Saturday, January 30, 2010

Transformers: Headmasters – "Zarak The Shadow Emperor"

Hardhead (to Twincast): Go on, set up the karaoke.
Twincast: After I've had a drink.
Hardhead: Come on!
Chromedome (to Brainstorm): Hardhead... one drink and all he wants is karaoke!
Hardhead: Come on!

It has been quite a break since I last reviewed an installment of the Takara "Headmasters" series, but now I aim to dive back in and reach the series finale unobstructed – wish me luck! The opening ten episodes of "The Headmasters" form their own mini-arc, introducing the new cast of characters while moving the old cast off-stage in both subtle and not so subtle ways. With the surprising destruction of Cybertron, this series can now explore its own path without having to emulate its US G1 predecessor as much. This of course can be simultaneously interesting and frustrating for long-time fans, but there is still much fun to be had here, especially as we advance into the subsequent story arcs.

On Athenia, Arcee, Daniel and Wheelie are mourning the loss of Cybertron and missing Rodimus, who departed with Kup and Blurr to find a new home for the Transformers and left Fortress in charge in his absence. To help lift everyone's spirit a party is thrown, during which Spike announces the launch of a joint Earth/Cybertron energy-collecting solar satellite. In addition, there is the odd sequence of Wheelie chugging energon wine and Hardhead singing karaoke to the series theme song, the latter of which provided for me the biggest belly laugh in Chromedome's wry observation!

Meanwhile on Charr, Soundblaster, Sixshot, Cyclonus, Scourge and the Headmasters presume Galvatron has met his ultimate fate, being trapped in the center of Cybertron when it exploded. From the shadows, Zarak plays a brief prank on them all by appearing as Galvatron, but then informs that their Decepticon Emperor is still alive. Zarak says he has been instructed to lead for the time being. All except Soundblaster are dubious of this claim and who can blame them?

Zarak: You are to obey my orders as though they were from Lord Galvatron.
Cyclonus: Soundblaster! Should we believe him?
Scourge: What, believe Zarak?
Soundblaster: I am Lord Galvatron's representative. You have no choice but to believe it.

On Earth, the preparation to launch the solar satellite has been spied by Ratbat, who reports back to Charr. Cyclonus and Scourge decide that they will need to prove their worth to Zarak, in order to compete with the sycophantic Soundblaster, and secretly recruit the Predacons to help them destroy the satellite. They fail miserably thanks to the efforts of the Trainbots, Chromedome, Hardhead and Brainstorm, allowing the satellite to launch successfully.

Back on Charr, Zarak is meeting with his Headmasters, informing them of his findings regarding the solar energy collector. It will generate and store enough power to add to Zarak's transtector body, still being constructed, and so they immediately proceed on a mission to steal the satellite. The Autobots' efforts to stop this nefarious deed is thwarted by a surprise attack on their HQ by Sixshot. Chromedome is injured. However, all is not lost as Fortress, correctly deducing that the satellite was not brought to Charr, calculates its new destination as being a mysterious body of gas in a black nebula.

Chromedome, feeling personally responsible for the recovery of the satellite, leads his team to retrieve it from the edge of the nebula. Following a fierce battle with the Decepticon Headmasters, the satellite sends its collected energy into the nebula where it is then received on a dark planet within. We see a very large, shadowy shape lit by this influx of energy, an ominous shape that is missing a head.

Meanwhile, Weirdwolf taunts the Autobot Headmasters by telling them they cannot return the satellite to Earth orbit without destroying it, as a telepathic link will instruct it to detonate. Chromedome is torn about the next step but reluctantly decides he will destroy the satellite himself. Once back on Earth, he apologizes to Spike, yet is assured that relations between humanity and the Autobots is undamaged. Fortress looks on, concerned and lost in thought, fearing something terrible will result from the energy sent into that nebula.

This episode begins a short arc during which Zarak takes full command of the Decepticons and uses them only to gather energy for his newly constructed, giant transtector body, that being Scorponok. We also see the paralleling shift in power dynamics on both sides, Autobot and Decepticon, as established, home-grown leaders are removed and replaced by outsiders. Fortress plays only a small role here, but he will soon show himself to be the perfect Autobot leader for this moment, due to the years he spent stranded with Zarak on Planet Master. This experience grants him a special insight beyond what Rodimus or even Optimus could access.

Zarak continues to ignore or simply patronize all Decepticons except his own team of Headmasters. He could prove to be a greater threat to the galaxy than Galvatron because of his lack of loyalty to either side or even to the Transformer race in general. This makes Zarak quite an interesting villain to watch. In addition, there is much distrust and disunity among the Decepticon ranks overall, as Soundblaster smartly aligns himself with Zarak, Cyclonus and Scourge clumsily aim to gain favor and Sixshot secretly spies on them all, seemingly content to play rogue. I guess I would feel a similar arrogant aloofness if I was a ninja with six alternate modes! Meanwhile, Chromedome shows his youthful eagerness to personally invest himself into everything, but without much consideration for consequences to himself or those around him, a fault which might cause trouble shortly.

All in all, an okay episode with some nice bits of humor and characterization, with an twist on the old energy collecting plot device, a staple of the G1 universe. Here collecting the energy is a means to an end, not the goal itself, but merely a stepping stone to help lay the groundwork for Zarak's grand plan. The episode is a step down from the massive action and game-changing events of the preceding two-parter, but it sets the stage for the next escalation in the conflict.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bish's Review: Marvel UK #87 "Target: 2006" Part 9

Target: 2006 Part 9 was written by Simon Furman, drawn by Jeff Anderson, lettered by Anne Halfacree, coloured by Tony Jozwiak and edited by Ian Rimmer.

The cover is by Geoff Senior and is actually pretty bad by his standards. It shows Galvatron's anti-Unicron weapon exploding while the disembodied heads of Blurr, Kup and Hot Rod say "Lights", "Camera", "Action" - using the same movie metaphor that Furman is about to employ in the issue itself. The heads appear too disconnected from the main picture and the speech bubbles are too cute to be witty and come across as merely annoying. Added to this there is a picture of Galvatron badly inserted into the bottom left corner. At first glance this depiction would seem to be a simple cut and paste of the character model but actually it's a Senior original, just utilising the same pose. While drawing a new model is praiseworthy it still doesn't really make up for the fact that Galvatron is just stuck there. He clearly isn't part of the action of the picture, but he's not saying anything either. It's just as though he's there so the reader doesn't forget who the bad guy is.

The issue opens a little while after the end of Part 8. At Galvatron's base the future Autobots are doing something that involves spraying Skywarp red, planting some kind of device (presumably explosive) and knocking out Scourge and Cyclonus. They do this while Furman's captions somewhat unnecessarily evoke the preparation of a movie set: "Applied makeup", "Rigged special effects" and so on. Furman enjoys these linguistic diversions and normally I find them very entertaining, but this one irritates me, probably because we are driving to a conclusion of a very long story by this point and I'd rather he cut to the chase.

Galvatron is holding an incredibly battered Ultra Magnus up in triumph. His triumphant raving turns to shock however, when he finds the badly damaged and unconscious bodies of Scourge and Cyclonus. Of course, Galvatron does not know about the presence of the three future Autobots so he immediately leaps to the conclusion that this is the result of treachery by Starscream which turns out to be exactly their plan.

Just as Kup is about to hit the button on whatever device they are planning to use Magnus finds a reserve of strength and begins to haul himself back towards Galvatron, the image of Operation Volcano large in his mind. He recaps previous events as he tells us that he needs to get Galvatron to return to the future and he's running out of time.

Elsewhere, the present-day Autobots are discussing their situation. Jazz stands eerily still, without Galvatron's control he is brain-damaged and basically dead. Jetfire wants to quit, as Galvatron is so powerful, but Smokescreen gives him an impassioned speech about how they have to stop Galvatron in the here and now or there's no telling what damage his time-travelling could do. Jetfire listens impassively.

Back at Galvatron's base Magnus manages to tackle the future Decepticon to the ground. Galvatron soon bests him though and begins to beat him savagely, asking in amazement whether Magnus' Autobot code "demands sacrifice?". "Must I destroy you to stop you!?" In my favourite image of the story Magnus raises his head as best he can, battered and shadowy, bleeding oil from a thousand cuts and simply says "yes". The artwork is perfect in this scene and Ultra Magnus is every inch the perfect noble Autobot warrior. Destined to fail, but determined to try. All our favourite heroes never back down in the face of unbeatable odds and Ultra Magnus is well and truly in that position by now.

Just as the future Autobots are about to trigger their plan the present-day Autobots show up and ruin it. This grants Ultra Magnus a reprieve but puts them in grave danger both from Galvatron and from the bomb that Kup is about to set off. Determining that they cannot wait any longer, Kup detonates the device.

The Autobots manage to flee before the worst happens but Galavatron is rooted to the spot in amazement as his cannon explodes in a tremendous fireball. He is crushed to the ground by falling debris but is only dormant for a few moments before his hand bursts from the wreckage in true horror movie style and he is back up and ready to kill.

Looking for the culprit he finds Starscream standing impassively. We, the audience, can see that Starscream's voice actually comes from a speaker on his back but to Galvatron it appears that he has been betrayed and mocked. With one furious particle cannon blast the Seeker Jet is torn into pieces. This sets off alarm bells in Galvatron's mind because he knows that Starscream should not die until 2006 (and the events of "Transformers: The Movie").

Galvatron concludes from his continuing existence that his time travel must have caused him to slip into an alternate universe - one where his actions do not affect his own personal future. Emboldened by this news but presumably figuring that building his cannon would have made no difference to the future of this timeline, Galvatron gathers the recumbant Scourge and Cyclonus and returns to the future.

This leaves Blurr, Kup and Hot Rod in possession of the body of the real Starscream. It turns out that the decoy version that Galvatron destroys was merely Skywarp painted red. Why did they do this instead of using the unconscious Starscream for the exact same plan? You'll have to wait for the aftermath to find out.

The last proper part of Target: 2006 is mostly very good. The movie metaphor on the first page is extended to breaking point and was not very appropriate to begin with. Furman is definitely letting his own cleverness get the better of him here.

Similarly, Furman does not seem to know what to do with the 1986 Autobots. They get their moment to stand up and be counted, which is great, but Kup agonises about blowing them up, does it anyway, and they emerge unscathed. Surely we could have sacrificed someone like Bluestreak to give the decision more weight?

Thirdly, the art and the text seem contradictory when Galvatron decides he is in a parallel universe. On the one hand he believes that having killed Starscream and still existing means that he is not accountable for his actions within this timeline but on the other the art seems to show him rubbing the paint off of the dummy Starscream, which should make him doubt this assertion.

Niggles aside, this is an excellent and somewhat downbeat end to this saga. Ultra Magnus is the standout character, never giving up after getting the most terrible beatdown but in the end no-one really wins, which is a very atypical conclusion to this sort of good vs evil storytelling. Galvatron cannot be beaten in 1986, not by Ultra Magnus, not by Jetfire, not by an Autobot-Decepticon alliance led by Megatron himself. He is not even damaged when his gigantic cannon with all it's terrible reserves of energy explodes right beside him. It can be argued that he is forced to flee and abandon his plans but it is with a renewed sense of purpose rather than in defeat. Connecting the dots should lead the reader to realise that since Starscream's destruction was actually a ruse Galvatron is actually in for a world of pain from Unicron when he returns to 2006. However, at no point is this spelled out and Furman obviously decided to leave the final word on how time travel and dimension hopping really works in this universe for a future story. When Galvatron leaves, in the context of this story, it is very much on his terms.

Jeff Anderson returns here and provides us with some very nice artwork. I do not like it quite as much as Senior's from the previous issue but it is still fantastic. I am a big fan of Anderson's depiction of Ultra Magnus. He really gets his strong, blocky, dependable look down and is fully capable of rendering all the anguished expressions that a beating from Galvatron would result in. Jeff Anderson makes us feel Ultra Magnus' pain and, despite being excellent on it's own, Furman's writing would not be sufficient to make us feel for this character if he were not backed up by the artist. Since the emotional core of this issue is the Autobot sense of self-sacrifice I have to hand it to Anderson for making me wince at every fresh punishment handed out by Galvatron.

The main part of this story ends in a murky finale that is more about the characters having to rebuild than a triumph of good over evil. Surely an epic of such magnitude will have repercussions for many issues in the future? We might get a glimpse of how much the Transformers universe has been shaken up in the next issue, the special Target: 2006 aftermath story. IDW's trade of  Transformers: Target: 2006 is available from

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #42: People Power!

People Power! is the forty-second issue of the US G1 Marvel comics run of Transformers.  It features a Bob Budiansky script, though the art is a bit complicated.  Breakdowns are by José Delbo, but finishes are by Dave Hunt and Don Hudson.  This, combined with the filler issue we'll get next month, make me think that something was running behind, probably the artwork.  Letters are by Bill Oakley, and colors by Nel Yomtov.  Delbo and Hunt are credited with the cover.  Given the aforementioned time issues, it's not clear which of them did what exactly on the cover. 

It's a pretty mediocre cover. Hasbro was probably happy, but I can't imagine anyone else was.  Optimus Prime is the focus, though his chest is popping out as a little man.  He's fighting a rather lackluster Darkwing and Dreadwind, backed up by some badly miscolored and weirdly drawn Powermaster Autobots.  "Optimus Prime -- Powermaster!!" it proclaims, when surely anyone in the audience would just be excited to have prime back at all.  The composition is actually pretty good, but the execution is simplistic and unappealing. 

Oddly, it's not the rushed art but the slapdash story (note the capitalization there) that hurts this issue. We open on a scene of a Decepticon super-jet attacking a Nebulan ... restaurant? The Gardens of Eternal Peace and Harmony Macrobiotic Resturant, to be precise.  Off the patrons scatter, and the jet reveals itself to be two squabbling Decepticons, Darkwing and Dreadwind.  They each have a partner, and they quickly engage in their 'mission:' chowing down on 20 servings of their best entrees.  It's a suitably bizarre turn of events, one that does not fail to intrigue.  The prose, especially, is nice right at the beginning. "Several dozen light years from Earth, the planet Nebulos spins contentedly around its sun, its people unblemished by want or war.  Indeed, the serenity and sophistication of Nebulan society would typically be the envy of most worlds in the galaxy."  Nice to see that Bob can still bring it when he wants to.

Meanwhile, the Steelhaven has arrived, allowing Getaway, Joyride, Slapdash (see what I did earlier?) and Goldbug to attempt to complete their mission. They're heading towards the lab of Hi Q, old friend of Galen, to request his help rebuilding Optimus Prime.  Hi Q doesn't quite get that these are living, sentient robots, which seems odd for one as brilliant as he.  He warns the Autobots off, for following the events of the Headmasters mini-series, he and Hi-Test turned the fuel of Nebulos poisonous to living robots. It worked, and when some Decepticons showed up, they quickly broke down. But envious Hi-Test hated being 2nd fiddle to Hi Q and brokered a deal with them, creating the Powermaster process to bond Nebulon and Cybertronian and bypass the poisoned fuel.  It's a lot of backstory, all to justify the new toy gimmick.  It holds together, but only barely.

Goldbug volunteers to help, but Hi Q points out that without energy the Autobots can't win.  Joyride wants to leave the planet, but Goldbug refuses.  Hi Q welcomes them as guests even as he mourns their inevitable passage.  He believes that it is their programming that compels them to stay, and helps them with the construction of Prime.  Their efforts are interrupted by a Decepticon attack on the Council of Peers, but their best efforts are repulsed.  Not only are the Autobots low on fuel, but the Powermaster process (surprise, surprise) makes the cons tougher than normal.  Here the rushed artwork really hurts, as what should be exciting is merely perfunctory. 

Hi Q is impressed that the robots defied their programming to attempt to thwart the Decepticons, prompting one of his four helpers to muse that they may be more than just machines. The Autobots incredibly decide to energize Prime with poisoned fuel, arguing that living in real life however briefly is preferable to a living death as a computer program.  Guh?  Really?

When Prime wonders if he's still a game character, Hi Q returns to his original impression that these are merely intelligent machines. But when Prime starts to die, he realizes that he must actually be a living organism.  He thanks his troopers for restoring him to life, and Hi Q decides that he can't let such a noble soul die. He agrees to undergo the Powermaster process, as do Rev, Lube (unfortunate name!) and Hotwire.  However, the fifth member of the Nebulon science team, Kari, can't bring herself to bond with Goldbug. He assures her that with his legendary fuel efficiency, he'll be all right for a little longer.  It was actually really shrewd of Budiansky to introduce five Nebulon characters to go with the five Autobots. If you weren't following the toy line, you'd probably fully expect Goldbug to go Powermaster.  Also, Kari wears a lot of clothes for a Nebulon woman .... what's that about?

With the Autobots now Powermasters , the Decepticons are quickly dispatched. Hi-Test and his partner Throttle are banished from Nebulos, which is pretty convenient for future stories.  Kari points out that the Powermaster process irrevocably united the Autobots to the Nebulons, and that Nebulos wasn't a proper place for her compatriots. Reluctantly, they leave the planet behind, to Kari's tears.  It's a tender moment, and makes one wonder what exactly her relationship was to the rest of them. Hi Q's daughter, perhaps?

Yawn. For an issue that reintroduces Optimus Prime, it's amazing how dull it all manages to be. Budiansky does a passing fair job of introducing us to Darkwing, Dreadwind, Hi Q, Hi-Test, Throttle, Rev, Lube, Hotwire and Kari. Hi Q, in particular, gets to shine as the avuncular skeptical scientist. But the real focus should have been on Optimus Prime's resurrection, the culmination of a plotline that began way back in #24. And while that's in here, it's kinda buried in the middle somewhere. The unspectacular artwork certainly doesn't help.

This issue marks a turning point.  We've basically hit a local climax, with a ton of resolution to plot threads in this issue and last.  From here on out, we've got one last hurrah left, the rescue of Buster Witwicky, but mostly we'll get stand-alone stories from this point forward. 

Next month, we're promised Sharkticons battling Junkions at the behest of the Quintessons?  Ultra Magnus, Galvatron and Rodimus Prime!  Really? Has the time come to incorporate all of these new elements? Sadly, no, it hadn't, we'll get a bizarre fill-in issue, but we couldn't know it at the time. People Power! is available for sale in IDW's  Classic Transformers Volume 3.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Roll For It (part 3)

Another week, another Ark Addendum.  I've been super busy this week, working on some Transformers-related stuff that I hope to be able to talk about soon.  What it means is that I haven't had as much time to work on these.  I had originally intended to save part 3 and 4 of Roll For It for a few more weeks, to keep things broken up.  (Webworld was a fun two weeks, but the feedback seemed to lean towards more variety.)

The backgrounds of Roll For It are very typical of the first season.  Lots of rolling desert-scapes, the occasional stand-alone structure like a science lab or a hydrothermal generator.

It's a pretty nice science lab, and when I get to part IV we'll go to the various cool gizmos inside.  I rather appreciate both the water tower, the telescope and all the various antennae on the roof.  It certainly feels sciency!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series episode 14

The fourteenth episode of War of the Worlds, the series is titled He Feedeth Among the Lilies.  In a nice twist, it is entirely motivated by the Blackwood team.  They've been interviewing people who've had encounters with aliens, gathering data to try to better understand their enemy. In the course of their investigation, they meet several people who have been abducted and probed by aliens.  One in particular stands out, the beautiful and inquisitive amnesiac Karen McKinney.  She and Blackwood share instant chemistry, which makes him work all the harder to unlock her missing memories. They become lovers. When it turns out that she had indeed been the subject of aliens medical experiments, the team decides to try to find out what specifically was done to her.  Unfortunately, the aliens harvest her, leaving Harrison with only the bitter certainty (but no proof) that she was taken.

The Good: This is an unusual episode, and it works well.  Generally it's some alien plot that sets things in motion, but this time the team has decided to investigate in a specific way and it uncovers a plot that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.  Kudos for breaking format.

Karen and Harrison work well together.  Their relationship, brief though it is, feels real and believable.  The directing really helps too, with tender moments between them when they dine and when they make love.  In a way, they're both damaged goods, having suffered at alien hands, and I think that subtext is present in both their performances.

The abductions are downright terrifying.  When we saw Karen's abduction and the implantation of a monitoring device inside her, the perspective shots really emphasized the violation.  This was made explicit in dialogue during word association; when McCullough says 'alien', Karen replies 'rape' without even knowing why. 

Though this one is another Harrison-centric episode, Norton and Ironhorse both get in a few good moments.   Norton is at his best when slyly mocking Ironhorse for offering to conduct the interviews himself while Harrison is AWOL with Karen.  Ironhorse's best scene was when his frustration with interviewing abductee after abductee boiled over.  Harrison asked him for a better plan and he came up with one - interviewing veterans and government officials from the first invasion.  A good character moment AND a good nod to the original film.

The aliens abduct the bodies of two paramedics and commandeer an ambulance for mobile experimentation.  The show was always looking for new kinds of people to make aliens, and the paramedics make perfect sense. I love the use of ambulance imagery juxtaposed with horror.

The very first scene of the episode was also a nice bit of misdirection.  An ambulance arrives and doctors and staff rush a patient in a gurney down the hall to an ER.  It feels very much like a standard medical drama ... until they get to the OR and find that it's been looted, with overturned tables everywhere and most of the gear missing.  It was an unexpected way to take the scene, which then effortlessly segues into the alien cavern, where a trio of alien nurses do some surgery on still living patient.  It's the spoilage of the living humans in all the radiation that first prompts the aliens to go out into the field for their experiments.

Finally, right at the end, Karen has a premonition of something bad happening and calls Harrison for help.  He rushes to her, but on his way pulls to the side of the road to let an ambulance pass ... an ambulance full of the very beings coming to take her away.  It's painful to watch him pull to the side and surrender his lead to his adversaries.  This scene was even foreshadowed, when the paramedics called humans fools for pulling out of their way. 

The Bad: The ending was incredibly abrupt.  The aliens take the silent but pleading-with-her-eyes (great work by Cynthia Belliveau, by the way) away in their ambulance, Harrison arrives seconds later and rushes into the hotel.  The screen freezes, there's a brief voiceover about how he knows it was Aliens that got her, and the credits roll.  It really feels like about 5 minutes of denouement was missing.  

The Ugly: For one of the more genuinely scary episodes, not too much gore.  However, the sight of the alien nurses cutting into a living victim was pretty ugly.

So, another winner of an episode.  The ending wasn't even bad, it just didn't feel like it finished.  The idea that Harrison meets this great love and then she's snatched away is pretty awful, but we never get to see his reaction to it.  This is simultaneously the most gently sensuous episode and also the most disturbingly violating episode, and it's no accident that these ideas go together.  He Feedeth Among the Lilies uses sexual imagery, both consensual and nonconsensual, to enhance it's emotional impact.  It's a fine line to walk but it manages to do it well.

The show has well and truly hit its stride by this point, with five strong offerings in a row and a real winner to come next week.   War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season is available for sale on DVD.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bish's Review: Marvel UK #86 "Target: 2006" Part 8

Target: 2006 Part 8 was written by Simon Furman, drawn by Geoff Senior, Lettered by Anne Halfacree, cooured by Gina Hart and edited by Ian Rimmer.

The cover was by Will Simpson and is a mixed bag. Individually the depictions of Galvatron and Ultra Magnus are very good. Galvatron in particular is a nice rendering of the partway between cartoon and toy form that the comics tend to use and Simpson manages to make it look very natural. Unfortunately the two figures don't appear to be interracting quite as forcefully as you might think and the lack of a background really hurts the impact as a whole. Not a bad effort: it certainly shows that Will Simpson can draw Transformers if he puts his mind to it and doesn't have someone scribbling all over his lines, but it could have been so much more.

After a brief depiction of the destruction that Galvatron has wrought that serves more as an atmospheric lead-in than an actually useful recap we begin the issue in media res, which was, really, the only way for Furman to play it. We could have had Magnus and Galvatron trash-talking each other for a bit and starting their inevitable fight but what would be the point? It was always going to happen so instead show Galvatron clinging onto a speeding Ultra Magnus as he hurtles down a busy highway and what's more, make it a splash page. High visual impact - this is how comic book writing is supposed to work.

Magnus continue his mad drive only stopping when he reaches the end of a half-built overpass. Breaking at the last minute he is able to fling Galvatron off his roof and slam him heavily into the concrete below.

While despondently waiting for Galvatron's inevitable recovery Magnus does actually now recall the beginning of the fight. Magnus is trying to return Galvatron to his own time in order to get Optimus Prime back and gave him the chance to leave willingly. Galvatron, predictably, declined, and unfortunately he did it with a piece of dialogue that is a bit more leaden than Furman usually manages:

"What worries me, Ultra Magnus, is not what you say but that you actually believe in what you say". The two instances of "what you say" there are very unnatural sounding and should have been caught by Rimmer, if not by Furman himself.

Anyway, high-level nitpicking aside, the issue continues along at an exhilerating pace. At Galvatron's base the pair had started brawling with Magnus constantly trying to distract the Decepticon by causing bits of his giant anti-Unicron cannon to be damaged. While barely managing to hold his own Magnus receives a radio message from Kup, Blurr and Hot Rod telling him that they've found a way to get rid of Galvatron if he can just keep the Decepticon busy for an hour or two.

Cut back to the present and Galvatron is not even down for as long as Magnus hoped. He blasts the overpass and brings the Autobot crashing to the ground. They battle for a bit, with Galvatron clearly in better shape. The Decepticon aims his particle cannon at Magnus and the Autobot goes for one last desperate gamble.

Using his titanic strength Ultra Magnus is able to hurl an entirely full petrol tanker into the path of the beam: detonating in an enormous (and beautiful - thanks Geoff) explosion.

The issue ends on a terrifying image as the flames clear just enough for us to see Galvatron shaking his fist in triumph over the prostrate and defeated form of Ultra Magnus. This is probably Senior's best work of the issue with Galvatron posed dramtically, so we, the onlooker, have to look up to him. The fire from the burning fuel makes a background of pure hell on Earth with the devilish future Decepticon looking right at home.

What a cliffhanger! And what an issue! It's brilliant but perversely there's not a huge amount to say about this one. It's pure fight, fight, chase, fight but it does give us a nice look at Ultra Magnus' highly resolute character. He will not give up, despite Galvatron thrashing the life out of him. Sometimes a story like that can be all you need to sustain eleven excellent pages. Conversely, we do not get much insight into Galvatron. He has pretty much put all his cards on the table by now. We know that he is capable of immense savagery despite his fairly rational exterior and it is that aspect that comes to the fore here. It's a fun character to read about and a great counterpoint to Magnus' nobility, but not really deserving of much analysis at this point.

I have praised Senior's art a fair bit and it is richly deserving but I have to make special mention of Hart's colouring. I have been reading a fair few of the US issues recently and it has to be said that this is one area where they simply do not compare. Hart and the other UK colourists give the book a mature, textured style, with almost no block colouring, whereas the US books could have whole battles taking place between a red team and a blue team.

An excellent issue with a fantastic cliffhanger. If I had to wait for a week to know what happened next I'm not sure what I would have done, especially if I had been a child at the time!  IDW's trade of  Transformers: Target: 2006 is available from

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #41: Totaled!

Totaled! is the forty-first issue of the US G1 Marvel comics run of Transformers. Bob Budiansky continues his tenure as writer and José Delbo continues on as penciler.  Danny Bulanadi does his first stint as inker, with letters by Bill Oakley and colors by Nel Yomtov.  The rather busy cover is by Delbo. 

I go back and forth on this cover.  It's a bad image, really, without much sense of composition.  The Autobots are on the right, the Decepticons on the left, and they're about to go at it.  Very little action is actually shown ... Swoop is about to bite Ramjet, Cloudburst is about to crack a whip, and ... that's about it.  The flying characters, in particular, just sort of hang there in space with no rocket exhaust or speed lines to imply motion.  From a technical standpoint, it's pretty mediocre.  On the other hand, the fanboy in me sees this picture and thrills a little. We haven't had a battle royale between Autobots and Decepticons since .... gee, I want to say issue 12.  Everything else has been a limited engagement here or there.  This cover promises so much more.  So, in execution, sub-par, but in concept terrific.  This was one of the few G1 transformers comics I picked up on the newstand before I discovered Furman, so it must have been doing something right.

This issue starts off by revisiting an image that we've seen before ... Optimus Prime, coming apart at his joints as energy shoots through him.  Really, this image is pretty spot on with the climax of issue 24.  Not only is his weird contrapposto the same, but each image features block-colored spectators, sound and energy effects, and some descriptive words ('Game Over! and the title, 'Totaled!')  The memory of Prime's death is thus effectively evoked.  Fortress Maximus' crew has failed to revive him, having expended most of their resources to make the Pretenders and rebuild Goldbug.  Have no fear, though, Hot Rod has located the Ark, and with their facilities, rebuilding Prime should be a snap, right?

Goldbug, though, seems nervous at the prospect, and with good cause. Cut to the Ark, where Ratchet is attempting to serve as Grimlock's conscience.  Grimlock, though, is enjoying his petty reign. He's far too busy having his joints lubricated to worry about Decepticons. Oh, and he's still wearing his crown.  Word of another ship of Autobots snaps him out of his complacency, though.  Sensing a threat to his authority, he agrees to meet them. Soon Fortress Maximus of the starship Steelhaven (which finally gets a name, which I've since applied to the Elite Guard flagship of Animated) is introducing his officers to Grimlock. Grimlock wastes no time in making his move, declaring that there is only one true leader of all Autobots. Fort Max stammers at this a bit, then comes to the mistaken conclusion that Grimlock is talking about Optimus Prime. Max explains his mission, to rebuild Optimus Prime, prompting reverence from Ratchet and violence from Grimlock. 

Things go from bad to worse.  Grimlock calls Optimus a coward for defending humans, which prompts Spike to reveal himself. When Goldbug's name comes up, Grimlock demands he be turned over immediately as a traitor. Goldbug agrees to try to keep the peace, but Grimlock invokes trial-by-combat for the right of supreme Autobot leadership anyway. Grimlock also comes up with his first of many derisive monikers for Maximus; 'Fruitloop Multipuck.'

In the brig, Goldbug encounters Blaster, who has indeed been hooked up to a Variable Voltage Harness torture device.  Months of such treatment have left him bitter and cynical, though not too cynical to spit out a lot of backstory. Goldbug asks that Blaster champion Fortress Maximus, who's still reeling from the injuries received at Shockwave's hands.  At first Blaster refuses, since he cares little for the Autobots. But when Goldbug points out that he could use it for Revenge, Blaster acquiesces. Grimlock presents Blaster (wearing restraining handcuffs) to 'Forktongue Maxiface' with glee.  But a fight for Autobot leadership isn't the only thing brewing.  Following Fort Max's attack on Ratbat's ship, they've been tracking him.  Thus, observing two Autobot ships docked together, Ratbat senses an opportunity for an energy-efficient sneak attack.

On the surface of the moon, the two mighty ships land and disgorge their many occupants.  Delbo gives us a nice image of all of the Ark-based Autobots exiting their ship, then an equally nice image of most of the Steelhaven-based Autobots exiting theirs.  I say most, because Fort Max had the foresight to leave a trio of guards, Slapdash, Joyride and Getaway.  (Hmmm ... an interesting choice to guard the soon-to-be Powermaster Optimus Prime.)  Omega Suprme kicks things off by blasting a cube to bits, and the gloves are off!  Blaster and Grimlock battle each other savagely, with some wonderfully kinetic poses by Delbo.  The battle takes them away from their makeshift arena, much to the disappointment of the crowd.

They needn't have worried, plenty of action was heading their way.  Ratbat launches a savage sneak attack on the Autobots, crippling the Ark and damaging at least a quarter of the Autobots with their opening salvo.  Prowl attempts to rally the Autobots, which is nice characterization for him, but he's given little chance before Onslaught leads the Decepticon charge, nice characterization for him as well. It's not all Autobot carnage, though.  Bonecrusher leads the Constructicons into the Ark, where they first rip it to pieces, and then liberate the Decepticons offlined by Omega Supreme way back in issue #19.  Though the Decepticons are technically outnumbered 2:1, they've got the initiative and the high ground, and they're exploiting it.  This actually makes a lot of sense; not every battle goes to the army with the biggest numbers.  I think it's a credit to Ratbat's leadership that he's willing to take this kind of risk, and I like that it paid off. Having a working capital ship might have something to do with it too, since neither the Ark nor the Steelhaven is in fighting form.

Miles away, Grimlock and Blaster continue their battle, until the sight of the Decepticon attack draws their attention. Keep in mind, no sound in space, which is why they didn't hear it.  Good science there, Bob.  They return to the battle to try to rally their troops, even as Fortress Maximus realizes the futility of the fight and sends Goldbug on a special mission.  He's to board the Steelhaven and have it depart the moon immediately.  As he does so, Grimlock and Blaster put aside their differences (after Grimlock gets in another good one, 'Fullstrength Motleypuss,") to spearhead a counter-attack on the Decepticons.  When they successfully penetrate the shields of Ratbat's vessel and electro-scramble the ship, Ratbat loses his nerve and orders a retreat.

Grimlock wants to follow, but Blaster demurs.  Without a ship, repairing the Ark has to be the first priority.  Also, there are many Autobots needing repair.  Maximus reveals that he's sent the Steelhaven to Nebulos to have a new body built for Optimus Prime, for what he's witnessed today has convinced him that there is no bot truly fit to lead the Autobots.  He finishes with some nice prose: "Let us pray that Goldbug's journey is a successful one, for amid the smooke of the battlefield, it suddenly became clear to me that whatever future we Autobots have lies encoded on a single magnetic disk labelled 'Optimus Prime.'"

It's a good ending.  Certainly, Grimlock's rule appears to have been a bitter failure.  Spike's short tenure as leader of the Autobots hasn't really been all that much better.  For all his good intentions, he's failed to recover his brother, taken severe damage to his body and now got the Autobots embroiled in a barbaric fight for leadership.  I can believe that these weary bots would turn to the past for answers.

It's nice to see some old characters shine a bit, like Prowl and Ratchet.  It's a little odd to see bots like Sunstreaker and Gears, who have been out of commission since the miniseries, back, but then I suppose Ratchet's had plenty of time to patch them up.  It's also fun to see just how large the cast of characters has become.

Grimlock vs Blaster is a fight that's been a long time coming, over a year really, and it doesn't fail to satisfy. These two characters have been out of the limelight for a bit but they continue to dominate the story whenever they're the focus.  Grimlock's nicknames are downright classic, though Blaster gets in a good "Grimmy" and "Grimbo" too.  It's a shame that they'll once again move off-stage as the action follows Goldbug for a while, leaving almost the entire Autobot cast stranded on the moon where they can lick their wounds.

Next month, we're promised "Optimus Prime Returns!  (No kidding!)  Plus -- the newest, strongest Transformers yet -- the Powermasters!"  Yawn.  It's probably not an accident that the most satisfying issue we've had in months featured no character introductions. (Well, Broadside makes his one and only appearance in the US G1 run here, but it's just a cameo.)  Optimus Prime's return, though, must have seemed exciting and new.  Audiences hadn't been jaded by his long cycle of destruction and rebirth.  Indeed, Optimus is a veritable phoenix.  (The actual Transformer named Phoenix, the Pretender from Masterforce, has never died to my knowledge.)  Still, while my 2010 eyes are well used to such resurrections, when I cast myself back to 1988 I'm a lot more forgiving. Totaled! is available for purchase in IDW's  Classic Transformers Volume 3 .

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Solar-1

Welcome to another edition of The Ark Addendum. This fine January week, I bring you ... the Solar-1 satellite, from Headmasters episode The Shadow Emperor, Scorponok.

What is the Solar-1, you ask? Why, only the finest example of Autobot/Human friendship one could imagine. Sharing technology and labor, the two sides constructed this magnificent symbol, able to generate untold gigawats of power and beam it back down to a receiving station on Earth.

But what's this? The evil new Decepticon leader, Scorponok, hatches an elaborate plan and successfully snares it for his own nefarious purposes.  Chromedome has no choice but to destroy the satellite, rather than allow it to continue to power up the mysterious Decepticon installation on the planet Zarak. He worries about what his failure to recover the satellite will mean for human / Autobot relations, but Spike reassures him that Earth understands.

It's actually a rather nice design.  I like how much thought was put into every stage of the design.  The rocket looks very rocket-y, while still having a deployable satellite tip. The satellite itself unfolds a bit and sports a rotating tip.  Even the ground station gets a pretty cool, futuristic design.  For a one-time-only prop, it certainly got plenty of love.  Incidentally, I've posted other models from The Shadow Emperor, Scorponok as an earlier Ark Addendum. Check it out!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 13

The thirteenth episode of War of the Worlds, the series is titled Dust to Dust. It seems that aliens have visited the American Indians in times of long ago. When the news covers a graverobber who discovers an old headdress with an unearthly crystal as a part of it, the aliens and the Blackwood team simultaneously move to retrieve it. There is a third factor, the Indian shaman Joseph Lonetree also seeks the return of the artifact.

Ironhorse's heritage comes to the forefront of the story as he is confronted with the path not taken. He bails Lonetree, who had threatened the graverobber with imminent death if the artifact isn't returned, out of jail and takes him back to the reservation. There he meets Lonetree's charming daughter, Grace, and they share some fast chemistry. The aliens, disguised as Bureau of Indian Affairs agents, kill the graverobber and use the artifact to track down an ancient warship. Harrison and Suzanne twig to alien involvement and move to warn Ironhorse, and all watch as the alien machine arises.  Joseph calls on ancient spirits, and three lighting strikes destroy the ship. Lonetree's staff also seems to be sporting an alien crystal, which he gives to Blackwood ... or does he? He shows his son another identical crystal and says that he gave Blackwood "what he thought he wanted."

The Good: It's great to see an alien war machine again.  This is an older model, we're told, and rather than rise on magnetic legs there are physical legs.  I wish we saw more stuff like this. The tripod configuration is a nice nod to the source material.

We get some nice character moments for Ironhorse.  Chaves has good chemistry with Robin Sewell,  who plays Grace. He also nicely balances his reverence for Ivan Naranjo's Joseph Lonetree with his frustration at the mystical mumbo-jumbo that is so far outside of his experience. Blackwood gets some fun moments too, especially passing off the driving to Suzanne not once by twice.

The Advocacy, in some meta-commentary, realize that the television has given them vital intel but bemoan having to watch it.  It softens the brain, you see.

Once again, we get solid pacing, good acting, and especially no coincidence. It's the same broadcast that drew the aliens and the Blackwood team to the artifact. Most of the main flaws of the series are mercifully absent.

The Bad: Cheaping out. The aliens taking over the bodies of BIA folks started with some alien POV shots. We then get a very brief shot of an alien hand coming out of an unseen human's chest ... and it's a shot we've seen before, back in A Multitude of Idols. Clearly they just didn't want to pay for three more extras, which I don't really mind, but reusing shots seems like a poor move.

There is little too much mysticism for my taste. There is an out, for the writers, by implying that perhaps Lonetree's powers resulted from his maybe alien crystal staff.  But this is a solidly sci-fi show, so the magical elements feel thematically out of place. I suppose it's possible that the lightning strike was coincidence. The alien machine was certainly the tallest metal structure around.

The Ugly: Murdered Graverobber.  True, he had it coming, and true, he was warned, but he got his face ripped open and his skull crushed in a nicely grisly end. 

Overall, a solid episode. The episode whizzes by, which helps disguise the slight plot weakness. (For instance, Lonetree threatens the graverobber ... who then is murdered 8 hours later. Why are police not crawling all over the reservation? )  There's nice fan-service in the form of a tripod walker, and a satisfying exploration of what it means for Ironhorse to be an Indian living in a white man's world. And don't worry, as per usual, General Wilson gets a nod; "have Norton tell General Wilson to alert the Air Force."    War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season  remains easily available on DVD from and other fine sellers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #40: Pretender to the Throne!

Pretender to the Throne! is the fortieth issue in the US G1 Marvel comic series.  As the series went eighty issues, that means I'm more or less halfway through the original run.  (A bit closer to more, now that all the mini-series are behind me, but less than the half of whole US Marvel continuity, since G2 adds in another 17 or so issues.)  The creative line-up is unchanged; Budiansky penned the tale, with Delbo pencils, Hunt inks, Oakley letters and Yomtov colors.  Once again, José Delbo and Dave Hunt draw the cover.

It's a pretty lackluster cover, though, unlike last month's offering.  We get a generic high-tech background, with three Pretenders in the foreground.  Two of them are fairly monsterous, and the other one may as well be a robot because we don't see anything organic about it.  It's Landmine, and presumably his face is obscured to avoid giving away the surprise, but then why not just do a third Decepticon Pretender?  Most significantly, Optimus Prime is on a giant-ass monitor, in a monochrome red to signify his computer-generated nature.  It all adds up to a big pile of who cares.  Delbo's robots are always fairly correct if not always dynamic, but I think he was a bad choice to emphasize the organic nature of these Pretender monsters.  While they're not the best idea in Transformers history, a cover full of monsters should be a slam-dunk, and sadly this is anything but.

The issue itself is somewhat uneven, most likely as a result of trying to serve two purposes.  It opens strongly enough, with a computer-generated Optimus Prime leading the mighty Mechabots of Hyperfax into battle against the brutal Bombasticons.  This, or some variant on this, would also have made a nice cover.  We soon learn that Ethan Zachary, who killed Prime himself back in issue #24, has indeed saved a copy of Optimus Prime's mind, personality and schematics.  He's built a whole computer gaming company around the idea of jumpstarting Prime's ego, making him believe he's more than just a video game hero.  Presumably it's taken some time for him to build an operating system around the core datafiles that make up Optimus Prime.  After all, it's very difficult to imagine that Optimus Prime's mind was an executable file able to run on a late eighties machine.

Ethan has recently unlocked Prime's memories of past associates.  Though he remembers leading the Autobots, he still puts all his past memories in the context of computer simulations. Even a newspaper article about Decepticons overrunning a genetics lab doesn't help. At Ethan's direction, Optimus tries to contact the Ark, but it's still missing.  Buster Witwicky proves a more fruitful lead.  With his name and location, Ethan contacts Sparkplug, who angrily brings the audience up to speed on the events of the last few issues and hangs up.

This is not quite the deadend Ethan fears, though, since Spike has bugged his dad's phone.  On board the not-quite-named-yet Steelhaven, the newly rebuilt Goldbug is skeptical about Optimus Prime contacting anyone.  He claims to have seen Optimus's lifeless body launched into the sun. Whoops! Goldbug must have watched a video of this, since he was blown apart by G.I. Joe at the time of the funeral.  Also, of course, the Matrix Quest plotline a few years hence will reveal that Prime's body has actually found its way to VsQs.  Two continuity glitches, one backwards, one forwards, in one panel.  Impressive.  Also, I just realized it, but at this point in the story Bumblebee/Goldbug has been completely destroyed and rebuilt twice ... both by humans.  Finally, I wonder why the rebuilt him as Goldbug again ... I thought that was just G.I. Joe doing the best they could.  Surely his own internal schematics are for Bumblebee, no?  In any event, with Fort Max still in the shop following the spanking Shockwave gave him, Goldbug goes down to Earth to investigate things.

Soon he's face-to-monitor with the virtual presence of Optimus Prime, who's looking forward to his next game.  They concoct a scheme to send Optimus into battle against REAL Decepticons, hoping that it will be more effective at helping his true personality to come to the forefront.  They hack into the genetics lab the Decepticons have occupied and send him on in.  I rather like the art for this sequence.  I mean, sure, it's silly, but it feels about right.  Optimus uncoveres Scorponok's most harebrained dastardly scheme yet.  He's going to coat his warriors with organic synthoplasm, making them look like horrible evil monsters.  This will allow them to ... surprise the autobots? ... umm ... operate undetected? ... ummm .... well, it's a scheme, anyway.  Optimus records the data and heads home, but he's been detected.

Optimus has analyzed the data and recommends that Ethan create six new characters to mount an effective counterattack.  He also urges haste, as the Decepticons may have traced him.  Goldbug and Ethan are considerably more perturbed by this prospect than he is, since it's all just a game to him.  Goldbug points out the futility of 'making six new characters,' but Ethan thinks that Prime's initiative should be encouraged.  And so, in short order, six new Autobots we've never seen before are being turned into Pretenders, which really must be a VERY easy process given the complete lack of lead time.

The time is set for battle! Optimus goes back into the digital realm, as bait.  Scorponok inputs his brain into the computer while sending his Pretenders to Ethan's lab.  First they get to demonstrate their weapons on RAAT, in what is I believe their last appearance.  Then they travel to the game company and are surprised to see six giant humans.  The humans pretend to retreat for all of about ten seconds, then turn around and counter attack.  Guh?  With Goldbug as his eyes, Optimus directs the battle.  Naturally, the Autobots do very well.  There are hiccups, such as when Goldbug's optics malfuction (hey, it's a new body, cut him some slack.)  Optimus and Scorponok have their first encounter here in the virtual world.  Prime emerges victorious, naturally, as do his men.  They gather around his screen, and Optimus can feel a change!  He knows now what it is to be a warrior, a leader.  It's something he'll never forget!  Never!

So, he asks, when do they start the next game?

It's a very satisfying ending, at least.  All that and Prime still thinks he's nothing but a game character, albeit a very good game character.  Ah, the wry irony of it all.

The title, too, is clever, if perhaps a bit obvious.  It works on more than one level, though, which is nice.  After all, Grimlock and Fortress Maximus are the nominal Autobot leaders, but here we have a possible supplanter to them in the form of this CG Prime.  Then again, maybe it's Grimlock and Fort Max who are the pretenders.  Neither one of them has a completely legitimate claim.  Fort Max is basically Spike, a human to took the place of the former Autobot leader.  Grimlock, well, he was elected leader but then swiftly began to abuse his authority. 

Unfortunately, the internal logic of the story is pretty weak.  Scorponok's Pretenders DON'T look like Decepticons, it's true, but they DO look like 30 foot tall monsters.  Really, who's that going to fool?  They might have gotten, one, maybe two raids in before the Autobots realized what was up. And Prime's plan is just as ridiculous.  If it didn't work, I'd have said it's because his addled brain thought in video game terms, but since it did work it just seems contrived.

I like the conceit of Prime not realizing that he is a real being. It's a fun direction to take the character, and seems very in keeping with the method of his resurrection.  Still, a floppy disk containing his brain AND schematics? Seems hard to believe.  I also like how some of the scenes in the virtual realm use an extra border to separate them from the main action.  It properly distances them from the 'reality' of the main story; a subtle, but well executed, touch. 

There is good in here, but it's hard to find.  Ignore all the extraneous elements and you get a pretty good tale about what it means to be sentient.  Budiansky seems hampered by the introduction of twelve new characters.  The Prime plot is fun and interesting, but everything else seems like a distracting sideshow.   For a tale that gets Pretenders right, see the four issue Revelation series from Furman, some two decades on.  Of course, he was under far different creative constraints than Budiansky. Still, when a story doesn't work, it doesn't work, and sadly this one doesn't.

Next  issue, we're promised "The Battle You Demanded! Grimlock vs. Blaster! (and about 100 more Transformers dukin' it out, too!")  That sound just awesome! Grimlock's been missing from the comics since issue thirty-six.  That's five months of wondering exactly what happened to the Earthbound Autobots.  This gap is exactly the opposite of the Pretender weakness above.  Here Budiansky has taken the opportunity presented by the arrival of the Headmasters to move our former heroes off-stage and allow the tension to build.  We even see that the absence of the Autobots has allowed Ratbat and Shockwave to operate unhindered, building for themselves a might space vessel.  It was a very shrewd move on Budianky's part, and we'll see how well he exploits it now that the payoff is finally here.  I'm looking forward to it.  Pretender to the Throne!  is available in IDW's  Classic Transformers Volume 3 from

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bish's Review: Marvel UK #85 "Target: 2006" Part 7

Target 2006 Part 7 was written by Simon Furman, pencilled by Will Simpson, inked by Tim Perkins, lettered by Richard Starkings and coloured by Tony Jozwiak.

The cover is by Will Simpson and is fairly uninspiring. The caption reads "Galvatron's Autobot Zombie!" and a very stiff Jazz is depicted very stiffly knocking out Tracks and Bluestreak. Apart from the looks of shock on their faces these characters too are almost lifeless and it's very strange to have all three looking straight at the "camera". Very awkward composition. Galvatron's face oversees all of this and it's a perfectly adequate rendering, I suppose but he stares fairly blankly with mouth open when one would have expected him to be laughing or at least smirking at getting one over on the Autobots.

We open with the Decepticon Starship from the very first issue getting vaporised by Galvatron's experimental anti-Unicron cannon. Galvatron decides that this one test on a much smaller object is enough and that he and his band can return to 2006 once the weapon recharges. Why he has to wait for a weapon to recharge now that he needs in twenty years time isn't entirely clear, but presumably it needs to be fully charged before being concealed beneath the ground, and, eventually, Autobot City.  Galvatron makes a big show of indulging Starscream partly because he has potentially useful information, but mostly because he finds it amusing to allow the devious Decepticon to believe that he is his root to power when, from Galvatron's perspective, Starscream is already dead, at his hand.

Meanwhile, back at the Ark, Ultra Magnus is getting nowhere in his quest to solve the mystery of Prime's disappearance. While he is feeling sorry for himself the three future Autobots, Kup, Hot Rod and Blurr show up. Hot Rod does not know his history and thinks Magnus has the Matrix of Leadership (pretty bad given this is twenty years ago for him - a being who's probably millenia old by now). Kup sets him straight and introduces them, before going on to explain to Magnus that they are looking for a Decepticon called Galvatron.

Galvatron, however, is now personally handling the exchange of the captive Jazz for Scourge. The Autobots have Scourge in a set of "anti-grav" manacles which are programmed to fry him if he puts a foot wrong. This could have been a pretty good image if Will Simpson ever gave the impression that he cared about what he was doing.  While this takes place, Megatron is sneaking into Galvatron's base when he is caught by Cyclonus. The future Decepticon is once again betrayed by his lack of intelligence and is knocked out by Soundwave while crowing over Megatron. However, they reckon without Starscream, who takes them by surprise and blasts Megatron in the back.

Back at the Ark Kup is explaining to Ultra Magnus the way that time travel devices displaces beings of similar size and mass from the target time, explaining the disappearing Autobots. It shifts them into a pocket dimension between realities that leaves them unharmed. As soon as Magnus realises that Galvatron and the others are responsible for the disappearance of the Autobots he takes off at great speed, not allowing Kup to finish.

The Autobots are baffled by why Galvatron went through with the prisoner exchange but are soon shown the reason. Jazz has been modified by Galvatron and is now a remote control puppet. To give Simpson his due, the image of Jazz, slack jawed, with his eyes burning red and his mouth spewing energy (for some reason) is genuinely well realised in a horrifying sort of way. Jazz leaps up and starts battling the Autobots, taking Jetfire down very hard.

Galvatron has taken advantage of this distraction to slope off, arriving just in time to stop Starscream executing Megatron (and with him, Galvatron's future). He backhands Starscream to the ground and begins to rant about how no-one can stop him before Ultra Magnus arrives and picks up the gauntlet. To be continued...!

Scriptwise this issue is mostly great. While I am not entirely certain that the zombie-Jazz subplot is all that necessary it gets the job done by giving the Autobots a reason not to just attack Galvatron in force at his base (other than the pasting they received last time, of course). I like that the Megatron/Autobot alliance is still intact and that they are providing cover for him to use his more warlike skills to infiltrate Galvatron's stronghold. Having Soundwave back Megatron up is good characterisation as the Decepticon is well-known as a sycophant, but also an incredibly sneaky one.

Ultra Magnus solves the mystery of Prime's disappearance by... waiting around until someone from the future tells him the answer... This isn't the most inspiring of reveals but does lead us to the awesome final panel where we know that the Magnus/Galvatron confrontation is going to be massive in the next issue.
The characterisation of the future Autobots is spot-on, although they haven't done much apart from impart information so far. You just know they're here for a reason though, and it'll be fun to see how they get used.

Simpson's art is, unfortunately, still not to my taste. I would like very much, however, to see his original line drawings. I feel that the way he draws the robotic characters would still feel wrong to me, but I might be able to appreciate some of his subtlety. Perkins seems to delight in hiding the pencilling behind a storm of ink that obscures details, blurs lines and makes some of the more detailed panels look like a total mess.

A very fast, very packed issue that is obviously building towards a climax, now that the two strands of the story have been linked together.  IDW's trade of  Transformers: Target: 2006 is available from