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Optimus Prime charges out of a huge, fire-y explosion, carrying two human teenagers in one arm and a giant gun in the other in Transformers #1. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson/Skybound Entertainment

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I hope the new Transformers comic does awaken something in me, actually

Daniel Warren Johnson’s new series is revving up

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Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

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.

With a huge BOOM rendered behind them, Optimus Prime suplexes Starscream, cracking the ground beneath them, as two teens, dwarfed in size vs. the huge robots, run, in Transformers #1. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson/Skybound Entertainment
“What... are you?” asks Optimus Prime, his face looming hugely over a couple of teen humans. “I... I’m Spike,” answers one. “Get behind me, small creatures!” Optimus cries, shielding them from Starscream’s laser blasts in Transformers #1. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson/Skybound Entertainment

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:

“Ratchet! Transform!” shouts Optimus Prime, as he starts to transform, carrying two human teens in his arms. A sound effect declares KHEE KHE KO KO KAH in Transformers #1. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson/Skybound Entertainment
Optimus Prime and Ratchet, in their car forms, zoom across the panel with a big VROOOOO as Optimus says “And roll out,” in Transformers #1. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson/Skybound Entertainment

Can make me go:

A still of Leonardo DiCaprio pointing in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He is sitting in a chair holding a beer and cigarette in one hand and pointing at the screen excitedly with the other
Omg he did the KEE KEE ko ko kah and said the thing.
Image: Columbia Pictures

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.”

Spike and Carly, two human teens, work to gether to push Optimus Prime’s gun within reach of his hand, as Starscream and Ravage try to wrestle him to the ground in Transformers #1. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson/Skybound Entertainment

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!