Your oldest enemy has returned from the dead in a new body that even your heaviest artillery can scarcely dent, and he's kicked the scrap out of a lot of your allies, including one of your best friends. The fragile beginnings of an understanding between your Autobots and the justifiably terrified human populace have just been blown all to hell by one of your most trusted field agents losing his cool in a tense stand-off and letting his itchy trigger finger kill a police officer in front of the national media. Many of the most unstable of those scared humans have been armed with weapons powerful enough to take out your kind, and you've just learned that one of the Earthlings you thought you could trust may have been secretively executing members of your race. And that old enemy of yours thinks so little of you that he allows himself to be taken prisoner just so he can have a front row seat for your meltdown.
Yep. It's a really bad day to be Optimus Prime.
Business has really picked up lately for IDW's Transformers series – the G1 O.G. series, not the Bayformer tinker toys – and issue #18 shows us how the new and improved Megatron has kicked things into immediate motion after months of a completely ineffective Starscream regime, and has made the Autobots struggle against the Decepticons seem ever more hopeless. It does feel right to have Prime back in the driver's seat, after ceding his command to Bumblebee, of all people, in order to spend his time making an earnest gambit to earn humanity's trust, but with the weight of everything suddenly dropped on his shoulders, we're seeing a side of Prime we don't see much – an angry Prime, one who is transparently desperate to finally kill Megatron once and for all.
The series has been a bit sporadic and slow-moving at times, but that's to be expected with hundreds of characters to juggle around. Marvel's original Transformers comic series back in the 80s were the first books I ever collected as a kid, because I was obsessed with the show and the toys, so I can follow along eagerly. These big robots are in my blood. I have no idea how impenetrable this current series might be to new readers who might pick it up after only seeing the new movies, but one thing's for sure – I don't have to stare at these characters for ten minutes just to figure out where the hell their faces are. That's already a big advantage it's got over the Bayformers.
One interesting component to this series is how well it illustrates how hard it is to do the right thing as opposed to how easy it is to do the wrong thing. Back in the All Hail Megatron arc, the Decepticons pretty much steamrolled over the planet Earth easily, just stomping around and doing whatever they pleased and laughing off their enemies' attempts to stop them – hence, the justifiable terror the humans have of Cybertronians. Once they finally managed to drive the 'Cons off, the Autobots have spent most of their time in hiding, struggling to find ways to earn the trust of the twitchy, shellshocked humans they are sworn to protect so maybe they won't have to live like pariahs.
The Autobots have always been driven by hope for a better tomorrow for everybody, and much the same as in the real world, the promise of hope is easily overshadowed by unmitigated selfish bastards with power doing whatever the hell they want whenever they want because they know how goddamn hard it is to stop them. Watching Optimus Prime, a boyhood inspiration and the only visage I ever considered making into a tattoo, sink into despair lamenting the possible "failure of hope" resonates all too much with the crushing disappointment some of us feel about our current president, after that heroic rhetoric we all didn't want to believe was too good to be true.
At least Optimus Prime is trying his damnedest to be good to his word. At least he's still fighting the good fight.