Transformers ‘84 Secrets & Lies by Simon Furman and Guido Guidi (graphic novel review).

Unbeknownst to nine year-old me, the UK had the best ‘Transformers’ comics in the 1980s. This was because as well as getting all the American issues, we also had our own UK originated stories to make up the difference between their monthly comics and our weekly ones. Most of the UK stories were written by this book’s author, Simon Furman, so it’s a particular treat to have him revisit the earliest days of ‘Transformers’ comics in the collected ‘Secrets & Lies’.

Collecting the five issues of this series, this book digs into throwaway aspects of the early ‘Transformers’ storyline, asking questions about the Ark, AUNTIE, Skyfire, Shockwave and so on. Without wanting to spoil the plot twists and revelations, I was genuinely impressed at how aspects of Transformers lore I’d lived with for over 30 years were turned upside down, tying up loose ends or providing context for events I’d never questioned. If nothing else, ‘Secrets & Lies’ will make you want to dig out your ‘Transformers’ comics and start from the beginning with this new information in mind.

Something else I appreciated is that these new stories read like the era they’re homaging, with characters introducing themselves to the reader or making grand speeches, but also in that relatively few characters are killed off. One of my bugbears with IDW’s handling of the Transformers is that they’re entirely too keen to murder classic characters to advance the plot, something the old comics did rarely and therefore giving those sudden losses more weight.

Another area where ‘Secrets & Lies’ captures the classic comic feel is its art, with Guido Guidi providing pages that I’d have sworn were drawn by Geoff Senior or Andrew Wildman. A neat touch is that the colouring looks like the old half-tone style comic printing, with plenty of ‘Spoff’, ‘Kzow’ and ‘Krudd’ sound effects. It even manages to seamlessly use a panel from the 80s comics, features the same spiky speech bubbles throughout and the little floating black particles to represent energy (fans will know what I mean).

The whole thing is wrapped up with a writer’s commentary that points out some of the references it includes, though weirdly it misses at least one ultra-nerdy callback that I spotted, so there may be more that aren’t mentioned. In short, I can’t recommend ‘Secrets & Lies’ highly enough for fans of the original Transformers comics, particularly if you’ve read the UK stories. I’ve no idea if they’re planning more of ‘Transformers ‘84’, but I hope this series continues to work through the old lore, answering questions I didn’t even know I wanted answering.

Stuart Maine

March 2021

(pub: IDW, 2021. 120 page graphic novel. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-68405-732-0)

check out website: www.IDWPublishing.com

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