The mystery of 'Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye' #31

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There were a lot of debut issues I was looking forward to this week. Grayson #1, because what can go wrong with the former Robin being a super-spy? Spider-Man 2099 #1, in which Peter David returns to writing my favorite future webslinger. While those comics were fine (with a slight nod to Grayson), I have to say my most satisfying read was once again about Giant Robots Who Transform Into Other Things. I'm talking about Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #31.

Written by James Roberts, the issue kicks off with the crew abandoning the disintegrating Lost Light and scattered among several escape vessels. The story centers around the 20 robots stuck on the Rod Pod, a ridiculous contraption shaped to look like Rodimus' head. Among the crew is new captain/new Autobot/former Decepticon Megatron, grizzled old doctor Ratchet, former antagonist Cyclonus and detective Nightbeat.

What follows is a self-contained Ten Little Indians-style mystery, with Nightbeat trying to figure out what's going on. The familiar image of the crew roster keeps reappearing to update which members are still on board. Artist Atilio Rojo stuffs the issues with interesting imagery: For example, there are several panels in which Drift silently communicates with another robot through holding hands; it's mysterious and kinda unsettling. The scene repeats later, with the gesture of trust suggesting that some crew may be on the ship with a hidden agenda.

Through it all, there's that Roberts touch that gives the comic a strong shot of humor and personality. After a flashback, Megatron reprimands his new comrades: "You Autobots are obsessed with the past."  This prompts Swerve to mumble, "'You Autobots.' Did you hear that, Skids? 'You Autobots.' Seen yourself in the mirror lately, Megs? 'Cos that's not a rust spot on your chest ..." It's a funny line, and it sets up the simmering tensions that result in a Mexican standoff.

It's a slim 29-page story that feels like a three-issue arc. It's got everything: a somewhat self-contained mystery, character development, situational humor, action and suspense. Plus, Ultra Magnus shows up in everyone's favorite alt-form. The biggest, burliest and stodgiest Autobot (who was once voiced by Robert Stack) in the form of an attractive young woman? Come on, that's awesome.

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