Transformers: Bumblebee Movie Prequel #1 // Review
With the seemingly endless cycles of Transformers movies stretching out into infinity, IDW has decided to make the best of their all-encompassing license for the brand by putting out a prequel comic for Transformers: Bumblebee. Defying all expectations, the comic is surprisingly enjoyable. Written by John Barber, with the art crew of Andrew Griffith and Priscilla Tramontano by his side, the seemingly contractually-obligated prequel comic has become an interesting pastiche of American movies from the 1960s. Specifically, the Sean Connery era of James Bond.
Focusing on David Reeve, Agent Omega Zero of Her Majesty’s Intelligence Service, and his organization P.R.O.G.R.A.M.M.E, Bumblebee himself actually takes a backseat to the main plot of spy shenanigans and parodies. The story opens in East Berlin, where Omega Zero infiltrates the enemy-of-the-week, only for it to blow up in his face. When he needs an emergency escape, it’s up to Agent Goldwheels (Bumblebee, of course) to save his British bacon.
Barber takes an interesting look at the spy movie genre of the 1960s with this book. The Transformers feel entirely out of place in the story, and the book was written to show that the Transformers themselves even feel out of place. Bumblee refuses to go along with the spy jokes, all while acting as the archetypical James Bond car. Also, special mention to the increasingly ridiculous montage sequence (with theme song) of Agents’ Omega Zero and Goldwheels getting into more mostly-offscreen James Bond parodies.
Bumblebee is easily the best movie Transformer to choose for a comic, entirely because he is a blank slate of a character. Having only had about three or four spoken lines across 5 movies--despite being a main character--does tend to do that, and Barber does pick up on this and runs with it. Bumblebee feels a lot like his 1980s incarnation: positive and a little snarky. It really works when the rest of the comic refuses to take itself seriously, which is often.
The art for the issue is great, with tons of nods to old James Bond movies and some great fight sequences for the Transformers themselves. Bumblebee's design is also fantastic, looking like a blend of 1984 and modern IDW designs to make for a familiar face in a Transformers comic filled to the brim with humans.
However, it’s not perfect. While the comic itself refuses to take itself seriously, the spy stuff can be uninteresting when it’s not actively mixed with the Transformers. Further, there seems to be no solid explanation as to why the Decepticons are working for what seem to be the Soviets in the 1960s. It makes for some great action scenes and something for Bumblebee to do, but feels shoehorned in. That’s not a great thing for a Transformers story.
While it certainly isn’t what anyone expected, this is a great first issue. You should really grab this if you’re jonesing for some lighter Transformers fare than the excellent lore-heavy IDW books, or don’t mind reading through the comic equivalent of popcorn: really enjoyable and tasty, but not that filling in the long run.