Star Trek vs Transformers #1 // Review
IDW has become the modern master of licensed comic properties, holding the rights for just about everything, from Disney to Habsro’s library of properties, from the 80s and 90s like the Micronauts. Their biggest success, arguably, has been Transformers. Running continually from humble beginnings in 2005 with a string of limited series, the Transformers now form the core of an expanded Hasbro Universe, featuring other 80s properties like G.I. Joe and M.A.S.K. With a massive set of toys like the Hasbro license, it’s hard not to want to play with the other stuff in the toybox at the same time.
Enter Star Trek.
Star Trek itself is no stranger to crossovers, having been crossed with the X-Men (three times), long-running UK Sci-Fi series Doctor Who, and even DC properties like Green Lantern (twice!). The vast glut of crossovers with Star Trek have all been handled by IDW as well, so what was announced earlier in 2018 came as almost no shock:
What if Star Trek’s animated series met the Transformers?
Star Trek vs Transformers sounds like it should be what happens with a bunch of 80s kids play in the backyard, smashing action figures up against one another in the sandbox. What actually results isn’t horribly far from that, but also has the bonus of coming across as a labor of love rather than a cheap cash-grab. Written by John Barber and Mike Johnson, they pair up with artist Philip Murphy, colorist Priscilla Tramontano, and letterer Christa Meisner to present a comic that really looks like something that could have come out back in the day in the best way possible.
The plot feels like something out of the original and animated Star Trek episodes, with Kirk and crew called to a planet-of-the-week to foil a plot by Klingons in the area. When they beam down to the local dilithium mine, the away team is shocked to find themselves in the middle of an assault by dozens of flying Earth vehicles in flashy colors. To make things stranger, the seemingly ancient vehicles can pilot themselves, talk, and transform into giant robots! The attackers introduce themselves a...the Decepticons. Their leader, Megatron, wastes no time in deciding the Federation are their enemies, and orders his lackeys to kill them.
Barber and Johnson have done a spectacular job with making a first issue that grabs the reader. It’s a common occurrence for the away team on a Star Trek show to be roped into a local conflict, but one that involves tons of explosions, jet planes, and giant robots? Not so much. Aside from the occasional in-joke, characters all feel like they were ripped from their animated shows, especially the Decepticons. It takes a lot of effort to write both franchises in character, but to blend them together seamlessly is pretty remarkable. While it won’t earn any Eisner awards, a job like this deserves some serious recognition.
Phillip Murphy deserves some sort of award for this comic. While it’s likely that he’s used references from the old Star Trek: The Animated Series DVDs, almost every single panel is spot-on in looking like something from the old show. This even includes those incredibly awkward budget-saving extreme close-ups the artists often used on Spock and Kirk, which would look out of place in any other comic. If there’s any complaint, it’s that the Star Trek characters are a touch too emotive compared to their Filmation counterparts. Seeing actual expressions on the faces of Kirk, McCoy, and Sulu felt downright strange, but this is far from a knock against the book. Luckily, all of the Transformers also look even better than their appearances in the classic TV show. Lines are sharp, colors are clear, and Starscream isn’t mistakenly colored as anyone else for once. In all, it’s incredible.
Murphy’s name wouldn’t be the only one on that award, though; Priscilla Tramontano does a wonderful job re-creating the colors of both old shows, and making them gel without breaking believability. Indeed, the only break with the old shows is the high amount of color shading. It helps improve the presentation of the comic immensely, while also making the animation styles look much more recent without diverting from the color scheme and art styles derived from the classic cartoons.
The book feels short, but ends on an interesting cliffhanger, and it looks like readers won’t need to wait long for a handshake between Captain Kirk and Optimus Prime. If you’re looking for franchise-defining, revolutionary content, don’t try here. However, what awaits the reader within is a great popcorn comic with a lot of love and care put into the product. If you’re a fan of either franchise, you’re in for a delight.