“…There Is No Meaning” – Reviewing And Eulogizing Transformers: Lost Light #25

by Noah Sharma

How do you end a series like this one? In its seven years of publication under two names, Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye has been a renaissance for the brand by itself, while supporting a handful of other titles to make for something of a golden age of Transformers comics, unseen since at least Generation 1. It’s opened the brand up to entire demographics of new readers while staying true to what made it resonate with the original fans. It tackled adventures as big as finding god or creating history and as small as sneaking back after a night of drinking. The way that this series handled war and regret and joy and love and humor means that it will live on forever in the minds of those who followed the adventures of the Lost Light as a distinct and beloved genre that many writers, if they’re smart, will emulate and even more will grow to write in. So how do you cap that in twenty-four pages?

Cover B by Nick Roche and Josh Burcham

Told achronologically, this final issue splits its time between showing us the final day of the Lost Light and reuniting the crew unknown cycles later. In the former story, James Roberts takes his time to walk the halls and remember, to acknowledge that the end is here and it is good. In the latter, we find the cast living their lives. Some have found peace. Others have only the memories of the sweet days that we readers have shared with them left. And still others make due, happy enough in their daily quests, so long as they don’t dwell in the memories of how much better things were before on the good ship Lost Light. Though Roberts doesn’t belabor the point it seems that his last Transformers story for the moment stands by his first, “the moral is simply this: life persists.”

It’s definitely not a happy tale. Neither the past, future, or the present presents a happy ending for everyone. Some of the ways that Roberts closes off stories boarder on cruel. God is dead and Rung, for all his care and his grace, has nothing to offer and little more offered to him. Likewise there’s no final revelation, no greater purpose offered to Skids or Nautica or Nightbeat or Ten. And many bots, like Rodimus; Brainstorm; and Rewind, lay in the bed that they have made with their entire lives, neither damned nor redeemed. Certainly Roberts offers a happier alternative, a choice to will things better, but it largely argues that this is how fiction, even self-created fiction, is better than reality. The reality that Roberts has offered, now as ever, is cruel and entropic, but love remains a light to prick through the inky sky that the future has to offer.

While there are no endings that come out truly, unambiguously happy, there are a number of characters that more than break even and, unsurprisingly, they tend to be the ones that have their crew mates to lean on. Drift, Chromedome, and Cyclonus, all get the kind of blissful obscurity that their war-torn species should treasure above all else. But, without a doubt, the character who steals the show in the future is Whirl.

Interior art by Jack Lawrence and Joana Lafuente

Whirl’s final chapter is beautiful. In fact, the bot who “Hates Everyone” gets two nearly perfect endings. It’s not every day that a close-up of a box, practically hidden in the middle of an eight-panel page, can nearly move me to tears, but that’s what Lost Light is all about.

Swerve, ever a cornerstone of the series also gets one of the most interesting endings. Though he receives one of the saddest moments of the issue, there is no bot who we see more growth in than Swerve. Still his jovial self, Swerve no longer hides behind his comedy, acknowledging his own failings while pushing past them for the sake of friends. It’s not something that’s ever truly commented on, but the difference is stark and it stands out as one of the more beautiful moments that Roberts and co. gift us.

Interior art by Jack Lawrence and Joana Lafuente

Other stand outs include a wonderfully restrained Megatron, a surprisingly essential Ultra Magnus, and a slew of relationships that you didn’t even realize had been growing for almost a decade, much less that you cared deeply about them. Truly Lost Light died as it lived, providing inspiration for much needed fic.

It’s hard to talk about the issues’ faults, not only because of spoilers, but because it clearly sees them as features, not bugs.

There are a number of oddities that don’t ring entirely true in the scope of the greater Transformers narrative, but are clearly taken to allow this issue to devote itself completely to being a capstone to MTMTE. The crew’s unrelated history and relationships with other bots, both before and after their time aboard the Lost Light, are entirely set aside. Even bots who were central to the quest but didn’t make it to this final meeting are offered only brief tribute.

Though it technically does a fine job of tying up loose ends, that’s really not the kind of capstone that this aims to be. Titled “How To Say Goodbye And Mean It: Part 2”, Lost Light #25 is exactly what it proclaims to be, not even a goodbye so much as it is a guide on how to do so. Roberts’ metacommentary follows the series to its final pages, using the issue to discuss his feelings and the fans’, feelings about leaving the crew behind, feelings about endings in general. It is at once a grim, straight faced acknowledgement that stories are just stories[,] they end and life goes on with or without us[,] and a reminder that stories are anything we want them to be and all the more wonderful for it. There is rarely a book that so adequately serves as a thank you to its fans and is likely to upset so many of them.

Interior art by Jack Lawrence and Joana Lafuente

For my part, I am almost literally of two minds. I think the metatextual finale is appropriate and beautiful and exactly how it needed to end and I believe that thoroughly, but existing truly separately and in opposition to that opinion, I also feel like Lost Light didn’t fully try to tell its final story in its own right. I expect many fans will feel that struggle, between existing in this world a moment longer and easing the transition home.

I have written many times about my admiration for Roberts as a mystery writer and a storyteller who is often defined by his incredible cleverness. Perhaps it’s telling that here, barring “a pretty glaring omission at the very end”, there are not really any tricks to this script. Sure, it’s told out of order to direct attention, but, largely because of that single exception, everything else is unusually straightforward. And it’s a testament to the series that it remains the same quality piece of work as it ever was, based almost solely on Roberts and co.’s ability to capture the souls of these strange metal giants.

Interior art by Jack Lawrence and Joana Lafuente

But Roberts is no more alone now than he was at series’ start. Though you’ll generally be too engaged or aghast on a first read to stop and appreciate the art, Jack Lawrence makes sure that you feel the seconds tick by or stop altogether for each big moment. When you hit those panels you feel them immediately, like the sharp jolt of a car at the stoplight. Things as simple as talking heads, downcast glances and hopeful grins, will break your heart or stop you in your tracks. You never have to wonder what a bot is feeling with Lawrence or suffer through the dreaded dull surprise that plagues so many other mechanical faces with some regularity. Perhaps more than any of the many talented artists who have graced this series, Lawrence’s bots are always legible and, more than that, deeply expressive, no matter how simply they’re drawn.

Which is to admit that some of them are drawn a little simply. Lawrence’s bouncy take on the Transformers still loses some potency for me, particularly as his work gets smaller. Lips are drawn too big or the force of personality pulls a face a little closer to caricature than it seems he would like. But one only has to look at his crowd shots to see that these stylistic critiques do not in any way reflect a lack of love, attention, or detail. Even in drawings where it didn’t make sense to draw them faces, Lawrence makes certain that every character is recognizable. This goes down to minute details like the flaring of Xaaron’s crest or Blaster’s visor in the distance.

Perhaps I’m maudlin, but there’s a nice symmetry to having each of the three most notable members of the creative team having come on board at the start of a different one of the series’ seasons. Season 2 addition Joana Lafuente brings us in for a final landing with her familiar coloring and soulful optics on fine display.

To be honest, there’s nothing here that fans haven’t seen before from Lafuente, but that’s not a criticism in the least. Lafuente’s precision attention to light sources and unapologetic love of vibrancy have been an under-appreciated joy of this series for almost four and a half years. Lafuente doesn’t believe in showboating, avoiding flashy tricks and overblown compositions in favor of simple color jobs that are elevated by careful work with light and shadow. The results are a stylized, cartoony world that suits Lawrence and the series’ aesthetics without giving up subtlety or a sense of reality. Colors are bold without feeling blinding and the washed out look of the outdoor scenes gives the impression of the curtain finally being drawn.

Interior art by Jack Lawrence and Joana Lafuente

Whether you’re satisfied by Transformers: Lost Light #25 will largely come down to what you’re looking for in the ending. Those who accept that this was inevitable and want to just have one last drink at Swerve’s and an acknowledgement that nothing can take the Lost Light from us will be well served, but those looking for a revelation on how to let the crew go or one last story in spite of the ending may just find it depressing.

Still, whether you’re satisfied or not, there’s no denying that this is what MTMTE was, is, and will be. It is a rather good issue of a truly great series and some of its most important moments are exactly what was needed. These moments of perfection are scattered throughout a sea of choices that will be controversial among the fans for a good long while, but even the detractors should admit that this is a well constructed issue. From the writing to the art to the sense of camaraderie emerging from its pages, it is all the more heartbreaking to see this series go, knowing that its creators were still on the top of their game right up until the end.

I opened this review by asking how you could possibly end this series in a single issue.

Well, with James Roberts at the helm one last time, Lost Light ends in the characteristic style: wry to a fault, unrepentantly romantic in every sense of the word, metatextual to the last, unyieldingly bleak in its view of time, and joyous in the face of tragedy. For better or worse, it is the ending that More Than Meets The Eye would have.

Til all are one.

Interior art by Jack Lawrence and Joana Lafuente

Transformers: Lost Light #25 and all of the adventures of the Lost Light are currently available in comic shops from IDW Publishing.

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