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Review – Transformers vs The Terminator #1 (IDW Publishing/Dark Horse Comics)

Transformers vs The Terminator #1 (IDW Publishing/Dark Horse Comics) cover B (detail) by Alex Milne
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  • Writing - 9/10
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  • Art - 9/10
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Transformers vs The Terminator #1

Story: David Mariotte, Tom Waltz, and John Barber
Writers: David Mariotte and John Barber
Artist: Alex Milne
Colors: David Garcia Cruz
Lettering/Design: Jake M. Wood
Publisher: IDW Publishing and Dark Horse Comics
Maturity Rating: 12+
Release Date: March 25, 2020

What if the very common story thread of the Autobots and Decepticons coming to Earth intersected with the Cyberdyne A.I. Skynet and the downfall of humankind?

Robots in Disguise in More Ways Than One in Transformers vs The Terminator #1

A guest review by Tim Gulics

Transformers vs The Terminator #1 is another book in what’s becoming a long line of unlikely pop-culture match-ups. Transformers plus Ghostbusters, Transformers plus Star Trek, Transformers plus My Little Pony—IDW certainly hasn’t a shortage of “what if” pairings to present to readers. What we have here may be one of the better ones.

Transformers vs The Terminator #1 (IDW Publishing/Dark Horse Comics) cover A by Gavin Fullerton
Transformers vs The Terminator #1 (IDW Publishing/Dark Horse Comics) cover A by Gavin Fullerton

By “better” I certainly don’t mean more quirky or more fun, or even more exciting. More intriguing, more plausible, perhaps? Rather than having to wrap our minds around the idea of a “ghost” of a Transformer, or how Autobots could have possibly landed in Equestria, we have the simple question: what if the very common story thread of the Autobots and Decepticons coming to Earth intersected with the Cyberdyne A.I. Skynet and the downfall of humankind?

The Terminator fiction has become diverse enough to where the story could go in any number of directions. Love it or hate it, the latest film (2019) presented some new ideas for the mythos. Dark Horse Comics even presented a similar what-if quite some time ago: what would happen if OCP’s Robocop persisted into the future and had to fight Terminators? In Transformers vs The Terminator, we have to wonder—would the Decepticons side with the Terminators, and would the Autobots fight desperately alongside the remnants of humanity to save what’s left of the planet? How would time travel play in, if at all?

Transformers vs The Terminator #1 answers some of these questions straight away, and I have to say I like the twist on it. I anticipated how the story would go, but happily, I was wrong!

Writing

The writing by David Mariotte and John Barber here is efficient, easy to follow, to read and “hear” in your head, without any real disembodied narration. No panels have a book’s worth of narration hovering above the action; they tell the story quite visually or through character interactions. There is no foreword, however—if you are new to Terminator or Transformers fiction, you’ll probably feel lost. The good news is, if you have an ounce of familiarity with the two franchises, you should be fine. The T-800 Terminator central to the story may be a little more “talkative” or expressive than past iterations. But one could look past this as he seems designed to emulate humans more effectively than prior models. He’s more of a convincing “infiltrator” unit right out of the gate.

Things move pretty quickly in the first issue, as well; we do not linger long in the dismal future we typically see in Terminator films, and the time displacement unit is employed relatively early in the story here. What happens next gives old favorites like the T-800 and Sarah Connor new roles to play. By the time I reached the last page and the cliffhanger there, I was eager to get my hands on the next issue.

Art

I enjoy Alex Milne’s art and David Garcia Cruz’s colors here. The lines and shadows are clean; the scenes have depth without being overcomplicated. It’s easy to pick out what is happening in each panel, even those with heavy action or background elements. Even in what could be seen as “boring” dialogue set in an enclosed, unchanging space, when the focus shifts Milne uses angles or goes tight or wide to keep the visuals interesting.

He also keeps things engaging by expertly interspersing some truly dynamic panels, where close-ups of the action highlight what is happening, or aerial or establishing views allow for scope. Some panels also feature the Terminator’s point of view, that red-tinged computer-vision with data overlays we’ve often seen in the films. It wouldn’t be a part of the Terminator mythos without that! Technical details for vehicles, weapons, and the Terminators and Transformers themselves are well-drawn and faithful to familiar designs from the franchises.

The lettering by Jake Wood is neat and unobtrusive. I do feel there were some missed opportunities for adding in onomatopoeia of iconic sounds like the crackle of electricity for the time displacement bubble or the shift between a Transformers’ alt-mode and robot, but this is a minor quibble.

Overall

I’m a long-time fan of both franchises here, so naturally, that’s gotten me enamored with the concept from the jump. That said, I have discerning tastes, and sometimes a take on Transformers or Terminator doesn’t always land with me. I’m happy to say that with the comic here, I’m on board. They tap the energy that made these franchises, both born in the ’80s, special for fans. Still, it isn’t all ground we’ve already covered—there’s the twist I mentioned initially, and the writers are running with it. For future issues, I’ll be back!

 


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About the author

Heidi Gulics

Heidi is an editor with Word of the Nerd. After decades of living in the desert, she now lives on the East Coast (US) with her husband, a chunky tabby cat, and a Siamese who is too smart for her own good.

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