Transformers IDW Comic Book Review – Spotlight Kup by Nick Roche

There’s a lesson to be learned when writing in the Transformers Universe: the toys you play with aren’t necessarily yours to keep.

Kup is one such example. In some IDW stories he’s one guy, and in others, he’s another. It all depends on who’s writing him. Whichever one you prefer is up to you. I kinda like the guy seen in those Wreckers mini-series.

Kup is a central player in both Last Stand of the Wreckers and Sins of the Wreckers. These are both exceptional series worth checking out. But as stand-alone as these two mini-series are, you can (and should) delve a bit deeper and look out for 2007’s Spotlight Kup.

“Spotlight Kup”: Written and illustrated by Nick Roche, with colours by Andrew Elder, and letters by Robbie Robbins. 22 pages. Originally published in Spotlight Kup, April 2007.

First published back in 2007, Spotlight Kup is unique among its IDW peers: it is the first IDW comic not written by Simon Furman and it’s the first (ever!) Transformers comic book fully written and illustrated by the same person, Nick Roche.

And on top of that, Spotlight Kup is far from being a typical comic in its own right.

Transformers comics, traditionally, tend not to veer into experimental territory. In the Marvel UK days there were a handful of stories that were illustrated by Will Simpson and Dan Reed, whose unique styles lent a certain nightmare quality to the stories. If you were used to the more perfunctory artwork in the Marvel US stories, seeing Will’s or Dan’s work for the first time would have been something of a shock.

The first time I read Spotlight Kup, I had that same feeling of being captivated and enthralled by the artwork.

Transformers, mainly action/adventure science fiction, doesn’t do horror very often. But when it does it needs an artist with the skill and style to do it properly. Nick Roche is such an artist.

The artwork in Spotlight Kup is both nightmarish and beautiful and tells Kup’s story with such a deft, unearthly skill that it leaves a lasting impression. The flow of the pages themselves, the panels (and their myriad shapes), and the lettering and colouring all mix to give an almost fairy tale like quality to the story.

Essentially, Kup is trapped on an alien world and its natural radiation has distorted his perception; he’s an old guy and he’s lost his mind. This, to me, is terrifying.

Kup is physically portrayed as frail and fragile yet, to everyone else’s horror, he’s deadlier than anyone could have estimated. The way Nick plays with both Kup’s and the reader’s perception is bewitching.

Nick’s skill as a writer rises above his talent as an artist. For the first time, possibly ever in a Transformers story, Nick gives his characters very real and very human emotions.

In a way, this has paved the way for the way characters in, for example, More than Meets the Eye are portrayed. It’s a stark contrast to the way Transformers were traditionally written but it feels more natural, and with a lot more resonance. Kup’s narration throughout the story is almost theatrical at times but it shows just how damaged his mind has become.

There’s a real twist to the story and it’s revealed that the nightmare that Kup’s been experiencing, and the monsters he’s been brutally killing, have been, in fact, his fellow Autobots all along! It’s a blow to the side of the head from Outback’s dismembered arm and no mistake!

This twist opens up all manner of philosophical and difficult ethical questions. Spotlight Kup is one of the deepest and thought-provoking Transformers (or otherwise) comics I’ve ever read. The final panel of the final page lingers. Even now, it stays with me still.

Spotlight Kup works wonderfully as a stand-alone story with an open ending. But, for a while, during All Hail Megatron and other stories, it seemed that this spotlight had been all but ignored.

Thankfully, though, Kup’s unique side to his character hasn’t always been side-lined, and the seeds sown in this original story have since been cultivated to great effect by both James Roberts and Nick in the Wreckers mini-series.

Spotlight Kup is absolutely worth checking out. It works equally well as a stand-alone tale or as a prelude to Last Stand and Sins of the Wreckers. Either way, it is one of the first comic books to show how deep, meaningful, and relatable to its human readers a Transformers story can be, if told by exactly the right writer and artist.

May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross!
–Graham

Published by Graham Thomson

Blogger, photographer, worrier.

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