James Roberts is the best thing to happen to Transformers in years. Such are not only my words, but the words of many longtime fans who are absolutely thrilled that IDW's TF comics are the best they've ever been… and one could probably say TF comics in general have never been this good, either.
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #5 concludes a fascinating two-parter about an isolated and contaminated medical outpost called Delphi in the midst of Decepticon Justice Division (DJD) territory, where an outbreak of some kind of creepy red rust plague has devastated the remaining staff and patients. The DJD are the stuff of nightmares, the 'Cons in charge of hunting down traitors to the cause and making them beg for death. Chief Medical Officer Ratchet, ex-Decepticon Drift and impulsive idiot Pipes came out to investigate a coded distress call from a nurse (and ex-doctor demoted due to obsessive tendencies) First Aid, and they figured out that it was a biological attack from supposed Decepticon refugees. Who promptly got torn up by a returned-from-the-might-as-well-be-dead-and-very-angry Fortress Maximus.
Soon after that, it turns out that Pharma, the Delphi honcho who purportedly hated Decepticons with a passion, was somehow in on the deal, betraying all possible medical ethics for what he perceived as some kind of greater good, but with an egotistical streak to it. Certainly unexpected, and the resulting drama and confrontations are truly entertaining to watch unfold.
The B-story is more fun, as the 'got stuck in a hole and missed millions of years of war' Tailgate has officially decided to become an Autobot, but has to go through ten thousand pages of Autobot Code to complete the process, and his teacher is Ultra Magnus, who is so by-the-book that he can't even say the word 'fun.' In the midst of the class, Tailgate refers to him as "an O.C.D. control freak who uses learning to hurt people." This is the kind of absolutely vibrant dialog that Roberts brings to these beloved characters that makes them so damn belovable.
Roberts is a perfect counterpoint to ex-TF writer Mike Costa, who apparently couldn't get his head around the idea that these alien robots would act and have motivations similar to humans. Roberts, however, completely embraces that, putting slight variations on stuff we all know to make Cybertronians perfectly relatable to anybody. When Pharma blasts a life-support system, the resulting panicked emergency response from all the doctors present evokes any ER-style hospital drama on television, except the jargon is more mechanical – life support is "spark support," etc. It just works so damn well that I can't stop saying damn about it. Roberts is so adept on making cultural allegories as well – it's rude to ask other Transformers about what they turn into, as there is such a thing as "shapism" and a cult called the Militant Monoform Movement who remove their transformation cogs and insist on having one form and one form only. As First Aid said last issue, "maybe it's the silly little details that matter."
Alex Milne once again proves he was born to draw Transformers, making the case for letting these two men kick ass on Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye for years to come. His challenge was greater in these issues, because he really had to differentiate the physical appearances of all these doctors, because they're all colored red and white, ambulance colors. This issue gets a little confusing on that score, especially since Pharma and Ambulon are new characters longtime fans don't even know, but with a little focus, it's doable. Again, it's the little details that you have to pay attention to in order to keep the players straight.
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and its sister series Transformers: Robots in Disguise are the best TF comics ever. They're dense, they're deep, they're challenging and they're funny. What more do you want out of your comics?