I'm a well read grad student who's bluntly honest about all things, although I try to be most honest about myself.
The last in a trilogy about the Dinobots, this is in what I consider the Autocracy subsection of IDW's Transformer continuity. Autocracy was the first of the Autocracy trilogy, and has carved a niche into this line. Oversized comics, these tend to go for eight dollars, and are well worth the price. Compelling storylines, lovely characterizations, and a complex look into Cybertron's history and present condition are combined with some breathtaking art. (Please note the authors have changed, the artist has not. Livio Ramondelli has been consistent throughout these two trilogies, and I hope he comes back for more. I've seen comments that it can be hard to tell what's going on, but that only spurred me to reread these series, to peruse the art, and that only reinforces how much I like this art. I can see why some people might think it's too dark to be easy to understand, but there's a glow to nicks and cuts, and those scratches, that make Cybertronians look like truly mechanical beings instead of giant human-like beings made of metal. There's a detail here that is just superb, and I'll take that.)
Quite frankly, I feel like John Barber is stepping up his game, too. I've been interested enough in Optimus Prime to keep buying and reading, but not to subscribe yet. (I would, however, read a Thundercracker series by Barber. Thundercracker cracks me up, and his position as ex-Decepticon who's trying to understand the human world is more compelling to me than anything else in that series. And I'm going to point out that he has a dog, because my sister was 100% uninterested in the Inhumans trailer until I showed her Lockjaw and then it was all 'puppy!') I think the Prime series is hampered by the fact that I've never been super interested in the main character in that, or pretty much I'm a heretic. (And as always, Lost Light has the upper hand right now in that it's not set on Earth. I think I'm more interested in the Transformers comics that haven't been set on Earth, quite frankly. So the fact that Barber is keeping me interested enough to keep buying is more of an accomplishment when you have the full context.)
That being said, this story with the Dinobots is also one of Barber's more compelling for me. It keeps up the complicated politics on Cybertron; how can they not be when Starscream is leading? Starscream's proclivity to hide things - the new sparks for example - causes tension. Add in Trypticon on a rampage, and Bludgeon's plans for Cybertron and the Cybertronian race, and this issue is just jam packed. There's more at stake than old grudges - like the one Strafe has against Bludgeon - when the sparks are stolen.
Starscream's plans to take care of the Dinobots go astray when his would-be assassin finds out what's happened, too. Redemption, or the possibility of redemption, is an unsurprising theme. (The other two issues in this trilogy are named Punishment, and yup, Redemption. Barber also seems to like killing off some of my favorite characters, it seems. All the feels.) I'd argue that it's also a theme in Till All Are One, and More than Meets the Eye, Lost Light, Robots in Disguise and Optimus Prime. Then again, this isn't the shock it might seem at first glance either. Four million years of civil war, which followed a repressive regime in which many were gaslighted or co-opted or brainwashed into complying? Yeah, there are a lot of bad deeds that need to be made up for, especially since some have been around since before the war started. (I also have been too long in reading the latest Lost Light; awful things done and redemption will be spoken of, as I've finally sorted my feelings about Megatron in that series. That review is quite frankly going to be longer than this one, so be prepared.)
Starscream manages to make things worse, as he always does, although I have no doubt he'll take credit for anything that goes right. He also doesn't seem that fazed by the responsibility he has, so I wonder exactly when this takes place. (He's shown as exasperated by the amount he has to do, and how he has to do it, in Till All Are One. I also know that Barber wrote the 2017 annual and that delved into Bumblebee's current position. I have to admit to some surprise that Bumblebee didn't pop up in this issue, but it's all for the best. There was so much going on, I'm not sure I'd have accepted an argument between Starscream and Bumblebee right now, although I usually relish them. I think I'd just want the story to get on going so I could figure out what's happening.)
These stories manage to be side stories, but also a delight, and adding to a fuller understanding of this world and continuity. I've been struggling with just how essential they are, and I think that's a complicated question. Absolutely essential in so many ways: that fuller understanding of the grinding down of the trust in Primes, and Autobots, or the world that Cybertron is now, are lost without these. Both are key too fully understanding the world the IDW teams have created now. But they also are side stories, and less essential, than some other series for a beginner. I think of the world created in Autocracy - and by this I mean both trilogies - is more of an add on, which is why I think of them as side stories. (Also, my enjoyment is just as much with these as with the main series, but I feel like that's true because I've read all of the main series so far. And by the way, my reading order suggestion is MTMtE/RiD, leading up to Dark Cybertron, then finish off the two sister series. LL/OP/TAAO after, and then these two trilogies. I did read each of the Autocracy stories as they came out, but now that you have all that out, this would be my suggestion. A lot of the previous Transformers series are mentioned. Costa's work, Furman's work, but I enjoy the series starting with MTMtE and RiD the most so I do suggest starting there. Google, or Comixology, are my friends when I want to find out the holes I'm missing, or go back and read them fully if they're mentioned enough.)
But, yeah, for anyone who's reading the current TF series, I absolutely love the work being done here.