Skybound’s Energon Universe – Making Comics Simple (Guide & Reading Order)

Energon Universe Banner - Transformers, Void Rivals, Cobra Commander

Not content with already having two of the largest franchises in all of comics, with The Walking Dead and Invincible, Robert Kirkman recently released his new series Void Rivals with longtime collaborator Lorenzo De Felici.

Why was this such a big deal? Turns out, Void Rivals was secretly the start of something far larger than itself, as the two protagonists Darak and Solila quickly discover Jetfire.

Yes, that Jetfire – of Transformers fame!

And so, the internet broke, as we realised just how big Kirkman and Skybound’s new venture, the Energon Universe, was really going to be.

What is the Energon Universe?

The Energon Universe is a shared universe of comics born out of a partnership between Skybound Entertainment and Hasbro.

In it, Transformers, G.I. Joe and totally new, original properties, all co-exist, with storylines that intersect and build off of one another as the wider narrative of the Energon Universe develops.

Previously owned by IDW, the licence for the Transformers and G.I. Joe books was lost around 2023. In the wake of that, Kirkman, a long time fan of both properties, secured the rights to tell new stories with Hasbro’s properties. Skybound works in conjunction with the licensor to ensure that the universe of stories they build are all cohesive.

It’s worth noting that while Kirkman and De Felici are considered to progenitors of this universe through Void Rivals, many other creators play key roles in shaping the direction of the Energon Universe. These creators include Daniel Warren Johnson (Murder Falcon, Do A Powerbomb, Wonder Woman: Dead Earth) and Joshua Williamson (Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman, Batman and Robin).

What Series are Canon in the Energon Universe?

Given how long IDW held the licence prior to Skybound, and the number of comics they produced in that time, many fans may be wondering how many (if any) of those series remain canon.

Original IDW Titles

In short, none of the titles IDW produced are canon to the current Energon Universe. They exist in their own respective continuities.

The one complication to this is the series G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, whose publication has continued under Skybound/Image Comics. Given that original series writer Larry Hama has stayed on as writer as well, some readers often question how it slots in to the new continuity. However, despite G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero continuing on from issue #301, it does not take place within the Energon Universe.

While Skybound still publish the series, allowing Hama to continue the stories he began 300 issues ago, they are not canon to the new storylines. As such, these issues are excluded from any reading orders, given their lack of relevance.

With that being said, the following series are all canon to the Energon Universe:

Void Rivals

The book that started it all. From Robert Kirkman, Lorenzo De Felici and Matheus Lopes, Void Rivals is the first (of potentially many) original series set in the Energon Universe.

Taking place in the far reaches of space, Void Rivals follows emissaries from two warring races – the Agorrians and Zertonians – as they both wind up stranded on a desolate moon with no way to escape. Darak and Solila, along with Darak’s helpful robot companion Handroid, must begrudgingly work together to find a way off the cosmic rock and back to their own people.

Along the way of course, they bump into a Transformer or two, as well as a galactic conspiracy that threatens the very fabric of both their societies.

Transformers

Kicking off an all new continuity, Transformers (2023) follows a human brother and sister duo as they stumble upon the aftermath of something strange: by the looks of it, a bunch of giant robots crashed some kind of spaceship into a mountain, and died killing each other.

As the covers suggest, Johnson’s Transformers introduces a tight initial cast of Autobots and Decepticons to the world of the Energon Universe at first. Optimus Prime is joined by staples like Arcee, Cliffjumper and Ratchet, alongside classic villains like Starscream, Skywarp and Soundwave.

Beyond just being one of the most visually stunning depictions of the characters ever put to page, Johnson and colourist Mike Spicer are delivering a genuine, emotional tale of the cost of heroism that every comics fan should be reading.

Duke

Next, as a launch pad for one half of the G.I. Joe side of the Energon Universe, comes Duke. A five-issue mini-series from Joshua Williamson, Tom Reilly and Jordie Bellaire, Duke takes the classic Joe character and recontextualises him for a new era.

While the series retains all the elements that longterm fans would come to expect from the Joe’s most dependable soldier, Williamson and co. expertly thread through themes PTSD and survivor’s guilt that elevate what new readers might otherwise write off as just another licensed comic property.

Even if you only have an inbuilt interest in the Transformers side of the Energon Universe, like I did when this all started, I highly recommend also trying both Duke and Cobra Commander. As someone with no prior knowledge of the characters before this, the series do a fantastic job acclimating readers new and old to the new state of play, who the characters are and the distinct tones of each book.

Cobra Commander

Similarly to Duke, Cobra Commander is another five-issue mini-series from Joshua Williamson, albeit this time he’s joined by Andrea Milana and Annalisa Leoni on art.

Forming the other side of the G.I. Joe coin, Cobra Commander acts as more of an action-horror book to Duke’s spy-thriller yarn, expertly establishing what the villains of this new Energon Universe are up to. Also like its heroic companion piece, Cobra Commander dives straight in with some deep pulls from G.I. Joe lore, while never letting you get lost even for a second.

Outside of the immediate fun to be had with the series, it’s especially encouraging to see, even this early on, just how varied yet confident these books all manage to be. There’s a clear sense of direction with an interconnected mystery building at the core of the Energon Universe, and yet every book still successfully carves out its own unique identity, never blending in to a sea of set-up that poorer launches easily could.

Reading Order

There are a couple of ways to read through the Energon Universe of titles.

The first, and most accessible way, will be to pick things up in trade paperback format. This is the most cost-effective way of doing things and ensures you’re getting complete story arcs every time.

Alternatively, if you want to read things in the exact order each issue debuted to get the fullest experience of the interconnectivity between the books, then picking up the individual monthly issues (physically or digitally) is the way to go.

#1. Trade Paperback – Energon Universe Reading Order

This is the simplest order to read each of the series in. It is designed to allow you to read through the Energon Universe in such a way that each series naturally builds on one another without forcing you to disrupt a given story in the middle of an arc:

  1. Void Rivals, Vol. 1: More Than Meets the Eye
  2. Transformers, Vol. 1: Robots in Disguise
  3. Duke, Vol. 1: Knowing is Half the Battle
  4. Cobra Commander, Vol. 1: Determined to Rule the World

#2. Single Issues – Energon Universe Reading Order

This reading order is designed to mirror the order these individual issues were released in.

This requires more planning and referencing to ensure you’re staying in order. However, it does mean that when something is set up in one title, say in Transformers #1, that then spills out directly into Duke #1, you preserve that cascading of events.

  1. Void Rivals #1
  2. Void Rivals #2
  3. Void Rivals #3
  4. Void Rivals #4
  5. Transformers #1
  6. Void Rivals #5
  7. Transformers #2
  8. Void Rivals #6
  9. Transformers #3
  10. Duke #1
  11. Transformers #4
  12. Cobra Commander #1
  13. Duke #2
  14. Transformers #5
  15. Cobra Commander #2
  16. Duke #3
  17. Void Rivals #7
  18. Transformers #6
  19. Cobra Commander #3
  20. Duke #4
  21. Void Rivals #8
  22. Transformers #7
  23. Cobra Commander #4
  24. Duke #5

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