Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bish's Review: Marvel UK #80 "Target: 2006" Part 2

“Target: 2006” Part 2 was written by Simon Furman, drawn by Will Simpson and inked by Tim Perkins. The lettering was done by Anne Halfacree and the colouring by Tony Jozwiak. Ian Rimmer edited.

The cover was by John Stokes and is, unsurprisingly, a huge step up from the previous issue. Ultra Magnus arrives on Earth in a torrent of energy from the space bridge and falls to his knees in a very dramatic pose. Magnus is a brilliantly designed character for big splash pages and covers and Stokes draws him very well. It’s not perfect. The perspective makes his lower legs look a little too small, but the impression the image gives is more important than the fine detail and this cover succeeds very well.

The issue begins with Jazz and Hound watching Galvatron’s Decepticons at work. The Constructicons have lived up to their name and built a gigantic solar powered assembly for their new leader. The Autobots cannot tell what the machinery is for, but they now it is very powerful and very important. The conclusion, dramatically is that “That thing’ll be the death of us!”They are about to return to the Ark when an energy bolt comes from nowhere and takes Jazz out. Cyclonus has arrived.

Elsewhere the sky opens in a burst of energy and Ultra Magnus plummets to Earth from the space bridge. He is wracked with pain and confusion from the brutal teleportation and Furman uses this as an excuse to show us a flashback that demonstrates how Impactor is still not happy that Magnus might not be ready in time for Operation Volcano.

As his head clears Magnus determines that he only has one hundred and twenty hours before Volcano gets underway, putting a serious time constraint on his mission to Earth.

Meanwhile we see Hound being thrown around by Cyclonus. The Decepticon boasts about how powerful Unicron made him as he knocks the Autobot around. As he explains how his broken body was transformed he is surprised by a shot from the newly arrived Ultra Magnus. Initially Cyclonus thinks Magnus has followed them back from the future, before realising that this is the Magnus of 1986. He manages to give Magnus the slip and, transforming to jet mode, escape into the sky. Magnus transforms to car carrier mode and lets the battered Hound climb aboard.

The arrival of Ultra Magnus has rattled Galvatron but he is determined to forge ahead. He has Jazz and plans to use him in some way to defeat the Autobots.

Back at the Ark Hound is being repaired by Grapple (since Ratchet disappeared in the prologue). Ultra Magnus finds himself in conflict with Jetfire about their course of action. Magnus says that the priority is to locate Optimus Prime and the matrix flame, while Jetfire wants to strike against Galvatron. Jetfire does not trust Ultra Magnus because he appeared from nowhere after the strange events began and he flashbacks to the prologue to prove it. They are interrupted by Smokescreen who has picked up a transmission from Galvatron showing Jazz’s helpless and tortured state. The Autobots are left speechless as the tagline for the next issue promises: “DEFEAT!”

The story has really picked up the pace in a number of areas. Ultra Magnus’ mission on Earth has a real sense of urgency given the huge importance of Operation Volcano. Galvatron’s ultimate purpose for his huge machine is also an interesting mystery. Cyclonus continues to drop hints about the future, mentioning his metamorphosis via Unicron. Jazz’s fate, of course, sets up the primary problem for the next issue.

The general tone of the issue leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that these events are pivotal. The Cybertron flashbacks are laced with urgency and Furman does well to make us care about this new group of characters. A less confident writer would have simply used events on Cybertron as a delivery system to get Ultra Magnus to Earth but Furman puts enough effort into both storylines that we are genuinely concerned about the fate of Operation Volcano. Furman loves developing new worlds and new characters and is excellent at taking the reader along with him. A long-running saga like Transformers is constantly in danger of stagnating. It would have been too easy to make this a story about finding out the fate of fan-favourite Optimus Prime and restoring the status quo but Furman instead uses his disappearance to explore a bevy of new characters, settings and time periods. Cracking stuff.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the art. Regular readers of this blog will already be aware of my belief that Will Simpson’s style does not fit the usual tone of the Transformers book. While I do not consider him a bad artist I feel that his rather over-complicated pencils mix very badly with Tim Perkins’ heavy-handed inking and leave the whole issue feeling somewhat busy and confusing to look at. I am a great believer in artists putting their own stamp on a book, but when each issue is only eleven pages long, and artists’ runs can be as short as one issue at a time, I feel a certain amount of effort towards visual continuity should be expected, and Simpson makes no effort at this at all.

All in all, this story continues to be a winner and the doom-laden set up for the next issue makes the reader anticipate it even more. IDW's trade of  Transformers: Target: 2006 is available from

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