• Let's Review: The Magic of Cybertron #2


    We return to Cybertron to see the struggle against King Sombra! Autobots attack. Decepticons defend. Ponies are caught in the crossfire!

    Check out the full review–with some spoilers–after the break!


    As with the last issue, we have two creative teams covering independent stories. We start off with the unlikely teamup of the Wonderbolts and the Seekers.

    What? No Fleetfoot?

    Stunt Flying

    Priscilla Tramontano isn’t well-known within the Brony community, but Transformers fans will know her art from various entries ranging from the Spotlight series to Lost Light. She’s been fully involved as both a colorist, line artist, and creating full artwork. So she seems to be in her element drawing Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker flying over Cybertron with plenty of guest cameos.

    There's something about Rainbow's expression
    that terrifies me.


    That doesn’t mean she’s a slouch when drawing the ponies as the Wonderbolts look very on-model. Even a few characters who never got a speaking role. That said, there are moments where the ponies rounded designs seem more foreign, especially when facing the audience in portrait view. The Seekers seem to have far more natural expressions. Part of this might come down to how the Wonderbolts are inked in both black lines and lines that respect their unique colors.

    She's got a point, Dash!


    But while the ponies might look off at certain moments, the action is never lacking. Tramontano takes full advantage of three-dimensional movement that only fliers can enjoy.

    That's not Spitfire. That's Blaze!

    So why pair up the Wonderbolts and the Seekers? On the surface it seems an obvious choice. Just pair up two flight teams. That might have been the only conscious choice between this group-up, but I see some other similarities as well. Starting with the groups overall. The Seekers have rarely been a team in a sense of genuine camaraderie. They’re more a gang of thugs who fall in under Megatron. IDW has offered them a greater array of characterization than the G1 cartoon, especially with a post-war environment. We witnessed Starscream make multiple plays for power, fail in many cases, and yet somehow try again. Skywarp remained the most warrior-based of the trio, often to his own detriment. And Thundercracker became more a lovable goof after acclimating to Earth’s culture and wanting to become a writer. Whatever path they took, they never did so together and could only unite in the face of a crisis.


    This ain't Warhammer 40k, Thundercracker!
    "Brother" won't earn you anything! 

    By comparison, the Wonderbolts are a more close-knit group that functions together. Yet we’ve seen times where victory or popularity took priority over teamwork. We’ve seen Spitfire emphasize results over ethics with Lightning Dust in “Wonderbolt Academy”. To be honest, we’ve more often seen the Wonderbolts at their worst than their best. Writer Ian Flynn (createor of Feats of Friendship and writer for the first MLP/TF crossover) makes some curious choices with the Wonderbotls’ perspective. Spitfire declares them as stunt flyers; completely out of place against a set of battle-harden Decepticons. This is a strange thing to read given that we’ve seen the Wonderbolts attack both a rampaging dragon and Tirek. They may have failed both times but they were doubtless a military response. Spitfire’s not entirely wrong that they’re out of their element but this timidity feels out of place.


    Varying levels of expressiveness in this shot.

    The contrast between Rainbow Dash and Starscream is much stronger. Both are leaders in their own ways. Both have a high opinion of themselves and become more vulnerable when they feel rejected. Both posses boundless ambition. In fact, there are many parallels between them except for one critical difference. Rainbow Dash seeks to prove herself to get others to recognize her awesomeness. Starscream expects adoration and can’t understand why he is denied. IDW explored this throughout their first storyline, with a particular low point in Spotlight: Megatron. After only three years, Starscream had led the Decepticons to the point of extinction. He couldn’t make it work and could not cope with his failure. Megatron returned to find the Seeker leader broken. I see some of that vulnerability with Rainbow Dash in “The Mysterious Mare Do Well” and “The Washouts”. Despite the bravado both these characters show, neither is good at handling rejection.

    Megatron thinks beating up Starscream is a healthy exercise.
    Megatron is an ass like that.

    Thus it’s pretty fun to see their clashing ego’s at the story’s start. Yet the focus quickly shifts to action as Sombra-fied Transformers and ponies attack. Key feature here is that Autobots like Ironhide and Jazz are under Sombra’s sway. This is a danger that affects the entire Cybertronian population. What follows is a test of courage and teamwork that shows the difference between Dash and Starscream. Dash will lead from the front to prove herself. Starscream will bark orders but avoid direct risk until he’s sure he has the upper hand. So it’s no wonder that one of them is going to be more celebrated. And I find it charming that it’s Thundercracker–the most likable of the Seekers–who prompts the cheer.

    Hello new wallpaper!

    Though there is one moment where I think the creative team got their palettes crossed. What appears to be a snickering conversation between Thundercracker and Skywarp doesn’t match with the dialog. I think Skywarp was supposed to be Starscream. Speaking as a G1 fan, this feels eerily familiar. 

    This was not a rare fluke.
    You kids today don't know how good you have it!

    One-Trick Pony 

    So if the last story was “Let’s pair up the fliers”, this story is “Western Characters Showdown”. We start in with Applejack wandering Cyberon’s Rust Sea. A hellish-landscape depicted in varying shades of red. In fact, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find much by way of cooler colors. Everything from the text to the landscape takes some form of red, yellow, and orange. Colorist Luis Antonio Delgado keeps things diverse with a variety of shades and uses the red landscape to help Applejack standout.

    What is she even doing out there?


    Artist Trish Forstner had plenty of practice drawing ponies and displays Applejack in some truly hardcore poses, and I’m impressed at how well she depicts Transformers. Granted, Wildwheel is a stoic character who doesn’t push the emotional boundaries, but each Cybertronian we witness is a faithful depiction that strikes the right balance between robotic angles and fluid motion. An important aspect given that this is a battle of whip versus lasso.


    When a problem comes along,
    you must whip it!

    I’m reminded of Shockwave attacking Pinkie Pie with a spatula and whisk rather than his standard arm cannon. Simple fact is that a gunfight highly favors the Transformers and we’d likely need a replacement for Applejack by story’s end. Yet this creates a problem in following the action’s flow. Much of the confrontation between Applejack and Wildwheel features a standoff, draw, and then suspense. We don’t get the outcome right away and that creates some confusion. When I first read this comic, I had no idea what Quickstrike was doing there or why he was lying down or what were those things around his head. I think because his eyes were wide open, I didn’t understand he had been KO’ed. It didn’t fall into place until we saw a second draw with Skids being the next target.

    Still a better fate than Waspinator!

    That’s right. The western motif isn’t limited to just our lead characters. Quickstrike blustered his way through Beast Wars with plenty of western terms and an ornery accent. But why Skids? As far as I know, he’s never been one for the western treatment. Though if memory serves, Marvel comics did try to put him in such a setting.

    Look at how they draw the Transformers versus
    that lady in the front. Priorities!

    But the real draw is a clash between Applejack and Wildwheel. Just as with the Seekers and Wonderbolts, I see some comparisons between the two beyond the surface motif. Introduced in Transformers Cyberverse, Wildwheel was an Autobot who got separated from the Ark on its mission to Earth and spent centuries on his own. He took up Wild West habits, but also nursed resentment towards Optimus Prime. Wildwheel may have been willing to give his life for the Autobot cause, but it’s a different thing when the cause itself abandons you. Prime is the embodiment of that movement. The patriarch of a family. Of course Wildwheel would focus his abandonment on to the most prominent target. Despite this, he still maintains a sense of fairness and honor. He’s not totally in either camp.

    I know what you're thinking.
    "Where did he get that poncho?"

    Applejack is the unity Wildwheel lost. She stands by her family and wouldn’t abandon them for anything. Nor would they abandon her. So while she might be dueling him, she’s a lifeline to a sense of belonging he lost.


    You're a towel!

    Having already talked about the standoffs and the confusion that follows, there’s no much else to say about this story. Though it is worth noting that no one has tried to awaken the brainwashed characters from Sombra’s hold. Whether or not this is even possible has yet to be determined. I guess we’ll have to make this as “To Be Contunued”.

    I take some comfort when a typo slips by.
    Don't beat yourself up for mistakes. Everyone makes them!


    All in All (are one)

    Both these stories feature a lot of action with more subtle contrasts between the characters. I think “Stunt Flying’s” action is easier to follow and thus becomes the more enjoyable read. But the Western style and bold colors of “One-Trick Pony” create a stronger visual appeal. So there’s something to be said for either story; and even the errors can generate some humor. Nothing big by way of advancing the plot, but I don’t think that’s the goal here. It’s fun. Have fun reading it. I think it’s well worth your time.

    You're on the same team as Optimus Prime. 
    Who do you think is going to lead the charge?


    I’m Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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