IDW Publishing "Ironhide" Chapter One: The Iron Age Comic Book Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: May 2010
Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Casey Coller
Colors by: Joana Lafuente
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Edits by: Andy Schmidt
Associate Editor: Denton J. Tipton
In the present day, Cybertron is a dead husk of a planet. But something is changing as a single light in a vacant building activates!
Four Million Years Ago...
Optimus Prime, Windcharger, Prowl, Groove and several other Autobots are bracing themselves for combat. The Decepticons are coming in to attack and Optimus orders his warriors to hold the line while he circles around to flank the enemy. There is a shipment of Energon being transported, and if the Decepticons succeed in taking it, the city will fall, a result Prime refuses to accept. Prowl protests but Prime insists on doing this himself.
As Prime circles around, he is blasted by Soundwave and he quickly launches his Mini-Cons to attack Prime including Rumble and Ravage. Before the two can do anything however, Ironhide rolls onto the scene and smashes the Decepticons!
Nearby, Ramjet, Long Haul, Mixmaster, Bonecrusher and Tankor are transporting the Energon. As Ramjet complains, he fails to notice Prime and Ironhide until it's too late! He tells the Decepticons to surrender. At first they refuse, until Prime points out that Ironhide has Soundwave's cannon aimed right at them, and the tons of Energon they are carrying!
That evening, the Autobots are celebrating their victory. While the Autobots celebrate inside, Prime steps out to a balcony where he finds Ironhide and Kup. They tell him he should offer inspiring words to the others, but Prime sees himself as a warrior more than a speaker. Prime explains that he knows the war will go on for a long time because it is a war of philosophy more than anything else. As Prime walks off, Ironhide tells Kup that he may not understand Optimus, but he is the finest warrior he has ever known. Kup wholeheartedly agrees.
Back at the party, the celebration continues, but Ironhide notices an Autobot in the corner who appears out of place. Everyone else is a bit too busy partying to notice, but as Ironhide focuses he sees the Autobot take out a weapon and fire on Prime! He jumps in the way and takes the hit only to suddenly awaken in a darkened Cybertron in the present day!
As Ironhide walks out of the building, he looks around to find himself on a devastated Cybertron and completely alone!
I've been a huge fan of the "Spotlight" series of comic books from IDW so far, and when I heard Ironhide was going to get his own mini-series I was thrilled. Ironhide is one of those characters that I often feel is taken for granted in Tranfsormers lore. He's not particularly flashy in G1 nor has he garnered the attention in toy form that other characters such as Bumblebee or Starscream have. His recent resurgence thanks to the live action movies has been most welcome, but to see him in a G1 inspired incarnation is a treat. As a kid, I always liked Ironhide both in toy form and the cartoon. Ironhide was one of my first Transformers as a kid, and having a tough talking Autobot with a southern drawl always appealed to me.
While many know Ironhide as a warrior and "tough guy", some don't realize that he was partly intended as a security officer and Prime's bodyguard. His early G1 profiles indicate these functions, but the animated series never did much with it and the toys didn't emphasize it either. This issue plays up the biggest aspects of this character: his bravery, his tough attitude, his loyalty and his skills on and off the battlefield. I love the way this issue shows how he watched Prime's back on the battlefield and during a seemingly innocent social situation. It serves as a reminder of his loyalty and strength, but it also reminds us that Megatron had his forces everywhere, even infiltrating the enemy camp (as a side note, seeing Axer in action, albeit briefly, was cool).
Focusing on the relationship between Optimus Prime and Ironhide was a great way to go. It gave the emotional anchor that the issue needed and reminds us that these Transformers have distinct personalities but still managed to work together as an effective army. With other Transformers titles seemingly hell bent on making sure no one gets along with anyone (even on the same side), seeing a cohesive army where everyone follows Optimus Prime loyally and with reason was a real treat.
Of course, the big mystery of this issue is simply: why is Ironhide alive in the present day? Having died on Earth, how did he wind up on Cybertron? These are mysteries to be clarified in further issues, but I do appreciate the visual continuity between the way he took a hit for Hot Rod in the ongoing "Transformers" series and the way he takes a hit for Optimus here. It also sets up a situation where we know Ironhide is about to be tested in ways he never has before, and that makes for quite the exciting cliffhanger!
Casey Coller and Joana Lafuente have truly done something wonderful with the art in this issue. A lot of the art in many IDW titles so far have been rather dark in tone. We've seen Cybertron pretty much in ruins for the bulk of the series over the years while Earth is pretty dark and dangerous (and thrashed) so to see a bright, vibrant Cybertron with a united group of Autobots and Decepticons fighting each other felt familiar and comfortable in a good way. The intact buildings and vibrant golden hues used in the flashback sequences felt like they came right out of the G1 cartoon. Even the night time scenes are vibrant with their bluish tints and lighted landscapes. It was also cool to see so many Autobots we haven't seen together all in one place. In the IDW universe, the Autobots are spread out all over the galaxy, but in this issue getting to see Protectobots standing alongside guys like Blurr and Windcharger was really great.
In terms of the individual character art, it ranks up there as some of my all time favorites in the IDW world. The characters have a nice, familiar look but they all are modernized, borrowing in part from their G1 incarnations, but also their "Classics/Universe" toys. Windcharger for instance looks just like his G1 cartoon incarnation, while Tankor (only seen in vehicle mode) looks just like the action figure released a couple years ago. Optimus Prime is of course a blending of different designs, mostly influenced by Dreamwave's "The War Within" design by Don Figueroa. Ironhide himself features a lot of G1 inspired bits including his head with a high central crest and the circle design at the center of his waist with parts angling out to the sides. The vehicle mode reminds me a lot of the design for Energon Roadblock with its chunky, rectangular designs. The characters are all very recognizable and I think it speaks well to the art that I could look at three Constructicons in their Cybertronian vehicle modes and identify each one without some type of text callout being provided.
I also have to compliment Coller for the brilliant work on conveying action within the context of scenes in the book. I'm not just talking dramatic action like Ironhide running over Rumble, I also mean small gestures like Blurr smacking his palms together and extending his arm to convey an action, all done in one panel or Axer's weapon deploying and him reaching for it. The pictures may be still, but you feel movement in them which is brilliant.
"Ironhide #1" like the "Wreckers" series reminds me of why I love Transformers comics to begin with. Good characterization, brilliant art, an engaging story plus some nostalgia mixed in makes for one happy read!