Thursday, September 10, 2009

Review: Marvel G1 #30: The Cure!

The Cure! is the thirtieth issue in the G1 Marvel US ongoing Transformers series. The creative line-up remains stable. Budiansky scripts the issue, backed up by Perlin pencils, Akin and Garvey inks, Yomtov colors and and Chiang letters. The cover was by Herb Trimpe.

It's not a terrific cover. Rollbar punches through some sort of monster, who's apparently made of nuts and bolts. One presumes that this has something to do with the Scrapplets we met last issue. Other Throttlebots stand around a bit awkwardly. The monster itself carries a large Blackrock tanker truck, which looks a lot smaller than it should be. "Introducing ... The Throttlebots!" we're told, which doesn't really excite much. The image of Optimus Prime, which has adorned the upper left corner of the book since #5, has finally been replaced with the character model for Grimlock, the new Autobot leader.

We open on a nice splash page on Cybertron. The Throttlebots (sans Goldbug, naturally) are surrounded by hordes of Decepticon drones. An entire Squadron of them, apparently. They are apparently "juice-boosters", Autobots who raid Decepticon energy facilities. They soon surrender to a "Titanium-class destruction drone" and are taken to see chief fuel auditor Ratbat. Ratbat informs the Throttlebots that they were captured to perform a mission, a mission that he doesn't intend to risk Decepticon lives for. Astrotrain reports on the events of the last issue via videoconference, bringing the Throttlebots (and the audience) up to speed. Rollbar naturally assumes that the mission is to deliver a cure for the infestation plaguing the triple-changers and Blaster, but Ratbat quickly sets him straight. Their goal is to sterilize the crater. They have ten hours, after which Ratbat intends to sterilize Earth rather than risk it becoming the epicenter of a new pandemic.

In the desert, Charlie Fong bakes under the Arizona sun. With Goldbug no longer able to drive under his own power, poor Charlie is pushing him through the desert. Without water, though, he can't go on and collapses against Goldbug's side. They sit for a moment, spent, until a noise attracts his attention. Goldbug pleads with Charlie not to abandon him, but it seems that Charlie has pushed Goldbug just about all the way to a gas station. Charlie gets some water, a bit of which spills onto Goldbug. The Scrapplets seem to melt away, and Charlie realizes he's found a cure.

90 minutes earlier, however, a very different sort of cure is arriving. The five Throttlebots spread out around the crater with their acid. The triple-changers realizes that they're being surrounded and attempt to engage, but the Scrapplets have left them too weak. Spying tracks on the ground, Rollbar and Wideload realize that the infestation may be spreading and follow Goldbug. They arrive just as Charlie is struggling to convince the station attendants that his desire to wash his incredibly beat-up car is not insane. After a bit of obligatory Autobot-on-Autobot violence (complete with apologies), Charlie infects Wideload with Scrapplets and demonstrates the cure. Still, they're in the desert, where water isn't exactly plentiful, so Goldbug turns once again to G.B. Blackrock.

Almost ten hours later, with the deadline just about up, the Throttlebots return with Goldbug literally in tow. Two tanker trucks full of water are just behind them, and Goldbug yells down to Blaster that he's come back with a cure. Blaster, though, doesn't want to be cured if it means the Decepticons get saved as well, and demands Goldbug release the acid instead. Reluctantly, Goldbug gives the order, but before it can be executed the Scrapplets merge together into a giant pink monster. It nimbly dodges a spray of water, then smashes one of the two tankers. Goldbug realizes that in the combined form, Scrapplets can be fought conventionally, but Ratbat didn't send the Throttlebots through with weapons. Reluctantly, he cures Blaster and the triple-changers, who make short work of the gestalt creature. In the immediate aftermath of the battle, Astrotrain hits Blackrock with some sort of microchip, then flies off with the cargo from the ship.

Goldbug apologizes to Blaster for saving the Decepticons, but Blaster shrugs it off. He was angrier when he thought he had been abandoned, but Goldbug's return 'cured' him of that ill.

All told, this is a fairly solid story. The theme of abandonment runs through this and the prior issue, inviting the reader to contrast the personalities of Goldbug and Blaster. In both cases, the one doing the abandoning turned out to have only the best interests of the abandonee at heart. Charlie Fong, in particular, emerges as one of the more capable and sympathetic of the one (or two) shot human characters.

It's nice to see Cybertron again, however briefly, and the idea of small groups of Autobots conducting guerrilla raids on Decepticon positions makes good sense. Ratbat's fuel-pinching ways make him surprisingly effective as the director of Decepticon strategy.

Of course, the idea of water as a 'rare chemical' doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. Leaving aside the occasional reference to water that we've had in the past, as early as issue #1, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Oxygen, too, is more than plentiful. Perhaps instead of calling it a 'rare' chemical, it should have been labeled a 'forgotten' chemical or an 'unknown' chemical. Then again, it's such a memorable reveal that maybe Bob made the right choice after all, and I'm just being a bit too uptight about it.

Perlin's artwork is quite serviceable. His storytelling ability is strong, and the action easy to follow. I especially like the panel of Goldbug getting cured. Somehow his body language just exudes relief even as the Scrapplets pop off and water drains through the holes in his chassis.

Overall, the two-part Scrapplets story is a strong offering. The classic sci-fi twist ending and the strong characterization of Goldbug, Ratbat, Charlie and of course Blaster work quite well. Even the introduction of eight new characters doesn't mar this work, and it easily could have.

Next, though, we're promised the answer to what happened to Blackrock, and what was in that cargo in Car Wash of DOOM! Stay tuned next week for an oft-lampooned classic. Crater Critters is available for sale from IDW Publishing as part of Classic Transformers Volume 2 .


Anonymous said...

Almost 2 years and no comments? Well, now would be a good time to point out two other official mentions of scraplets:

In issue #3, when Rumble (?) pours some fuel for Sparkplug to analyze, he tells their human captive, "Say 'when', scraplet", likely where Bob got the idea, or at least their name, drawing inspiration for a story in a style more characteristic of Simon.

Much more recently, in February of this year in fact, episode 7 of Transformers Prime was entitled "Scrapheap" precisely because the Autobot base became infested with Scraplets! It was, quite frankly, an even nicer shoutout to comic continuity than bringing up the Wreckers. Since the series is CGed, its Scraplets naturally looked identical, and were much larger, about the size of cats. In fact, they looked like a silvery feline relative of the idog, or perhaps a more interactive robo-sapien thing; on present day Earth, about as good a disguise at the old nuts and bolts. TF Wiki claims that when they bare their teeth they become an homage to the Mechannibals, but I'd say they look just as much like Sharkticons.

These new Scraplets also have a totally different weakness, but no spoilers here if you don't have the Hub! (and yes, I laugh my aft off whenever I think of the secret origin of the name of our new TF channel)


Jimtron said...

Thanks for keeping the Prime stuff spoiler-free! 20 year old comics is one thing, but recent TV is something else. But yeah, I picked up on the scraplet mention in issue #3, and even commented on it. They're mentioned again in issue #45.

Scraplets also get namechecked in a few other places, including by me in the AllSpark Almanac II, in a Furman-penned movie-comic, in a Dreamwave book and in a Shattered Glass text story. (Naturally, in the latter, they're beneficial.)

Sean said...

I was thinking of the Prime reference too. But i also do see the Mechanibal homage in it.

No one mentioned the FAB covers in the UK comics. I remember this one vividly because it shows Rollbar hitting Goldbug with a metal bar and says "At Ratbat's command!"

I remember thinking that maybe he is holding some Autobots hostage on Cybertron and he told the Throttlebots to kill Goldbug or the hostages would be killed. Of course that's not the way the comic played out, but the cover really built anticipation for the comic