1) My wife just read the first three volumes of MTMTE a month ago. She enjoyed it more than I expected but, since she's not been a longtime fan, she had trouble telling who was who. It's a big cast and even though this is the first time many of them have made a dent in the IDWverse, you might have some trouble telling who is who... especially since Optimus Prime, Starscream, and Megatron aren't cast members.
But they DO have a cast page to give you a who's who of the major cast members and you also have the luxury of internet access. So this shouldn't be a huge obstacle.
2) I think the series does a really good job of explaining what you need to know when you need to know it. Roberts is doing a lot of world building so a lot of concepts he's bringing up are being brought up for the first time. The only thing I might recommend you read before this would be Last Stand of the Wreckers. It's not essential to understanding... ANYTHING in MTMTE but it IS the first time Roberts dipped his toe into the IDWverse and it's where he starts all of his world building goodness. Otherwise, start up at volume one and enjoy the crap out of this comic.