We All Have A Chance To Change In Transformers: Requiem Of The Wreckers

by Noah Sharma

The Wreckers Trilogy is all about guilt and sin. So what’s my Transformers sin? Well, I didn’t care for Last Stand of the Wreckers #1 when it came out in 2010. I didn’t know any of the characters (something I wasn’t used to feeling in Transformers), the writing felt distancing, and I was stretching my pull list to its limits. New to comics, I literally attempted to buy every Blackest Night tie-in and almost succeeded before giving up in the same budgetary panic that left LSotW #3 in the stores.

Of course, Last Stand of the Wreckers went on to be one of the greatest Transformers stories ever written and an unwitting prequel to the Phase 2 that would return IDW’s Transformers universe to its former glory and beyond. I felt actual guilt for not standing by an incredible series when I finally read the full run many years later. And that guilt kept me reading the sequel, Sins of the Wreckers when it, too, felt a bit distant and confusing to me after the first issue. But, Sins was also amazing, telling a strange but wonderful story while introducing one of my favorite characters into the IDW canon and recycling an old TF team into one of the most fascinating concepts that IDW ever saw.

So now, with just a few months left in the IDW-verse’s life span, it’s time to come back and put a cap on the Wreckers’ story… All two of them still alive…

I wish this cover didn’t give so much away, but I was so excited to read this that I didn’t even notice.

Rather than a mini-series that would awkwardly outlast its universe, the final chapter for Verity, Springer, and the Wreckers comes in the form of a forty-page annual. It’s odd that after Sins of the Wreckers, a series that barely had time to scratch the surface of its numerous ideas, Nick Roche should find it so easy to cram a wholly satisfying conclusion into a single extra-sized issue.

Certainly there are places where it gets a tad cramped, there’s a lot of catching up done in the first real scene, and a very jumpy cut between a gas station and a political rally that doesn’t have the time to explain why it does make sense, but overall forty pages is all it takes to deliver a story that captures the best parts of the Wreckers series, tells a new and meaningful story, and gives the two related but very different stories that precede it the proper trilogy treatment.

In fact, in a very deeply ingrained way, it’s almost better that the Wreckers go out this way, in this strange, almost perfunctory format. The Wreckers as a concept were literally born out of the toys that nobody wanted. They’re the answer to the question, ‘what is everyone else doing while Prime’s team is on Earth?’ They’re the randos and misfits who got their own stories and checking in with the few survivors, ever so briefly before the universe ends, reminds us why this setting feels so rich and so full of possibility.

The absurd casualty rate of the previous mini-series and the Transformers comics in general have left this a fairly sparse cast, focused almost exclusively on Springer, Verity, and Impactor. It’s impressive that Roche is able to tell such a complete story with so few pieces on the board and more so that even the lone bit-player gets a compelling and necessary arc.

Of course, that’s not too tricky a problem, for Roche knows what his readers want: sass and villains! Though some might sulk that the issue has only a few critical last steps for the actual Wreckers, the interplay between Overlord, Verity, and Tarantulas is phenomenal. Tarantulas in particular retakes his position as a scene-stealer and gives the entire issue a strange gravitas as Roche somehow positions him as a mad genius/sentimentalist/omniversal troll/loving father/broken-hearted teenager all at once. There’s not a lot of space to dive into character intricacies, but little things speak volumes because of how rich the characters are. Tarantulas bragging about his partner, for instance, works because of how transparent it is that he’s effectively showing off his new relationship to Prowl’s pet human, but he’s also not wrong about Overlord, which serves to hype up the Decepticon bruiser and the danger of these two forces combined. And when the facade comes down it’s equal parts pathetic and legitimately sad.

For his part, Overlord returns to glory after serving more as a catalyst for Tarn than the unstoppable force of sadism that he was in his original Wreckers and MTMTE appearances. He’s fabulous, clever, and, most of all, unyielding in his ambition and egotism. These villains make it very clear what it is they need and so prove to be not only extremely effective foils for one another, but delights to read and understand.

One of the biggest missteps of this issue actually has to do with Overlord. The Wreckers books have never been afraid to make it clear just how lopsided the odds are, but, despite getting his groove back thanks to Tarantulas’ scheming, the narrative seems to neglect just how dangerous Overlord is. Numerous mentions are made to Ostaros’ indestructible spark (a brilliant Starscream plot hook in any moment but this penultimate one of the IDW Transformers-verse), but there’s not a one to Overlord’s ununtrium coating or the near invincibility that it (if it in fact survived his near destruction on Garrus-9) or his point-one percenter status (if he was rebuilt without it) afford him. And while this is some fanboy nitpicking, it also has a significant negative effect on the story, decreasing the level of menace. With Verity claiming that Springer and Impactor are more than enough to handle her captors and no explicit mentions of his invulnerability, there’s a certain diminishment of Overlord that feels like a missed opportunity, especially when the way that our heroes escape is actually a brilliant answer to that problem of how to kill the unkillable.

Requiem of the Wreckers also does something wonderful as a book published in the final days of this continuity. The Wreckers, through Verity Carlo, are the last undeniable link to Phase 1 IDW, and there’s a certain beauty about this book affording longtime readers the chance to see the last surviving plotline of that era come to a rather lovely conclusion. Just like us, the Transfomers cannot stay a part of Verity’s life forever and Requiem ends with a focus on Verity and how she’s grown. The cynical might say that the book swerves towards a somewhat maudlin and familiar ending, but I think it’s not only beautiful but essential that this issue opens the door for what normalcy means for Verity and how scary that still is after looking Overlord in the eye without blinking.

And on that topic – hooboy – is Verity great. Sure, her back talk in the face of death is always one twitch of a Cybertronian finger away from being the end of her, but it doesn’t feel unearned because of what Verity’s been through, the way that the other characters play off of each other, and the way that Roche doesn’t – or perhaps can’t make up him mind well enough to – play favorites. Every character in this book gets a moment that feels awesome. It could have felt cheep, especially in a run that’s really focused on how inglorious these situations are, but Roche sincerely wants you to cheer for every character and none of their triumphs feel like they come at another’s expense. It’s another example of how this book avoids simplistic shorthand despite its relative brevity and I think this is one of it’s greatest strengths.

Roche is still the primary artist, bringing the same aesthetic to “Wreckquiem” as he did to Sins. Generally speaking, Roche puts 100% into his characters as an artist as well. His bots lean towards the ‘humans in robot armor’ look but with plenty of detail and loads of personality in their faces and posture. The apparent other side of that coin is that the backgrounds are consciously lacking. Roche never feels lazy, but, whether it was the demands of his schedule or a purely artistic decision, backgrounds are limited or downplayed frequently throughout the issue. It’s certainly not the best look, but I don’t really know how much it would have added and it helps keep the panels clear and legible. With only one or two exceptions, the trouble I had interpreting my first readings of Last Stand and Sins are entirely absent from “Wreckquiem”. In fact, the strong, simple blocking choices that Roche makes are a wonderful element of the book.

Josh Burcham is also back to round out the trilogy, bringing the same dusky palette as seen in Sins of the Wreckers. This time he has a little help too, with Josh Perez backing him up. The color choices are bold and distinctive and there’s always just enough saturation to avoid the panels looking unnecessarily gloomy or blown out by the palette.

Roche also receives help from Brendan Cahill, who handles one seven-page scene. Cahill’s style is very different than Roche’s, far poppier and more mechanical in his bots. Despite this, Cahill makes some adjustments to his style that help to bring it a little more in line with the rest of the book and the colors and pacing help allow readers to accept the change in aesthetic. Likely Cahill’s greatest contribution is the introduction of Overlord, who looks great in the lusher, more ‘on-model’ style that Cahill provides.

Let it never be said that Roche is above some beautifully on the nose captioning…

Despite all of this, Roche’s most exciting artistic collaborator is certainly Geoff Senior, the distinctive, classic Marvel UK artist who worked on many of the Marvel-era greats including “The Primal Scream”, “Two Megatrons!”, Both the US and UK Unicron epics, and three core chapters of “Target: 2006”, the original Wreckers story! I imagine that for any readers unfamiliar with the Marvel UK, Senior’s work could be a bit of a shock. Without its historic connection to the franchise, it would not be entirely unfair to characterize the style as boxy, gangly, or over-stylized.

However, though there’s a couple of weird perspective moments and a fair helping of dull surprise mixed in along the gems, any of these criticisms feel very intentional and the effect is stunning not only for its nostalgia or meta-narrative value but for its ability to offer a strikingly different aesthetic that suits the story and highlights how things have changed and stayed the same for Springer, in universe and out.

Despite being technically self-contained, “Wreckquiem” definitely loses a lot when taken out of its context as the final piece of a trilogy. It’s not as dense or self-referential as More Than Meets the Eye, giving at least passing explanation to the vast majority of its concepts, but it seems to hope that you know these characters, what they love and what they’ve lost, before you pick it up.

Though it has only a brief time to explore its concepts, a smaller scale than LSotW, and more focused goals than Sins, Requiem of the Wreckers is easily a match for its deservedly acclaimed brethren. In fact, I would easily say that, in terms of execution, this is probably the strongest of the Wreckers trilogy. Stripped down to its essentials, Roche’s story ties up nearly every thread left by the previous series and delivers emotional closure and literary power without, for an instant, neglecting the reality of the characters or the beautiful absurdity of this story about insecure space robots.

Transformers: Requiem of the Wreckers is currently available in comic shops from IDW Publishing.

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