Transformers: Sector 7 #1 (IDW Publishing)

This miniseries dives over a century into the past to fill in plot gaps only hinted at in Michael Bay’s Transformers films.

28 pgs. full color; $3.99
(W: John Barber; A: Joe Suitor)
You can only cram so much story into a film, even a film as bloated as either of Michael Bay’s two-hour-plus Transformers films. Though I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with those films myself, the two of them combined to gross over $1.5 billion worldwide, so one would suspect there are quite a few more on the “love” side of the equation. And if you happen to be one of those lovers, IDW made Transformers: Sector 7 with you in mind.
The titular Sector 7 is a clandestine government agency whose tasks are to both research these strange machine visitors from another planet and attempt to conceal the Transformers’ existence from the population at large. The first issue of this five-issue miniseries jumps all the way back to 1898, when Sector 7 first congealed as a group of seven adventurers investigating the discovery of a giant frozen robot by Capt. Archibald Witwicky (great-great-grandfather of Shia LaBeouf’s character Sam Witwicky) a few months prior. The team accidentally awakens the robot, which just so happens to be Decepticon ultra-baddy Megatron, and his reawakening grabs the attention of the Autobot Jetfire, who himself bursts out of the Gulf of Mexico and heads straight to the Arctic Circle to give Megatron a Cybertronian-style smackdown. They fight, a member of Sector 7 dies, and the remainder soldier on, fresh with the knowledge that we are not alone in the universe.
If you are into plot minutiae, Transformers: Sector 7 is the series for you, as this first issue delves deep into the most minor plot points from the films. The team itself was only shown for a brief second in a photograph in the first film, but here their exploits expand to a five-issue miniseries. Characters are fleshed out from IDW’s Transformers: Movie Prequel comic, including Capt. Witwicky’s first mate Danco and Joseph Simmons, an ancestor of John Turturro’s character from the films. Capt. Witwicky’s discovery of Megatron was shown briefly in the first film as taking place in 1897, so writer John Barber delays Sector 7’s first full-team expedition just long enough to have Jetfire’s launch sink the USS Maine off the coast of Havana in February of 1898, accidentally kick-starting the Spanish-American War (a rewriting of history in line with the new version of Neil Armstrong’s lunar landing shown in the trailer for the upcoming third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon).
If you’re looking for anything more than plot minutiae, though, prepare to be disappointed. Much like the films, Transformers: Sector 7 #1 expends way too much of its limited page count on the humans instead of the robots, including a completely superfluous four-page opening scene with two of the characters fleeing from some sort of bizarre creatures that are never shown nor referred to again. It’s meant to give some personality to two of the Sector 7 members and introduce a third, but it feels like little more than wasted space. Barber’s script is certainly in line with the movies, equal parts utilitarian exposition and action movie quips, but he fails to make the characters interesting outside of the context of their prior appearances. He’s hurt even more by Joe Suitor’s artwork, which is drab and downright boring, thanks to an odd decision to wash out the colors so thoroughly that the book is almost, but not quite, completely in grayscale. Suitor’s layouts are confusing at times (especially the aforementioned four-page intro), his use of blurring effects muddies the action, and he wastes way too much real estate on money shots (three splash pages, two may-as-well-be-splash pages, and a pair of two-page spreads) that don’t provide enough wow-factor payoff to make up for the loss of story space.
Overall, I was pretty underwhelmed by Transformers: Sector 7 #1, even as someone who is generally fond of mediocre Transformers comics. This comic will likely still find an audience with people who absolutely love the films enough to want to dive into the back story only hinted at therein, but I’m betting that’s a much, much smaller audience than the general audience that just wants to see giant robots beat the tar out of each other. | Jason Green

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