issue 50. The cover is also by Turner.
The cover isn't particularly appealing. Starscream gets punched in the face by a muscle-bound human wearing a fairly generic costume, while a chick in a slightly better costume flies by. Starscream is off model, missing his jet intake shoulders. Also, the heroine is sort of oddly filling the space left by Starscream's head, making the cover appear a bit too neat. The Heavy inks are a bit interesting, but overall unappealing. The rather excessive details around the dude's feet are almost distracting. "The HUMANS STRIKE BACK!" it tells us redundantly. Overall, this is not a cover that makes me particularly excited, though it is at least completely representative of the book.
The book itself continues to suffer from the same overwrought artwork. The story is decent, though like the previous issue it feels slightly disconnected from the main narrative thread that's been established recently. Furman has one more piece to move into position before he can move into the next act of his story.
Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom, is assembling a team of heroes to replace RAAT. Apparently the Security Council (RAAT reported in to the United Nations? Who knew!) scrapped them once the world recognized the distinction between Autobots and Decepticons. The story is very well structured. We get some decent action (well, theoretically we would have, had the artwork been more appealing) while reintroducing the audience to Blackrock, tying up the loose end left over from the return of Megatron storyline, we're introduced to the premise of the issue, and we get some sense of who Lee and Katrina are. It's a wonderfully efficient use of space. The presence of humans with powers takes a bit of getting used to. While it's true that Spider-Man guested WAAAAAY back in issue three, so the idea isn't completely out of left field, for the most part any humans with special abilities in this book (Buster's telekenesis, the Mechanic, the Road Jammers, Circuit Breaker) got them from contact with Cybertronians. I suppose I'm still not 100% on board yet.
issue 66, we cut to Starscream. He too knows about this new metahuman, who seems to tap into the energies of the Earth itself. Starscream sees the mutant as the ultimate evolution of the Powermaster process, a lovely bit of continuity. I'm sure Hasbro, by this point, couldn't care less about the Powermaster process, but it's nice that Furman remembers. As Starscream wanders through the incredibly alien landscape of Florida (seriously, look at the artwork here. He may as well be on Venus), he's tracked by the mysterious figure that emerged from the water in issue 65 and began tracking Starscream last issue. OK, OK, it's obviously Shockwave, but Furman still hasn't quite spelled it out for us yet. Turner uses extreme close-ups to preserve the mystery, but that doesn't always work. The first panel shows, I suppose, Shockwave's foot coming down, though the angle on Starscream makes that unlikely.
The plot moves forward with a clunky bit of exposition. Lee, now in costume, asks Blackrock who the babe in the metal circuitry bikini is. Blackrock gives him the backstory. He's oversharing, though, since Lee was just interested in her because she is hot. It's rather clumsy, and leads to some banter between Lee and Katrina. Blackrock interrupts them; he's found Mister X, one Hector Dialonzo. A meeting has been arranged, but 'news of his whereabouts has leaked out.'
Josie is, in turn, knocked aside by Dialonzo, who also knocks down Thunderpunch. Dialonzo won't be anyone's prize; he'll hear each offer in turn. Starscream offers him the world. Circuit Breaker offers the chance to be a hero. Blackrock offers him belonging, while being straight with him about how the world may see them. Oddly, he brings up the Autobots, which is a bit besides the point for this conversation. Starscream senses that Hector is choosing Blackrock's offer and pulls a tiny weapon, apparently forgetting that he has enormous cannons on his arms. He kills everyone, claiming Dialonzo as his prize... in his mind. Thunderpunch and Circuit Breaker put down Starscream in response. It's nice that the decision came down to talking, though, rather than fighting. It's slightly un-comic, but it makes Hector seem more in charge of his own destiny.
So, there it is. An interestingly human story, marred by artwork with awkward anatomy, blocky robotic bits, and desolate landscapes. Also, I haven't yet completely warmed up to the idea of mutants running around in Transformers. It feels a bit out of scope thematically to what we've been doing. Perhaps some gorgeous artwork might have swayed me a bit, but the mish-mash we got isn't helping. The return of Blackrock and Circuit Breaker is nice, though, and the Starscream / Shockwave alliance is definitely intriguing. Shockwave bears some examination; he was shot down and plummeted to Earth back in issue 39. At the time, it felt pretty final. By stretching his return out over four issues, even if we all knew who it was, his return is less jarring. This was definitely a good call on Furman's part.
Not to beat a dead horse, but it's a shame the artwork wasn't better. Next issue, Andrew Wildman pencils his first US Transformers comic. Had he started but one issue earlier, this issue might have been a classic. As it is, it's a speedbump that disrupts the excellent momentum that had been building since issue 65.
Next issue, we're offered some surprisingly generic promises. (Shocks, returns, action.) Perhaps realizing this, Furman pokes fun at himself by ending with "AND MORE STUPID EXCLAMATIONS!" Well played, sir. The solicitation does little to make me want to get the next issue, really. It's too generic. I understand why, though. The next issue is a little hard to pigeonhole. The title, at least, seems intriguing. "The EYE of the STORM!" The Human Factor! is available for sale in IDW Publishing's
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