“Transformers” #43 is a story that is small in scope but could have much larger repercussions, as John Barber and Andrew Griffith continue to explore what the universe is like without a war raging between the Autobots and Decepticons. The tonal shift they bring to the series and the jarring impact it has on the heroes and villains have both breathed new life into the generation one characters, as Cosmos explores the new off-planet base created for the Decepticons and Soundwave’s plans and arrangements with Blackrock. The story challenges the preconceived notions of all involved and leaves both Cosmos and readers wondering if their perception of these relationships is accurate.
It’s a good story with some entertaining and lighthearted dialogue that gives new roles to familiar foes. Barber takes these soldiers, once hell-bent on only their mission, and tries to find out what their real personalities are outside of war. Buzzsaw and Laserbeak have become the Statler and Waldorf of the Transformers universe, providing running commentary to Brawl’s haphazard comedic relief. As Cosmos attempts to gain intel, he questions the validity of his own mission and the usefulness of his actions, as Barber wonders aloud about the developing existential question of what these characters should do now that their mission is over. Soundwave provides answers that shake the Autobot spy and his offer is tempting, though Barber gives the Decepticons just enough edge for readers to question the sincerity of said offer.
These scenarios are enhanced by Andrew Griffith, who does a great job wringing emotion from the faces of characters that are incapable of truly providing any. As Cosmos plants questions in Soundwave’s mind, the Decepticon leader is depicted as clearly having misgivings and slight doubts, even without eyes and a faceplate covering the lower half of his head. It’s an impressive feat. His page layouts are straightforward but flow well and guide readers through the action. Josh Perez provides vivid colors that pop the palettes of the characters and gives life to the soft glow of their parts in the void of outer space. Letterer Tom B. Long also gives a new humanity to the Cybertronians in the book. Gone are the squared-off speech bubbles familiar to readers of their exploits, replaced with standard round word balloons that drive the point home that these characters truly do want to live in harmony with the humans and seek change.
Though the central conflict of the series is no more, Barber still finds plenty of intrigue to keep the plot moving forward. Blackrock’s intentions don’t seem completely honorable and there’s something fishy about how they’ve developed an outpost that could lead to a renewed conflict on Earth. The Autobots and their suspicions could force the conflict back to the foreground, suggesting the interesting idea that the heroes of the story could create the violence they always sought to eradicate since they are unable to change. Combined with strong art and entertaining character development, philosophical ideas like this make “Transformers” #43 a solid comic.