All Fall Down is the sixty-sixth issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers, and the fifth and final issue of the Matrix Quest mini-series. (Note, All Fall Down is not to be confused with ...All Fall Down!, the fourth issue of the G.I. Joe and Transformers crossover. It's slightly clumsy to reuse a title like this, but it works very well for the story so I'll forgive it.) The creative lineup is virtually unchanged from the last issue; only the cover artist has changed. That means that it was written by Furman, drawn by Senior, lettered by Massara, and colored by Yomtov. Ian Akin produces another cover.
The cover is perfectly serviceable, but uninspired. Thunderwing decks Optimus Prime, while wearing the Matrix around his neck. That's about it. The anatomy seems a bit off, if you try to extrapolate where their bodies have to be to make it work, but that may be nitpicking. I think the real issue is that it's just a big boring. It's perhaps too literal for my tastes, after the rather more abstract covers we've been getting recently. Yomtov's (presumably Yomtov, anyway) bright yellow background contrasts with Thunderwing's blue limbs, making it at least pop.
Thankfully, the issue itself is anything but uninspired. Furman is clearly becoming more comfortable steering the ship, elegantly mixing in elements from future stories. He rather shrewdly opens this book in an unexpected quarter of the galaxy; the planet Ghennix, currently being consumed by Unicron. He destroys three inhabitants attempting to flee, and rebuilds them into new agents (Hook, Line, and Sinker) to do his bidding. They are to be dispatched to one of Unicron's possible futures to secure an agent. The silhouette on the monitor makes it clear to the Transformers-savvy that that agent is Galvatron. It's a great way to open the issue, as it simultaneously lays groundwork for future stories AND ratchets up the tension. After all, we know from last issue, and from the cover, that there's going to be a massive fight on board the Ark... delaying it for three pages only makes me want to get to it all the more. Senior's designs on Unicron's latest agents are flippin' awesome, by the way. I'd love to get toys of these bad-boys. There actually are toys that name-check them, at least... Astro-Hook, Astro-Line, and Astro-Sinker were repaints of the Giant Planet Mini-Con team that came with the Fun Publications Astrotrain toy. Finally, props to Jim Massara for his excellent lettering work on Unicron's mind-speak. It's bold, it's powerful, and it makes it easy for me to hear Orson Welles in my head while reading it.
To break things up and keep the pacing from becoming overwhelming, Furman has two interludes. One is a brief flashback, showing Thunderwing's acquisition of the Matrix. The other is another intriguing scene of Shockwave staking out the Decepticon base on Earth, and observing Starscream skulking out into the night. He hypothesizes that Starscream could be just the tool he needs to wrest command of the Decepticons from Shockwave. While the flashback was fairly unnecessary, at least from a plot point of view, the latter flashback proves that even while gods and demons are duking it out, life goes on. How petty the machinations of Shockwave and Starscream seem when held against the tapestry that is the Matrix Quest.
Deadly Obsession would have been the perfect time to introduce the grappling hook as gear used by Autobot shuttles. That's a minor quibble, though. It's rather elegant, both the plot and the pathos.
The denouement is brief. Nightbeat is saved from the sucking vacuum of space by Siren, the Decepticons surrender to Hot Rod, and Optimus Prime sees the silver lining of the day. Despite three Autobots deactivated and ten or so injured, and of course the loss of the Matrix, the Autobots faced their own dark side and triumphed. Optimus is more determined than ever to face the future, 'bonded as one.' That phrase will help foreshadow upcoming events rather niftily.
It was also a bold choice, to end the Matrix Quest with a failure. The Matrix is lost, and remains corrupted by darkness. The Autobots are, at least physically, worse off than when they started. I like the idea that Unicron may have to be defeated without the rather literal deus ex machina that is usually employed. Nightbeat, as mentioned earlier, stood out as a new Autobot worth watching. And the various seeds planted for future stories, well, they seem like avenues well worth exploring. All told, Furman seems to have hit his stride, and this issue seems to herald great things for the future.
Classic Transformers, Vol. 5 at Amazon.com.
LEAMINGTON CON 2015
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