Comic Review: IDW’s Star Trek vs. Transformers

Back in April, IDW announced that Transformers writer and Hasbro property head John Barber had been named Editor-in-Chief. Soon after, “Star Trek vs. Transformers” was announced. Hand to God, I really hope that this was Barber’s long-term childhood dream. Mostly because I love the mental image of childhood Barber swearing over a pile of his action figures to never rest until his playtimes are canon. Honestly, the audience is right there with him on this one.

Pop culture mashups flirt with passe in their market saturation, which has got to keep a property-driven publisher like IDW on their toes (at heart, we’re still collectively healing from Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue). But I can honestly say that when I saw a panel of Spock saying there could be “more than meets the eye,” I got so pumped I had take a few laps around the room.

That’s the series in a nutshell: a bizarre high-concept that’s straightforward in its silliness and totally fun. Which, at its core, is what the Star Trek cartoon was all about. You can argue that it was an extension of a show that was based in higher concepts (there’s a podcast on that, ya know) but it is all that simplified into a Saturday morning cartoon format. The show was able to use that to play out plots that would otherwise come off as just plain weird in a full hour, live-action format. And let’s be real here, TOS always had a certain level of cartoonishness going for it by virtue of it being Sixties television and low-budget sci-fi. But if “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” had happened on The Original Series, we would have probably seen an early kickstart in the war on drugs. (Those would have been some awesome D.A.R.E. videos though, right?)

In that same vein, I have nothing but love for Transformers, but holy hell is it ever convoluted. Even going back to the opening arc of the original cartoon series (there’s upwards of a dozen now) as an adult means a lot of pausing and “Wait, what?”-ing. The combination of trying to fit in as many characters as possible -and their ensuing toys – with this complicated story of planetary civil war means that settling down for a show watch will require a few bookmarked Wiki pages. Transformers is proof that you can reiterate the shows premise at the start of every episode and still have no idea what the hell is going on. It’s in this way that both cartoons get to be high-concept while benefiting from their format. No matter how buck-wild high those concepts get. To paraphrase another sci-fi staple, just repeat to yourself, “It’s just a cartoon. I should really just relax.”

Which is why I can’t really bring myself to probe too deep into the plot. Optimus Prime and co. leave Cybertron and end up on Earth, as we know it in Star Trek (so G1 Transformers didn’t happen in this timeline?) and keep having their fight with the Decepticons on the DL (no one noticed the giant robots swanning around?) only to peace-out when they ran short on Energon (they just kinda sat out that whole eugenics war?). When the Enterprise crew gets word of a team of Dilithium miners in danger, they find the mine under attack from Decepticons (dun-dun-DUUUUN). Next thing you know, the Decepticons are teaming up with the Klingons, the away team is teaming up with the Autobots, and HOLY HELL there is an Enterprise Transformer! (eight laps around the building)

Written by Barber and and Star Trek comic alumni Mike Johnson, the series is a fun dive into nostalgia with a clear love of both sides of the crossover as they were originally presented and as they have come to grow. Colorist Josh Burcham is dead-on in aping the color palettes and cell shading needed to replicate the cartoon aesthetics maintained by artist Philip Murphy, who adds to the look with much needed character expression.

Things to get hyped for:

  • Lily Sloan cameo
  • Bumblebee and M’Ress get to be the unlikely team-up du jour
  • Windblade has resting “F@%& you” face.
  • If it were possible to have that variant cover of M’Ress fighting Ravage by Paulina Ganucheau distilled into a pure form, I would have already snorted it.

Star Trek vs. Transformers is a 5-part series, and can be found online or at your local comic book store.  Visit Comic Shop Locator to find a store near you.  The trade paperback collection (including all 5 books) will be available on May 21, 2019 and can be pre-ordered from your favorite online retailer.

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