COUNTDOWN: Skybound Transformers #1 – 5 ways it feels familiar!

After months of hype and plenty of teasing, Skybound’s brand-new Transformers #1 landed today, and it’s fair to say it’s well worth the read!

Although we’ve already seen some pretty overt nods towards the robots in disguise in Robert Kirkman’s sister comic Void Rivals, which kicked off what will be known as the ‘Energon universe’ first of all, this main series effort from Daniel Warren Johnson is likely where a lot of fans will be jumping on. Should you do so, you’ll find a heartfelt love letter to the classic iteration of the franchise, but with enough twists plus a sense of urgency and stakes that make it feel new and worthwhile.

So, for today, let’s examine how the new storyline feels familiar in terms of old-school Transformers… before we talk about all the many ways it doesn’t another time!

WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for Transformers #1 and Void Rivals

#5: The core initial set-up

For longtime Transformers fans (or anyone who enjoys the more classic iteration of the franchise), many broader details will feel instantly familiar here, naturally making this issue an easy starting point even if you last consumed robot-related comics a good while ago. The Autobots and Decepticons have crash-landed on Earth aboard what at least looks very similar to the Ark (even if it’s not referred to by name), only to be awoken and repaired by the ship’s computer, Teletraan One, and granted native vehicular forms to better blend in with their surroundings. Both factions are in grave need of Energon to keep them functioning, and it looks as though the Decepticons will immediately set about mining the resources of Earth to their ends. If that sounds like a story you’ve heard before, then that’s no surprise, as it’s a very similar basic premise to both the cartoon and, more importantly, the Marvel comic from the 1980s, the latter of which this new effort rather earnestly pays a lot of dues to. Still, whilst it may share some DNA in terms of set-up, it’s certainly not a rehash of anything you’ve seen before, as the story immediately (and quite briskly) sets about dropping its twists and turns, meaning there’s plenty here to keep readers interested.

#4: The overall ‘vibe’ and style

This issue’s overall vibe and tone feel very Marvel-orientated, too, especially regarding the early days. There’s an immediate sense of awe and wonder at these mighty machines that is quite palpable throughout, especially as the story never fails to take a beat to showcase events from the human perspective, often veering to a viewpoint of looking up to appreciate better the sheer scale of the tale unfolding before us. The oddities and quirks of a race of giant alien robots who can change into vehicles at will are communicated well through tiny touchpoints and splashes of humour, not to mention there’s a distinct focus on raucous action and brisk storytelling whilst still peppering in the odd emotive moment which not only serves the story well but grounds it in a manner that feels very in sync with the earliest days of the franchise somehow. Past that, the artwork has a pleasingly boxy quality which feels suitably stylish as far as classic Transformers goes. Daniel Warren Johnson is very much his own artist (and a legend at that), but the way he draws our favourite Autobots and Decepticons will likely evoke a heavy dose of nostalgia for anyone who grew up hooked on the likes of Geoff Senior’s output during the ’80s. It all comes together beautifully to create a style and tone which feels ‘on point’ for vintage era of the brand.

#3: The human cast

Every era of Transformers has its human cast, with more names than anyone could care to remember making their mark in fiction over the years by this point. Yet Skybound ground the new series in the very earliest days of the franchise by bringing back familiar faces such as father and son duo Spike and Sparkplug (I hesitate to call them ‘The Witwickys’, as I’m not sure they’re ever overtly referred to as such, but one can assume). True, they’re a little different from how we might remember them, with Spike yearning to be an astronaut but struggling to tell his dad as he’s seemingly neck-deep in his own drama. There’s a strong hint that Sparkplug is also far too used to drowning his sorrows with booze, but it remains to be seen how that thread will play out. Then there’s another familiar face with Spike’s girlfriend, Carly, although she looks little like her classic ’80s cartoon portrayal and has black hair in this storyline, not to mention she’s now a budding artist. Yet, as much as the details may vary, there’s a strong sense of still knowing these characters, particularly Spike as the protagonist and eyes of the reader. When Optimus is in peril during a heated battle with the Decepticons, it’s no surprise to see the lad leaping into action to help as much as he can, even if it remains a highly dramatic and memorable moment. Most of all, though, the issue understands what makes these human characters integral to the overall dynamic of the storyline and utilises them to their full, putting them centre stage throughout.

#2: The robots

This one may not be much of a shock, but at this early stage and with such a small cast of robots to consider, it strongly feels like Skybound is sticking closely to the classic personas of individual characters we’ve come to know over the years. Optimus is heroic and self-sacrificing, throwing himself into the fray without hesitation to save his fellow Autobots, yet also seems considerate and caring in the quieter moments (something which many fans will be pleased to hear!). On the flip side, Starscream is ruthless, treacherous, underhanded and self-serving – essentially all the qualities that make the original iteration of the character so captivating somehow. True, it’s early days, and we don’t see much that clues us into the traits of the others, but first impressions at least give the feeling that Ratchet, Soundwave and Skywarp all follow suit, which is perhaps just another way that old-school fans will get an immediate sense of familiarity with this new storyline.

#1: The relationships & interpersonal dynamics

Likewise, if the robots’ personalities are familiar, so too are the relationships between them and the interpersonal dynamics at play, at least based on what we have glimpsed thus far. The earliest and perhaps most obvious example is Jetfire (not Skyfire, in another notable way this series pays homage to the ’80s comic) and Starscream, who briefly demonstrate a historic association that many longtime fans will be broadly au fait with already. Admittedly, the exact details are scant, but Jetfire refers to the treacherous Decepticon as an ‘old friend’, whilst being entirely unaware of his subsequent affiliation or indeed the Cybertronian war as a whole. This is a strong mirror of the character’s introduction (as Skyfire) in the old Sunbow cartoon, although it’s become a semi-staple of Transformers fiction since then and immediately gives a sense of familiarity here too. Likewise, we see other well-established historical dynamics, such as Optimus’ care for Bumblebee, Starscream’s seething contempt for Megatron, and even Soundwave’s (almost) unwavering loyalty towards his leader. All of this and more will ease in older fans of the franchise despite so much else about it feeling quite new.

But that’s another article!

So that’s our list! Did you enjoy Skybound’s Transformers #1?


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is shop-at-thanks.png

About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at or on YouTube at


Don't miss out on the latest