Nonlinear narratives can be tricky business. One of the best examples in comics can be found in the Moore/Gibbons classic The Watchmen. Poor examples can be found… Well, let’s be honest, poor examples can be found anywhere there’s a writer too ambitious for their skills. While More Than Meets The Eye, as a series, is not at all a comic that can be picked up idly and immediately understood, the effort to understand it, of reading back from issue #1 (and the Death of Optimus Prime one-shot that launched it and its sister title Robots in Disguise) and becoming familiar with all the characters and their assorted relationships and quirks, pays off in an emotional roller-coaster ride with what I feel to be one of the best creative teams working on comics today. This issue proves that they are up to that challenge.
Because of the nature of this story, I’m going to keep this review mostly free of spoilers. The entire issue is crafted to reveal each facet at exactly the right moment, and so to spoil much of anything would destroy some of the emotional impact. The story is crafted, there’s no other word for it, and I dare not risk shattering it.
The overall plot seems like a response to the idea that, for a bunch of alien robots from a race that has been in the middle of a civil war for millions of years, many of the Cybertronians aboard the Lost Light seem ill-suited for any kind of combat situation. Bear in mind I didn’t say it was a rebuttal of that idea. War is dangerous business, but when ship’s captain Rodimus learns that Decepticons have attacked and overrun a non-Cybertronian settlement nearby he decides to take some of the (mostly Autobot) crew down to bash some heads. The story title, “Before & After,” is a perfect summary of how the story is told, with the narrative cutting back and forth between the battle itself and the consequences. It drives the story along so effectively that by page 10 I was astonished at how much had already occurred. This is not decompressed storytelling as modern comic readers have learned to expect.
At the heart of it is more of what readers of this series have come to expect: heart-wrenching twists, dark humor, deep inter-character relationships, and the “Autobot” and “Decepticon” labels treated more like nationalities or political affiliations than marks of “good” or “evil.” On top of all that, the sheer quality of the storytelling is just an added bonus.