Last Bot Standing TP
Writer: Nick Roche
Artists: E.J. Su and Nick Roche
Colors: Rebecca Nalty
Additional Colors: Brittany Peer
Letters: Johanna Nattalie
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Transformers: Last Bot Standing is published by IDW Publishing and collects the four issues of the titular series. Conceived as “the last Transformers story,” the series follows a lone Cybertronian trying to do the right thing in a dying universe to make up for the destruction his people caused across the stars for generations.
Recently, stories like Last Bot Standing that center around a protagonist from popular media as they have their “one last go at it” have grown in popularity. This list includes films like Logan as well as other comics like Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer or IDW’s other “Last” story, TMNT: The Last Ronin, and even video games like the recent God of War (2018). Last Bot Standing earns its place near the top of this growing genre. Last Bot Standing is steeped in the neo-western subgenre of westerns.
Some of the characteristics that contribute to this include a world that lacks codified rules, wherein morals are guided by the characters’ own ideas of right and wrong rather than any established law and order. Second is the search for justice by the main characters. And third is guilt or remorse by the character for their actions and having to deal with the consequences. What makes this story particularly interesting, a stand out among others in the genre, is its focus on environmentalism and the impact civilizations have on the planet, even going so far to ask deep moral questions like “how do we decide that our time is up?
As this story was coming out at the end of IDW’s publishing license for the Transformers, they decided to go all out in assembling a creative team dedicated to making one of their final tales with the franchise memorable. Written by Nick Roche, who contributed to art alongside main series artist E.J. Su, Roche had regularly written the robots in disguise in the past, returned here for one final outing. Roche has said “Last Bot Standing is a proper farewell” to IDW’s Transformers universe. With Su on main art working with colorists Rebecca Natly and Brittany Peer, the entire series looks like how we all remember the ’80s-style Transformers looking, albeit with a post-apocalyptic, gritty, western filter thrown over top. And that should come as no surprise since Su has been working on drawing Transformers comics and contributing to their iconic look since 2005.
The look is wonderful. Su’s action scenes show the enormity of these beings as they fight while also showcasing the importance of movement of the Transformers while in vehicle form, maintaining interest in the chases that appear throughout the series. Plus, we got a robot wearing a cape. ‘Nuff said.
With Johanna Nattalie on letters, SFX and balloons do their own part in stealing the show, working naturally into Su’s scenes. You can almost hear the robotic overtones of the Cybertronians voices that the balloons showcase contrasts sharply with the non-Cybertronians in the series.
In an interview with Sam Maggs for IDW’s Creator Spotlight following the release of the first issue, Roche described Last Bot Standing as his own “speculative end to the Transformer’s universe” that “could be the ending to any Transformers continuity that you want it to.” He describes the accessibility of the story itself saying, “you don’t need to have read any Transformers story” to enjoy this one. It’s designed to be enjoyed by anyone who decides to pick it up with even the slightest amount of Transformers knowledge.
For the story itself, Roche tells the tale of a Cybertronian who is just tired of it all. Tired of fighting a never-ending war. Tired of his people ruining the lives of other beings so they can continue this war. Tired of feeling hopeless after eons before finding something true and just to fight for one last time.
Something I think made connecting to the Transformers franchise hard for me was finding a way to relate to the Cybertronians. How does one connect to this all-powerful being that can transform into the sickest sports car you’ve ever seen? Well, it’s easy. You put them into a comic and you have a creator like Nick Roche write it when paired up with an amazing creative team.
The result is a comic about someone hoping to rectify the mistakes made by their people so that the next generation doesn’t experience the same cataclysmic failure and has a fighting chance even though the universe is on its way out. These are real problems that we face every day in our own fight for our planet’s wellbeing against those who wish to simply take and use what they want so that they can continue with their lives. Last Bot Standing may be fiction, but the problems the final Cybertronian faces feel very relevant and real.
I feel lucky being able to read this series in this collected format, because I think if I would have had to wait monthly for each issue, I would’ve gone crazy waiting to see what happened next. Besides the benefit of having all the issues in one place, the trade paperback has a wonderful back gallery of all the different variant covers and pinups done by a score of super talented artists.
Last Bot Standing is a bittersweet book for IDW to end its publishing of Transformers comics. This trade collection wraps up their time nicely in playing with these, excuse the joke, toys. Some may see it as a pessimistic take, but behind all that is the hope that permeates those darkest time. Hope that no matter what we may be facing, there’s still a chance to fight for a better tomorrow and make things right.
Read more trade collection reviews every Thursday in our Trade Rating column!