Saturday, April 24, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 20

My Soul To Keep is the twentieth episode of War of the Worlds, the series. It features the return of John Colicos as Quinn. Quinn points investigative journalist Cash McCullough, played by Michael Parks, firmly at the Blackwood Project. Cash is Suzanne's ex-husband and Debi's father, and thus in a unique position to pester the project.

Meanwhile, the team has their hands full with the latest alien scheme. It's their breeding cycle, only once again the radiation is playing havoc with their biology. To compensate, the aliens commandeer an ice factory and plan to use it to incubate their eggs. The team tracks them via transmissions and acts to thwart them. McCullough gets close by leveraging his relationship with Suzanne, surprising her with the accusation that the team is killing illegal aliens. With some help from Quinn, he follows them to the Blackwood raid on the alien hatchery and witnesses first-hand the horror of an alien invasion. Fearing that no one would believe him, he states that he's dropping the story for good.

The Good: It's great to see Quinn return. Colicos was ill while filming this episode, so they reduced his part a bit. Sadly, we'll never see him again, but at least his return cements his place as more than just another one-shot character. I liked the idea that, in this universe, he might have actually been Deep Throat. Of course, he could have been lying when he made that claim, but I can completely see Quinn bringing down the President for his own aims. Maybe Nixon was digging too deeply into the old alien menace. While we're on the subject, the lie he told Cash was the best kind of lie - one with a dash of the truth. I think the idea of the Blackwood Project as hunting down illegal aliens is a very clever story. There's just enough truth in it to believe that Cash might find some bits of confirmation.

I also rather enjoyed learning more about the alien's reproductive cycle. This is to be their first clutch on Earth. If they miss it, and they do, they'll have to wait nine years to try again. I also liked the return of the great gorge, the one that the commander in Epiphany jumped off of. This time, the aliens hurl a defective egg into it. To Life Immortal!

It's nice to see another McCullough-focused episode.  She got to shine a bit in Goliath Is My Name and The Good Samaritan, but generally hasn't gotten close to the screen time of Ironhorse or Blackwood. She's still way ahead of Norton's one episode, though.

It's fun how excited the scientists in the team get when they get the chance to examine a hatching alien egg. Only Ironhorse seems worried. When the tiny alien grabs Suzanne and won't let go, Ironhorse is right there waiting with the flame-thrower. He doesn't say "I told you so" with this mouth, but his eyes are another story. Ain't the alien an adorable little scamp?

Parks does a good job as the charming Cash McCullough. You can see why Suzanne fell for him in the first place, and why she subsequently broke it off.  I rather like his casual racism. It's not as daring as it would be today, but even in the late 80s it would have been edgy and immediately showcases just a hint of his ruthlessness and disregard for others. He was a well constructed character on multiple levels, and I'd have been happy to see him in another episode.

The Bad: After all we've learned about Cash, I can't see him dropping the story of an alien invasion the way he does. I mean, he has proof! I suppose the team probably could have shut him up, somehow. For that matter, the idea that 'no one would believe it' is, as always, absurd. Their whole planet fell under alien assault a mere 35 years earlier. Even if you buy that most people choose not to acknowledge this, a hard-hitting facts-driven journalist should know about it.

Speaking of silly, the men of the team find their jaws dropping when Suzanne shows off her dress for a date with Cash. Maybe I'm jaded by 2010 fashion sense, but I'm not seeing it. (Not that she isn't an attractive woman; she is. Just I don't see Ironhorse and Blackwood getting flustered by this outfit walking into the room.) And with a large alien problem right at the moment, the timing was pretty bad.

As much as I liked the illegal alien lie, I was less impressed with Quinn's story pertaining to his motivation. Sharing the same mistress with General Wilson (drink!) is something that Cash could probably verify and isn't really all that compelling.

It was awfully convenient for the plot that the alien that attacked McCullough at the end was, well, an alien, not a guy with some radiation scars.  We almost never see them in their true forms, so to see one with no explanation now is kind of goofy. It was fun to see Cash give the alien a flying tackle though.

Finally, it seems odd how long it takes for the Blackwood Team to mount an appropriate response to the aliens inside the warehouse. The aliens need 72 hours to incubate and get very close to succeeding. Since the Blackwood Team knows about the aliens almost from the start, it seems a little silly. I can almost see them sending in a recon team first, since you wouldn't want to just blow up a base that might contain chemical or biological agents. Once they learn that it's an alien breeding ground, though, why not just firebomb the hell out of it it with jets or tanks?

The Ugly:  I thought the episode was going to let me down and I was going to have to use burning alien eggs, but at 42 minutes in we got to see Cash's camera crew's corpses, mutilated as only the aliens can.

There you have it.  We're moving into the end-game here for season one. The Blackwood Project scored a great victory this time out, limiting the aliens to the ones already here on Earth, at least until the colonists arrive. Things are often a lot more murky, but sometimes it's nice to give one to the good guys.

It really was a lot of fun to see Quinn back and scheming.  I think, of all the plot elements of Season One that got dropped in the second season, is absence is the one I feel the most keenly. He was a character of such potential, and sadly this episode only hints at that potential. Alas, it was not to be.  War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season is available for sale on DVD.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #51: The Man in the Machine!

The Man in the Machine! is the fifty-first issue of the US G1 Marvel comics run of Transformers.  The creative line-up is mostly consistent from the last issue; Budiansky wrote the issue, Delbo drew it, Hunt inked it and Yomtov colored it.  Bill Oakley replaces Rick Parker as letterer. José Delbo drew the cover.

I find the cover to be fairly disappointing.  A headless Fortress Maximus holds up the cables to a ski lift, while Pretender Beasts menace him and his head lies in the snow.  Skiers are avoiding him, though they generally don't look particularly panicked.  "Slaughter on the Slopes!" we're promised.  It's fairly lackluster. One interesting detail is that the traditional logo that's graced the comics for the past four years has been replaced with the more futuristic 1989 logo.

The issue opens on an otherworldly scene, with Spike Witwicky menaced by various mechanical implements.  A voice tells him not to resist, that there is no escape, but Spike can't accept that. As he falls towards an abyss, he manages to snag a cable. He pulls himself to freedom, just as he wakes up. It was all a dream, one caused by the proximity of his Headmaster helmet.  We learn that, in the aftermath of the Underbase saga, Buster and Spike have returned home to Sparkplug.  Spike has quit the Autobots, having achieved his objective. Optimus Prime is sorry to see him go, especially with the Autobot ranks as thinned as they are. It's a very welcome, very human development. After all, why WOULD Spike stay with the Autobots? I can completely accept that he'd not want anything more to do with them, after what he's endured.

Spike has no time for breakfast or family, this day, because he's got a ski trip with a friend. He also has an errend to run; disposing of his helmet, which is too much a reminder of his past life for him to keep.  He chucks it into a junkyard and drives off. It won't remain lost for long, though, a pair of Decepticons comes along shortly, hunting for the human bonded to Fortress Maximus. Scorponok has somehow learned that Fortress Maximus has quit the Autobots, and is taking advantage of the opportunity to eliminate (or at least wound) his old rival. Budiansky introduces the beasts a bit gradually, starting with some growling, followed by a lovely shot of them in shadows, and only then revealing their full glory. They find the helmet, and catch the scent of Spike's car.  Off they bound. This development, too, seems eminently sensible. Scorponok is a shrewd customer, and I like that he's moving against an isolated Autobot like this.  Whether Spike likes it or not, he's a potential threat to the Decepticons, and Scorponok treats him as such.

Hundreds of miles away, Spike picks up his klutzy friend Cliff.  Cliff shares some rather heavy-handed advice about learning to accept who he really is. At first, I wondered if this might be an oblique reference to sexuality, though it turns out that he's talking about wearing glasses. Yawn. Spike's not much interested one way or the other.  When he nods off in the car, he's treated to another lovely Delbo dreamscape. This time, the abyss that he plunges towards looks oddly familiar ... I love the wobbly panel borders here. Alien and surreal architecture really plays to José Delbo's strengths.

In the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Cliff and Spike enjoy some snow. Sadly for our heroes, the Decepticons aren't far behind them at this point.  Soon we're engaged in an extended chase sequence down the mountain. When Spike realizes that it's scent that his pursuers are after, he and Cliff chuck their jackets down the mountain and buy themselves some time. They find a cave and make some fire to keep warm. Spike bemoans the loss of his helmet, and with it the ability to summon Fortress Maximus. Cliff makes the leap that Spike's dream isn't about escaping Decepticons, it's about escaping his former self.  Spike goes into another dream, but this time enters the abyss, the mouth of Fortress Maximus. There, he accepts who he is and, incredibly, summons Fort Max. Oddly, Fort Max looks like he merely steps out of the Ark and plummets down to Earth, and ability that he hasn't demonstrated before or since in this continuity. That part is a bit glossed over, though. Details like that aside, the emotional weight of the story feels right. Running from yourself is never a good idea, as Spike has come to learn.

All that's left is the big fight. With Carnivac and Snarler at their gates, Cliff and Spike zoom off again. Cliff wants to head for the trees, but Spike directs them off a precipice ... into the waiting arms of Fortress Maximus. Even with his newfound connection to the Autobot, Fort Max is clumsy, allowing the Decepticons to bat him around a bit. Spike and Cliff manage to get the helmet back from Snarler, who has it nestled on one of his tusks. With the helmet, he swiftly commands Max to release the rest of his armor. After combining, the Cons are promptly driven off, never to be seen again in the US. (Though, of course, Carnivac would become one of the most important characters in the latter days of the UK.) Cliff promises to keep Spike's secret, but does ask him where he REALLY was during his semester off from college.

Despite a somewhat wobbly cover and an unappealing promo last month, this is a surprisingly strong issue. In some ways, it serves as an epilogue for both the Underbase saga, and the Fortress Maximus / Buster / Spike storyarc.  It'll be the last thing Budiansky writes about either and it's a satisfying way to end things.  It's a very small, intimate tale, and perhaps more importantly it feels completely organic to what had gone before. Furman would later pick up on some of the themes introduced here and use them in his penultimate issue of the G1 comics.

Next month, "They're mean, they're nasty ... and they're hungry ~~ THE MECANNIBALS!" Hmmm ... it sounds like a very Budiansky idea.  I'm willing to give it a go. The Man in the Machine! is included in IDW's  Classic Transformers Volume 4 at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Autobot City concept art

It's Tuesday, and we all know what that means.  It's time for another edition of The Ark Addendum.  It's a special, double-wide spread of an issue today - the concept art for Autobot City.

Over the weekend, I got a request from a fan named Alex who was asking about artwork for Autobot city. Sadly, aside from a single, low-quality image that Floro Dery posted to his website years ago, I didn't have anything from the final version.  However, I have stumbled across this absolutely lovely image of an early, unused concept for the city.  The concept artwork is a Floro Dery hand-drawn original, on several oversized pieces of paper taped together.  In fact, the center piece of paper were oriented vertically, hence the slightly odd shape to the image.  It's an amazing piece, showcasing the extraordinary talent of the man who drew it.

Note that since the image was drawn across several pieces of paper, there are occasional discontinuities. These were present in the original drawing, so I resisted the urge to clean them up.  If there's interest, I may post some additional views of this absolutely massive piece where I zoom in close up, so that you can read the hand-written notes on the city. Let me know if that's of interest.

For those of you printing out and saving these Ark Addendums, this is designed to be printed on two 8.5x11 pieces of paper as a two-page spread. Hope you enjoy! (A big thank-you to Dell Barras for saving this piece all these years, and sharing it with me.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

R.I.P. Carl Macek

Over the weekend, Carl Macek passed away.  This extremely talented man has been passionately involved in bringing Anime to America for decades.  While he leaves behind quite a legacy, he will probably be best remembered for Robotech.

"We'll go to the stars and beyond." 
Rick Hunter

Like many of my generation, Robotech was my first real exposure to Japanese Animation.  I immediately took to the lovely character designs and complicated storylines. It seemed so much deeper than the typical television fare I was used to. Sure, it's quite possible that I'd have found my way to Japanese anime without Robotech, but it's by no means certain.  As it was, even as a nine year old I sought out all I could about these awesome cartoons so unlike what was being produced in the states. I'm probably dating myself here, but I have fond memories of watching anime at the I-Con science fiction convention in the days before fansubbing. We'd just be watching bootleg Japanese VHS tapes in an auditorium and some guy would be in a booth, explaining what was going on.  We've certainly come a long way since those days. 

"... as he sets off towards the unknown and his rendezvous with destiny."
Robotech Narrator

In any event, I learned the news this morning and was immediately depressed. While I've been fortunate enough to meet many of the architects of my current passions, I've never had the fortune to meet Mr. Macek.
My world is poorer for it.  Good bye, Mr. Macek, and thank you.

If anyone needs me, I'll be watching Robotech.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 19

Vengeance Is Mine is the nineteenth episode of War of the Worlds, the series. It is a very intimate tale, about Ironhorse accidentally shooting a human hostage in the course of stopping an alien plot. Two lives are deeply impacted, Ironhorse and the victim's fiancee, Martin Cole. Ironhorse is breaking down a bit, reliving the moment over and over, whereas Cole (played by the late, great Denis Forest, who would go on to play the primary villain of the second season) develops an unhealthy obsession with Ironhorse, culminating in the kidnapping and planned execution of the soldier.

The aliens, meanwhile, have developed a laser weapon using human technology. In order to mass produce it, they need costly rubies, so they go on a crime spree to get the money. It's a rather elaborate plot, almost Pinky & the Brain-esque. Ultimately, Ironhorse frees himself and hauls Cole with him to Sacramento. Together, they foil the aliens with a remote-controlled helicopter laden with explosives. They day is saved, and the two men put aside their differences.

The Good: It's a very human episode, delving deeply into Ironhorse's seemingly impregnable exterior. Chaves does a great job with it, never overplaying it but trusting in the audience to identify with his struggles. It's nice to see him freeze up immediately afterward and allow an alien to escape. Next, he holds the team back when they want to head off to follow up on a warm lead, only to later want to rush off to deal with a cold one. His lack of balance is disconcerting, but in a good way.

Forest, too, turns in a great performance. He's does a wonderfully creepy, not-quite-right fellow. He wears his pain on his sleeve, and you can really believe that this man has been pushed too far and snapped. I can see why they brought him in in the second season.

I rather like the all-too-human saleswoman trying to throw a dash of seduction into her sales pitch for the rubies. The aliens, of course, are somewhat baffled by it.

During the end, while aliens with an armored car full of money flee from Omega Force, they radio to the Advocacy for advice. Their council was simple: 'survive.' Sometimes, over-thinking a problem is the wrong course of action. 

Blackwood, Drake and McCullough each try their best to engage with Ironhorse over the white elephant in the room. Ultimately, Harrison contacts General Wilson (DRINK!) and forces Ironhorse to take some time off.  He clearly needed it.

Ironhorse does a great job of rattling Cole. He describes, with increasing urgency, the certainty with which Cole will be found out, prompting his captor to slip up and allow Ironhorse to turn the tables on him. Even as a captive, don't count Ironhorse out. The scene is really well directed too, with the camera tracking Cole as he circles his captive.

The Bad: At the end, Cole and Ironhorse make their peace with each other. Then what, they just let him go? He's clearly a very unstable individual. Then again, maybe he will be locked up, but the story doesn't suggest anything like that. For that matter, why did Ironhorse bring Cole upstate after slipping free from his bonds?

What's with the remote controlled helicopters? It seems like a silly way to wage battle, and not really in keeping with the tone of the show.

Omega Force is driving around in an early 80s American sedan. Could they really not afford to rent a jeep? It's a subtle detail, but it annoyed me so I list it here. I don't think I'm being petty, either. When I first saw the scene, I assumed that they were alien soldiers specifically because of the makeshift look to the vehicle.

What's with the alien plot? They want lasers, so they need optical equipment (which they apparently get effortlessly) and rubies. Rather than steal rubies, which 'humans value' and will be guarded, they decide they need large quantities of cash. What, cash isn't heavily guarded? And after their soldiers are killed by a helicopter piloted by Cole, what's stopping them from trying again? Our heroes never even found out what there plan was. They noticed the lenses, but that's about it.

The Ugly: The aliens test their laser by boring through the heads of a living prisoner. Grotesque! Not only that, but they choose to shoot part of the scene right through the head of their victim. It doesn't get uglier than that.

So, that's Vengence Is Mine. It's a decent episode with some big plot holes. I'm willing to overlook those flaws, though, in the face of generally strong directing and acting. The emotional core of the episode is completely solid, and I think that's more important than the logic. Still, it'd be great if we could have both as we sometimes manage. War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season is available for sale on DVD.

War of the Worlds, the series - Vengeance Is Mine script changes

Note: there are many, many differences between the aired version of Vengeance Is Mine and the original script. Friend of the blog The Sultan of Sarcasm has shared some of them with us.

Cole was originally to be less antagonistic, a bit more sympathetic:


Martin has Ironhorse propped up on the cot, with cushions behind him, although Ironhorse is still bound. Martin is feeding Ironhorse some oatmeal with a spoon.

That enough?

Yes. Thank you.

I don't want you dying of malnutrition.

Ironhorse watches as Martin takes the bowl to a sink and washes it out- very meticulous.

If you're not an Alien, why aren't you--?

Martin spins around violently, knocking dishes everywhere.

Stop it with this Alien business! You're not
skating out of this by pretending to be crazy!

All right, you're not an Alien. Who are you?!

Martin looks at him.

Yes. Time you knew.

Martin pulls a chair in front of Ironhorse, sits and talks to Ironhorse as if he were verbally attacking him, his face twisted in anger and torment.

Two weeks ago, you were on the campus of Wescott
University. I saw you there. I didn't know who you were
at the time and I still don't. All I know is that you shot
and killed an innocent young woman, Sarah Cole.

How do you know that?

It was my business to find out. Sarah Cole was my wife.

Even Ironhorse cannot hide his shock.

When I heard that there'd been a shooting, I was one
of the first at the police barrier and I saw a body being
loaded in the ambulance. I didn't know it was Sarah. I
saw you, with the Uzi, holding the IV bottle. Then a man
took you away. One of the people you live with.

How do you know...?

I've been watching! In the grief of Sarah's death, I
forgot about you. But then, at the funeral, there you
were. Everyone else was a friend of Sarah's, except you.
What were you doing there? I had a camera in my car.
After the ceremony, I took your picture as you were
leaving. And wrote down your license plate.

That doesn't prove anything.

Shut up! I took it to the police, who'd already been
very secretive about what was going on. When I gave
them the picture and the plate number, they politely
told me to mind my own business. Something wasn't
right. I went to the newspaper and the local t.v. stations.
At first, they were very interested. Then a few hours later,
they would call back and tell me, sorry there's nothing we
can do. Nothing they could do! My wife, who had never
harmed a soul in her entire life, who was one of the most
loving, giving people I have ever known- 23 years old, dead,
killed in cold blood- and on one would help me find her killer!

But you found me.

I have a friend, a computer genius and something of a hacker. Our
local police department's computer system isn't that sophisticated.
But it can provide access to a great deal of useful information,
Colonel Ironhorse. And it helped me find the man who killed my wife.

If you think I'm guilty, why don't you turn me over to the authorities?

Because they won't do a thing! The state has no intention of bringing
you to justice! Why, I don't know. But it doesn't matter. I'll provide the
justice, myself. It would be more poetic if I had your Uzi, but this will
do well enough.

Martin holds up Ironhorse's pistol and smiles.

Or maybe something that would be even more painful. I'm still
thinking about it.

You're going to kill me?

You murdered my wife, didn't you?

It was a mistake. I thought she was someone else.

Oh, really? And who was the woman who deserved to die?

She-- Forget it, you're not going to believe me.

Try me.

I thought she was an Alien creature.

A space monster?!

A member of hostile group of extraterrestrials who are
trying to destroy the human race.

This is ridiculous! Although, I suppose since Prestroika,
you've had to replace the evil Communists with somebody.

Have you ever killed someone in cold blood?

No, but I don't expect any problems.

Then why am I still alive?

I wanted you to know why you were dying. That you
weren't going to get away with snuffing out the life of a
beautiful, innocent person and not pay the price!

It's not easy to kill someone.

Doesn't seem difficult for you.

It's my job. I'm a soldier.... and we're at war.

Well, this is my war. And you, Colonel, are about
to become the next casualty.



Also, there was a completely different plot about the aliens robbing banks. They would have used a human bank robber, and would have captured Harrison and Suzanne. Only Ironhorse's quick thinking in front of Cole would have saved them, while showing him what kind of split-second decision-making was necessary in his line of work.




CLOSE ON a lazer gun, in size and weight like an AR14. It is being passed from hand to hand.

We located another special cathode ray tube in
the Seattle area. It will be here tomorrow.

The CAMERA PULLS BACK to REVEAL the three ADVOCATES passing the gun one to the other.

When will the lazer gun be completed?

All we need now are the lenses.


There are three facilities which do such work.
But we cannot get inside. Their security is too
heavy, even for us.

We must obtain those lenses!

We will, comrade. But another way.

What is that?

We let the natural greed of these humans do
the work for us.

We need this weapon now!

The humans are very greedy. It won't take long.

A Woman Alien bursts into the cave. She is the one from the first scene, who escaped in the car.

Comrades, I am here to report!

On your failure!

They were waiting for us! It was a trap!

This is not the first time the humans have anticipated our

True. We must learn the identities of these humans.

As soon as we have the lazer gun, we will stop
them all.



Three ALIENS, Two men and a woman, sit on boxes in a small pool of light in the middle of a large space. Suddenly, four men, all armed, appear out of the dark on all sides- they are surrounded. Startled, they get to their feet.

Do not be alarmed.

Out of the dark another man, older, refined, but dangerous- CANARIS, the arms dealer.

It is only I, Canaris.

Four bodyguards?

Most people want insurance for when they are
dead. I prefer it while I'm alive.
(takes paper out of pocket)
So, I have studied your request. This is optical
equipment. I am an arms merchant.

You have a reputation for obtaining that which
cannot be gotten through normal channels.

Such as these lenses. I am surprised that the
Soviet Union does not already possess this

The Aliens look at one another and smile. Why not?

You have no objection to selling to Russians,
do you?

The price for these lenses is six million
dollars. If you have the money, I don't
care if you're from outer space.

Canaris LAUGHS at his little joke, and when the Aliens realize he has no idea how close he is, they join in.



A Bailiff opens the courtroom doors and People begin to stream out, including Reporters surrounding GEORGE BENNETT, a hardened criminal, and his DEFENSE ATTORNEY.

Ladies, Gentlemen! My client has something to say.
He has been found innocent by a jury of his peers and
we will let the verdict speak for itself.

Yeah, you want any more, you'll have to buy a copy
of my book.

Bennett LAUGHS, then notice another Man, the DISTRICT ATTORNEY, walking by him.

Hey, Mr. D.A., tough luck. But you can't win 'em all.

You skated this time, Bennett, but I know you killed those
two guards. And you'll get yours.

You bet I'll get mine. And if you're not careful, I'll get
yours, too.

Bennett LAUGHS, turns and walks away.


Bennett, still laughing to himself, walking down the corridor, sees the Men's Room and enters.


As Bennett enters, there is a man at the sink, washing his hands. He turns to look at Bennett and we see that his face is ravaged with radiation. Bennett notices, too:

Whoa! You are one scary looking dude.

Not for long.

The Man quickly shoots out a hand, grabs Bennett by the throat and possesses him.





The CAMERA PANS ACROSS the floor, REVEALING Men, Women and a few CHILDREN, lying on the floor.

Lie still and keep quiet. Do as we say and you
won't be harmed.

The CAMERA PULLS BACK to REVEAL the People are all being held at gun point by two ALIEN BANK ROBBERS.

In the teller's area, another ALIEN ROBBER is filling a large bag with cash from the teller's drawers.

From out of the vault, Bennett appears with another Man, also carrying a large, full bag.

We're fat! Let's hit it!

Bennett, his Accomplice and the Robber at the teller's drawers all rush toward the front door, passing the two Men holding the People at gun point. Bennett stops as the other two hurry outside.

(indicating People on floor)
What about the humans?

They all have to die sooner or later. Might as well
be sooner.

The two Robbers smile, then turn the weapons on their prisoners and OPEN FIRE. People try to get up and run or escape in any way they can, but none do. It is a massacre. Bennett watches and enjoys.


The bank is closed. The street is empty. Except for a car parked in a lot across from the bank.


Bennett sits in the front passenger seat. The DRIVER and TWO HOODS in back are members of his gang. All Aliens.

One of the Hoods in the back seat leans forward, explaining the situation to Bennett.

See the Insurance Office two doors to the left?
Closed for the weekend. We already shorted out
their alarm, we'll be inside in five minutes.

But how about the cleaners in between? Won't
they hear us digging tomorrow?

If we start digging in an hour, we'll be deep enough
by the time they open so they won't hear a thing.
Then we tunnel under and up and we should be
inside by Sunday noon.

What about the vault?

It's on a timer. We'll have to blast.

(looking around)
Church across the street. Lots of people around here
Sunday. I don't like it.

But this joint is loaded.

Yesterday I would have agreed with you. But
possessing this human's body, seeing things as
he saw them, with his corrupt and devious- but
very clever- mind....there is a lot we can learn from
these humans, especially how to destroy their own

The CRACKLING SOUND of a radio transmission, then THE SOUND OF ALIEN SPEAK over the radio. Bennetttakes a mike out of the glove compartment and, in ALIENSPEAK, responds.

We have heard from Canaris. He has the lenses
and is on his way from Geneva. He will deliver
them Sunday at noon. Do you have the money?

(on transmitter)
Not yet. But we will by then.

You must not fail us.

I have no intention of failing. Tell him the meeting
is on.

Bennett replaces the transmitter.

Sunday at noon! We'll never make it!

I don't like this plan, anyway.

Then, how?

Perhaps an inside job.

The others stare at him, not knowing what he has in mind. But Bennett, smiling, does.



The Uniformed Guard, followed by MR. ROSS, the bank president, Harrison, Suzanne, and a Second Uniformed Guard.

How long is this business going to take?

Mr. Ross, as president of the bank, I'd think
you'd be more interested in the security of your
funds than a Saturday morning golf game.

Since when is golf a game? It's a way of doing
business without being bothered by phone calls.
And if you two aren't F.B.I., who are you?

Let's just say, friends of the F.B.I...

Well, I don't mind telling you, I don't like this.
Having to drag two guards down here on Saturday,
at double time, screwing up my golf game with out
largest depositer, and proving to two mystery people
that nobody's busted into our vault!

If they haven't already, we have reason to think that
they might.

Mr. Ross has the vault door unlocked. He swings it open. Then he unlocks the iron grill door behind it.

There. See for yourself.

Suzanne, Harrison and the Two Men from Omega Force step through the grill door and the CAMERA FOLLOWS THEM as they check out the huge vault room.

Seems okay.

I'd say it's perfect.

There is a LOUD CLANGING NOISE behind them. They turn.


Mr. Ross has slammed shut the grill door, and he and the two guards are on the outside.

What the hell....?

The Two Omega Force Men draw their weapons, but they are GUNNED DOWN by the two Guards.


How perceptive. And now we will not only
have the money we need, but we will be
able to learn how you know so much about
what we are doing before we do it.

There's no way you can make us talk.

Talk? We don't need you to talk. Our leaders
will borrow your brains and then everything you
know, we shall know.

Harrison and Suzanne react in horror as Ross slams the vault door closed and we:






The vault is open as are all the safety deposit boxes, which are scattered about, empty. Suzanne and Harrison are bound and on the floor, next to one another, while Bennett and his Hoods load the money and other valuables into plastic garbage bags. Ross and the Guards are helping.

(to Harrison)
Look on the bright side. In a few hours, we'll know
more about the Aliens than we've ever known before.

But we'll also be dead.

Kind of a "good news, bad news" joke, huh?

You're not laughing.



Ironhorse rushes in the rear door, his pistoldrawn, with Martin right behind him. As Ironhorse gets a view of the lobby, he sees something o.s. and freezes, as does Martin.


Suzanne and Harrison lie bound and gagged on the floor. Mr. Ross, looking horror-stricken, is being held as a hostage-shield by Bennett.

Drop it! Or he dies!

Please! I don't care if he takes the money!

Ironhorse is frozen. He looks to Harrison and Suzanne but they can't help. He lowers the gun but doesn't drop it.

Bennett pushes Ross toward Ironhorse.

You heard him! Now do like I say, get rid of the gun!

By this point, Bennett has pushed Ross until they are standing directly in front of Ironhorse.

Ross extends a hand, to take the gun.

Go on, give him the gun.

Ironhorse hesitates, then raises his gun as if to hand it to Ross. But at the last possible instant, he SHOOTS, two rounds, in rapid succession.

The first shot hits Ross, the second, Bennett. They both EXPLODE into body bagels.

Martin's mouth hangs open, as he witnesses what has happened. Ironhorse turns to Suzanne and Harrison.

You two okay?

Harrison and Suzanne both nod, yes. Ironhorse drops down beside Suzanne and starts to undo her gag. Martin does the same with Harrison.

How did you know he was an Alien?

He reached for my gun before the other Alien told him

That's it.

Ironhorse nods, yes.

You could've been wrong.

I know.

But if you hadn't, we'd all be dead now, instead.

Ironhorse nods, again.

That's how you live your life?

It's my job.

Perhaps I owe you an apology.

No. No apologies. Listen to me, Martin.
What I did to Sarah is going to haunt us
both for the rest of our lives. And that's the
only way we can live with it.

Harrison and Suzanne exchange a look of relief. Their friend is on his way back.


It appears abandoned.


Canaris looks out to sea, surrounded by his Bodyguards. Then he checks his watch.

An hour late. We wait no longer.
(picking up package)
Come, we will find another buyer for our
precious lenses.

Who? The Japanese?

One cannot always be certain, but I think
that is who sold them to me.

As they start down the Lighthouse stairs, we:



It's hard for me to know if the changes from the script to what was aired would have been for the better or not. I like the idea of more time spent on the aliens, certainly.  Making Martin Cole more sympathetic, though, may have backfired. I do kind of like the idea of him seeing firsthand how difficult Ironhorse's decision was.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #50: Dark Star

Dark Star (what, seriously, it's a giant-sized 50th issue and NOW we're dropping the exclamation point?) is the fiftieth issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers.  It's brought to us by the creative collaboration of Bob Budiansky as writer, José Delbo as penciler, David Hunt as inker, Nel Yomtov as colorist and Rick Parker as letterer.  José Delbo also drew the cover.

The cover is appropriately epic.  An enormous, glowing Starscream dominates the landscape, standing over the Earth and cackling with energy.  He's seemingly electrifying Autobot and Decepticon alike.  This is one of those times where the block coloring really works, as it keeps the focus squarely on Starscream.  It's a shame that Delbo's interpretation of Starscream has but one ear (based on the perspective of the character model,) but it's really a terrific image.  One's first instinct is to interpret the cover symbolically, but that impulse may be premature. Starscream Triumphant! it proclaims, which is somewhat redundant but does help to balance things out a bit.  Also of note, Fortress Maximus has vanished from the Marvel box in the corner.  He's been replaced by Optimus Prime. I suppose it is appropriate, he hasn't had much to do recently and never had the same kind of presence as old Optimus.

The issue itself is quite strong, living up to the promise of the cover and then some. It opens with a two-page prologue, showing the Underbase fly through space accompanied by Budiansky's bombastic prose.  "Somewhere out there, in the void, in the infinite night, shines a single, terrible light -- a blinding, piercing, viscous shaft bound together by the very secrets of creation itself ... for within its shimmering folds are the blueprints for life ... and for death." Well done!The visuals are no less impressive, and depict the massive power of the Underbase destroying a planet by grazing its atmosphere and overloading a sun by plunging into its heart.  Wow!

The book itself opens properly on page three, calling itself Chapter One.  It picks up shortly after the last book left off, with poor Buster Witwicky dying in the ice.  The Aerialbots, logical scouts for the Autobots, find him and summon the rest of the Autobots. Meanwhile, the Decepticons have put aside their differences to get Ratbat's ship in working order.  It's not exactly clear why it isn't flight-ready already.  Perhaps some sabotage from Starscream? Lingering effects from Grimlock's sword-throw back in issue 41?  However, the coming of the Autobots gets their attention, and they soon abandon their repairs to do battle with their hated enemies. We get a spectacular battle, ending with Fort Max trying to keep Ratbat from drinking his fuel. Thus ends part one. We've gotten plenty of action , some great and dynamic artwork, and the resolution of Buster's arctic cliffhanger.  So far, so good.

Chapter two opens aboard Scorponok's tragically unnamed ship. Starscream gives a lovely soliloquy, once again confirming this as one of Budiansky's crowning achievements in his Transformers tenure.  The art doesn't let down the script, either.  Delbo's details, enhanced by the starkness of Hunt's inking and the some lovely colors by Yomtov make this one of my favorite individual panels in all of Transformers.  The power of the Underbase is just as evident here as it was in the prologue, it's just a lot more subtle.  Meanwhile, the carnage on Earth continues, only to be interrupted when Buster is knocked free from his medical unit on Fort Max.  He spells out to Ratbat exactly why the Autobots are here, which prompts a cease-fire by both sides.  Soon Autobot and Decepticon alike are working to get the tropical island space ship ready to fly, to prevent Starscream from seizing the Underbase.  Ratbat reiterates that the Underbase is his, prompting Prime to repeat his warning that it might bring madness ... or death.  Are you sensing a theme here?

In seemingly no-time, the Decepticon base launches.  It arrives seconds after Starscream begins to bathe in the glow of the Underbase.  "Fill me with your unholy power," he cries, but is thwarted by a cannon blast from the bizarre Decepticon ship. Oddly, Optimus Prime was manning the cannons, prompting accolades from Scorponok, Blaster and Ratbat.  Oooookay, moving on. Prime is worried that even the brief exposure Starscream experienced might be enough to make him more of a threat than they realize, which is confirmed moments later when Starscream grabs Scorponok's ship and violently smashes it into the tropical base.  "Starscream has awakened!" This is a short chapter, but it gets the job done.  The Autobots and Decepticons have a satisfying team-up, but it's too little, too late. I love the destruction wrought on both Decepticon vessels, all at the same time. The Decepticons of Earth have literally and figuratively collided with the Decepticons of Nebulos, and neither side has come out well for it.

Chapter three opens with Starscream gloating. None of the occupants of the ships can get back to Earth, so he leaves them to rot in outer space.  One wonders why he doesn't simply destroy them all, but even he might blanch at the prospect of facing the combined forces of all Autobots and Decepticons at once.  He informs them that he'll subjugate the Earth, starting with the destruction of New York, Tokyo and Buenos Aires.  Off he flies, little realizing that Optimus Prime has kept the Ark nearby. They contemplate trying to hunt Starscream in space, but reject the notion on the grounds that they'll probably be unable to find him.  Instead, Ratbat proposes they split into three teams and ambush him in each of the cities he announced.  The commanders are to be Scorponok and Grimlock, Blaster and Ratbat, Soundwave and Optimus Prime.  At least, that's the theory. Optimus declines to participate, stating that he must see to Buster's safety instead, much to the disbelief of pretty much everybody.

We're then treated to twelve pages of non-stop action. First, we go to New York, where Blaster and Ratbat command. Ratbat lures Starscream out, acting as bait.  He's definitely no coward, that Ratbat, leading by example despite his relative low power-level.  Soon the Aerialbots, Jetfire, Jazz, Goldbug, and the Seacons and more are all out of commission.  Goldbug is a particularly tough blow, given how prominent he's been all along.  He won't stay dead very long, of course, but it's still rather shocking.  With their troops down for the count, Blaster hatches a desperate plan - knock Starscream off-balance and allow Ratbat to sink his fangs in. Ratbat seems prepared to go along with it ... until Blaster remarks that Starscream didn't absorb ALL the Underbase's power. Things click into place, and Ratbat flees.  Blaster, alas, takes one to the chest, and the star of so many of the early stories moves off-stage.  He, too, comes back, though unlike Goldbug he'll never be as prominent or as cool as he was in his early appearences.

Starscream, though, has gotten fed up with New York and decides to try out Tokyo.  Things progress in much the same way. The Throttlebots, Dinobots, Predacons, and the Decepticon Pretenders are all quickly blasted by Starscream. Only the latter group manage to remain standing after a blow from their over-powered adversary.  Scorponok, like Ratbat, realizes that Optimus is up to something and sneaks off.  Grimlock, though, is annihilated by friendly fire.

In Buenos Aries, we get another repeat.  This time, it's the Technobots, the Terrocons, the triple changers, and Omega Supreme. Omega gets a direct hit, but Starscream remarks that the titan may have destroyed him once, but that won't be happening again.   Soundwave, too, is disabled, and Fortress Maximus takes a hit.  However, things change course at this point.  Buster radios Fortress Maximus and mentions Optimus Prime.  Starscream realizes that the Autobot leader has been nowhere in any of these fights and takes off to see what he's up to.  Thus ends chapter three. It's not very deep, but sometimes just watching a slaughter can be a lot of fun. There's no other way to describe what we're witnessing here, either. Characters who have been prominent since the beginning are knocked about like yesterday's playthings. I suppose that's what they are.  It was shrewd of Budiansky to make organic components an insulation against Starscream's power, since most of the newer toys have some kind of organic link.  Thus, there's an in-universe reason why all of the season one through three guys are destroyed, but the newer toys manage to stick around.

On board the Ark, Optimus has launched the rocket that he's been preparing. Hi Q announces that it'll be intercepting the Underbase momentarily.  Unfortunately, Ratbat and Scorponok overhear this, and take it as undeniable evidence of Autobot trechery.  Ratbat announces that he's going to go and get it instead, which prompts Scorponok to unceremoniously shoot him in the back.  Thus exits from the stage the greatest leader the comic book Decepticons have known up to this point, a downfall of his own hubris. Scorponok also blasts Optimus Prime, then flies out to get the Underbase for himself.  Buster wakes up Hi Q, and with his engine in place Optimus Prime is back in action. He flies into space to prevent Scorponok from meeting the Underbase, rocketing both of them out of the way at the last second.  Scorponok curses him for a fool, noting that the Underbase will now reach the Earth and destroy it.

Oh, but Optimus was more shrewd than that.  Starscream, drawn by Buster's signal, has flown to orbit to investigate. He interposes himself between the Earth and the Underbase, absorbing all of its might.  Before their eyes, he mutates, growing larger and larger ... until he explodes, unable to contain the vast energies within him. As Optimus has been saying all along, too much power brings madness ... or death. In Starscream's case, it brought both.  Thus, we hit a satisfying conclusion to the tale that's been building for the past four issues.  All that's left is a brief denouement. Scorponok declares his intention to collect his casualties, and then their truce shall be ended. "Our battle for earth shall begin anew!"

It's another very strong offering. We get decent pay-off for the story that's been building, realistically, since issue 48.  Issue 47 really has very little to do thematically with anything else we've seen and functions more like a prelude than like an actual part of the story.  I suppose a four-part story seems more marketable than a three-part one. As it turns out, this will be the last apex of Budiansky's tenure on the book.  He'll write five more tales, but none of them will reach this level of narrative strength.

There's some great artwork, particularly on the coloring and inking side of things. There's so much energy and power about that techniques not normally seen in Transformers are employed, and it makes this issue stand apart visually from most of the others. 

Another element to this book, alluded to earlier, is the housecleaning. Clearly, Hasbro wanted the book to focus on newer characters and toys, so to add extra weight to the story many existing characters were killed.  For some of them, there's little impact. After all, Gears hasn't starred in an issue since #3, and the Technobots never did.  But for others, it's a big deal.  Ratbat's been a mainstay since #27, Blaster since #17, Goldbug née Bumblebee since the first issue. It's kind of sad to see them go. Of course, most of them will be back, though no Decepticon leader will ever be foolish enough to resurrect the popular and incisive Ratbat.  Most of the biggies get a little extra emphasis for their deaths, which is nice. 

Next month, we're promised Fortress Maximus vs. the Decepticon Pretender BEASTS!  This sounds a lot smaller than what we've just experienced, but then that's completely appropriate. Still, I find it hard to get excited by the prospect of more Pretenders.  We'll just have to see, won't we? Dark Star is included in IDW's  Classic Transformers Volume 4 and is well worth reading. Order your copy today!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


So, back when Cybertron was still on the air, there was a segment on Hasbro's website called Ask Vector Prime. There's still an archive of it.

I've got this crazy, silly idea about maybe possibly trying to bring it back.  I will probably fail.  Nevertheless, if there's anything you'd like to Ask Vector Prime, please do so in my comments.  It's most likely just for fun, but hey, you never know!  Post a comment or give me an email.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Ark Addendum - The Ultimate Doom (part two)

The Ultimate Doom continues!  This rounds out the models from the first episode of The Ultimate Doom, with some landscapes around the headquarters of each side.  I rather like the periscope that they drew up for the Decepticon base.  Of course, there were a lot of other Decepticon HQ models, but most of those found themselves into The Complete Ark.

Hopefully, next week I'll have a bit more time and maybe we can get away from The Ultimate Doom for a spell.  Don't worry, I'll get to it eventually for sure!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #49: Cold War!

Cold War! is the forty-ninth issue of the US G1 Marvel run of Transformers.  The creative line-up is unchanged from the prior issue, meaning that the tale is brought to us by Budiansky (script), Delbo (pencils), Bulandi (inks), Yomtov (colors) and Oakley (letters.)  The cover is by José Delbo.

The cover feels like it should be better than it is.  Starscream looks diabolical while clutching Buster, with two factions of Decepticons going at it in the background. Thematically, it's perfect and the idea seems like a winner.  However, the execution leaves much to be desired.  The Cons in the backtround, rather than looking like they're about to kick some ass, seem static and lifeless.  Starscream looks diabolical but his anatomy, especially the positioning of his arms, seems way off.  the background guys have a weird mix of block coloring and standard coloring.  Either way might have worked, but the hybrid thing sure doesn't.

Thankfully, the issue itself lives up to the promise only hinted at by the cover.  Things start strong, with Ratbat leading a posse of Decepticons into battle against an incoming spacecraft.  Budiansky's prose is back in top form.  "On Cybertron, Ratbat was an Accountant.  He used to count fuel stockpiles [...] Today he prepares to count Autobot casualties. To Ratbat, it's all the same job ... just a different inventory." We get several pages of the Decepticons preparing for battle, including the introduction of the Seacons' combined form.  As "the prodigious powerhouse called Piranacon" prepares to smash a spacecraft that so blatantly landed right outside Ratbat's position, Starscream calls for things to halt. Ratbat reluctantly confirms the order, given how much about the 'attack' fails to add up.  As it turns out, this is Scorponok's crew, come to pay a visit. They even announced their intentions ahead of time, which Starscream 'forgot' to pass along in the haste of relocating away from the Caribbean. Ratbat chides Starscream for inviting Scorponok to visit now, on the eve of Ratbat's triumph, but Starscream argues that not only was it their duty, but that to put off these new Decepticons may arouse suspicion.  It's a terrific opening, full of barely-contained energy and tension.  The fact that not a single shot is fired only whets the appetite for what is surely coming.

After a token scene of the Autobots searching for the Decepticons, we head back to the main thrust of the action.  Starscream is giving Scorpnok and his fellow Headmasters a tour of the base, talking about everything but the Autobots.  Scorpnok is starting to get irritated by his dissembling, when Starscream gets to their prisoner, Buster.  Starscream gives the human plenty of time to talk, and he doesn't disappoint.  Buster quickly spills the beans about the Underbase, prompting Scorponok to angrily accuse Starscream of hiding something, which of course he was. When Starscream thanks Buster for his help, you just know he's up to something.  There's great facial work from Delbo here.

When Scorpnok confronts Ratbat, tempers immediately flare up. Scorpnok orders his troops back to the ship, but Ratbat doesn't want to risk letting him go.  He sends the Predacons to stop him even as Starscream flies off to 'execute' Buster. Naturally, Scorpnok doesn't care for being restrained and knocks the Predacons out of the way.  Seeing the disturbance, the rest of Scorponok's men pour out of the ship and Ratbat has little choice but to counterattack.  Events are playing out exactly as Starscream planned for them to, and we the audience get to thrill to some great Decepticon-on-Decepticon action.  Blitzwing evicerates Horri-Bull, Astrotrain steamrolls over Snapdragon, Bugly outsmarts Skywarp and so on.  Tantrum and Apeface have a spectacular little rumble, wherein Tantrum rips off Apeface's arm and spits it at him ... only to have Apeface bludgeon the Predacon WITH HIS OWN SEVERED ARM! Now, that's hardcore.

Meanshile, Starscream reveals the next phase of his plan.  He deposits poor Buster in an arctic wasteland with no special thermal gear, leaving him to freeze to death.  However, he also gives him a transmitter, set to the Autobot priority code alert.  He can save his life, if he so chooses.  But, with two factions of Decepticons already fully prepared for battle, Buster worries that it would be a slaughter.  Starscream isn't quite through yet, though. With all sides distracted, Starscream boards Scorponok's ship and takes off.  Ratbat, Buster and Scorponok all realize what's going on, and Buster decides that summoning the Autobots is necessary to stop Starscream.  He presses the button, and the issue comes to a close.

This is the strongest offering we've had in a long time.  Starscream shines more brightly than he ever has before, pitting allies and enemies alike against each other with aplomb.  The artwork gets the job done, and that job is showing off robots kicking other robots' asses.  It's also another rare Decepticon-focused issue, which is nice. Budiansky seems to have found his groove again, writing a tight and intriguing plot while also keeping his dialogue and narration fresh.  It's a real winner of an issue on all fronts.

Next issue, we are promised the giant-sized cataclysmic conclusion of the Underbase Sage, Dark Star! Sounds like a must-read! Cold War! is included in IDW's  Classic Transformers Volume 4.  Order yours now!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Behold the mighty Trypticon!

The thirty-second issue of the Transformers Collector's Club magazine has started to mail out, and once again you'll find plenty of Jim in the pages!

First up, there's a great interview with The Main Man Derrick Wyatt that spends quite a bit of time on the second Almanac.  Many thanks to him for his kind words.

Next, there's my second article on Transformers 2010, wherein I include some lovely Studio Ox artwork for Trypticon.  I also delve into some of his capabilities, as outlined in the pages of TV Magazine.  I wouldn't have been able to do the latter without the incredibly helpful and knowledgeable Mark Pellegrini, AKA DrSpengler. When asked to write the articles, I found myself in the awkward position of having lots of cool images that haven't been published in the west before, but not so many new factoids. I was able to scrape up some info for the first article, but found myself at a loss for the second.  Fortunately, in the course of putting together The Ark II I wound up with a complete collection of high-resolution scans of the TV Magazine and Comics Bom Bom coverage of G1.  Problem: I only read a smidgen of Japanese. Enter Mark, who I've corresponded with in the past. He's about a thousand times more proficient in 日本語 than I am, and gave me some high-level summaries of the issues dealing with 2010. From there, we narrowed down our focus to a few areas of high interest.  So, a hearty thank you to Mr. Pellegrini for his help.

So, if you're a club member, look for the article. If not, head on over to and sign on up without delay. You'll get a free toy, huge discounts on BotCon attendance, an excellent magazine, a huge backlog of fiction and access to fan-only toys.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Ark Addendum - The Ultimate Doom (part three)

And here is part three of The Ultimate Doom! I rather like the expressiveness of the Cybertron-in-Earth's-orbit model, with the wind and the trees going.

I also appreciate the sheer audacity of Megatron's plan. Not only does he use ALL of the energon Shockwave has at his disposal to pull Cybertron to Earth's orbit, but he maneuvers Optimus Prime to be the actual bot who pushes the button! Oh, how deliciously evil! Mwah ha ha!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Transformers: Headmasters – "SOS From Planet Sandra"

Spike: We're the only ones who can save Planet Sandra. But if we use the energy from Athenia, we'd have to compensate for it on Earth.
Fortress: That's why it's better to ship it straight from Earth.
Arcee: Commander! It's the data on Earth's stockpile. Ultra Magnus' report says the figure at the bottom is the minimum requirement.
Spike: Will this small amount be enough?
Fortress: They must understand our situation.

A call for help from an unknown planet in a parallel universe is received by both the Decepticons and Autobots. The hidden world is critically low on energy and needs assistance.

Galvatron, Scorponok and the Decepticons decide to disregard it, not wanting to get involved in such business, however Galvatron nevertheless dispatches Ratbat to track the Autobots, as he knows they will also have received the plea for help. On Athenia, the message was indeed monitored and Fortress has determined that it originates from a solar system which is exactly parallel to Earth's, planet Sandra occupying a similar position. He discusses with the Headmasters, Arcee, Spike, Carly and Daniel the prospect of sending energy aid to this mysterious planet, but Spike is concerned that their own energy levels are too low.

After double-agent Punch informs Fortress that the Decepticons ignored the SOS, Fortress and Spike agree to send aid from the energy stockpiles on Earth. A rescue party is formed, including Daniel for his first educational trip into outer space. Of course, this activity has been spied by Ratbat and reported back to Galvatron, who feels that all of Earth's energy belongs to only him and thus he immediately heads out to put an end to it. He meets with Sixshot to discuss surveillance on Autobots energy movements in the area.

Following this, we find Ultra Magnus, Twincast, Protectobots and Technobots at the Autobot Earth HQ, loading up the Trainbots with energon cubes, but they are soon attacked by Galvatron, Sixshot, the Terrorcons and Constructicons. There is a great all-out battle that occurs, involving the combiners and Magnus versus Galvatron, while Sixshot effectively brings down the Trainbots. Arcee on Athenia is alerted to this troubling development, confers with Fortress and the rest, who then decide to instead use energy stored on Athenia.

Chromedome: Why are you stopping me? We have to hurry!
Fortress: I have an idea. Athenia's stockpiles are about the same as Earth's.
Spike: Do you want to ship the energy from Athenia?
Fortress: To divert the enemy's attention.
Spike: But then Athenia will have nothing.
Fortress: Galvatron will come in pursuit. Let's move it from Earth to Athenia.
Spike: Good idea. We can rebuild the energy on Athenia.

As the battle still rages on Earth, Galvatron and Sixshot deduce that the Autbots will send energy aid from Athenia instead. Galvatron decides to dispatch Scorponok, noting that occasions like these are why they have him. Scorponok does indeed intercept Battleship Maximus on its way to Planet Sandra, initiating a fierce conflict in space. During the fray, Chromedome and Hardhead transform to vehicle mode but their small robot forms sneak away to the spacecraft carrying the energy aid. Spike, Daniel and Wheelie are already aboard and together they careen through a dimensional rift to enter the parallel universe where Sandra exists. They make contact with the inhabitants and prepare to land.

On Sandra, Spike, Daniel and the Autobots, expecting a planet very similar to Earth, are surprised to find it an almost barren wasteland. In meeting with the administrators, they learn that Sandra once had a thriving culture but the inhabitants used the planet's resources indiscriminately and wastefully. Spike sorrowfully notes that Earth could face the same desolation if humanity is not careful and wise in its use of energy resources. The people of Sandra announce that they have researched new forms of energy and will be ready in seven years to utilize them, which is why they need outside aid to achieve this goal.

Suddenly, they all spy Battleship Maximus in sky, having passed through the dimensional rift, yet it is being pursued by Scorponok. They engage in combat as Galvatron also joins in, battling Brainstorm and Highbrow. Hardhead and Chromedome decide for the moment to stay in their tiny robot forms in order to discreetly plant bombs on Scorponok. He soon erupts in flames, forcing a retreat by him and Galvatron. Soon after, the Autobots agree to assist the inhabitants of Sandra in their research for new energy resources.

This episode I found exciting and fast moving, as it opens with the mysterious SOS, the discovery of the parallel solar system, the battle on Earth which then forces a change of tactics for helping the planet Sandra and finally the sobering glimpse of a possible devastating future for Earth. The animation is solid throughout, especially during the Earth-based scenes, where we get combiner clashes and a killer fight between Magnus and Galvatron, their first since US G1 season three. Spike gets a juicy dramatic scene when he openly disagrees with Fortress. He may be the Autobots' long-time and most fervent human ally, but he certainly is not just a "yes-man", nodding politely at whatever is decided. In this episode and the one that follows, he shows courage in both stating his differing opinion to his friends and going toe to toe with Galvatron.

And speaking of Galvatron, this is first episode following his return where we see back in command of the Decepticons. Scorponok offers his opinion early on, but otherwise fills the role of giant foot-soldier. Again, it's anyone's guess why the writers decided to bring back Galvatron for a short stint and sideline Scorponok, but I actually don't mind so much, still being a fan of seeing the crazy guy mix it up!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #48: The Flames of Boltax!

The Flames of Boltax! is the forty-eighth issue of the US G1 Marvel comics run of Transformers, and the issue that I've taken the name of this blog from. It was written by Bob Budiansky, drawn by José Delbo, inked by Danny Bulandi, lettered by Bill Oakley and colored by Nel Yomtov. The cover is also by Delbo.

The cover is intriguing. Megatron stands over a badly injured Optimus Prime with a smoking fusion cannon on his arm.  What could this portend? He's got the Triggercons behind him, though the block coloring ensures that he remains to focus.  "The RETURN of MEGATRON -- --- the END of Optimus Prime?!?" it remarks, which is a tad misleading based on what's actually in the issue.  Still, it's a powerful image, and it is technically supported by the story inside, so I'll go ahead and say that this cover is very strong.

The issue itself is a bit more mixed. It opens with a nicely bizarre alien scene.  Buster runs through a mechanical jungle, complete with plants shooting at him.  Delbo clearly got to let his imagination run wild, and he has fun with it. When one of the plants shoots him square in the chest, he wonders how he can still be here. It turns out, it's Realvision, a hologram. Ratbat is about to watch the contents of the Autobot Cassettes and needed to test out the tech. Buster is sent away before it starts, though Starscream successfully argues to watch the tapes alongside his leader.  Ratbat is clearly distasteful of the prospect, which prompts one to wonder why exactly Starscream is his second in command. Perhaps the newly revived troops liberated from the Ark back in issue 41 feel more comfortable with a known quantity like Starscream.

The show starts, and Delbo's art again carries the day. We get to see a beautiful Cybertronian landscape, which is soon interrupted by the site of an Autobot patrol lead by ... Optimus Prime. A much younger Optimus Prime, with a Cybertronian alternate mode. I rather like this one more than the combat tank we saw for Optimus back in issue #1. This feels a lot more true to the character. Optimus is going to see Boltax, the High Circuitmaster of the greatest database on Cybertron. This is wrong on a number of levels; Boltax is a neutral, and thus off-limits to both sides by mutual agreement. Not only that, but Optimus' actions are putting Boltax and his, ahem, disciples, in danger. He's also endangering his men, the Triggerbots, as the disciples have boobytrapped the surrounding landscape. We get to see each Triggerbot, in turn, show off their prowess against such obstacles as molten mercury mines, a jungle of cables, and collapsing panels above pit traps. Watching the Autobots is none other than Megatron! Do you see where this is going?

Meanwhile, Buster has decided that he needs to see what's on the tapes too, and manages to slip his cell. He overcomes some obstacles of his own to watch the proceedings. Of course, if it was that easy to escape, one wonders why he waited till now, though perhaps security is more lax now that there aren't other humans around.

Starscream and Ratbat continue to watch the show, though Starscream can't seem to refrain from yelling at the screen, so to speak. I certainly wouldn't want to watch a movie with him. "He's behind you, you fool!" Megatron and the Triggercons observe Optimus get past all the defenses, then ignore the warnings of the disciples of Boltax. They promise only termination to those who proceed, which Optimus' men take as a threat but Optimus realizes is merely a warning. He lets his men camp while he proceeds forward. After the Autobots make themselves scarce, Megatron blasts his way past the disciples rather savagely.

Optimus enters the mountain of Boltax, who explains that greater than the database within every Transformer is something more fundamental; the collection of knowledge that underlies all databases. This Underbase is what Optimus seeks, and Boltax allows him to bath in its light. In what is amusingly several levels of voyeurism, Buster watches Starscream and Ratbat watch Megatron watch Optimus. Megatron, true to form, simply blasts what he thinks is Boltax before walking in on Optimus. Optimus explains that the entire mountain IS Boltax, and what was blasted was just a puppet. Optimus claims that there is too much knowledge in the Underbase for any one Transformer to possess; doing so leads only to madness and death. He begs Megatron not to take the Underbase for himself. Predictably, Optimus gets a face full of blaster for his efforts.  As Megatron gloats, Optimus crawls off and debates the merits of destroying the Underbase versus allowing Megatron to keep it. He decides to destroy it, and closes the vents for the flames of Boltax. The energy overloads, prompting the Underbase to shoot out into space. Megatron vows that its power will one day be his, and Optimus bemoans causing Cybertron's greatest treasure to be lost to the ages.

The tapes are over, and Starscream fails to see the value. However, Ratbat quickly realizes that existence of the Underbase has just moved from legend to fact. Moreover, Soundwave has calculated the trajectory of the Underbase; it'll be entering the sol system in less than a week! Ratbat is determined to capture it for himself, though Starscream has other plans. Buster seeks a way to warn the Autobots, but gets discovered. Ratbat muses that he may have seen enough to hear Optimus' warning; too much knowledge leads to madness and even death.

To be continued!

For an issue that's mostly set millions of years in the past, it actually works pretty well. We end on a cliffhanger, wondering about the fate of Buster Witwicky, we got to see a bit of the old Optimus/Megatron rivalry, and we learn what the Underbase Saga is really all about. The artwork helps a lot; Delbo really seems to be in his element here.  His alien landscapes are gorgeous, and help to keep the issue more entertaining than it could have been. I find myself looking forward to the rest of the Underbase Saga, much more that I was after the first issue.

Next month, Decepticon battles Decepticon in the frozen Arctic in an all-out "Cold War!" Sounds intriguing! The Flames of Boltax! is contained in IDW's Classic Transformers Volume 4, available from