This week’s main review is the Energon Universe Special 2024. Plus, the Wednesday Comics Team has its usual rundown of the new #1s, finales and other notable issues from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!

Energon Universe SpecialThe Energon Universe Special 2024

Writers: Daniel Warren Johnson, Robert Kirkman, Joshua Williamson
Artist: Ryan Ottley, Lorenzo De Felici, Jason Howard
Colorist: Anna Lisa Leoni, Mathews Lopes, Mike Spicer
Letter: Rus Wooten
Publisher: Image Comics

Review by Jordan Jennings

Nearly one year after launching Void Rivals and with it the Energon Universe, Skybound has released a one-shot sampler, Energon Universe Special 2024, designed to attract and excite new and old readers alike. The special features 3 shorts from the main flagship franchises of the Energon Universe—Transformers, Void Rivals, and GI Joe.

 It should be noted that this issue was originally released as a Free Comic Book Day special this past weekend. The differences between the FCBD edition and this retail version are not apparent beyond different covers and the added price point. 

Transformers short is from Daniel Warren Johnson, Ryan Ottley, and Ann Lisa Leoni. The short showcases Megatron’s side of the story during the climactic battle aboard the crashing Ark, the Autobot vessel. Throughout the past year of Transformers there has been a lingering question of “Where is Megatron?” and this story seems to act as the prelude to the upcoming return of Megatron. 

The story is pretty dang great. Daniel Warren Johnson captures the voice of the characters quiet well along with their motivations. While Johnson isn’t providing the art, Ryan Ottley is an excellent artist for the role. The art is dynamic and violent.  The kinetic clash of metal and laser weapons jumps off the page thanks to Ottley’s command of movement and impact. It is a visceral comic and a delight to read. Definitely the strongest short in this special as it sets up something larger on the horizon and helps fill in a gap that the original series hasn’t reached yet. 

The Void Rivals short comes from the regular creative team of Robert Kirkman, Lorenzo de Felici, and Mathews Lupes. The story focuses on the poor Skuxxoid who is just trying to sell the Zertonian Alloy it obtained in the earlier issues of the series. The misadventures bring him to the Autobot Hot Rod and further deepens Cybertronian involvement in the plot. 

Kirkman writes a decent, brief conversation between the characters and makes me feel for the poor Skuxxoid who decides to give up on adventuring and return home to his family. There isn’t any real connection to the main cast of the book, but it does a decent job bringing Void Rivals closer to the other Energon Universe books. 

Felici does a great job invoking the scale of the Cybertronians to the rest of the aliens. Hot Rod towers over the rest of the cast. Additionally, Felici’s talent for body language is on display here. I keep returning to the Skuxxoid, but without Felici’s art you wouldn’t feel for that poor little reptoid.

The GI Joe short comes from Duke and Cobra Commander writer Joshua Williamson, Jason Howard, and Mike Spicer. The story centers on Duke’s attempts to recruit the Baroness to join the GI Joe team and the expected push back from Commander Hawk. Meanwhile, Baroness has to fend off an attack by a bunch of ninjas. Typical day at the office, really. 

I will be upfront and say I haven’t been reading the GI Joe titles. I am not a GI Joe guy like I am with Transformers. It isn’t that they aren’t appealing, but more that I don’t have infinite time and money to read everything. That said, Williamson and Howard bring an action-packed short story that is light on substance, but full of thrills that makes me want to read Williamson’s GI Joe books. Howard’s art has this sense of action that is clean and easy to follow. The energy bounces off the page in such a way that I kept turning the page for more. Williamson weaves a bit of intrigue into this short story that provides a nice hook for future stories. If I was to measure the success of these samplers on getting me interested in a new comic, this story was the most successful of the three. 

Overall, Energon Universe Special 2024 is a solid pick up for readers interested in getting into the Energon Universe line of comics. GI Joe and Transformers are the far stronger of the stories in their execution and successful in getting me excited to read where the stories are going. Void Rivals doesn’t do much in terms of explaining the whole theme of the comic, but it gives fans what they want in terms of Autobots. Existing fans of Void Rivals will be pleased but I don’t know if this is enough to hook readers into checking out the series.

Check it out!

Wednesday Comics Reviews

  • Crocodile Black #1 (BOOM! STUDIOS): Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson with art by Som, colors by Patricio Delpeche, and letters by Becca Carey; this first issue is a gorgeous introduction to the character study of a disturbed guy named Danny who seems to be battling some heavy mental and emotional issues that seem to be compounding. Who will Danny develop into? There’s obviously a reason for the family situation that we meet Danny in. Amidst a restrictive living situation, Johnson calls this into question, and just keeps pulling at the strings through tense and intense conversations between Danny and his family and his therapist. It seems like a bloody coming of age story that poses questions and intrigue about what all is happening in Danny’s head as red threads tangle about into haunting forms; and wow do Som and Delpeche really deliver on the haunting nature of seeing these things and the bloody carnage that opens and closes this issue. There’s great use of texture, great choice of where the camera is placed, and great colors all dialing up tension and the sense of something eerie, especially with how the team plays with what we can and can’t see. Carey’s lettering just meshes so well with everything happening, and ultimately this book looks fantastic on every level. —Khalid Johnson
  • Mugshots #1 (Mad Cave Studios): As someone with a longtime vested interest in comics styled after Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptations, Mugshots is a shot across the bow of my reading pile. With its stark visuals and rich characterizations, Mugshots feeds a hungry audience of crime comic fans who yearn for a seedy world of bastards and no good deeds. However, what follows is a fairly by-the-numbers yarn under Jordan Thomas’ pen. While affirmed in its British gangster speak, the plot reduces down to a damsel, some gangs, and one white male in a suit who can do enough bad to solve the crime problems; I’m actually astounded with how quickly they were able to damsel their female lead [four pages!]. What’s really worth the salt of the earth to write home about is Chris Matthews’ ability to carve distinct silhouettes with only 3 colors and body language. Mugshots is a borderless caper with a Parker aquamarine spot color, so Matthews employs a negative edge technique to render form and character in simple and efficient eyelines that make it near impossible to get lost. As opposed to Cooke’s Parker novels that use brushstrokes to render light and scene, Matthews uses flats to render ambient occlusion instead, which results in a flatter, sharper, graphical look. You can see this design philosophy resonate in Lucas Gattoni’s sfx that feature that signature mid century modern jumble. I’m not much a fan of the overlap tails that push into Gattoni’s rough-on-purpose balloons, but the biggest issue is space distribution to be quite fair. Matthews leaves little negative space for the amount of dialogue in a panel, and with how wordy Thomas’ dialogue can get, Gattoni’s balloons have to scrunch as tight as possible in hamburger stacks that– when combined with such lithe graphics, become unsightly. Often we talk about coming at the king and best not missing, well, though this jab might’ve missed for me, the fight ain’t over, so let’s see if Mugshots can land a few hits before this one’s over. —Beau Q.

The Prog Report

  • 2000AD Prog 2381 (Rebellion Publishing): Night has fallen this week as we open on Judge Dredd: Rend & Tear With Tooth & Claw, the sixth and final part of this snowy survival horror story from writer Rob Williams, artist RM Guera, colorist Giulia Brusco, and letterer Annie Parkhouse. Dredd and his allies in the wilderness have a trap prepared for the monster bear that’s been threatening them…and then as the sun rises it (almost) all goes wrong. It’s a fitting ending to what has been a savage blast of outdoor adventure storytelling. I enjoyed this storyline quite a bit, in equal parts for the fantastic gruesome artwork as for the story construction. Not to spoil, but it was maybe clear from the start something tragic was coming…but it was still tense and entertaining to wait for it. As always, you can nab a digital copy of this week’s Prog here. —Zack Quaintance

Read more entries in the weekly Wednesday Comics reviews series!