Thursday, June 3, 2010
Review: Marvel G1 #56: Back from the Dead
Starting, as we tend to do, with the cover, we're treated to a fairly prosaic scene. Given what I know about Mr. Furman's storytelling technique, I'm sure this was intentional. The Air Strike Patrol attacks a human airstrip, while uniformed humans flee. After the past two months of Micromaster adventures, this seems like more of the same. It's a rather nice rendering of this scene, though, with a powerful and eye-catching explosion in the background and two of the micromasters in robot mode in the foreground. "Attack of the Air Strike Patrol!!" it proclaims, as if that is the highlight of the book. Spoiler alert: it's not.
The issue itself gets off to a much more unusual start. Ratchet is surrounded by damaged Autobots, stumbling towards him like zombies. Blaster's head, mounted on a mechanical arm, is an especially creepy image. They blame Ratchet for their failure to fix them, and threaten to tear him limb from limb. The narrative caption says that Ratchet will never forget this day, for this is the day "the dead walk!" Very effective.
Of course, this all turns out to be a dream, brought on from overwork. Optimus Prime interrupts this dream and orders ratchet to get some rest. Optimus worries that he's pushing Ratchet too hard, but also needs to get his warriors back online. He muses that, though Megatron is long dead, the legacy of his evil lives on. Meanwhile, Ratchet bemoans the lack of modern medical equipment that exists on Cybertron. Cybertron... But before we make the transition to Cybertron, let us pause to consider how dense the first three pages are. Ratchet and Optimus Prime are reestablished as characters, Ratchet's mental state is depicted for us, we're reminded of the evil that is Megatron... Furman doesn't fool around.
It's a very strong issue. We start to see plans within plans, which leads us to want to see where things are going. Optimus Prime was flawlessly manipulated, behaving exactly as predicted. The real hero of the story, Ratchet, manages to forge his own destiny, though, by refusing to terminate his zombie comrades. It's great to see Megatron back, after a thirty issue absence. Though we never got to know him all that well in his initial appearances, he still looms large in the mind. It was smart of Furman to remind us of him earlier on in the issue. The issue is not without its flaws, though. There are numerous errors in the art and dialogue. Normally I'm fairly forgiving of these, but they actually impact my understanding of the story, which is a big no. Also, as mentioned, Ratchet dreaming of the very thing that will effect him seems clumsy. If Blackjack somehow knew about those dreams... but, there's no reason to believe he did.
This is Simon Furman's first ever US comic, and it seems to augur well for his run. The dialogue definitely shifts from Budiansky's characters, though not in a bad way. Furman seems to be a fan of Claremontian storytelling, both in how he structures his dialogue and in the sorts of plots he sets up. It's interesting to note that the pagecount has dropped from 22 down to 16, with six Universe profiles to make up for the gap. It seems clear to me that Furman was brought in to preside over the termination of the Transformers comic. It's a testimony to his talent as a writer that this pagecount would gradually creep back up, though aside from a few milestone issues it wouldn't get back to a full 22 count until the G2 run. As much as I love Budiansky's quirkiness, I adore the large cosmic tales that Furman chose to tell. I'm a sucker for space opera, and Furman definitely nudged the franchise closer to that direction.
"Next issue: Megatron! 'nuff said!" Back from the Dead is available for sale in IDW's Classic Transformers Volume 4.