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Review: ‘Transformers: Bumblebee–Win If You Dare’

Transformers: Bumblebee—Win If You Dare
Writer: James Asmus
Artists: Marcelo Ferreira, Athila Fabbio and Valentina Pinto
IDW Publishing; $9.99

So you’ve just seen Bumblebee, the latest of the six live-action Transformers feature films…as well as the best and most all-ages friendly of them all. And you want to spend more time with that group of characters in their world. Your best bets are, of course, cartoons and comic books, but which comics? There have been hundreds of Transformers comics published over the years, collected into scores of trade paperbacks, divided into a maze of different continuities so complicated that charts are needed to map them. Where on Earth (and/or Cybertron) does one even start with Transformers comics?

Well, IDW has made it particularly easy for young fans of the Bumblebee movie, producing an original graphic novel that serves as a perfect gateway into the comic book in Transformers: Bumblebee–Win If You Dare.

The hero is the diminutive but courageous Autobot warrior who transforms into a yellow Volkswagen beetle, a veritable David trying to hold his own in a war of Goliaths, and here writer James Asmus focuses on Bee as a point-of-view character, the relatable Transformer who befriends a teenage human on the world he’s fighting to protect.

Win If You Dare doesn’t seem to be set too strictly in any of the pre-established Transformers continuities, but seems closest to the original “G1” one (that of the original 1980s cartoon series, which inspired all the others), with elements that evoke more recent and more familiar Transformers narratives. Not that it matters; self-contained as it is, the book is more concerned with the characters than their histories.

At the Autobots’ secret base on Earth, Bumblebee has just recovered from injuries sustained in trying too hard to prove himself in battle, and taking unnecessary risks. He’s bummed out that Optimus Prime won’t send him out on a mission, and worries that it’s because he’s not as special as his fellow Autobots, as he’s not the biggest, strongest, fastest or smartest, and lacks the special abilities of many of his peers.

Instead, he’s stuck road-testing his repairs in the American southwest, where he runs into teenager Mateo Cruz–actually, Mateo almost runs into him, and Bee has to reveal himself to save him from a drag race-related disaster. The two strike up a friendship, in part because both of them are insecure about their places in their own worlds but are impressed with one another. Because it makes for a better story, it turns out that while Bumblebee thought he was being sidelined, he accidentally ends up at ground zero for an evil Decepticon plot.

Mateo’s mother works for the U.S. government, and is helping them develop the stealth bomber–this is apparently set in the 1980s, just like the film, although there are far fewer signifiers of the decade here–which has attracted the attention of a cell of Decepticons, The Combaticons. These are a group of five evil robots that each transform into some form of military hardware–a tank, a helicopter, a jeep, etc–but can also combine into one big giant robot called Bruticus, which is about as big a Goliath as one could throw at Bee’s David.

All alone and unable to call for help, it’s up to Bumblebee and Mateo to save Mateo’s mom and the day–if not the world. Also, Bumblebee encourages Mateo to go to a school dance, befriend the cute girl automechanic he’s friends with and also teaches him how to dance, using some remote control technology to Cyrano de Bergerac Mateo’s prosthetic arm and leg.

The humor is at times a bit broad, but Asmus otherwise nails the tone, coming up with something fun, funny, and character-focused while also being the story of one more battle in a war between giant robot aliens that disguise themselves as vehicles.

The artwork, penciled by Marcelo Ferreir and inked by Athila Fabbio, with colors by Valentina Pinto, is a bit of a departure for IDW’s Transformers comics. The basic design of Bumblebee is that you see on the cover, the G1 iteration–which is a lot more human-looking than the more mechanical movie version–but he is much more emotive within the comics book, with expressions that seem to belong to more flexible, human faces, and “horns” that twist and droop with his emotions.

There’s a warmth to the book that is lacking in many of the publisher’s other Transformers comics, but then, this one is unusual in its focus on Earth and human characters, as opposed to the drama and battle of armies of robots fighting on and over a robot planet.

Now, I’m not sure I can suggest where to go from here when it comes to reading Transformers comics, but Win If You Dare is a great first step.

J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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