Transformers ’84: Secrets and Lies channels the comics of the era with an epic war story and a growing rift between Shockwave and the Decepticons.
Few series are more nostalgic and glorious than the 80s Transformer, which returns to its year of creation in Transformers ’84: Secrets and Lies and focuses on the ever-raging civil war between the heroic Autobots led by Optimus Prime and the unscrupulous Decepticons led by Megatron on the metal planet Cybertron. There’s more to this war than anyone can imagine, however: the Decepticons are divided, and the ambitious scientist Shockwave, disappointed with Megatron’s questionable leadership, takes matters into his own hands to advance the Cybertron weapon.
At first glance, Transformers ’84: Secrets and Lies looks like bright, retro, light-hearted fun. But the colorful art style hides a jumble of loss, intrigue and betrayal Game of Thrones. The familiar story of the Cybertron Civil War is told and portrayed more seriously as the narrative of the elusive Decepticon double agent Counterpunch or Punch. As Optimus Prime urges his Autobots in an urgent race against time, the Decepticons are split between their original plan to turn Cybertron into a weapon and Megatron’s obsession with defeating Optimus Prime in person, which costs them the war. In Starscream’s words: “Megatron is the problem.”
Transformers ’84: Secrets and Lies is a departure from the franchise’s usual lighthearted tone and delivers a darker and more mature storyline. Optimus Prime is portrayed as stern and grumpy and suffers from the high cost of war. He’s also more ruthless, sacrificing his best – and best-known – fighters as farmers, a move that could shake long-time fans. That said, neither he nor Megatron is a common occurrence after Issue # 0. Much of the story focuses instead on Shockwave, the resident sane man of the Decepticons. Shockwave drives the plot forward, and the audience identifies with his fight and admires his devious but brilliant combat tactics and skills.
But that doesn’t mean that the heroes have nothing to offer. With many of the Autobots absent or out of order, the audience spends a lot of time with the Dinobots, who frequently clash with Shockwave and the Decepticons, and is undergoing a great new upgrade (spoiler alert: they’re dinosaurs). They also have the most naturalistic and adorable relationship of any characters, and bring much-needed ease into an otherwise obscure narrative.
Visually, Transformer ’84: Secrets and Lies is an authentic and impressive step backwards. The artist Guido Guidi and the colourist John-Paul Bove are perfectly reminiscent of the style of the comics of the time, with a bold, saturated color palette, classic halftone textures and scratchy black spots. Even the dialogue, courtesy of writer Simon Furman, feels true to the times, with its overt depictions and great proclamations that made the Transformers franchise so popular in the first place. With the language patterns of the individual characters and those of the Dynobots – better known as “Dinobots”– Particularly pronounced.
There are times when the heavy and tortuous plot collides with the brightness of art and writing. Issue No. 0, in particular, contains obvious and clunky depictions and unsubtle character introductions. This may be endearing and exciting for the older fans returning to the franchise, but disgusting and awkward for new readers. This is a trend that continues into the remaining questions, the more out of place the more intense and serious the plot becomes.
The long, complicated story of Transformer ’84: Secrets and Lies may not be the best place for new fans. For those who know and love the franchise, however, it’s a worthy addition to the Transformers canon, a grown-up story for the kids who grew up with it, with plenty of ’80s nostalgia.
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About the author
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Youngest SCAD graduate with MA in sequential art, BA in writing and a lot of enthusiasm for comics, animation and pop culture.