Before beginning this review, I would like to note that I will be breaking a reviewer’s rule by writing this in the first person. This needs to be done mainly so I can relate the fact that I have, regrettably, not been following IDW’s Transformer’s comics for quite some time. I say “regrettably” because after reading this superb one-shot by Mairghread Scott and Sara Pitre-Durocher I want to see what I’ve been missing. I also want to convey that I have been a huge Transformers fan since the introduction of the toys and original cartoon series back in the early 1980s and point out just how far this franchise has come. Now, on to the review.
While I am a huge fan of the Transformers franchise, I must say that Hasbro made a rather glaring mistake early on by ignoring the possibility of a female fan base. They likely assumed only boys would be interested in giant, transforming robots and so focused on making their characters just as fueled by testosterone as they were by energon. This was true for the Generation One television series and comic books produced by Sunbow and Marvel and was barely rectified through the Beast Wars era of the 90s. The most that was done to even acknowledge the possibility of female fans was to introduce a handful of female Autobots in one episode of season two of G1. Season three saw the first appearance of Arcee, but she was given a bright pink paint job and was often portrayed as weaker than her male counterparts. It wasn’t until Transformers Animated that we got some true, real female transformers in the form of a reimagined Arcee on the Autobots side and Black Arachnia and Slipstream on the Decepticons side. Then, in 2010, with another new version of Arcee made for Transformers Prime, fans finally received a recurring female Transformer who was fully capable of keeping up with, and often exceeding, the feats of the guys. This is where Mairghread Scott comes in.
Scott was a writer’s assistant on Transformers Prime as well as the main writer for the episodes “Stronger, Faster,” “Orion Pax, Part 2,” “Hurt,” “Hard Knocks,” and “Chain of Command.” She has since penned scripts for some of IDW’s Transformers series including Transformers Prime: Rage of the Dinobots, Beast Hunters, and The Transformers: Windblade. Her handling of both female and male characters highlights equality while still allowing characters to retain the inherent qualities of their individual sexes. Scott’s latest IDW offering, Transformers Combiner Hunters , could not be a better example of Scott’s writing prowess and her ability to showcase strong female characters that both female and male characters can understand and relate to. Scott writes brilliantly for both male and female characters, but since there has been such a dearth of well-written female characters in the Transformers franchise for so long I want to be sure and applaud her for rectifying a situation that should have been addressed long before she came on the scene. Okay, enough with my ranting, let’s take a look at the story and art.
The Transformers Combiner Hunters one-shot begins with Chromia emerging from an official audience with the Mistress of Flame and Starscream, a Decepticon, the current ruler of Cybertron, the Transformers’ home world. Unexpectedly – at least for me since I haven’t been following the series and don’t know all of the intrigues going on in the current story arc – Arcee takes down a guard, fights Chromia, and runs away with the Enigma of Combination, a device that gives a group of Transformers the ability to combine themselves into one large robot that is capable of inflicting massive amounts of damage to anything that incurs its wrath. According to this continuity, the Enigma of Combination is what turned the Constructicons into Devastator. Arcee and Chromia battle before Arcee flees to the Sea of Rust with the Enigma. Chromia is in hot pursuit, and she calls in Windblade for reinforcements. Arcee and Chromia fight again, but another group of Transformers, the Torchbearers, intervene. The Enigma goes off near the Torchbearers resulting in their transformation into the Combiner known as Victorion. Arcee, Chromia, and Windblade join forces to stop Victorion’s rampage in a brutal battle that lasts for several pages before being sorted out.
With this being a one-shot, Scott wastes no time in getting straight to the action. There is little build up as far as plot is concerned, and with a one-shot that is as it should be. The plot flows fluidly, and the action integrates seamlessly into the story. While there are hints of a grander story-arc going on outside of this one-shot, this book makes an excellent standalone comic and wonderful gateway into the world of Transformers for new readers, who are curious about the Transformers franchise. It also makes a good jumping in point for old-timers like me, who have been away from the franchise for several years. All told, Scott has written a fast-paced story that is full of action and top-notch characters. Even though there is not much time to spend on character development with such limited space, Scott ensures that character traits are brought to the surface so new readers get an idea of what motivates these characters. Chromia’s devotion to her government and culture, even when it is inconvenient to her; Arcee’s concern for the safety of her fellow Autobots and her planet despite the fact that it forces her to confront and even fight her brethren; and Windblade’s devotion to both Cybertron and Chromia are all brought to the forefront of the story seamlessly.
As for the art, Sara Pitre-Durocher captures the look of the Transformers perfectly. Her rendering of Arcee as she makes a dramatic entrance on the second page is ample evidence of that. While the Transformers are quite obviously giant robots, from G1 to Transformer’s Prime they always have a certain organic quality to them, and Pitre-Durocher’s Transformers are no different. Her renditions of Arcee, Chromia, and Windblade are superb. The silhouettes of these three figures are undoubtedly female, however Pitre-Durocher draws them as the heroic warrior-goddesses they were meant to be, rather than as frail and wilting flowers who can’t fend for themselves. This is nowhere more evident than during the fight scene with Victorion from pages 19 to 21. Chromia in particular reminds me of a futurist’s incarnation of the Greek goddess Athena. She, like Arcee and Windblade, is a warrior, and Pitre-Durocher’s artwork conveys that unabashedly. These are not the thin-framed, bright pink stereotypes of year past, but rather a fresh, realistic portrayal of the feminine that has been neglected for far too long.
The Transformers Combiner Hunters one-shot is both an excellent entrance into the world of Transformers for new readers and a nice gateway back into the franchise for those of us who have been away for a while. The team of Scott and Pitre-Durocher has created a one-shot comic that packs in the action, and shows that female Transformers are more than capable of kicking as much metallic ass as their male counterparts. I would highly recommend Transformers Combiner Hunters to anyone looking to get into either Transformers comics or just comics in general.