I've not listened to that interview, but "only bad writing uses flashbacks" is just not true, is it? There are lots of good stories that use flashbacks, and in general they're just another tool that can be used well or badly.
There have been few comics that have made me genuinely pause at every moment that I was reading. I'm not that much of an avid comic reader compared to others, but when the story gets me immersed and doesn't feel like another issue to check off from the continuity reading checklist, that's how I know I've read a good comic.
To me, Chaos Theory is one of those comics. After a long slog of painfully mediocre issues from Costa, we've finally reached this run's much-needed saving grace. It undeniably stands out as the most significant highlight that any online discussion about this run will inevitably revolve around.
Now onto the story itself. For Roberts' first solo credit as a writer, it's a pretty promising start. The beginning of the issue goes way back to Megatron's early days as a miner, before the point of no return. Except he's having a nice, calm conversation about poetry...with Impactor of all people. It's a rather unexpected but surprisingly wholesome encounter. It's also an intriguing premise after having started this continuity with Megatron Origin, which by all means wasn't a good story, let alone a good origin for Megatron imo. It feels like this first page fills in so much of what felt missing from that previous story. Of course, there will be more to talk about that specific point later, but it'll be interesting to discuss how much retconning by Roberts there'll be to Megatron: Origin, to the point where most of it doesn't even feel canon anymore.
It also helps that Milne is on art here, which goes to demonstrate how much he's improved since the beginning. The coloring by Joana Lafuente is also great.
And yeah, there's going to be a lot to discuss about the implications of making Megatron from a once peaceful poet with revolutionary ideas into a full-blown genocidal fascist in the coming year(s), but for now I'd like to say that your own perspective on the matter is highly appreciated by me Stuart.
Now onto the main highlight of the issue: the conversation between Megs and Prime. It's an outstanding display of how much Roberts gets these characters. He really knows how to write an emotional and engaging exchange between 2 bitter longtime enemies, with one side revealing the convergence of their ideologies and the other concealing their true intentions. Roberts not only understands both Optimus and Megatron, he can write them in a way that showcases their profound understanding of each other. That's what makes this issue so great to me.
So this was an excellent issue in my opinion, and one of the best highlights of not just this run, but the entirety of Phase 1 as a whole. It's not a masterpiece, but for a Transformers comic it was damn good at making me take it seriously since Last Stand of the Wreckers, also co-written by Roberts. I've long waited for Revisitation to reach this point, and I'm so glad and enthusiastic about what's going to come next!
Well, here we are then, at the point where the comics really start to annoy me. Why's that, you ask? Well you see I don't get a lot of time to read, especially these days, and so have to pick a moment to read them when I'm really not likely to be interrupted. And there's only really one time during the day that that happens. So, content-light as they were, Costa's issues (and even Furman, with his "decompressed" style) were perfect for finishing in one sitting. Not so here.
And there you were expecting I'd be starting off with something praising Roberts' writing, or bringing out another variant of "I read these IDW comics and ended up with a wife and kid". Well I got piles, too.
Slightly more seriously (and certainly a lot more on topic) this is a hell of an issue. When it was originally published this was certainly one that sat up and made me take notice, especially coming on the heels of the recent Costa issues and Heart of Darkness. This was such a breath of fresh air, and not only was there substantial content to this issue as well (Roberts appreciates the "book" part of comic book), but you could tell that a lot of thought had gone into the worldbuilding behind the scenes. To show that there was potentially a creative team that could inject this much energy into a tired run of comics was very exciting.
Not that that excitement came without worries, of course. Foremost was how, initially, there was the question of how this was going to marry up with Megatron Origins. Eventually of course we found out how, but for this issue at least there was the question of how much editorial oversight there was going to be, especially given recent loosenesses, and whether this was just introducing more prolems. And, of course, there was the concern that this was, as with Last Stand of the Wreckers and other, very isolated stories, this was going to be a one-off and then we'd be stuck with the same, less than exciting writers for the longer run.
All of that eventually worked itself out, of course, but at the time, there were certainly mixed emotions. Although despite the worries, this still remained a milestone issue.
There's not a lot I can add to your own comments about the story, except to say that it's great. Having the spine of the issue being the one-to-one between Megatron and Optimus is a great idea, and it's well executed enough that you can overlook the fact it basically boils down to the old "we're not so different, you and I" trope. The tension between Prime and the other Autobots feels organic, and the relationship between the two frenemies feels authentic. Meanwhile, the set up on pre-war Cybertron also makes Cybertron feel like an actual place that existed, with more complexity than the usual stories we're given, and that was very much welcome.
I will admit that I never liked the idea that Pax was a cop. Even being as naive as I was back in 2011, it never sat right. Sure, there is potentially an interesting idea in freedom fighters coming from within the system, but aside from the fact that that never really pays off, it just never sat right.
What is interesting is your comment on police brutality. This issue was of course released in 2011, which was also the year that saw the Tottenham riots, which were themselves the result of the police... overstepping their jurisdiction somewhat, and which were something I got some firsthand experience of (in that I was there as it was about to kick off and did what seemed like the sensible thing and ran away). Now obviously this issue was published shortly before those, and was obviously being written long before that, but it's interesting that it wasn't long before it was shown how very naive the writing here is.
As well as being a cop, I was - as I'm sure you and anyone who follows me on Twitter will be aware - also not a fan of Milne going straight to using the Stormbringer design for Prime, as opposed to Casey Coller's design from Spotlight: Blurr. Having Pax be this bulky and menacing from the get-go gave him nowhere to go after receiving the Matrix, and it's certainly something that causes that moment to just not work in Autocracy. (Although of course traditionally it's Hot Rod who gets the Rodimus upgrade, and we never see Prime be upgraded after receiving the Matrix, it would still have been nice to see something like that.)
Design choices aside, Milne is indeed well on the path now of putting out some of his best work. His pencils are still quite busy, and Lafuente's colours really help clarify a lot of what's going on, but it's still really good stuff.
So yes, whilst some of the choices made may be questionable - and certainly there'll more about Megatron to come - this issue still remains a standout classic just because of the obvious skill and attention that's gone into it, which elevates it above a lot of what's come before.
Optimus does get a matrix-powered upgrade in The War Within. Different continuity, I know.
Stuart Webb. Who knows everything about nothing and not a lot about that.
Action Force/G.I. Joe