X-Files Conspiracy: Transformers #1 Has A Hard Time Meeting the Eye

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Written by Paul Crilley
Pencils by Dheeraj Verma
Colors by Joana Lafuente
Letters by Chris Mowry
Standard Cover by Miran Kim
Published by IDW Publishing

Unfortunately, X-Files Conspiracy: Transformers #1 features the same problems that have plagued this crossover nearly since the beginning: ho-hum reactions by the Lone Gunmen to the fantastic characters they’re meeting, each individual story being asked to do too much in the space allowed, and a serious lack of fun given the overall concept of the crossover.

This issue finds the Lone Gunmen making contact with the Transformers (well, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, at least), who have reached out to the Lone Gunmen via the Internet. The Transformers’ medic Ratchet has gone missing, while the Lone Gunmen are in search of the alien DNA they need to create a cure to the virus released in the first part of the series. Each group believes the other is the party for which they’re looking, but they quickly realize the truth and team-up to track down the actual manufacturers of the virus, who also have captured Ratchet. All of which is perfectly fine and in keeping with the general approach of this crossover, for better and worse. However, this issue has an even bigger problem: the art.

The art throughout is dark and expressive, more concerned with recreating an eerie mood arguably evocative of the X-Files TV show than it is in creating kinetic action sequences or sensible layouts, or even depicting the characters clearly. While not necessarily a problem in and of itself, this approach to the art does this particular story no favors. When the characters involved are brightly colored transforming robots and three middle-aged men who aren’t so iconic that they can be identified merely from their silhouettes or dialogue, “clarity” should take precedence over moody murkiness. The Transformers, even boldly yellow Bumblebee, spend most of the issue shrouded in shadows, illuminated only by headlights or street lamps, the entire story taking place at night.

Perhaps this can be read as a statement on how the usually bright, colorful Transformers simply don’t fit well in the world of shadowy conspiracies and government cover-ups. Yet already at this point, the Lone Gunmen have come face-to-face with ghosts and the similarly-bright and colorful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This crossover is past the point of trying to make these disparate elements fit together tonally. Instead, the murky art of this issue seems like just another way for the series to sidestep the one thing it desperately needs: a sense of fun.

Other Thoughts
Once again, the best parts of this issue happen on the margins, and are connected to the larger X-Files universe. As with last issue’s OCD vampires, this one also ties back directly to the TV series, as it’s revealed that the virus, containing in part alien DNA, was created in an attempt to combat the aliens whose plans for world domination formed the backbone of The X-Files‘ famous mythology. While this crossover may not be succeeding at creating the sense that all these various IDW licensed properties exist in the same universe, it is at least doing its best to the fit the story into the narrative of the X-Files, and that’s something, at least.

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