I'm a well read grad student who's bluntly honest about all things, although I try to be most honest about myself.
And this is no mean feat, nor an insult. See, as most of you know, James Roberts is the stick I judge things by, particularly when it comes to Transformers comics. And while Mairghread Scott has been running a very close second - unsurprising, given her writing credits on Transformers Prime, my favorite of the Transformers cartoons - this is the first issue where I've felt that this series is at a Roberts level of excitement to me. Ask me any other month? I was looking forward to More Than Meets the Eye the most, and Till All Are One a close second. (Of course, it's Lost Light now, but same thing: that was my top pick of the month, followed very closely by Till All Are One.)
I finally have two Transformers series that I'm looking forward to equally. I've been keeping an eye on Knock Out, hoping for more of the Knock Out/Breakdown vibes from Prime. (Although Scott has said that it would be Breakdown from the show, with a new name since Breakdown was already in the comics. That was a fascinating relationship and I've been eager to see more, and haven't yet. I keep hoping for that, though, and this makes me even more excited to see what could happen with those two bots.)
See, this issue? The focal point is Blast Off and his unrequited love for Onslaught. And boy, is that full of issues. Where do I start? The fact that Onslaught barely notices that Blast Off exists. (I mean, Starscream keeps saying Onslaught doesn't notice at all - but that can't be true. After all, they're part of the same combiner now, so Onslaught must have some inkling that Blast Off exists and that he can merge with him and the other bots who form Bruticus.) Or that, as Starscream says, Onslaught is a monster - and Blast Off is not. How does Blast Off even justify feeling love for Onslaught? It's twisted, it's honest, and it's something that Starscream could - and does - use to try and control Bruticus through what he sees as Blast Off's weakness.
The solution, the way that Starscream manipulates Blast off, is just as slow and devious and cringingly awful as the way that Starscream manages to put down and goad Blast Off all at once throughout this issue. And the fact that Starscream infiltrates Blast Off's mind, and dreams, to get this done is the perfect way to twist that knife a little deeper: it's creepy and a violation - as Blast Off points out when he first realizes what's happening. It makes his eventual, and reluctant, acceptance of Starscream's proposal all that more sleazy feeling, and it's a coup that feels very Roberts to me.
And while I not only had this series on my radar from day one, since I saw the announcement in Windblade, I believe, I've also loved it unabashedly. And yet this issue made me perk up and pay more attention. There is something nuanced, and brilliant, and unsettling about every single panel in this issue that made my hair stand up straight, and made me sit up, perk up, and pay more attention than I have in the past.
This feels the most perfect of a perfect run of issues so far. If you'd asked me earlier, I'd say the fact that the Badgeless issue came out a couple days after the police in Dallas were shot - a chilling timing that couldn't be foreseen - was the most spine-chilling thing that would happen in this series. And despite the importance of that issue, and the uncanniness of having Ironhide plead with the Decepticons to join him, and make sure the police force - the Badgeless - were kept honest, this issue simply manages to get under my skin even more.
Brava, Scott. Brava. You had my full attention before, and while I'm not sure what else I can give, you have that as well now.
And I've forgotten to give a shout out to the artist. I have to say, this might be one of my favorites as far as illustrations for the Transformers series go so far. (Actually, second favorite. My favorite were some of the Windblade comics.) Just really intense, really gorgeous art with lush colors. Brain too fried by amazingness of writing to rave more about the art, though. When I think about this story, the whole twisted storyline just honestly dominates in my mind.