Reading Pile: Transformers Shattered Glass #1-5
While I'm not actively buying single issues these days, I am still picking up Transformers toys and Hasbro did a special run of Shattered Glass figures that all come with single issue comics. So these aren't just incredibly niche for existing as an offshoot of Transformers lore but they also live in that odd region of 'comics-that-come-with-toys'. That does reinforce the whole aspect of Transformers media just being extensive marketing to sell toys, even more so now that IDW and Hasbro doubled down on making their comics more toyetic after the end of lauded 2005-2018 continuity run. Still, I just have a hard time saying no when it comes to fun concepts like Shattered Glass.
Shattered Glass is just a play on the Mirror Universe from Star Trek, so in this reality the courageous Decepticons fight the evil Autobots. So Optimus Prime is nefarious and Starscream is loyal and brave and so on and on. It's not really treading any new territory, but it's still fun to have Grimlock be an evil mad scientist and to give Hot Rod an evil goatee. Plus, from a toy company's perspective, think of all the easy money to be had in repaints. Just slap some purple paint on your most recent Optimus toy mold and sit back and profit.
It's worth noting that while the toys did come with the comics (and shiny foil embossed alternative covers as well), IDW did release the series for the direct market with some nice covers, including a series of covers by artist Alex Milne that were direct tributes to various Marvel Comics era covers. It's just nostalgia within nostalgia and we can argue if that's healthy or not, but damn if Milne isn't just a great artist and kicked ass with these.
Once we get past the nostalgia and marketing though, are they worth it? And could someone just pick them up without knowing a lick of Transformers backstory (normal or Shattered)? Pretty much yes and yes. Again, they're not jampacked with the most original of concepts but they have fun with what it is and approach it with an interestingly meandering style of unpacking the plot.
The first issue starts with the evil bounty hunter speedster Blurr (because his was the first toy in the release schedule) as he gets word from the medic/torturer Ratchet that the higher ups in Autobot power have a new target. He quickly hunts down the brave and charismatic Starscream, so Blurr is quickly out of the picture since we already bought his toy.
Starscream becomes the central character as his path leads him to Megatron, and issues #2-3 are packed with plenty of exposition and flashbacks to give you all you need to figure out the lay of the land for this timeline.
Issue #4 focuses on Goldbug, the retooled version of Bumblebee who has an inferiority complex that makes him a vicious warlord as he wishes to outshine the nastiness of Optimus Prime and Prowl. There's an interesting back story element that sets up the Autobots as their own worst enemies as they're more like splintered factions of warlords instead of a cohesive faction. If they keep going with this continuity that feels like one of the most promising elements they can milk. Anyway, Goldbug kills the hell out of a lot of people like an angry little Joe Pesci from Goodfellas, bumping him up as a major threat and leading us into the next chapter.
The final issue passes the hot potato POV narration over to Jetfire (only $91.99, kids ask parents permission to use credit card) and is a focus point on the relationship between Starscream and Jetfire. This comes complete with the vague sense of something akin to a tumblr romance that the characters can't escape regardless of what continuity they exist in on any given day. The big payoff of the series is that it's open ended and it sets the stakes for an eventual sequel and an excuse for more toy repaints, because let's face it every element of the art made it clear that that's what's going to happen.
On the topic of the art, issues 1, 3, and 5 are all done by Guido Guidi while issues 2 and 4 are by Daniel Khanna. Guidi is a longtime contributor to Transformers comics media whose work goes back to the Dreamwave era of the early 2000's. He's a fan favorite and is very versatile in his ability to alter his style as projects require. While he does have to make everything look as much as the current toylines as possible, he does it smoothly and with his own sense of character that brings you into the work. Khanna's work is solid but just a little bit less fluid in comparison, but overall the two artists create a cohesive tone to the series.
If you're a Transformers fan then this is a fun aside, but also fairly easy to skip. If you're a casual fan and just want an entertaining tangent, this hits a lot of neat notes and might open up the door to hours of wiki browsing to see how they redesigned Soundwave as a good guy (I do love that they gave him a headband). Despite the painful elements that don't even bother to disguise its marketing synergy, the series does a decent job despite those elements to package up a quick little alternate reality tale that makes you curious for more.
And hey, sometimes it's just nice to see goodguy Starscream once in a while. And to buy his toy. Which will inevitably lead to buying the repaints of the same toy as the characters of Skywarp and Thundercracker.