COUNTDOWN: 8 ways Skybound’s Void Rivals sets up Transformers

The fanfare surrounding Skybound’s new Transformers series has yet to die down at all, and you’ll understand why if you’ve read the first issue!

We’ve already written a fair bit about that particular comic, but if you’re finding yourself hungry for more ahead of the second chapter arriving next month, it might be a good idea to check out sister title, Void Rivals! It’s written by Skybound’s co-founder Robert Kirkman (also co-creator of The Walking Dead), with Lorenzo De Felici providing some jaw-dropping pencils. Though not specifically Transformers-related and featuring wholly original characters unconnected from the robots in disguise, the story is still set in the same ‘Energon Universe’ and has at least a few nods in their direction. What kind of nods, you might ask? Well, just have a look at this cover for the upcoming #5!

Void Rivals #5, cover art credit: Jae Lee

Yes, that is a Quintesson judge, first made famous by the 1986 Transformers movie but later featured in the third season of the cartoon and the Marvel comic of the time. As robot references go, that’s a big one!

There’s more, though… perhaps even more than meets the eye! So today, let’s look at eight ways Void Rivals sets up Transformers.

WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for Void Rivals #1-4 and Transformers #1!

#8: Jetfire

Void Rivals #1, art credit: Lorenzo De Felici

OK, starting with one of the most obvious and widely talked about so far! Yes, in #1 of the comic, a fairly prominent Transformers character pops up halfway through, which is as apparent a nod as you can get! Jetfire puts in a memorable turn as part of Transformers #1, but this story acts as a prequel to those events as he’s first discovered lying dormant on a barren planet before being inadvertently awoken by alien frenemies Solila and Darak (the “void rivals” of the series title). Thinking him to be just an abandoned spacecraft, they provide him with enough power to activate himself and transform, at which point he quickly assesses that he has been out of commission for potentially millions of years. He returns to his alternate mode and leaves, eager to discover the fate of his dying homeworld, Cybertron, after which his story resumes in the first release of the robots in disguise book. And we know how that turns out…

#7: Skuxxoid

Void Rivals #2, art credit: Lorenzo De Felici

Moving on, here’s something far, far more obscure with a surprisingly deep cut from the classic ’80s cartoon – Skuxxoid! This race of reptilian-styled humanoid creatures first cropped up in the season 3 multi-part opener Five Faces of Darkness and were presented as ruthless mercenaries for hire. Despite only a few appearances, they remain a memorable part of the show and have been given the odd mention in fiction here and there over the years since. Yet nothing prepared us for a Skuxxoid popping up at the end of Void Rivals #2 after kidnapping protagonists Solila and Darak. He even makes mention of Slizardo, his lizard-like sometime-accomplice who originated in the same cartoon, and his #3 promise of “Cross my heart and hope to die” comes directly from the episode Grimlock’s New Brain. If Skybound wanted to populate their Energon Universe with superbly niche nods from decades gone by, they’re going about it the right way!

#6: Quintessons

Void Rivals #3, art credit: Lorenzo De Felici

Next up, the judge from #5’s cover is not the only Quintesson we’ve seen so far, with the form typically titled as a prosecutor having already made their presence known quite prominently in #3! It turns out that this particular specimen was captured by Skuxxoid and imprisoned aboard his ship, only to be discovered by Solila and Darak as he convinces them to set him free. This Quintesson seems relatively reasonable at first, mentioning that he did not board the vessel as a prisoner and offering to help the pair escape. However, Skuxxoid later comments that the creature is not to be trusted and would have ultimately betrayed his would-be allies. There’s even a brief nod to ‘The Age of Wrath’, an event that originated in aligned continuity to do with the Quintesson occupation of Cybertron, although it’s unclear if this is the same thing. At this point, we have no way of knowing how the Quintessons will continue to feature in the Energon Universe (although clearly, they’re set to return in Void Rivals, as per the upcoming cover above), nor how they are linked to the Transformers in this continuity… though it seems they may be familiar to one another somehow, as we shall see.

#5: Spaceships

Void Rivals #2 & 3, art credit: Lorenzo De Felici

It’s not just members of the Skuxxoid and Quintesson races who put in an appearance – we also get to see their spaceships, which are heavily modelled after their classic looks from the ’80s Transformers cartoon. Skuxxoid’s Rockeroid is even referred to by name and bears an uncanny resemblance to how it looked during the events of Five Faces of Darkness, including its rocky asteroid-like exterior and more mechanical interior. Meanwhile, the much smaller Quintesson vessel is very close in style to the ‘corkscrew’ ships seen during the classic animation after they first appeared in the 1986 movie.

#4: Nebulons

Void Rivals #3, art credit: Lorenzo De Felici

Speaking of ships, there’s another of interest here, as even though the design isn’t recognisable as anything familiar, Skuxxoid references it as a Nebulon vessel. Yes, Nebulons – the human-sized inhabitants of Nebulos who team up with the Transformers to become their Headmaster and Targetmaster companions! It’s a brief but important mention, and it does wonders to further flesh out this new Energon Universe. Skuxxoid even refers to the ship as ‘pre-Hive’, a nod towards Zarak’s evil horde as seen in the three-part animation, The Rebirth. We have no way of knowing if binary-bonded robots will soon be on the way in the main Transformers title, but either way, it’s fun to hear such a reference. Now, are they green-skinned like in the cartoon, or do they look similar to humans, as per the Marvel comic?

#3: Scorponok (kinda)

Void Rivals #3, art credit: Lorenzo De Felici

OK, ok, this one is a bit tenuous, as there’s nothing to state that this giant mechanical scorpion is in any way linked to Transformers, but c’mon, doesn’t it kinda look like the big-screen 2007 adaptation of Scorponok? No? Perhaps it’s a mere coincidence, but it’s a fun inclusion either way. Moving on.

#2: Shockwave

Void Rivals #4, art credit: Lorenzo De Felici

Whilst Jetfire’s presence has been widely talked about online, #4 introduces another Transformer in the form of the evil Decepticon Shockwave! Though he’s only in the book for all of two pages, Cybertron’s guardian reads and feels very much like a classic interpretation of the character, even down to his manner of speaking, and his status as one of the few active Cybertronians on Cybertron seems fairly consistent with his portrayal during the 1980s’ cartoon besides. He mentions that he is significantly low on resources, with barely enough energon left to sustain even himself, which adds more context to the wider Autobot/ Decepticon war from what we have already learned in Transformers #1.

#1: Cybertron

Void Rivals #4, art credit: Lorenzo De Felici

Whilst it’s brief and entirely coupled with Shockwave’s appearance above, we also get a glimmer of insight into what’s going on with Cybertron in #4, which is noteworthy as it is currently the only depiction of the planet we’ve seen in this new Energon Universe! Not much is given away, but the skyscraper-esque buildings certainly have a Marvel comic style. Equally, the presence of a Quintesson on the world seems offensive to Shockwave, which may indicate a past association more akin to the classic cartoon, or it may simply be something unique for this continuity. Whatever the case, we already know that Cybertron is a fairly desolate place these days, but it’s great to see a brief appearance of it all the same.

So that’s our list! Have you been enjoying Void Rivals?

TTFN

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About Sixo

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

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