I don’t know anything about professional wrestling, but Daniel Warren Johnson’s gonzo wrestling comic Do a Powerbomb was one of my favorite books of the last couple years. It’s got killer art, a story full of heart, and roller-coaster stakes.
I don’t know anything about Transformers, either, but Daniel Warren Johnson’s Transformers #1 hit shelves this week. Having read the issue, I hope die-hard Transformers fans are excited. But I’m hoping even more that this is my gateway into understanding the space robots that turn into cars and stuff.
Despite Transformers’ hold on culture, I’ve never really found the right entry point into the franchise’s sprawling continuity — an irony for Polygon’s resident expert on superhero continuity. But if Daniel Warren Johnson can make me care deeply about a foreign subject once, I bet he can do it twice, because if there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s translating his enthusiasm.
That’s a trick that isn’t just about good action and the rule of cool — although Johnson is superlative at that. It’s not just that he’s gonna show me Optimus Prime suplexing Starscream, complete with beautifully rendered sound effects and palpable kinetic motion. He’s also gonna make sure I know why Optimus is a good guy, even if I’d never heard of him before.
Transformers #1 starts at the beginning: A fresh new continuity on an earth where a couple of teens have hopes and dreams about art school and becoming astronauts, and have never heard of Autobots or Decepticons. Or at least it seems that way — I thought the teens were original characters at first, but I looked it up and it turns out that Spike and Carly are are some real OGs!
So I can’t rule anything out! I know just enough about Transformers to know I don’t know anything about Transformers. Just enough that moments like this:
Can make me go:
But also so little that I couldn’t confidently say whether Optimus Prime and Optimus Primal are the same dude or not without consulting a wiki. I’m like Spike and Carly in Transformers #1: I’m getting introduced to a big alien world, and I’m hopefully about to become best buds with a robot space warrior, but I’m also thinking to myself, “Holy shit that gun is big.”
If you’re a Transformers fan, I’m excited for you — you’re getting a comic from one of the coolest artists working today. And if you’re not — maybe you should be reading the comic anyway, because it’s being made by one of the coolest artists working today. That’s what I’m doing.
And perhaps soon, I, too, will learn to love the giant cassette tape that turns into a dog that wants to bite Optimus Prime. Here’s hoping!