Sometimes, superheroes, spandex, and subpar subplots get repetitive. Not all the time, of course, but the comics from the big publishers haven’t held my interest for some time now. I want inhuman characters, which most comics have only as a side or infrequently reoccurring characters. Which is why, after watching some of its programs, I figured I would give the TRANSFORMERS comics a chance. Not only because of the positive impression TRANSFORMERS: PRIME gave me, but because people were posting about it. I was seeing these funny screencaps floating all around the web. People were gushing about what happened in this part and that chapter. Admittedly, one picture, in particular, convinced me:

Transformers
And this is when I knew this overgrown grapefruit was going to be a favorite. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

I got what I wanted out of these comics: non-human dedication, space aliens, outstanding plot, adventure, and multi-faceted characters. The whole robots-turning-into-cars shtick drives (pun intended) new readers away. Yes, they turn into vehicles and weapons, but that’s not all there is to the TRANSFORMERS. It’s an aspect of themselves that is convenient, and not really featured as often as one might initially assume. It’s unlike what you get from Marvel, DC, and other big comic publishers.

The problem with the biggies is you’ve got these characters for such a long time, character exposition gets swept under the rug. The replacement is pages and pages of glorified action, which, sure, looks impressive, but eventually, you ask, “Ok, and?” and “Is that it?” You’re cheated, marginally dissatisfied, and spent a couple of bucks for almost nothing of substance. Thankfully, TRANSFORMERS is one comic constantly worth every penny.

So, without further ado, here are my top five TRANSFORMERS comics for new and returning readers:

5. TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE #22 (2012)

If you ask a TRANSFORMERS fan who their favorite Decepticon is, their answer will probably be Soundwave. The telepath is shrouded in mystery, his voice more robotic than most, and he keeps his thoughts to himself. You gravitate to him because he’s such an enigma and a competent asset to Megatron. Thing is, the television series don’t provide background on him. If you want to get to know the audience favorite Decepticon and best Dad, TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE #22, written by John Barber and illustrated by Andrew Griffith and Livid Ramondelli, is for you.

Top 5 Transformers Picks
Actual Disney Princess Soundwave. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Essentially, the comic is coming to terms with Soundwave’s reservations against Shockwave. There’s only room for one cryptic member in the Deceptions’ forces. Shockwave’s agenda provokes Soundwave to realize that one day in the future, Shockwave must be eliminated. The best part of this issue is learning how Shockwave, such an esteemed member, was once desperate and out of his mind. Soundwave was unprepared to deal with so many thoughts enveloping him at once, but help comes from the most unexpected places. His would-be cassettes flock to Soundwave and help him control his telepathic powers. The issue weaves Soundwave’s past and present into a profound narrative.

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4. TRANSFORMERS SPOTLIGHT: BLURR (2008)

The SPOTLIGHT series focuses on different characters which provide context on their beginnings to their alliances and motivations. Writer Shane McCarthy and artist Casey W. Coller bring you TRANSFORMERS SPOTLIGHT: BLURR, which showcases the prevalent classism of the Transformers’ home planet, Cybertron. In this issue, Blurr brushes off an up-and-coming Autobot, Piston, who wants to celebrate Blurr’s victory at the races. Blurr, eager to stroke his own ego, agrees — on his terms, of course. He chooses a high-end bar: one which Piston and another bot say they have no authority or class to enter. This strong wealth gap is what makes this comic a great introduction to the overall series.

Top 5 Transformers Picks
Mmm, you can feel the elitism. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Blurr realizes that the Golden Age of Cybertron will not last forever. As much as he wants to ignore the societal problems, scoffing at different war recruiters, realization dawns on him that he can’t be inactive. He can’t pretend the war is non-existent, and Optimus and Kup make that abundantly clear that he is capable of so much more. They tell him that his lifestyle is not a true indicator of his worth. This is an issue realizing the importance of self-worth that is well put together and delightfully illustrated. As Blurr is my favorite Autobot, this issue makes me proud of him for wanting to do and be good.

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3. THE TRANSFORMERS #22 (2009)

It’s a coincidence that two of the top five TRANSFORMERS comics for beginners is the twenty-second issue. Writer James Roberts and illustrator Alex Milne explore the relationship between Optimus Prime and Megatron. You can dive right into this issue as it does a fantastic job of recounting previous battles between these two leaders. Some of these battles you might remember from other series, but if you don’t, that’s okay. Optimus and Megatron’s (bitter and snarky) run-down is enough to give you the full picture. Really, what they end up doing is pointing fingers at each other and trying to justify their actions through what the other did. It’s juvenile, and I love it.

Top 5 Transformers Picks
Someone give these old, tired dads a break. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Now, Optimus rarely jokes. He’d be the sterner dad, I think, because at least Megatron is more emotive. But the thing about THE TRANSFORMERS #22 is that for one small, brief moment, they laugh together. It’s fleeting, but it is the closest thing to peace that settles over them. Optimus’ desperation to make things work — to end it all, to have the war between him and Megatron stopped there and then — breaks my heart. Optimus neared a breakthrough, but if you pick up the issue, you see when the needle drops and peace goes down the drain. It’s one of the rare times readers witness Optimus’ vulnerability, which he normally doesn’t expose as a leader or to his Autobots.

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2. TRANSFORMERS: WINDBLADE (2014)

TRANSFORMERS: WINDBLADE has four issues to the series. Although short, it sets the stage for the “Combiner Wars” arc. Written by Mairghread Scott, this series changes the tone completely; instead of having the story set on Earth or somewhere in the galaxy, it takes place on Cybertron. Starscream is the leader of Cybertron and Windblade is the cityspeaker for the planet’s titan, Metroplex, who transforms into a city. Metroplex took a lot of damage after the defeat of Shockwave, so Starscream employs Windblade, who can speak to dormant titans and help speed up their repairs.

Top 5 Transformers Picks
Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Now, you might know how power hungry Starscream is from other TRANSFORMERS properties. In this issue, we get the same, aggressive Starscream ensuring everyone stays in line. Anyone who, of course, jeopardizes his leadership will get eliminated. You know, Starscream at his usual. However, we also get to understand more about Windblade and her struggle to maintain the professionalism of her public service as a cityspeaker and as a representative of her planet Caminus against her outsider status and Starscream’s dodgy leadership. The comic is the foundation for their partnership, as Windblade tries to understand Starscream and Starscream, in turn, tries to trust the intentions of others without jumping the gun. We get pages upon pages of beautiful content from illustrator Sarah Stone who provides readers an elegant balance of action scenes and character aesthetics.

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1. TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE (2012)

Where the heartbreak began. Where I first began, and wow, what an emotional trip this comic is. TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE is such a wholesome, well-thought-out series to the TRANSFORMERS Universe that it impresses me how connected everything is. This series balances narration, style, characterization — everything that makes a successful comic, well, successful. The coming together of this ragtag team of underrated characters will bring a smile to your face.

Top 5 Transformers Picks
Hey, uh, James Roberts, two things: 1. How dare you. 2. How could you? Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Megatron’s beginnings all come together here. It boggles some folks that Megatron, this huge, long-running baddie, turned into an Autobot. He was a poet with big dreams and a bigger heart who never intended to turn out the way that he did. He lost direction, was consumed by power and victory, that it took him so long to realize there was something wrong with him and his faction. The point to where he was to the point he arrives to with the help of Rodimus and his crew gets me every time. And yet, it turns out, without Megatron and centuries of warfare, Cybertron would have been worse off. Imagine Orwellian “Big Brother is Watching You” vibes and lots of lobotomies.

Top 5 Transformers Picks
Rodimus “If it’s not cool then what’s the point” Prime. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

The multiple characters in TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE might throw you for a loop if you’re a new reader. However, you pick up on the names quick, I promise. This series is the number one pick because gives you those multi-faceted characters with gorgeous illustrations. You get the emotional depth from this series, as well as action and amazing plot twists which can either excite, upset, or surprise you.

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And There You Have It

By no means are these the only series and issues I would recommend because, hoo boy, my list can go on and on. These robots are more than their televised versions, which often reduce them as these obtrusively virtuous characters hunting down Decepticons. Cough, cough, Cartoon Network’s TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE cough, cough. We also might never get a version that involves pre-war Cybertron, but at least IDW’s comics do not disappoint chronicling it. We get more character dimension from the comics, too. You get to see Rodimus’ petty moments, Starscream grasping the meaning of leadership, and Soundwave’s beginnings at his lowest point to now. TRANSFORMERS, which has brought me endless joy, has a lot to offer comic readers. With fingers crossed, hopefully, the thrill this series has given me will extend to you as well.

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