Transformers: Lost Light #10 Is James Roberts At His Cleverest

by Noah Sharma

I think that there is a strong argument that Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye, the series that now continues as Transformers: Lost Light, is the best monthly comic being published right now. But, even if you’re not quite willing to say that, there’s definitely a case for this being the cleverest comic on the shelves.

James Roberts remains a master of both plotting and dialogue this month as we return to the titular ship.

You’ll notice that I specified Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye above, rather than just talking about Lost Light. That was very much intentional. As satisfying as the macabre dystopia and vast revelations of “Dissolution” or the cruel twists and new wrinkles of “Chasing the Infinite” were, Lost Light hasn’t yet hit the heights of its predecessor. But, we’re home now and, appropriately, this issue reminds me of one of my favorite MTMTE stories, “Twenty Plus One”.

Like that issue, “Full Circle” is a mystery, a genre that Roberts excels at, though it’s often overshadowed by the obvious sci-fi of his chosen universe. As the crew who departed prior to “Combiner Wars” finally returns to the Lost Light, we see through their eyes what’s changed under Getaway’s leadership.

It’s a shame that some new bots don’t get a chance to break out here. The Protectobots have generally not gotten much love at IDW and it would have been cool to get to know Hot Spot or Streetwise in this issue. Nevertheless, while even Blades, who gets a bit more screen time than most, fails to distinguish himself much, Roberts continues to do great work with the two strongest personalities among the group.

First Aid is a forgotten star of this series and his blend of hoping for the best, preparing for the worst, and wondering how he could be a hero make him an effective audience surrogate. Longtime readers know that his meritocratic relationship with authority could only lead to trouble with Getaway and they won’t be disappointed. The surprise break out of the issue, though, is Mirage.

Especially as we return from our mutinied heroes’ perspective to see what kind of horror show Getaway has wrought, it’s easy to slip the former special ops unit into the sinister shoes of Tarn or Pharma, but, as Mirage reminds us, Getaway’s actions may be intense but they are certainly not beyond the realm of rationality, or even mainstream acceptance. After all, Getaway didn’t take power, we know that the crew elected him of their own volition. Well, at least we know that as much as one can when Getaway’s involved…

Mirage fills a vital role now that Getaway’s ascended, offering a dose of reality to the cast and to the readers. Though he’s obviously playing devil’s advocate, he comes just far enough out of his well to give readers a forceful pang of shame at dismissing him, especially when we’re forced to compare his actions to his rhetoric. Plus, I think that Roberts reintroduces/reboots/explains Mirage’s character better than anyone I’ve ever seen with a single line…

As the mystery deepens, Roberts strings the reader along beautifully, drawing their attention towards misdirections and unwitting future plot points, no doubt, as well as sneaking in some rather brilliant foreshadowing that will likely lie dormant until subsequent reads.

The ending is also really quite ingenious, not least for the way that it functions as an ending for this issue as well as a beginning for the arc. Lost Light takes full advantage of its monthly release schedule this month, seemingly closing off all possible ways out, even as it promises a resolution within the next two issues. The same ‘whodunit’ pleasure of reading the issue is extended out to an agonizingly enjoyable month’s wait thanks to a brilliant little gimmick at issue’s end. And, like absolute champs, IDW steps up to bat, as they did in “Twenty Plus One”, and adds a couple of extra pages to sell the concept, technically making this a twenty-four page issue.

Jack Lawrence has always had a slightly peppier style than his predecessors, one that shone at moments but sometimes felt a little too straightforward or geometrical. You could think that returning to the series’ old stomping grounds, where Roche and Milne and Sakamoto so frequently played, could further hurt the newer artist, but, in fact, the change of cast works wonders for him. From First Aid to Getaway to Hotspot, many of the returning characters feature faceplates and angular designs that come to life through Lawrence’s cartoony lines and explosive inks. The restrictions of emoting through a character like Getaway bring out the best in him.

The same can be said for the blocking of the issue. Though he’s proven more than able to draw grand battle scenes, Lawrence’s skills seem much better suited to a quieter setting, where the narrowing of an optic shapes a panel and a dramatic image describes a look of disgust better than an action sequence. Throughout the entire issue, the body language is pretty exquisite. There’s weight and intention in how the characters stand in a way that even some of the best artists fail to convey when dealing with Transformers.

Joana Lafuente remains a huge boon to this series. Whether it’s directed by the cast of characters or simple an artistic choice, the sheer boldness of the colors is quite a statement. Though there’s still the range and detail readers have come to expect from Lafuente, the primaries are very primary and it makes for a very pleasing, very distinctive return to the Lost Light.

Especially with “Dissolution” front and center, Transformers: Lost Light has continued to be essential reading, both for TF fans and the general public, over its first year. Though I am certainly guilty of it too, complaining about any change in quality between MTMTE and LL is not only one of the most generous problems to have, but probably one that wouldn’t exist but for the added scrutiny of the name change. Nonetheless, it is appropriate that this return home feels like one of the series’ best and most cunning.

A gripping, tightly-written sci-fi mystery, “Full Circle” is a perfect example of James Roberts’ skills and offers his creative partners, Lawrence and Lafuente, the chance to show off theirs as well. The twist is devilishly clever and not only makes the wait for next month’s issue a hard one indeed, but actively toys with that fact. The script knows exactly how much it wants to reveal and how much of that it wants you to understand and the art communicates it all with a simple but exacting efficiency. Seeing Getaway, Hound, Riptide, and the Light again was all fans needed to love this issue, but Roberts and co. deliver so much more.