Skybound’s TRANSFORMERS #1-6 Review: The Energon Universe’s Cornerstone Series Leads with a Spectacular Display of Power and Compassion

Joshua Stuard checks in with his review of the first major story arc of Skybound Entertainment's Transformers series!
TRANSFORMERS #1 Cover featuring Optimus Prime

Skybound Entertainment’s Transformers has concluded its first arc with the release of issue #6. Should you read it? I know, I talk a lot when it comes to Transformers content on this site. From updating on new toys (look out for another article or two about the recent reveals this week!) and news regarding the future of the films, I’ve basically written about it all. But one thing I’ve neglected to expunge upon is the new TRANSFORMERS comic series released by Image Comics imprint Skybound Entertainment.


In truth, I wanted to wait until after a few issues were released to get a grasp on the so-called “Energon Universe” that is being explored. Transformers comics have come a long way since 1984 when Marvel Comics released the first issue. Jumping from Marvel to Dreamwave and IDW Comics, the franchise’s lore has been directly tied to the comics for its entire 40-year existence. So, it’s an understatement to say that Skybound had their work cut out for them.


From the get-go of Robert Kirkman’s Void Rivals #1, Skybound has been advertising their Energon Universe. This multi-series comic run combines elements from both of Hasbro’s toy juggernauts: Transformers and G.I. Joe. However, it wasn’t until October that we got our first issue of the Transformers series, with Duke #1 releasing last December and Cobra Commander #1 releasing this past January.

Simply put, Skybound is diving headfirst into creating this shared universe. While not the first attempt at creating the shared universe of Hasbro’s properties (IDW Publishing beat them to the punch for most of the last decade) Skybound has certainly hit the ground running. So, let’s get into Daniel Warren Johnson’s story.


Image via Skybound Entertainment

Transformers #1, written and drawn by Daniel Warren Johnson (Extremity) and colored by Mike Spicer, starts out in much the same way as the original Generation 1 Comic from Marvel as well as taking a few ques from the original More Than Meets The Eye 3-Part Cartoon Pilot that aired in August of 1984. A ship, called the Ark, carrying several notable Autobots and Decepticons, crash lands into Mount St. Hillary. Right off the bat, the story introduces us to the brutality that is well known to fans of Image and Skybound, with PTSD flashbacks to a prior war in both human and Cybertronian history.

We’re introduced to our human cast as well: Teenagers Spike Witwicky and his girlfriend Carly and Spike’s war veteran father Sparkplug. Sparkplug is suffering from PTSD flashbacks to an undetermined war (likely Vietnam due to age) that were exacerbated by the death of Spike’s older brother (likely in the Iraq War). Spike and Carly, both hoping to find a better future elsewhere, accidentally stumble upon the wreckage of the Ark, leading to the Transformers being reactivated and renewing their fight on Earth.


Image via Skybound Entertainment

It’s during these six books that the series shines. The books focus on the development of Optimus Prime and Starscream as characters, both of whom have significant changes in their depictions compared to previous adaptations in recent years. Optimus, for example, is clearly an aged veteran of the Cybertronian War, himself haunted by eons of conflict, but he always takes the opportunity to save a life or look for a peaceful solution to the conflict at hand…to a fault. Unlike recent depictions of Prime in media, he is compassionate, protective, and kind, much more in line with the classic Generation One version of Optimus Prime.

Starscream, however, has changed a lot. With Megatron missing and presumed offline, Starscream takes command of the Decepticons by simply being the most brutal we’ve ever seen him. Sadistic enough to cannibalize even his own troops to repair himself and even being shown to kill humans without a second thought, Starscream is a LONG way from the sniveling cowardly sycophant from G1. Cruel, ruthless, and brutal, Starscream proves as the perfect foil to Optimus.

Image via Skybound Entertainment

Other characters that appear in the comic include the Autobots Cliffjumper, Wheeljack, Ratchet, Arcee, and Jazz while the Decepticon ranks include Soundwave, Rumble, Ravage, Reflector, Skywarp, Thundercracker, and Devastator. Most of the characters don’t have many moments to shine, but the relationship between Cliffjumper and Carly (which mirrors that of Spike and Bumblebee) is honest and relatable.


I will freely admit that I’m horrible at this part. Comics have come so far in the last century that it’s genuinely hard to describe what I like and don’t like about it. But, for this sake, I’ll try.

Johnson’s designs for the Transformers characters call back to the early days of Generation One, with all the designs reflective of the designs of the characters from the iconic 1984 series. Blocky, simplistic, and fun, for any toy collector it really does feel like the toys have jumped into the comic to battle it out. That said, the style of the art does feel a little much for the eyes, as mechanical detail (and just detail in general in certain panels) feels a tiny bit excessive. Is it bad? Not in the slightest. This is Johnson’s series and his style in full force.

I would also be remiss not to make mention of how the panels are also able to display true emotion, especially on the part of the Transformers themselves. In Transformers #2, Johnson’s understanding of the characters he’s writing and drawing truly shows as the issue opens with a heartfelt conversation between Optimus, who realizes how fragile Earth creatures truly are, and Spike (scene pictured above). The panels depict Optimus as mournful, confused, and tender, despite Optimus’ design making emotion hard to discern without hearing his voice. That said, every time Optimus speaks, you can hear the voice of Peter Cullen in your head.


Transformers #1-6 all take place within the Energon Universe, a multi-series shared universe envisioned by Robert Kirkman and Daniel Warren Johnson. The series, as mentioned previously, build off one another with characters from all four current series appearing in each, such as Duke appearing in an issue of Transformers and the Decepticon Shockwave appearing in an issue of Void Rivals.

However, you don’t have to read the other series to fully appreciate the story of Skybound’s Transformers. The series is the cornerstone of the Energon Universe (also where it gets its name) so it’d be more apt to say that the other three series revolve around it. So you’re free to jump in to read at any point.

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Currently, Void Rivals, Transformers, Duke, and Cobra Commander are all on sale from your nearest comic book retailers and available digitally through any online book retailer as well. All issues are currently independent issues and must be bought separately, but if you don’t mind waiting a little while longer, Transformers: Volume 1 will be released in trade paperback on May 8 in comic stores and online retailers. You can preorder the TPB of Skbyound’s Transformers: Volume 1 HERE.


Transformers is the first series within the franchise I’ve been able to read from the get-go, and so far, as a completely biased Transformers fan, I honestly can recommend the series to any comic book fan or Transformers fan looking for a genuinely fun and haunting story set within the franchise. Daniel Warren Johnson’s TRANSFORMERS genuinely gets the characters and expands upon the lore in new and exciting ways without straying too far from what fans hope to read. And right now, Transformers fans can rest happy knowing that the Optimus Prime from our childhoods has returned.

RATING: 4/5 Sparks

About Transformers

Transformers Skybound cover

Release Date: October 4, 2023 (Issue #1)
Written By: Daniel Warren Johnson
Artwork: Daniel Warren Johnson
Publisher: Skybound Entertainment

SynopsisOptimus Prime was supposed to have led the Autobots to victory. Instead, the fate of Cybertron is unknown, and his allies have crash-landed far from home, alongside their enemies—the Decepticons. As these titanic forces renew their war on Earth, one thing is immediately clear: the planet will never be the same. New alliances are struck. Battle lines are redrawn. Humanity’s only hope for survival is Optimus Prime and the Autobots.

What did you think of the new Skybound Transformers comic series? Want more news on all your entertainment media? Want to chat with us about everything from superheroes to wrestling and beyond? Then follow us on Twitter @The_Illuminerdi and on Twitch where we stream our podcast HIGH OPINIONS every Saturday!

KEEP READING: BUMBLEBEE: How The Fan-Favorite Autobot Hurt The Transformers Franchise