Review: Transformers #22 & #23 – Chaos Theory

A look back into the history of Optimus Prime, when he fought the entrenched corruption of the Cybertronian Senate - and for Megatron's ideals.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Transformers #23

This… this is going to be epic.

Writer James Roberts and Artist Alex Milne have taken it upon themselves to end the Four Million Years' War between the Autobots and the Decepticons for the fate of their home planet of Cybertron in an event they're calling Chaos.  Judging from the two-issue 'Chaos Theory' story taking place in Transformers #22 and #23, they are going to deliver an amazing barnburner of drama and fascinating depth of character.

Megatron, despite an unstoppable new upgrade, has surrendered to the Autobots for mysterious reasons unknown.  Optimus Prime is figuring out how exactly to go about putting him on trial for war crimes and deliver the long-delayed justice to the Decepticon warlord, and in so doing has been facing long buried feelings of guilt, remorse, regret and outright anger about what Megatron has become, considering what he once was. 

In #22, we flashed back to the pre-war days, when Megatron was simple miner from Tarn and an aspiring pacifist agitator, surprisingly enough, and Prime was a police force captain who came across his writings once the former was misguidedly arrested for a bar brawl perpetrated by his friend Impactor.  It's the first time Prime and Megatron crossed paths, and Prime let Megatron go free after playing a hunch about him.  However, it was too late to stop the descent, as Megatron had already experienced some torturous police brutality from a rogue, corrupt cop named Whirl, who was a friend of the two equally corrupt cadets that Impactor had brutally dismembered.  This would seem to indicate that the flashbacks here take place before the Megatron: Origin miniseries from a few years back, when we witnessed his first full-on uprising against those in power and we saw that, once upon a time, Megatron was right.

All that underscores the heavy drama present between Prime and Megatron now, as for the first time in millions of years, they just sit down and have a conversation with each other.  A verbal sparring match, to be sure, but also an exercise in showing us just how well these two mechs have come to know each other.  Prime is trying to reach the idealist that Megatron once was, while Megatron is attempting to prove to Prime that his philosophy of "peace through tyranny" is superior and that free will won't be missed – and more importantly, he's trying to disabuse Prime of his own idealism, and force him to succumb to the eons of built up anger.  That is a victory he wins, as Prime stares straight into the face of his most enduring enemy, after the villain reasserts that he feels no remorse for the millions he's killed and the billions he's made suffer, and nearly electrocutes him to death.  Torturing him out of rage.  This is Optimus Prime we're talking about.  He doesn't do these things, but here, after all he's been through, it's perfectly understandable.  And yet, it's the very same thing that Prime once saved him from.  It's come full circle – this time, it's Optimus Prime breaking rules he once held sacred, and Megatron has goaded him into doing it.  Proving his point.

In #23, we see more of Prime's past, back when he was known as Orion Pax (a lift from the old G1 TF series) and was a highly-decorated officer, and how he came to realize the depth of the corruption in the forces he led and just how high up that corruption reached – into the lawmakers themselves, desperate for absolute control and quick to snuff out even the thought of dissent.  We see the young Pax resist being strong-armed into capitulation, and we see him get fed up completely and storm the private Senate chambers and deliver a rousing speech telling truth to power, reclaiming the derisive term 'Autobot' as standing for autonomous thinkers rather than blind-following automatons it originally implied.  It's an entirely badass and heroic moment for Optimus Prime, and made all the more compelling because it was all inspired by those seditious writings of the pacifist agitator Megatron.  Thus, Megatron is responsible for creating both the Decepticons and the Autobots.  This is a stunningly cool twist.

This stuff is fantastic all around.  For a longtime Transformers fan like me, this is a veritable feast of meaty character development and historical revelations.  Roberts' dialog has an amazing amount of life to it, and while I've enjoyed the IDW Transformers series up to this point, what's going on here feels like it's reaching a whole new level of quality and artistry.  Speaking of which, Milne's work is consistently perfect.  It's sometimes hard to depict proper movement, posture and action when using inhuman characters with wildly varying limbs and colors and shapes, but there's little confusion at all in what's transpiring here.  Milne should draw Transformers forever, as the guy really knows how to bring a robot to life.

And this is just the prelude!  It's possible this is just my own excitement being a bit overblown at how well my beloved Transformers are being written right now, but I officially cannot wait until the big Chaos event kicks off later this month, as I really need to see how Roberts handles Galvatron's angle in all of this as well.

Thank you, James Roberts, and keep up the damn good work.