Musings from Jim Sorenson and a few guest bloggers about Transformers, character models, science-fiction, comic books, and whatever else is on our minds.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Review: Marvel G1 #61: Primal Scream
Primal Scream is the sixty-first issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers. Having a bit of fun, the creative staff played around with the credits. This issue purports to be written by Simon Furman Maximus, drawn by Geoffire Senior, lettered by Jim Lock Massara, colored by Shrapnel Yomtov, and edited by Megadon Daley, under the auspicies of Editor in Chief Double Dealer DeFalco. Cute. Don Perlin returns to the comic after a lengthy absence to draw the cover.
The cover is an interesting piece. Grimlock, Jazz, and Bumblebee fall towards a stylized, enormous face. The glowing mouth and action lines make it clear that the face is screaming. It's an interesting piece, and certainly thematically appropriate, though I'm not sure that I find it aesthetically pleasing to look at. Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, I just don't like it very much. "The Primal Scream!!" it declares, in case you, I dunno, missed the artwork completely.
Once inside the book, things immediately look up. A mysterious robed mechanoid shouts at the Autobots for daring to intrude on this sacred place, while narrative captions handle the brief exposition. Furman even integrates these two elements rather slickly. The narration ends by saying "and face to face with their maker" while the Keeper mechanoid ends by saying "your living god--". Both of these elements are answered with an oversized "PRIMUS!" on page two, tying them together well. While the Jazz, Bumblebee and the Micromasters are quick to kneel before their living god, with the Rescue Patrol going so far as to prostrate themselves, proud Grimlock wants answers. He dismisses the Keeper as a charlatan and demands to know how he was "created." (The quotes are Grimlocks, by the way, not mine.) The characterization of Grimlock is rock-solid. He's a strong-willed robot, one who doesn't accept things at face value. Demanding the creation myth seems just a bit clumsy, but I'm willing to accept it
What follows is the first US telling of the origin of the Transformers race. As the age of gods ended and the age of life begun, Primus had a task to accomplish before he could ascend to better things; defeating Unicron. The two battled across realities, but Unicron proved the stronger. Nearly obliterated, Primus tricked Unicron into manifesting himself in a lifeless asteroid. Each of them was locked forever in metal lumps. In time, Primus learned to psionically shape their new forms, and so Cybertron was born. Unicron, too, shaped his world into a planet-destroying engine. To combat this menace, Primus created the Transformers, and gave them a genetic matrix containing his life essence. Unicron scoured the cosmos endlessly, searching for his old enemy, while Primus slumbered to hide himself until the day when the Transformers were ready to do battle with this greatest of threats.
And there you have it, the cosmic origin of the Transformers, almost as far from the Quintesson origin of the cartoon as one could get. I love this tale; I find that it elevates the Transformers into something timeless, like ancient Greek heroes. Senior's visuals make a great accompaniment to it too, very stark and powerful. I love his use of ink, especially on the panel I selected above. Also, note how the mythological panels have wavering, uneven edges to them that very effectively set them off from the rest of the story. All around quality, this part of the book was, and we're only seven pages in!
Of course, it wouldn't be a Transformers book without a ginormous fight. As Emirate Xaaron, frantically working to repair the teleporter, feared, the Decepticons have caught up with their quarry. After a brief but very effective interlude on Earth, where Starscream's presence has caused the other Decepticons to question Scorponok's judgment, the battle is joined! Unfortunately, the Autobots have to hold back, lest a stray shot awaken Primus and doom their whole race to extinction. The Decepticons have no such compunctions and are running wild. Again, great artwork here. Furman's dialogue is punchy too: "Prattling fool," exclaims Bludgeon to Jazz's banter, "Your warrior heart is tainted by an idiot's tongue! Perhaps I shall remove both for you!" Where before Grimlock motivated things, now it's Bumblebee. When his cries for help to Primus fall on deaf ears, he decides that they've sacrificed enough already and shouldn't have to lay down and die here. He rallies the troops and leads the Autobots to victory.
Unfortunately for all of reality, their victory is not absolute. Octopunch blasts Grimlock in the back, a shot which ricochets and strikes Primus directly. His primal scream "shatters audio sensors and rocks Cybertron itself!" At that moment, the teleport is fixed and all are sent to Earth. Grimlock worries that perhaps Cybertron was doomed to get them there, but Bumblebee has less faith. It's possible, he reasons, that no one but them heard the scream. He's wrong. In deep space, Unicron senses the return of his primordial enemy and begins his long, slow march to Cybertron.
All in all, this is an extremely powerful and effective bit of storytelling. Great artwork, high stakes and fun dialogue make the final fight sequence whiz by. By having the inevitable awakening occur after the battle is over, Furman manages to instill a brief sense of security, then shatter it. We get an origin, two Autobots having some great character moments, a bit of foreshadowing about the main Decepticon camp, a fun fight, and much much higher stakes than we're used to going forward. What more can one ask for in an issue? It doesn't get much better than this.
Next issue, "the only thing that can save them is the thing they haven't got--the MATRIX QUEST begins!" Of course they don't have the matrix, it died with Optimus back in issue 24... or did it? Intriguing. Primal Scream is the final story in IDW's Classic Transformers Volume 4 (v. 4)
, and if you haven't read it you really really should pick this up from Amazon.com.