IDW Publishing: "Robots in Disguise" #5 Comic Book Review
Title: "A Better Tomorrow"
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: May 30, 2012
Written by: John Barber
Art by: Andrew Griffith
Colors by: Josh Perez
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Edits by: Carlos Guzman
A new ship arrives on Cybertron. While Autobots including Bumblebee monitor from the command center, Metalhawk and Starscream greet the newcomer: Sky Byte! As Prowl watches this, he and Arcee trade words, ending with her telling him she's not his personal assassin and that she has changed since she first took down Jhiaxus. He wonders then just what she actually is!
As Sky Byte's tour of Cybertron continues, he begins to learn this world is not the war torn planet he had left. He too has changed, now a storyteller and poet more than a warrior. For a while, he explores on his own, finding remnants of Sweeps until Ironhide finds him. The two talk, and Ironhide tells Sky Byte that if he wants to get a well rounded story on the status of Cybertron, he should talk to some Decepticons since he's already talked to Metalhawk. Sky Byte is surprised, but takes up Ironhide on his offer.
Later, Ironhide is with Blurr who is still recovering from the issues he suffered at the hands of the Constructicons. He's irritated that he's still recovering, but tells Ironhide he has a plan for the future: to open a bar where Cybertronians can gather in peace. Ironhide tells him it's a good idea.
Elsewhere, Bumblebee is talking with Prowl, Metalhawk, Ironhide and Starscream about Sky Byte and how he was appalled at the idea of the I/D chips. Bumblebee thinks they're still a good idea, but it's clear not everyone agrees with him. When he tells Prowl to intervent in the conversation he sees the Autobot has left the room!
Meanwhile, Sky Byte has found a few Decepticons including Swindle and Needlenose who are giving shelter to Dirge. Swindle tries to spin the story of the Constructicon team's destruction as an unprovoked attack, leaving out the part about them beating Blurr down. Suddenly, Streetwise and Sideswipe appear with Prowl to arrest everyone! A battle breaks out, but Sky Byte tries to tell everyone to stop. Dirge manages to escape with Swindle, but Arcee is tracking them down. When the others get outside, a mob is waiting for them and soon, a full out riot breaks out.
Ironhide and Bumblebee race to the scene and Ironhide soon throws himself into the fray to break things up. He manages to calm the crowd down, but instead of letting Prowl arrest the Decepticons, he tells them it's time to free them from the I/D chips! It's ultimatley Bumblebee's choice, and the next day we learn that he made the decision to deactivate the I/D chips, despite Prowl's reservations.
At Maccadam's Oil House (now under Blurr's management), Ironhide and Sky Byte drink together, discussing what is to come. Prowl is upset (damaging a table in the process) but Blurr stops him, telling him this is a safe place for all Cybertronians. Prowl sits down as Ironhide offers him a drink. Ironhide reassures everyone that everything will be okay. He knows this because he had a vision! Referring back to the issue where Ironhide was still alive far in the future on a new world, he tells Prowl and Sky Byte that he saw a vision of Cybertronians living in peace on Gorlam Prime in the far future. When asked about Cybertron and everyone else, Ironhide tells them squarely that them and their old grudges are all dead by that time!
The political storyline of the Decepticons being oppressed by the Autobots is one that has gone on for nearly half a year now in this title. There are many directions the story could have gone in. The most predictable would have been a new uprising of some sort by the Decepticons, but truth be told that's already being done elsewhere so I'm glad to see that's now where the story has gone. Going back to the end of the last ongoing "Transformers" title by IDW was a cool idea, and using Ironhide as a sage, yet tough bridge character was a fantastic choice. For a while now, the "leadership" of Cybertron has felt like it was slowly splintering apart. Bringign in Ironhide with a "vision" of the future to act as a binding force for everyone was a brilliant move and works well within the narrative. You need a character who not only can talk a good game, but use his fists when necessary and we get to see Ironhide do both.
What's interesting to me is that something many fans interpreted as a gentle swan song for the last IDW ongoing "Transformers" series winds up being a "vision" of Iornhide's. I'm curious as to the exact circumstances of that vision. Did he get it when he changed up the body Alpha Trion gave him for his more ancient Cybertronian form seen in this issue? Did he get clocked in the head and have it? This is left open, but I do hope it's addressed one day. Anyhow, I really enjoy how his conviction is what ultimately saves the day from breaking out from a brawl into an all out war.
The introduction of Sky Byte into a G1 inspired universe isn't new. Botcon already did this with its "G2" Sky Byte but it makes perfect sense for him to be in the "Robots in Disguise" title since he first appeared in a television series by the same name. In many respects, this Sky Byte feels like the spiritual cousin of the one seen in the RiD television series. By the end of the series, Sky Byte had largely become an indepedent character, and while the other Decepticons were defeated, he was last seen happily swimming along in the seas, free to explore on his own without harming anyone. This seems like how Sky Byte would be after that time, having fought wars and decided they weren't for him. Instead focusing on his more peaceful pursuits, such as poetry. It's a cool take on the character rather than having him show up just to reign terror on everybody.
Another character that gets quite a bit of attention here is Prowl. He's been slowly going over the edge for a while now and while this Prowl is the "cold, calculating" one, he also seems to be one of the few Autobots left harboring an extreme amount of angst and hate. One or two issues ago I would have told you this was just going to result in Prowl being inadvertently responsible for a whole new Cybertronian war, but now I'm not so sure. With Ironhide there to keep watch over things (and Bumblebee making the right choices), I'm hoping this is a moment of potential growth for Prowl, moving on beyond hatred.
The artwork in the issue is fantastic. Everything has nice tight lines, nothing looks messy and the colors are bright and vibrant when needed and then dark and ominous when the scene calls for it. I'm also very happy with Griffith's take on character designs. He manages to make Sky Byte look like a credible threat and not goofy looking. Meanwhile his take on the "Fall of Cybertron" Ironhide's form looks fantastic and reinvigorates the character visually. Also kudos to him for what me a tough job on some smaller details like Blurr's damaged parts and all the intricate designs on Sky Byte. I'm still not very fond of Prowl's current form, but for the most part everyone looks great.
As with most issues of this series, there are some fun background cameos. When Blurr and Ironhide are looking at the dusty window of his (soon to be) bar, a Junkion walks by in the background. In the riot scene towards the end one big green robot seems to be partly based on a "Starrior" (another robot toy line of the 80's) and the small, cylindrical robot is clearly a homage to T-Bob from M.A.S.K.
"Robots in Disguise" has been a fun ride so far. I enjoy stories that can introduce new elements and not go in predictable directions. I hadn't expected Ironhide to play such a key role in this series, especially given his absence up until this point. However, bringing him in was a brilliant idea and it was neat to see how everyone acts with a calming influence around. This ia fantastic issue, and the blurb for the next issue really has me curious where things are going from here!