It's early days, but I remember thinking even back then, "Geez, Roberts, go easy with Swerve." I didn't think of him so much as connective tissue for the scenes in this issue as a pile-up of gags all involving him.
Milne adding a bit of Roche into his recipe was definitely the thing he needed to elevate his style into what it needed to be for Roberts' scripting. I feel like he's pulled that back in subsequent things he's draw after MTMTE, but it definitely helped with his unclear storytelling in previous stuff.
Well then, here we, here we, here we fucking go!
Yes, I have been using that a lot (and this'll probably be the last time) (for a while) but here I think it's particularly relevant, as this is the first issue that feels like "proper" More Than Meets the Eye. Not meaning that to be a slight against issue 1, of course - that's still a very, very good issue - it's just that that was still something of a bridge between Death of Optimus Prime and both of the new ongoings, whereas this issue is the first to properly focus on the ship and the cast and the hijincks that they'll get up to.
And what an issue this is. As you say, some things seem a little not-quite-there in retrospect, but in all other aspects and when reading the first time, this is an incredibly confident and assured second issue - everything just falls into place so smoothly and so well, from the characters to the plot to the art, everything just works.
Now at the time, as I said before, despite enjoying the previous couple of issues I was still wary of enjoying it too much since I was expecting IDW editorial to do something stupid in the very near future. Prior to reading this issue one of those mistakes seemed to be not keeping Roche on art duties, because... well I mean, do I need to explain? It's Nick Roche's art - when would anyone *not* want that? This seemed like such a bad decision. Suffice to say, my opinion on this front rapidly changed.
Milne's work is, as you say, a critical component to the success of this series. A comic book is, of course, about the artwork as well as the writing, and whilst a comic can be a success and good if one is not quite up to the same standard as the other, when they are both operating at the same level it creates something else, and that's exactly what happened here.
Milne's change of style to skew more Roche-wards was a surprise at the time, and such an effective one. He still gives us the detailed robots and designs that we might want from a robot-heavy comic, but also incorporates some stylised elements which really make them stand out, and able to emote in ways that we've not seen before, and that's really what makes this series come alive. And it is the perfect balance. As in every comedy double act you need a straight man, so it is that at times it's Milne's art that fulfils that role, helping to ground the comic in some sense of reality whilst Roberts' dialogue goes to somewhat more fanciful places. It's the perfect teaming.
As to the issue itself, it does a great job of continuing to set up the series' main characters, as well as providing plenty of intrigue and action. And it also gives us a surprising moment of maturity from Rodimus, during his discussion with Cyclonus - a bit of characterisation that it's easy to forget happened given how carefree Rodimus is seen as being most of the time.
So yeah, great stuff. Looking forward to the next one.
Exactly what was the plan with Roche anyway? I know he didn't want to be pigeonholed, but when did he decide that? Was he offered the series, did one issue, then changed his mind? Was he only ever going to do the first issue? Did he not think he could commit to a regular schedule?
Stuart Webb. Who knows everything about nothing and not a lot about that.
Action Force/G.I. Joe