Writer: John Barber
Art: Andrew Griffith (present) & Livio Ramondelli (past)
Colors: Priscilla Tramantano (present) & Livio Ramondelli (past)
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Carlos Guzman
In Transformers: Robots in Diguise #21, we join up right in the middle of the book's lead up to the very first Transformers internal crossover event, Dark Cyberton. This is the fifth "Dark Cybertron Prelude" issue with one more to go. While each issue has been fairly stand alone in nature, they're all continuity HEAVY. So you're likely dropping in on the deep end of the pool if you're picking up the series for the first time with this issue.
The story revolves around the Decepticon, Soundwave, and we get a good look inside his head at how he views the world. This involves looking at his and the Decepticons' current situation (they just recently got kicked out of Iacon-- the only city left on Cybertron) while also drawing on Soundwave's past appearances in IDW continuity through flashbacks. The writer, John Barber, is king at fixing past continuity and the flashbacks here are prime examples. While they DO depict actual scenes from other IDW Transformers comics, Barber uses them to smooth over any continuity wrinkles that may have come up in the past eight years of Transformers comics (and there have been a LOT of wrinkles). While fixing past continuity sounds like a tedious read, the Robots in Disguise series makes it work by working them all into the actual story.
Unfortunately, all the work John Barber does to fix the Transformers' cumbersome continuity is sort of undone by the artist behind the flashback scenes. Livio Ramondelli ends up putting the Decepticons in their current forms instead of their age-appropriate bodies. This is an odd error to make considering Ramondelli was also the artist on Robots in Disguise #17, where we got a pretty complete look at Shockwave throughout the years including all of his era specific duds. These errors happen specifically during the Chaos flashback scenes... which is even more odd because Ramondelli was the artist on the Chaos storyline. Regardless, Ramondelli's art is impressive. His figure work has improved over past endeavors and his digital painting is excellent as always.
Andrew Griffith provides the art for the present day scenes. As the artist for a majority of issues in Robots in Disguise, he's a much more capable artist now than when the series launched last year. Panels are more dynamic and the character art is much improved. The fact that Ramondelli and Griffith's art is so different helps to differentiate whether the scene is taking place in the present or in the past. So it all works.
Robots in Disguise #21 gives us a nice look into the mind of Soundwave, furthers things a little bit in regards to Shockwave's plans (which'll lead us right into Dark Cybertron), and goes a long way to fixing up some minor continuity errors... while making a new one. Overall, it's well worth the read, especially if you're looking forward to the Dark Cybertron crossover. It's just not the best issue to start your Transformers collection.
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