IDW’s Transformers: Halloween Comic Review

AbraxasOctober 6, 2021

Dan Watters and Beth McGuire-Smith’s Transformers: Halloween throws Starscream into a wild, ancient Cybertronian ghost story that’s a joy to read.

As October unfolds, comic fans can expect a deluge of Halloween-themed stories. While the Transformers don’t seem inherently scary, the extensive Autobot and Decepticon lore provides plenty of haunting fodder. Dan Watters, author of Homesick Pilotsand artist Beth McGuire-Smith explore an old Cybertonian ghost story in IDW’s Transformers: Halloween.

Narrated by Starscream’s deceased mentor Cryak, IDW’s Transformers: Halloween begins in the city of Iacon, a bastion of Decepticon independence. When Megatron hears rumors that Autobots are lurking outside the city’s borders, preparing to launch an attack, he orders Soundwave to gather an army to investigate. But, before Soundwave can gather his forces, a jealous Starscream heads into the wastes by himself — after hearing stories about a howling Decepticon ghost that haunts the wastes in search of a new body. Starscream suspects the noise his fellow transformers are hearing is actually Autobots trying to scare the citizens of Iacon, but what he finds is far more frightening than he could ever imagine.

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starscream flies towards the wastes

After decades of Transformers stories, it’s rare to encounter a story as unique as what Watters created in Transformers: Halloween. What starts as a charming but predictable holiday special transforms into a thoughtful exploration of Starscream’s character. At one point, Starscream has an out-of-body experience that gives readers a refreshing insight into the ways Decepticons experience the world within a trippy character study. Watters’ dialogue captures the franchise’s spirit while giving Starscream a more complicated, nuanced personality than usual. By the time the issue is over, Watters will have given readers a much more cerebral story than the average Transformers comic while staying true to its source material.

Beth McGuire-Smith’s art keeps up with the writing’s ambitious pace. Her character designs are slick and iconic and her depictions of action are exciting and easy to read, but her best work can be found in her depictions of Cybertron’s wastes. She draws the robotic wilderness in a way that feels simultaneously lush and mechanical. The landscape is full of natural patterns, but they are made up of metallic details. This dissonance makes for a beautiful and mysterious environment that gives credence to the reverential and fearful attitudes the Decepticons have towards the wastes. Manuel Ruiz’s colors add to the amorphous and ambiguous nature of the wastes and help to illuminate some of the more abstract scenes.

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Starscream looks at the moon in the wastes of cybertron

Transformers: Halloween isn’t likely to give fans any nightmares, but it will definitely stick with them long after they’ve finished reading. Watters’ writing is stellar and McGuire-Smith’s art successfully answers the challenges of the — at times — abstract narrative. This one-shot comic hits all the notes of a great Transformers comic without tethering itself to any sort of formula. Fans of the robots in disguise and thoughtful storytelling will find plenty to enjoy in IDW’s Halloween special.

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