Why ‘More than Meets the Eye’ is a Masterpiece: Love, Death, and (Gay) Robots

Transformers started out as toys and cartoon characters, but it was the creative sparks at IDW Publishing that transformed them into people

Please note that this article contains spoilers for More than Meets the Eye. There will be a bolded warning beforehand, just so you are aware.

Ever since its inception back in the 1980s, the Transformers franchise has enthralled fans both old and young with its countless incarnations across multiple mediums. What started as a simple import of Japanese robot toys rebranded for the Western market quickly made it clear that it was in it for the long haul. It took the world by storm and in no time at all Transformers had spiralled out of control into an onslaught of cartoons, comics, movies, games, and more.

For most people, the original incarnation—which is referred to as Generation 1 or ‘G1’ for short—is the most memorable and beloved iteration of Transformers. However, during the mid-2010s, the live-action adaptations helmed by Michael Bay thrust the intellectual property back into the spotlight, refreshing public interest in the franchise with a new, shiny coat of CGI-laden paint. Though seen by some as an obvious attempt to swindle money from fans via extended adverts for the toys under the guise of entertainment, there’s no denying that the storytelling of Transformers made a significant impact on the impressionable young minds who witnessed it. 

And by an impact, I mean it traumatized them.

I was aware that there were Transformers comics, but I’d never been very interested in reading them. My experience with the franchise was limited to a complete marathon of the G1 cartoon while bedridden and watching the Michael Bay films as they came out, so my exposure was contained to the screen. Those last two movies were a bit of a misfire with the semi-spinoff/semi-sort-of-prequel Bumblebee setting things back on the right course, but that’s neither here nor there. With so many different continuities and stories spread out across a multiverse of metallic madness, I had always been under the impression that it would be impossible to pick where to begin and read my way through multiple publications, crossover events, and more, as is my own personal issue with most big comics. However, that all changed on a fateful day I decided to take a leap into the maw and give the Transformers comic with the most interesting-sounding premise a whirl.

Expect a lot of name-related puns. Sorry. See if you can find them all!

The Premise—What’s Going On With All These Comics?

Lots and lots of characters. Lots of plot lines. Fun to be had, here and there.

IDW had been the main publisher of Transformers comics since 2005, following the closure of Dreamwave Comics. During a 13-year span of time, readers were treated to a single sprawling continuity that spanned different entries and narratives and introduced them to lovable characters that took them on a journey across the cosmos. This continuity came to an end in 2018, followed by a total reboot in 2019, with the two continuities being abbreviated as IDW1 and IDW2 respectively. This reboot would not last long, however, as it was announced that the license with the brand would not be renewed by the end of 2022. Following this news, the printed future of Transformers is as of yet uncertain and readers will simply have to wait to find out what lies next.

IDW1 itself was split up into two phases. The first lasted from 2005 until 2011 with one continuous story that followed the Autobots’ arrival to earth and their efforts to deal with threats from both the Decepticons and Earth-based foes. Phase 2, which began in 2012 with The Death of Optimus Prime one-shot, was quickly split between two ongoing stories called Robots in Disguise (RiD) and More than Meets the Eye (MTMTE) They themselves undergo title changes later on too, but those don’t need explaining for the time being. 

Robots in Disguise is a political drama that involves various factions vying for leadership of planet Cyberton in addition to misadventures on Earth that made it feel like a natural continuation of phase 1. In sharp contrast, More than Meets the Eye is more of a madcap, character-driven space adventure that follows the crew of the starship The Lost Light, a ragtag group of allies and former enemies as they search for the fabled Knights of Cybertron. 

An accurate depiction of how I felt looking into this for the first time

Just to preface my decision of which to read, I need to point out the circumstances that led up to this point. I was due to leave on holiday in a few days and was looking for something to read that would keep me entertained. Aided by my trusty Kindle tablet, I took to the store to see what new and exciting works I could peruse, and possibly aided by some invisible guiding hand, I gravitated to the Transformers section and found myself with a wealth of choices before me. It’s worth noting that at this point in time I was completely unaware of the fact that there had been multiple phases of IDW, and I just sort of assumed that these were all unconnected stories that could be picked and enjoyed at one’s own leisure. After about twenty minutes of deliberation and reading the brief descriptions of what each series was about, my interest took a sharp swerve towards More than Meets The Eye

This isn’t going to be a summary of the whole series, otherwise, we’d be here all day and after so many paragraphs it would all become a bit of a blurr. It’s mostly just going to be me gushing over an amazing series that I enjoyed a great deal, all the while mostly blissfully unaware of the 6 years’ worth of plot that came before it. To get the most bang for your buck out of MTMTE I wholeheartedly do recommend reading the rest of IDW’s Transformers continuity before jumping into the adventure because there are quite a few occasions and character moments that reference previous events that would be otherwise lost on you. However, that being said, at no point during my read-through did I feel lost or confused due to a lack of prior knowledge and it was a thoroughly entertaining journey from start to finish.

Last Stand of the Wreckers makes a great first impression of the sort of depths these comics can go to, whilst not being too overtly grim and dark.

If there is one other story I strongly recommend reading before MTMTE it’s Last Stand of the Wreckers, which in addition to featuring the same core writing/drawing talent that would later go on to do great things in MTMTE, also features an introduction to one of the continuity’s most horrifying villains who makes a sinister return later on during the story.

Now then, let’s finally skydive into More than Meets the Eye and why I think it’s so, so great.

The Memorable Cast

Most Transformers entries feature an ensemble cast of colourful characters with their own designs and personalities, and more often than not the protagonist crew is overshadowed by Optimus Prime (and sometimes Bumblebee). Before reading More than Meets the Eye I was familiar with the usual stalwarts like Optimus, Megatron, Starscream, Prowl, and the rest, but upon delving into the comic and getting engrossed in the stories, I found myself falling in love with bots I’d never even heard of, like Swerve, Spinister, Tailgate and many more. Through the trials and tribulations these characters experienced together I came to gain a brand new appreciation for this franchise and the characters it spawned. Here are a few of my picks for the standouts, and though this doesn’t come anywhere near to covering everyone, I think it gives a fair insight into the sort of character-building More Than Meets the Eye performs wonderfully.

Fortress Maximus

Previously a colossal ‘cityformer’ that towered over everyone else, Fortress Maximus—sometimes shortened to Fort Max—was shrunk down a fair bit in the comics to bring him closer to ground level. He’s still taller than most other bots, but you wouldn’t have to spend five minutes tilting your head back to look him in the eye anymore. 

Fort Max was the warden of the detention facility Garrus – 9, and was unfortunate enough to hold that position at a time when the Decepticon killing machine Overlord decided to make an appearance and take over the prison. As depicted in Last Stand of the Wreckers and More than Meets the Eye, Fort Max was subjected to brutal beatings and torture at Overlord’s own leisure and despite enduring unimaginable pain and stress, the powerful Autobot managed to persist. 

It wasn’t pretty

After a badass re-introduction, Fortress Maximus joins the crew of the Lost Light, but his reawakening does not go smoothly as the events of Garrus – 9 are revealed to have taken a heavy toll on him and he demands reparations for Autobot Command’s failure to rescue him properly in time. This comes to a head when he assaults the crew and takes some of them hostage, demanding the ship be turned back to Cybertron. The Autobot warrior shows clear signs of PTSD, and it’s up to the rest of the crew to try and figure out how to resolve the situation. Max’s response to the horrors he endured and subsequent rehabilitation was but one of many topics MTMTE tackled quite well, in my opinion. 


Whirl is simultaneously terrifying and hilarious. An uncaring, unhinged ex-Wrecker who will not hesitate to crack a one-liner and spit an insult before fearlessly staring death in the face. A former watchmaker who ran afoul of Cyberton’s ruling Functionist Council (which decreed that citizens were only given jobs befitting their alternate mode). Whirl was turned into little more than a mutilated attack dog in the employ of the Senate, a job that brought him face to face with future foe Megatron, as well as his future leader Optimus Prime. Fuelled by his anger at his mutilation (known as ’empurata’), Whirl survives by staying perpetually angry and even admits that if he didn’t have that driving malice, he genuinely had no idea how he would manage. It’s sad to see a character exist in such a state of loathing, but he does mellow out as time goes on.  His relationship with former antagonist Cyclonus is particularly noteworthy, with them being introduced into the story trying to kill each other and spending a chunk of it vowing to resolve the conflict at a future point. Their bitter rivalry is a driving force for Whirl, who seems invigorated by the threat Cyclonus poses. Over time, through repeated attempts to hurt each other, they develop a budding friendship that doesn’t sugarcoat any of the nastier aspects of life. 


Ah, Swerve. Swerve, Swerve, Swerve. It could be said that 90% of the MTMTE cast are wisecracking comedians with one-liners, but Swerve takes that description and owns it. His frequent references to Earth culture and his reverence for certain well-known comedies are endearing, as is his lampshade hanging over various story elements. 

Swerve is a lovable, somewhat hopeless oaf with a penchant for poking the fourth wall, but beneath the comedic surface lies a troubled, lonely character that just wants friends, desperately so. Don’t get me wrong, Swerve is genuinely hilarious but peppered throughout the series are sincere moments that give us a more intimate look into Swerve’s inner workings. 

It’s through these moments that I really sympathize with Swerve, and among the most heartbreaking is a revelation about his ‘relationship’ with fellow Autobot Blurr.


Near the start of the series, Swerve tells the crew that he is friends with Blurr, and the two have plans to run a bar together. He is understandably excited by the prospect and uses it as motivation, but later on, it is revealed that the ‘friendship’ is entirely based on a misunderstanding. Blurr was actually just trying to get away from the obsessively fanboying Swerve and gave him a fake phone number. Seeing his reaction to the realization was pretty sobering, a sharp contrast with his usual demeanor.

Ultra Magnus




Ultra Magnus is a no-nonsense hardass who follows the law to a near-slavish degree, much to the annoyance of his fellow crew members. He’s an officious, hardheaded jobsworth who won’t hesitate to reprimand someone for having their badge slightly askew or provide a lecture on the importance of an apostrophe. 

There’s a lot more to him underneath that stiff and proper exterior though, literally. On an R&R trip to the planet of Hedonia, Magnus is given a strong drink that sends him into a drunken stupor that leaves him complaining to Swerve about not being a very well-liked individual.


There’s a certain vulnerability to Mags that is slowly drip-fed to the audience, which leads to the stunning revelation that Ultra Magnus is actually a little guy in a big suit, the armor being a facade to perpetuate the legend of the nigh-invincible enforcer who persists no matter how terrible the danger is. It’s an interesting spin on the fact that the original Ultra Magnus toy from 1986 was also a smaller robot wearing big armor (though the disparity wasn’t as pronounced as the IDW version.)

He’s a bot who means well and wants to do his job to the best of his ability, but a lack of structure and activity following the end of the great war left him needing something to anchor to, and that something was rules. Every rule imaginable is treated with the same level of severity. Magnus softens up as the series progresses, but he wouldn’t want you to know that.

Megatron – Spoilers Everywhere in this Bit.

The quote fit too well to NOT pick it. These things just write themselves, I swear.

Megatron, the horrifyingly terrible dictator who has killed millions, and who waged a war against the Autobots for his planet and its resources, becomes an Autobot. Strange, right? In what was at the time seen as a stunning heel-face turn (that left many scratching their heads and turning to news articles to read up on while feigning outrage that it was just a lazy shock twist), Megatron hung up his Decepticon jacket and took up the Autobot mantle, joining the crew of the Lost Light. 

By the time MTMTE takes place in the story, Megatron is old and tired, worn down from millions of years of conflict. He’s fully aware of the terrible things he’s done and the chaos he has wrought on the galaxy, and he owns up to it. After witnessing tragedy after tragedy, including losses on both sides of the conflict, Megatron comes to realize just how far his cause has plummeted from its original intention of overthrowing the corrupt senate. It was twisted into a faction of pure sadism and evil with himself at the helm, a brutal dictator who killed for the sake of killing. 

During the Dark Cybertron storyline, Bumblebee and Megatron form an uneasy alliance in a bid to take down Shockwave who is in the process of enacting one of his grand-scale apocalyptic schemes (one of many) and the little yellow Autobot ends up dying before Megatron’s eyes after risking his own life to safe the Decepticon’s. Genuinely moved by this, Megatron made the earth-shattering decision to place Bumblebee’s badge over his own and announce his change of allegiance, and this does not go over well. 

Understandably, a large majority of the characters are disgusted by this and see it as another one of his plans that will inevitably lead to him rising again and trying to take over the world. Megatron stands firm however and wrangles his way aboard the Lost Light through some clever invoking of Cybertronian Law. What follows is him becoming a mainstay of More than Meets the Eye as Rodimus’ co-captain. There is plenty of friction amongst the crew as Megatron establishes himself as a firm but fair captain, more efficient than Rodimus in fact. This tension leads to a later mutiny plot that takes the series into its sequel/continuation/rebranding Lost Light, during which a chunk of the crew’s members actively rebel against Rodimus due to his refusal to do anything about Megatron’s presence. Perhaps the most poignant moment in Megatron’s character arc happens on Necroworld, where the crew is stranded following the above-mentioned mutiny. 

The crew finds what appears to be a field of flowers, and it is then revealed that the flowers are in fact crafted from the residual spark energy of every Cybertronian that has died. Scattered throughout the field is a holographic statue of every living Cybertronian, crafted and curated by a legendary figure known as the Necrobot. When applicable, the flowers are planted around the statue of the Cybertronian responsible for taking their life. While walking through this field, Megatron discovers his own statue, and we are shown this haunting image.

It’s a sobering moment, reminding us that despite his status as a heroic protagonist in this part of the story, the chilling memory of Megatron’s past still lingers. The field of flowers acts as an indelible reminder of his terrible deeds the fact that no matter how much he himself may change, his past won’t. 

The other moment of note comes during an attack on the crew by the Decepticon Justice Division, devout followers of Megatron’s old teachings who are utterly disgusted by his turn. When Megatron approaches them alone, he is initially overpowered and brought to his knees, seemingly weakened. Up until this point, the DJD had been shown as being terrifyingly efficient and powerful, surviving each of the battles they have fought and overpowering many strong foes. However, it turns out that Megatron had lured them into a trap. The former tyrant, who had grown to accept his fate and even enjoy the peace of not being embroiled in a war, berates the DJD for ruining everything he had grown to love. Megatron had spent More than Meets the Eye as a pacifist who did not wish to inflict any more harm, but in the climactic moment of springing his trap, he tearfully unleashes the dark matter device he had constructed within himself and absolutely devastates the Decepticon Justice Division one by one, proving once and for all just why he was the one feared above all. 

So Why Do I Love It So Much?

To be honest, I could be here all day gushing over how much I adore most of the cast. There’s Rodimus, who proves to be just as brash and hot-headed as he was in the 1986 movie and is forced to deal with the consequences of his recklessness. There’s Cyclonus, the ancient feared warrior of Old Cybertron with an impenetrable coldness that is gradually melted by the adorable Tailgate. If that relationship doesn’t sway the reader then there’s also Rewind and Chromedome, who experienced one of the most heartbreaking goodbyes in the whole series and genuinely left a lump in my throat when I finished the issue. The Scavengers, another crew of Decepticon misfits, have adventures of their own away from the Lost Light crew and prove to be just as likable as the main cast throughout their scattered appearances. I’m a big fan of Spinister in particular, he’s adorable.

The reason why I delved into a few characters like that was to hopefully convey just how deep the series dived with these personalities that had once been little more than obligatory shallow archetypes made for the cartoon. There have been incarnations of the franchises before these comics that breathed new life into the characters (such as Armada’s Starscream) but none of them quite managed to do as much with them as More than Meets the Eye. Take Megatron, for example. He’s a cultural icon of the 80s, a character that even people who aren’t Transformers fans are familiar with. His bucket-helmeted head permeates pop culture as a recognizable villain, but one that most probably recognise as a generic bad guy who just wants to be evil and rule everything.

He was evil and he loved it.

Admittedly he was that, and Megatron filled his role in the G1 cartoon well as the antagonist who fought the good guys and made the kids want to buy the toys, but More than Meets the Eye took that character and fleshed (metalled?) him out into a freedom fighter-turned despot-turned weary pacifist with an arc that spanned over 13 years and was, in my opinion, a more interesting character than his heroic nemesis Optimus Prime. It’s in these character shifts and interactions that More Than Meets the Eye really shines and has kept me coming back for a re-read every so often. Seeing blossoming relationships (or degrading ones) take place across the pages and tumble throughout the different story arcs that see them thrust into loads of dangerous situations kept me invested and hungry for more. 

More than Meets The Eye may use the search for the Knights of Cybertron as a plot, but that’s not what the story is about. It’s a story about a group of misfits who are bundled together in a spaceship and launched into the far reaches of a galaxy that doesn’t like them very much. They’re not just a gathering of robots onboard a spaceship, they’re a family. It’s a more personal, intimate tale of individuals from all walks of life that are kicked headfirst into life-or-death situations and forced to bond through their trials. There’s none of the political intrigue or complex earth-based dealings of the other comics, which allows more opportunities for the reader to spend getting invested in the characters and their interpersonal relationships without the other aspects of the story getting in the way of things. 

I previously mentioned that the comic explores deeper themes that may strike a chord, such as was the case with Fortress Maximus’ PTSD, but it doesn’t stop there. Thanks to previous writer Simon Furman’s machinations with Transformers canon, the entirety of the Cybertronian race is male (there are females here and there, but it’s weird). This means that the relationships that blossom aboard the Lost Light, namely the ones between Tailgate/Cyclonus and Rewind/Chromedome are, in fact gay. More Than Meets the Eye gained the affectionate fan nickname of ‘Gay Robots in Space’, and it definitely fits. It’s treated as a perfectly normal development between characters who deeply care for each other and though they may be robots, their sparks burn brighter than most. Identity is a running theme throughout the story as well, with there even being transgender representation via newcomers Lug and Anode, who discovered on their travels that they felt much more comfortable under female identities. MTMTE has been praised as a series for doing inclusivity right and weaving it into the character dynamics, and I can attest to that.

More than Meets the Eye is a wonderful, wonderful story that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their familiarity with the franchise. Like I said at the start, I read the whole thing from beginning to end without any prior experience of the rest of the continuity that led to it, and I still enjoyed every second of it. The fact that I became so invested in the tale of characters I barely had any knowledge of and then became so heavily invested in it that I found myself scouring wikis and messageboards speaks volumes, and it’s a testament to James Roberts’ writing skills. I’ve read this comic about three times now, and every single re-read is a treat. There’s comedy that’ll make you belly laugh, and there’s tragedy that’ll leave you in tears. There are betrayals that’ll leave you seething with anger, and there are earth-shattering revelations that’ll leave your jaw drop. It’s this balancing of tones that really carries More than Meets the Eye along with its characters, and it never once feels jarringly dissonant. 

Since the series ended there’s been little indication of the misadventures of the Lost Light crew being revisited and with IDW’s license coming to an end, that prospect seems even more unlikely. Perhaps one day our Hasbro overlords will see fit to bless us with another glimpse of that lovable bunch. Maybe some new hotshot writer will take the reigns from James Roberts and take the Lost Light crew to places never seen before, on adventures that are sure to make the stars scream (I had to get that one out of my system.) I can’t recommend this comic enough and believe it’s well worth a read for anyone looking to get invested in a fantastic, digestible story that’ll make you fall in love with most of the characters, and hate some others. As Rodimus (and some other guy) always says, “till all are one.”

Sean Hollyman is an avid fan of action figures, videogames and sometimes other things too. When he's not labourously trying to earn platinum trophies for games that he otherwise probably wouldn't care about, Sean can often be found taking photos of his Transformers in embarrassing situations.

Favorite Food: Roast Dinner
Least Favorite Food: ANYTHING with mayonnaise in it


A flamboyant ultra nerd, Dave participates in the Underlevelled Tournament both for the thrill of the fight, and to avenge the orphans lost in the climax of the previous tournament.

Born: London

Height: ???

Weight: ???

Hobbies: street dance, collecting manga volumes, reading, editing

Likes: short-to-medium walks on the beach, pointing out how things can and will be misconstrued as racism, fighting games, RPGs, anime, Hades, alternative hip hop, conscious hip hop, Mara Wilson, overly long bios, ice-cream

Dislikes: insincere media, his own uncanny resemblance to Richard Ayoade, mayonnaise

Hollyman and DaveHodge

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