(W) Steve Orlando (A) Agustin Padilla (C) Jeremy Colwell
Long live the king.
Grimlock has been one of the most enduring Generation One characters. When an incoming lineup of new toy models meant many of the original series mainline cast were killed off in the 1986 film, the Dinobots were among the few to survive the culling.
The leader of the metallic lizards has been included in nearly every Transformers reimagining since, at least in some form. Typically these appearances maintain three primary attributes: Grimlock is a metallic T-rex, he’s dim-witted, and he likes to fight.
“Me Grimlock not kisser,” the tyranno-warrior once famously said of his life’s purpose, caught between the death of civil war and the promise of peace.
“Me Grimlock king.”
That simplicity makes building a solo series around Grimlock challenging. Simon Furman’s mid-2000s IDW continuity initially kept the Dinobots together and gave them a revenge arc that still served more to move the plot forward than develop their rich inner lives. Grimlock notably lost his unique speech inflections, likely to shave off any disposition toward stupidity — before James Roberts dumbed him down a decade later and sidelined him with a team of misfits (to great effect, I might add).
So what to do with a character that is popular enough to warrant his own series but seemingly lacks the depth to lead it?
I don’t know if King Grimlock has found a solution to that question but it is certainly trying a fresh approach. In its first issue, Grimlock is mistakenly transported to a very not-Cybertron fantasy world — replete with strange beasts and magic — as the last ditch effort of a desperate people suffering under a tyrant. But will he actually help or is he more interested in just beating the tar out of monsters?
It’s a well-suited internal conflict for the character, although it’s almost a given that Grimlock will end up playing the hero. But it’s about the journey, not the destination, and the five-issue series has a lot going for it.
Taking Grimlock to this fantasy world gives writer Steve Orlando the chance to draft his own fantastical realm away from the mainline series’ growing Cybertronian conflict and explore the character without needing to step around concurrent events (though I do have some continuity questions as to when this takes place, given that Optimus Prime briefly appears and is given his honorary title). Orlando’s also brought some intrigue into this decidedly non-Transformer world by introducing a mysterious connection to the Autobots.
Artist Agustin Padilla — having notably worked on Dungeons and Dragons comics previously — brings a kinetic energy to the comic through thin, fluid line work and popping impact markers. He also manages to maintain the careful balancing act between robot, creature, human and lush backgrounds without any one seeming out of place — not an entirely uncommon failing when a Transformers comic brings in meat bags.
I would also be remiss to note there is a D&D-style character sheet for Grimlock in the back pages that is just *chef’s kiss*.
King Grimlock is rife with potential — even if we don’t get the definitive character-driven Grimlock saga, it offers some (energon) swords and sorcery that should delight in its novelty.