Ashes, Ashes ... (once again, no exclamation mark! What are they thinking?) is the third issue in the G.I. Joe and the Transformers limited series. It takes place concurrently with #26 of the Transformers ongoing, though it was published before so that's how I'm going to review it.
The creative staff remained consistent from the previous issue. Michael Higgins scripts this issue, Herb Trimpe pencils, Vince Colletta inks, Nel Yomtov colors and Joe Rosen letters. The cover is by Al Milgrom.
It's a good cover, symbolic of what's going on in the issue and tying together several threads. Shockwave presides over the destruction of the earth, as it literally blows up in his hands. (Yes, hands, he has two.) Hawk, Mindbender, Baroness, Blaster colored all yellow, Omega Supreme, Serpentor and Dirge look on. Most of them look suitably horrified, though of course Dirge doesn't seem to mind much. The play of shadows gives Shockwave a more malevolent feel than he might otherwise ... it's hard to emote with a single, unmoving eye.
The issue itself is a bit muddled. It opens with Shockwave giving what may well be the Decepticon equivalent of a Powerpoint presentation. He gets us up to speed on his plan of using Alpha to suck the Earth dry and send all the energy to Cybertron. He has good timing, finishing right when Cobra shows up for their alliance, brokered last issue. Shockwave convinces Serpentor to attack the Autobots, and sends Dirge along as a show of good faith. Mindbender remains behind with the Decepticons.
Meanwhile, the good guys collect themselves. The Autobots are attending Optimus Prime's funeral, where Blaster's eulogy inspires Omega Supreme. The Joes are coordinating with G.B. Blackrock, who laments the death of Bumblebee. The Joes, though, think that he may be salvageable. The funeral scene serves more to connect the series to the ongoing continuity than to advance the plot, though it does provide Omega with a bit of characterization. The Bumblebee scene helps pave the way for his eventual rebirth as Goldbug.
As the good guys prepare, an apparently not-so-good-gal meets with the Baroness. Senator Larkin is furious with Cobra for the way they've handled Alpha - Baroness is unsympathetic. Unfortunately for the Senator, meeting with known terrorists in public places turns out to be a bad idea, as she is photographed. This causes Hawk to, understandably, feel betrayed. He confronts Larkin at her hotel, which leaves him emotionally devastated. These scenes are supposed to help ground the book, give an emotional price to the conflict, but they don't quite work for me. Maybe it's that Hawk and Larkin just met two issues ago; Hawk trusting Barbara feels more like a dumb move on his part than as a betrayal on hers.
Mindbender and Bombshell tour the new Decepticon base. Mindbender's fat brain goes into overdrive when he observes Bombshell start to spasm uncontrollably. The brain surgery on Anthony has been a success, and the cerebro shell is now being prodded. This works well, and I find myself really liking the Mindbender character.
And, of course, the obligatory huge fight. Cobra's armada assaults the Ark, specifically the Ark's last line of defense. Omega Supreme tearing into Cobra Rattlers is, of course, a lot of fun. Dirge and Serpentor both hold back, out of apathy and cowardice respectively, until they goad each other into the fight. Dirge gets ready to give Omega a large blast, though Serpentor jams his gun and causes it to backfire. Having thus betrayed the Decepticons, Serpentor proposes an alliance. This proposal is bolstered when Mindbender contacts the serpentine dictator and informs him that the Decepticons have launched Alpha into space. With Hawk now aware from the newly repaired Bumblebee that the Autobots are allies, it's the G.I. Joe team, Cobra and the Autobots arrayed against the Decepticons for the next issue.
As I said, the issue feels muddled. Mindbender found out last issue that the Decepticons were not to be trusted, and yet Cobra expends significant resources against the Autobots. The Autobots are surprisingly quick to battle humans, given that Prime killed himself for injuring simulated alien critters not too long ago. They're also quick to put aside their differences with Cobra to fight the Decepticons, though that perhaps rings more true. The Larking/Hawk plot fails to resonate with me. In addition to feeling rushed, her motives for betraying her country and her life's work are unclear. It's implied that she cut corners to get the project built in her state, and that she was hoping that Cobra could blow it up so that this fact never came to light, which doesn't really hold together. Also, you'd think Hawk would have just had her arrested, though I suppose her status as a Senator might make an indictment a prudent and time-consuming first step. To the issue's credit, it's fun to see Cobra vs the Autobots, even if it doesn't make much sense.
G.I. Joe and the Transformers remains tricky to track down, having only been collected in an out-of-print trade in the early 90s. It's a fun read if you can track it down, but you're not missing too much if you can't.
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