: Rebecca Huard
Editor: John Barber
Six months after the events of "Dark Cybertron", the Cityspeaker Autobot known as Windblade is watching the Cybertronian dawn. She is contemplative as she transforms into her jet mode and meets her long-time friend Chromia. Chromia immediately takes her to task with combat training. After a brief struggle (verbal and physical) the two prepare to meet with Starscream, now ruler of Cybertron. Before he arrives, Windblade communes with Metroplex. The old city is damaged and he communicates through Windblade. Suddenly, Starscream barges in, leaving Rattrap outside with Chromia.
Windblade greets Starscream with respect, and asks how she and Metroplex may serve. Starscream however finds her words less than comforting, citing blackouts in the city and poor living conditions in certain areas. He even suggests Windblade may be trying to undermine him, which sends fear through her. While she doesn't think he's benevolent, she hopes that his love of Cybertron will override any potential evil-doing on his part.
Realizing Starscream is right about the blackouts, Windblade tries to find out from Metroplex what is wrong. Metroplex tells her that a power junction "T134" has been diverted. Windblade goes to seek out Ironhide, who knows the location of the junction. When she finds him, the old Autobot is quiet, his vision of a peaceful future seemingly contradicted by recent events. Windblade asks him about the power junction and he tells her it is under the Acrolight District. She also asks about Starscream, but he stresses that they were enemies during the war, and that if she wants to learn about him, it should be form his friends. Windblade heads off, contacting Chromia to meet her in the Acrolight District.
Soon, the two meet and explore, but decide to rest for the night. Windblade goes to Maccadam's Old Oil House and talks to a variety of Transformers form Blurr, to Slug and the two Tankors (tall and short). By the end of the night, Windblade realizes that Starscream serves one cause: Starscream!
The next day, Chromia and Windblade are about to hea dto the power junction when suddenly there is an explosion! Chromia manages to save Windblade and some other Cybertronians, but Windblade needs surgery, and during her recovery, she remembers the past. She remembers the Titan Caminus, who left Cybertron ages ago. Caminus not only served as the beginning of a new world, but also as a source of new Transformers life. As time went along, the Transformers borne from Caminus changed their forms, looking more like Windblade and her sisters. In time, the Autobot Thunderclash visited and asked for help in finding Metroplex. Windblade, Chromia and Nautica were charged with this mission, and eventually succeeded.
As Windblade slowly wakes up, she realizes that the explosion was likely due to Starscream's machinations - just as she sees him standing in her recovery room!
For this review, I thought I'd do something different. To the point of Mairghread Scott's afterword in this issue, this is comic is an attempnt at something different. This is a book that focuses on a character that fans have little to no preconceptions about (other than those they've made up in their own minds based on her toy photos). Unlike past "Spotlight" comics, this is not a character with twenty something years of baggage, but essentially a blank slate. So how would you convince someone to start reading Transformers comics if they haven't been following it up until now? This book is the answer in my opinion.
First I'd start by telling this potential reader that if you understand Autobots fought Decepticons before in an age old war, that's about all you need to know for this title. Sure it helps to read past titles, but catching up isn't 100% necessary. That by itself is usually one of the biggest hurdles to picking up a new book, and this title does a nice job of side stepping that complication by starting at the end point of a previous arc (and summarizing that arc on the first page) and with a new character who no one (but the folks at IDW and Hasbro) really "know".
From her first panel, Windblade is shown to be a thoughtful Autobot who has a certain optimism that is shadowed a bit by the events she witnessed during "Dark Cybertron". Like a new reader, she views this Cybertron as a strange place and not quite the one she thought she would find. We also learn that Windblade has an almost mystical connection to the Titan Metroplex, which already adds a layer of mystery onto the character that instantly drew me in to want to learn more (why her and not say, Nautica? how does that work? etc.). In a very short amount of time, we're given a lot of information about Windblade and this economy of space is important to hook an audience right away.
The book also sets up a couple more "hooks" with two key mysteries, both from Windblade's perspective. First, what is Starscream really about? Long time fans have all sorts of preconceptions about him, but Windblade sees him as the "Ruler of Cybertron" and that is all. Whereas most Autobots would greet him with suspicion, she does so with a completely open mind. Second - what's going on with Metroplex? Why the rolling blackouts? These mysteries not only inform us about Windblade herself, but also lure the reader in by making you want to learn more.
As Windblade goes through her adventure, her sense of curiosity and optimism is infectious, and it makes the reader more excited to learn about the world around her, and that is no small feat in writing a comic book about transforming space robots.
So why else would someone new to this universe want to pick up the book? How about some gorgeous artwork? Sarah Stone manages to walk the edge between almost cartoonish looking characters to those who look quite serious. Her stylized designs on certain characters like Fizzle or Blurr recall design flourishes by other artists such as Nick Roche, but they take their own unique, and visually striking direction. Look at all the fine points she adds to Fizzle's "helmet" section and his overall body shape. Keeping in mind the original toy wasn't exactly sleek, she does a great job of making him look good. Her work on facial expression is also fantastic, and is probably best illustrated in the panel with "Tankor and Tankor" or when Chromia freaks out a little that Windblade will tattle on her to Ironhide.
In her afterword, "Windblade" author Scott says "We've pushed the boundaries on what a Transformers book can be, should be and (hopefully) will be in the future." and I think this sentence rang very true for me as I finished my third read through of "Windblade" #1. Truth be told, the IDW Transformers universe lost me several months ago. Sure I was reading the comics, I still get the "floppies" and all Transformers titles are on my comic shop's pull list, but as each issue in the "Dark Cybertron" saga went along, I found myself increasingly confused and less satisfied with the storyline, to the point where I've been waiting for the current "Dawn of the Autobots" storyline to start with bated breath since I've wanted something new and different other than the same "Dead Universe" grind that had gone on for so long. And with "Windblade" #1 I have that fresh start and man it feels amazing.