The seventy-third issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers is titled Out of Time! For the fourth issue in a row, the creative lineup is unchanged, contributing to the strength and momentum of the story. For those keeping score, that makes this a Furman (writer) / Wildman (penciler) / Baskerville (inker) / Yomtov (colorist) / Parker (letter) production. The cover, too, is an Andy Wildman.
The cover is rather intriguing. Optimus Prime, Scorponok and Shockwave appear to be in the process of vanishing, as they stand before the Neo-Knights. LESS than Meets the Eye is written above the logo, which is itself transparent. "The Vanishing!" is written. All of the lines drew your eye inevitably to Optimus Prime, front and center, making it a very effective piece. The coloring, too, is very effective, with the Neo-Knights popping much more than they would otherwise. The sum of all these parts is a very strong cover. If there's a criticism to be had, it's that perhaps it gives away too much, but then the idea of a 'vanishing' is so abruptly different than anything that we've been building to that this serves to pique rather than to spoil.
The opening sequence works well, picking up where the Galvatron/Xaaron plot left off while delaying the expected confrontation between the Neo Knights and the Transformers by just a few more pages. Galvatron's frustration and mad lashings out are well done, especially him pacing about and smashing the wall. Meanwhile, Xaaron is beautifully desperate in his supplication. Meanwhile, Unicron's ambition and greed resulting in him sparing a world was a nice bit of cosmic irony. By the time we cut back to the main action, all we want is to see Galvatron fight the trio of minions. The tension continues to build. Bravo, Furman, bravo.
Following a one-page summary of recent events on Earth, we get to see some superhero action as Thunderpunch and Dynamo (Hector Dialonzo), Rapture and Circuit-Breaker, square off against Scorponok. Optimus realizes that he might have to defend Scorponok from these humans as Shockwave realizes that Circuit-Breaker poses a threat to him and resolves to kill her after she cripples Scorponok. When he shoots her, naturally Nightbeat takes the blame, and things go from bad to worse. Across the river, Mindwipe manages to hypnotize Soundwave, Scorponok's second in command. He sees victory for his rebel Decepticons for a fleeting instant, before the Autobots put their guns to his head. They're going to salvage the alliance any way they can. They'd best hurry, though, as Nightbeat is down and Optimus is rapidly weakening under the ministrations of Circuit-Breaker. Blackrock begs her to stop, then commands the others to stop her. Thunderpunch won't side with robots against a human, though, even if they are Autobots. All seems darkest until Shockwave converts to his space gun mode to destroy Scorponok. Blackrock instantly recognizes it as the form that crippled Josie way back in issue #6. He shouts for her to look, and she does.Her reaction is beautiful, and the shot of her unleashing on Shockwave, sixty-seven issues in coming, is priceless. The coloring, inking, lettering, pencilling... everything just works so well. Spent, Circuit Breaker plummets to Earth, but Thunderpunch jumps up to catch her. Contrasting this is Shockwave's fall, a fall which Scorponok watches with grim satisfaction. He turns back to the humans, but Optimus challenges both sides to stop. The civil war is over, and the alliance is in tact. Perhaps things are looking up for our heroes?
On Cybertron, though, things seem dark. Hook, Line, and Sinker have arrived. Galvatron is tired of cowering, and squares off against his opponents with savage fury. He skillfully disarms Line, then dispatches him using Sinker's own weapons. Sinker, too, he blasts apart, though Hook gets the drop on him. Before Galvatron can be destroyed, though, Primus has awakened! Using the body of Emirate Xaaron as an avatar, the god effortlessly destroys the dark creation tainting his presence. Galvatron pours on the charm, beseaching Primus to bring the scattered children of Cybertron home. Looking at the Decepticon symbol adorning his supplicant, Primus agrees, leaving a smirking Galvatron to muse that even Gods can be conned. No doubt he's got some experience in that department. On Earth, we finally find out what the cover is all about as robot after robot vanishes, summoned home by their creator. Nightbeat's damaged form is in contact with the helicopter of the Neo Knights, and so they too are teleported away.
And that's it! 20 pages just flies by when the storytelling is this strong. Furman is knocking down pins set up by Budiansky years earlier, as well as providing payoff for his own stories and weaving in threads like the Matrix Quest that had been lying dormant. He's supported by consistently strong artwork. Anyone who knows comics must realize that #75 will be a big event, and now we're just one issue away. Many fans, myself among them, consider this entire storyline to be one of the all-time high points of the Transformers, and it's easy to see why. The emotional resonance of characters like Optimus and Galvatron, Scorponok and Shockwave and Circuit Breaker, is so strong that each of their intertwined fates looms so much larger in the imagination than they have any right to.
No teasers for next month. Maybe Furman didn't think they were needed. Maybe he was right. Out of Time! is available in IDW Publishing's
Classic Transformers, Vol. 5 at Amazon.com.