A Battle For The Soul Of Cybertron Brews In Transformers: Till All Are One #11

by Noah Sharma

 

It’s not clear if Transformers: Till All Are One ever felt central to the fans the way that the now relaunched Robots in Disguise and More Than Meets The Eye did. In fact, its recently announced cancellation pretty strongly implies that it did not. And that’s kind of a shame, because this series has had a very specific ethos that’s woefully rare in media these days. But Till All Are One isn’t over just yet and it looks like we have some big things to expect before it is.

Last issue’s spotlight on Blast Off was one of the series’ best and Mairghread Scott keeps the pressure on, switching deftly from the Combaticon’s perspective to Starscream’s. Effectively, as soon as our villain has completed his plan, it becomes the story of how everyone is trying to take it away from him. It’s a smart way to keep the tension up and provide a wider sense of Cybertron.

Scott’s rendition of Starscream has been one of her defining strengths as a writer since even before she joined IDW and that remains in place here. As Elita One’s coup gathers momentum, Starscream wrestles with the ghost of Bumblebee. The resulting drama is crisp and engaging as Cybertron’s most unapologetic schemer fences with his conscience. Scott never takes Screamer too seriously, embracing the wild nature of his pettiness, but she also doesn’t diminish his intelligence or his problems. That takes a deft hand and the lack thereof has ruined more than one tale of a powerful man.

With the approaching end of the series, it’s not surprising to see that reports of Windblade’s demise have been exaggerated, or, at least, premature. Nor is it unexpected to see that the City Speaker’s many compromises along the way are finally being called to account. This series has done an impressive job of keeping readers in Windblade’s corner without minimizing her own crimes. Now those hard choices stand between her and a happy ending.

The biggest problem for TAaO #11 may have already hit you. From former villains who can’t let go of being the bad guy to journeys to the center of the mind, the components of this story are not unfamiliar. These ideas slot together easily because they’re time tested and engaging, but they don’t offer anything new or surprising, merely something enjoyable. That’s a fine problem to have, but it means that this issue leans on the strength of Scott’s previous stories, notably in Till All Are One #10 and the Windblade miniseries, to provide the context that sets these well-worn tropes in a new light.

Still, while I don’t recommend jumping on here without at least a few issues of backlog, there is more to being a comic writer than plotting and it would be incomplete to neglect how natural and charming the dialogue is. Starscream and Bumblebee are a natural match and their banter is fun without becoming an indulgence. Scott’s history in television is apparent as each character’s voice remains consistent and only a rare couple of lines don’t do something to illuminate the characters.

Sara Pitre-Durocher’s slick, expressive characters remain a welcome part of this title. The art combines the designs and wonder of the much beloved cartoon with an emotionally mature, far more appropriate in this instance than merely ‘grown-up’, lens through which to view it. Angles and expressions do a fine job of sketching the larger than life personalities, notably Starscream’s, and giving them life.

Though the look of this issue remains strong and largely in line with what came before, I can’t deny that the style employed, not the quality with which it’s implemented, is less responsive to the script than I am used to from Pitre-Durocher. The inks are heavier than in the past and the overall aesthetic is cleaner. The general feeling is of a focus on the characters. Backgrounds are minimalistic and compositions center around conveying the core emotion and positioning the relevant characters clearly. But while the characters are well handled, the artist’s hand itself lacks the personality that we saw from her in the opening arc of this series or the “Conquerors” arc over in The Transformers.

Joana Lafuente is our colorist and she really gets an opportunity to shine, metaphorically and literally. Her lighting effects are truly a centerpiece of the issue and the distinctive gleam in her Transformers’ eyes or off their chest-plate brings out the bold colors that she employs. And its not just flares and shines, when Lafuente turns down the lights on a scene, watch out. With striking primary colors, given just a dash of eighties neon, and deep, calm secondaries, Till All Are One #11 has a striking palette that makes a statement without drawing much attention to itself.

And, lest it seem like Lafuente is the one doing all the heavy lifting, Pitre-Durocher clearly plans her panels around Lafuente’s colors. Plenty of compositions are obviously designed around the bright and dark portions of the setting. It’s a real benefit to the book that the art team is comfortable with each other and that Pitre-Durocher is confident enough to let less from her be more once combined with Lafuente’s colors.

The word of the day is temptation. Windblade faces what may be her last temptation as Blast Off faces the consequences of his. And before this series goes, Mairghread Scott gives us one more character portrait of Starscream and calls all of his charmingly reluctant heroism and viciously villainous betrayals in to call the lord of Cybertron home. After all, Starscream is a bot of wealth and taste, one temptation is hardly enough.

Admittedly, this one is a little by the numbers, but, though it puts off any real surprises for next issue, notably earnest appeals to those guilty pleasure tropes and a great set up for the final issue pull this one through and provide rewards for old standbys and new fans alike. So, while this issue feels rather familiar, it’s familiar the way that shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender are. Transformers: Till All Are One #11 pulls all of the weight of this series together, crafting a sturdy, enjoyable story that sets itself up for quite a send off next month.