Review by Tom Speelman
Windblade, the first Transformers miniseries put out by IDW in quite some time, has had controversy surrounding it ever since it was announced. Well, “controversy” anyway. See, 2014 Is the 30th anniversary of the Transformers line and to celebrate, Hasbro held a poll for fans to create a wholly original character that’d be turned into a toy, with IDW pledging to incorporate the winning character into their comic continuity. The winner turned out to be Windblade, a female Autobot who turns into a jet and bears a Japanese-influenced design.
This caused a lot of consternation in some of the older, male portion of the Transformers fandom, who were outraged about the results not catering to their wishes and proceeded to troll the character in time-tested Internet fashion. Then further outrage (and sexism) appeared when it was announced that the 4-issue miniseries meant to introduce Windblade into the IDW canon was to be written and drawn by Mairghread Scott — a staff writer on the now-concluded Transformers Prime cartoon, and co-writer of a couple earlier comic miniseries set in that continuity — and the unknown Sarah Stone respectively. Scott, in particular, received a pouring of vileness and abuse from fans, further demonstrating the complete lows to which some people will sink.
So after all that hype and blowback, is the first issue of Windblade any good? Well, hell yeah! This is a great introduction to the current Transformers status quo for both newcomers and longtime fans who have lapsed. (Incidentally, that current status quo? The war between the Autobots and Decepticons has ended, with first Bumblebee and now Starscream in charge of Cybertron.)
Picking up six months after the events of the recent crossover “Dark Cybertron,” the issue introduces Windblade and her friend Chromia as new arrivals to Cybertron after being raised on the long-forgotten colony planet of Caminus. Windblade’s distinctive look comes from the fact that she is a “Cityspeaker,” meaning that she is able to communicate in “the oldest language” with Titans, the near-mythical giant race of Transformers who serve as cities, and had to change her face in order to show loyalty to Caminus, the Cityspeaker who founded her planet and is its namesake.
Windblade’s skills have come in handy given that, after what went down in Dark Cybertron, the Autobot titan Metroplex, who serves as the main city, is severely damaged, in fact dying in some parts, experiencing rolling blackouts. Starscream visits Windblade, convinced that she’s trying to sabotage his rule through orchestrating such events. After discovering certain portions of Metroplex are on the brink, Windblade drags Chromia along on a quest to fix them, which gets them into more trouble than they bargained for.
The first thing I noticed about this was the art, which is atypical for this franchise. Transformers comic art tends to fall into two camps: highly detailed and mecha-like (as it was in the much-mocked Dreamwave Comics material from the early 2000s) or too human-ish. Stone, who’s worked in animation and videogames, but no comics work, decides to ignore both camps and instead goes for a stylized, organic look that recalls the art you see in those books collecting all the 2-D drawings used in creating CGI films like Brave or Mr. Peabody and Sherman. The effect is stunning, and when enhanced by some bright, digital coloring, it gets downright beautiful; every character is so expressive, every setting so vibrant.
Scott’s script is great, deftly setting the stage for new readers and people who haven’t read all of Dark Cybertron like myself (the broad ending is discussed, but no spoilers!). The thorny subject of Windblade and Chromia’s gender — which, in this continuity, has some pretty ugly roots — is mentioned once and then never brought up again, just as it should be. It doesn’t matter that Windblade is a female Transformer; what matters is her actions. And they’re damn heroic; Windblade is one for the ages.
Bottom line: get this book. It’s not only another example of how the Transformers comics are some of the best stuff on the stands right now, it’s a stunning showcase for female-led comics and for female-handled licensed comics in particular. This mini is going to be awesome, and I intend to be there every step of the way.
Tom is a contributing writer for Drunk On Comics. You can follow him on Twitter at @tomtificate.