"Star Trek vs. Transformers" is a perfect Saturday morning cartoon of a comic book
Depending on who it’s coming from, saying that something is akin to a Saturday morning cartoon may not exactly come across as effusive praise. Here at Comics Now, we are not those somebodies, as we love us some Saturday morning cartoons.
We also love comics, if you haven’t heard, so comics that remind us of the shows of our youth are more than welcome. With IDW’s Star Trek vs. Transformers miniseries, that’s exactly what you get: a cartoon in comic form. And it is awesome.
The story is pretty simple and straightforward: the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are called to Cygnus Seven, a dilithium outpost near Klingon space. They find the mines under attack by twentieth century vehicles, which turn out to be robots in disguise searching for energon. The evil Decepticons team up with the Klingons, the Starfleet crew team up with the Autobots, and a fight for Cygnus Seven commences.
“Simple” doesn’t mean bad, though. Despite being based on two shows that have long histories and devoted fan-bases, the book is pretty accessible to a new reader. John Barber and Mike Johnson’s script is paced well with plenty of great nods to each respective series. Optimus Prime is his typical noble self, content to sacrifice himself to protect the people who were accidentally roped into the Autobot’s war with the Decepticons. “My life… is of little significance,” he contends. “The humans-- protect the humans.” If that doesn’t say “Optimus Prime” then I don’t know what would.
There are plenty of Trek catchphrases on hand, too. The charming future jargon of Starfleet is present throughout, and Bones McCoy reminds us that he is a doctor, not a mechanic. Bones is my guy, so his surly crabbiness made me particularly happy.
What makes the series work as well as it does is that it isn’t just a crossover between two properties; it’s that it’s a crossover between two very specific iterations of each property. The Transformers are the “Generation 1” robots that most people will be familiar with, including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, and Starscream.
The Star Trek characters are even more specific, clearly based off of the short-lived and absolutely bananas Star Trek: The Animated Series. Besides the character models that look like they’ve been lifted directly from animation cels, Animated Series-specific crew members Arex an M’Ress are present, while the beloved Chekhov is nowhere to be seen. I love Chekhov, don’t get me wrong, but I’m glad they went with that consistency with the cartoon.
The styles of both series work really well together, and Phillip Murray and Priscilla Tramontano nail the look and feel of the characters perfectly. The iconic designs of this set of Transformers fits in with the simple, clean look of the Star Trek cartoon. There are even hints of griminess and dust on the backgrounds and characters, evoking the aged look of a traditionally animated show.
Where the Enterprise crew are pretty well recognizable and in character from the get-go, the Transformers make a bit less of an impression, at least in the case of the Autobots. That’s kind of understandable, since characters like Megatron and Starscream are so over the top and memorable that the good guys play the straight men. They’re still written well, though, like in a particularly hilarious scene where Bumblebee is elected as the ambassador to the humans. And really, if your geeky heart doesn’t jump for joy at the sight of Spock mind-melding with Optimus Prime, I don’t know what to tell you.
This is a book with exciting phaser battles, talking robots, and a giant mechanical T-Rex that is also a spaceship. The stakes and excitement escalate with each issue, and the series is just now at its halfway point. Simply put, Star Trek vs. Transformers is a fast-paced, highly entertaining throwback to the cartoons of yesteryear. To coin and paraphrase a pair of phrases: transform, roll out, and boldly go to your comic shop and pick up this book.