I Know What You Chose – Transformers: Till All Are One Annual 2017 Reviewed

by Noah Sharma

Windblade is a special character. Created by fans, Windblade was immediately caught up in politics, questions of tokenism and divergence from the will of ‘true fans’. It’s appropriate then that she’s spent her fictional life embroiled in politics, dealing with those who similarly put themselves before others. And, yes, her misappropriated Japanese aesthetics and generic alt-mode made me nervous of what we fans had created at first, but something came alive when I picked up Transformers: Windblade #1. To this day it remains one of my favorite comics that I’ve had the pleasure to read monthly. Immediately Windblade became a rich and charming character, the kind who inspires now the same way that Optimus Prime did in 1984. So now, some four years on, it has some special meaning to see the end, at least for now, of Mairghread Scott’s run with the character.

If we’re being honest, Transformers: Till All Are One Annual 2017 could easily have been another five issue arc rather than a double-sized annual. The fallout from the “Titans Return” arc, a new status quo for Windblade, dramatic revelations about the course of the series, and a full election over the fate of Cybertronian leadership are all crammed into this issue. Despite this, “The Chosen One” doesn’t feel terribly rushed. In fact, Scott gives readers a couple of fun little ‘breather’ moments that keep this feeling like a regularly paced annual, even as she carefully cuts and dodges in order to fit the entire story into its page count.

The pacing is impressive, but the greatest quality of any Windblade story is its heart and its plot and this final installment does not deviate from that pattern. Mairghread Scott emphasized that the change from Windblade vol. 2 to Till All Are One represented an acknowledgement of the book’s ensemble cast and there is perhaps no writer who has given us a deeper or more wonderful sense of the Cybertronian people than Scott. Though Windblade, Starscream, and Rattrap hold pretty firmly to the spotlight this go around, the passive benefits of the community that Scott created for Iacon are on full display. The sense of the world that each supporting character brings to the book is exceptional and it’s easy to connect with them, and to extrapolate about them in that way that sets a fan’s mind buzzing. The humor of the issue is great and Brawl, of all bots, gets a fantastic little monologue that may just define his personality going forward.

What’s more, “The Chosen One” holds fast to the core ethos of the run, giving us a final challenge and vindication for Windblade and Starscream that lines up with the fantastic moral narrative that Scott has laid out for us over the past three and a half years. Windblade has always been a different kind of hero from Rodimus, Magnus, or even Optimus Prime, one who wins by listening and talking. It’s a message of hope and cleverness and inclusivity and one that avoids the reductive moralizing of most heroic narratives. Windblade fights, she sins, she messes up, and she’ll even kill without regret if the need arises, but she always tries to do what’s best for everyone without any claim to moral superiority. It’s heroism that functions authentically.

Likewise, Starscream, changed by the events of last issue, enters an intriguing new phase in his character. It’s easy to say that that the change is easy or excessive, but careful reading reveals that Starscream has not truly deviated, but merely expanded his perspective. Though he’s not the same ruthless, ‘betray them before they betray you’ bot as before, Starscream’s motivation ultimately still lies in his narcissism and that shift from the predictably unpredictable to benign self interest is handled very nicely. It demonstrates what victory truly looks like for Windblade, not ability to defeat her enemies, as she seeks to do in the Cybertronian election, but the ability to act through others to make some of those conflicts irrelevant.

Despite providing a remarkably complete capstone for Scott’s Transformers run, Till All Are One Annual 2017 does have some noticeable cut corners. Perhaps most notably, given the extensive attention paid to Starscream’s evolution, Scott simply isn’t able to clearly explain how Windblade will speak “for herself”. Despite an explicit mention and lampshade early on, before long she’s finding solace in the thought that she can do good if she listens to the needs of Cybertron. This is probably the result of the issue’s packed page count, but, as we find it on the page, it feels like Windblade is caught between endings, one where a brilliant woman who has been kept quiet for too long cathartically finds her voice and one where a beleaguered government official holds true to their ideals of responsibility and service.

I also can’t help but wonder if Rattrap’s dilemma isn’t slightly overdramatized. Certainly it allows us to hear the series’ central question crystalized and provides a potent pivot into the last act, but it really only works as intended if you’re concerned about Starscream’s moral development. Now don’t get me wrong, I am — I really am — but  it seems hard to believe that the same Rattrap that the scene builds up as a pragmatic, cunning schemer for the greater good would hesitate to save Cybertron, especially not over concerns that it would make him “the stripped cog”.

Sara Pitre-Durocher and Joana Lafuente remain one of the the best and most consistent art teams that IDW’s Transformers offices have had. Durocher’s panels are dramatic and possessed of a movement, fast or slow, that is surprisingly palpable, while Lafuente’s brilliant colors and gleaming light make these feel like super-advanced living machines. And, almost no matter the design or facial features, the duo are incredibly adept at conveying the emotion of their robotic subjects. It’s a particular pleasure to see Durocher render Starscream one more time, his sneering or smirking face a particular specialty of hers.

There are a couple of panels where issues with perspective can leave characters looking like cardboard stand-ups and Durocher’s designs feel a little heavier than usual but the story is just exquisitely told. Durocher’s mastery of emotion and expression is put to wonderful use. There were a couple of panels that I literally gasped at quietly.

Transformers: Till All Are One wraps up on a strong note. “The Chosen One” does exactly what it needed to do, bringing this chapter in Windblade and Starscream’s stories to resonant, satisfying end; opening the doors for new Cybertronian stories; and doing it all with the refreshing charm and sincerity that has defined Scott’s run with the character. The art is strikingly beautiful, the characters rich and wonderfully written. It really is a loss to see this series and the unique ethos that all of its creators imbued it with go, but this is a really beautiful way to close out this cycle of wonderful stories.

Transformers: Till All Are One Annual 2017 is currently available in comic shops from IDW Publishing.