Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bish's Review: Marvel UK #114 "Wanted: Galvatron - Dead Or Alive" Part 2

Issue #113 was written by Simon Furman and drawn by Will Simpson. Inking was provided by Tim Perkins and lettering by Richard Starkings. Steve White added the colour.

The unforgiveably terrible cover was by Jeff Anderson and features a badly rushed - just look at his wheels! - Rodimus Prime, in vehicle mode, being introduced by Wreck-Gar. It's supposed to be funny but I don't really get the joke. Even if it were funny, the mood whiplash between this cover and the actual story, which opens with a scene of desperate battle and closes with the destruction of a much-loved character, is far too great... Wreck-Gar looks ok.

We're still in the distant future of 2007 as we join the Autobots, led by Rodimus Prime, as they take a beating from a massive Decepticon assault. Blurr and Kup go down and things look bleak before shots come out of nowhere and despatch the Decepticons - it was a ruse. The helpless Decepticon commander, who remains nameless, but looks sort of similar to other generic Decepticons like Macabre, begs for his life, but Rodimus Prime denies his request and blasts him to pieces. When Kup congratulates him on the victory he jumps down his throat, reminding him that they have just "terminated eight sentient beings".

My first reaction to this incident was annoyance at Rodimus' schizophrenia here but then I realised that was the point Furman was making. In order to demonstrate just how bad the war has become since the destruction of Unicron we are shown that actions like these are necessary. Contrast this with the contraversial scene in Revenge Of The Fallen where Optimus Prime executes a Decepticon in similar circumstances. In the film it is unacceptable because the Autobots are the ones on the offensive, actively seeking out and hunting down rogue Decepticons. Here Rodimus' Autobots are so beleagured that they need to adopt these tactics in order to survive. Of course there is a case for arguing that these tactics undermine the Autobot cause, no matter the situation, but I think Furman does a good job here in setting up the situation and differentiating these Autobots from the ones in 1987. Either way, it does fit rather better with the slightly more brutal atmosphere of Transformers: The Movie. Furman uses a couple of phrases from Optimus Prime's battle with Megatron from said movie here ("Grant me mercy", "You who are without mercy... etc") presumably to contrast Rodimus with Optimus, but I'm not sure it's wholly successful, as there is at least one point in the movie where I think Optimus is going to shoot Megatron down, which would basically be the same as this scene. It's far from clear though, as Hot Rod spoils his aim anyway, so Furman's interpretation is certainly valid.

Rodimus is distracted by news (from a generic Autobot) that Nautilus, a rather flamboyantly designed Autobot deep-cover agent has broken cover with important news. It seems that he encountered Cyclonus and Scourge shortly after their dust-up with Death's Head and found out that both Galvatron and Death's Head have now time-travelled to the Earth of 1987! Rodimus is distraught that his actions have unleashed this threat upon the past.

We change scene to Bumblebee crouched beside a black and smoking patch of Earth. It emerges that his companion, First Aid, has disappeared to make way for a time-traveller of sufficient mass, an effect that Bumblebee is quite familiar with at this point. What he is not familiar with, however, is the deadly threat posed by Death's Head! As soon as he appears he decides that Bumblebee must be terminated in order for his presence to remain secret and, in a shocking display of firepower, blasts the loyal little Autobot into scrap!

Furman raises the stakes in characteristically shocking fashion. Ok, so it probably won't shock anyone these days to learn that Bumblebee will soon be rebuilt into Goldbug but he was a much-loved character and I'm sure many kids would have worried that he wouldn't be coming back. Not only has he been killed but he has been killed by a threat that he had no answer to. Rather than the usual comic character death by heroic sacrifice he has simply been blasted because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Other than this there isn't an awful lot of story in the issue. The only important plot point is that Rodimus Prime now knows where Galvatron and Death's Head are. Although we are not told so it seems unthinkable that he won't follow them and cause yet more time-travelling shenanigans.

I appreciate another look at post Movie Cybertron and it seems in keeping with Furman's storytelling style that things have only become worse since Unicron has been vanquished. From a logical perspective I find it rather hard to believe that in a war millions of years long these twenty have really been all that significant, but it would seem that Shockwave, in keeping with his first appearance in the comic, is just that much of a threat.

Will Simpson's art is pretty dramatic in this issue. I still have the odd criticism of his rendering of the Transformers but his Death's Head is decent and Bumblebee (before and during his untimely destruction) is basically on-model. Assuming Simpson did the designs for the one-off characters in this issue I think he is also worthy of praise, particularly for Nautilus, a colourful design that fits right into the more futuristic, fantastic style of the Movie characters.

The story continues in the next issue with Burning Sky and the pieces are certainly in place for some exciting action. The whole saga, Galvatron, Death's Head and all was reprinted in Titan's Fallen Angel collection. Out of print, but not too tricky to get hold of. Sadly it seems unlikely that IDW will be able to publish a new version as Marvel currently own the rights to Death's Head.


Tim Roll-Pickering said...

This story, though not the rest of the saga, was also reprinted in issues #221-224, the first time old UK stories were reprinted instead of new US material. It was quite controversial at the time, especially given other format changes around then.

One potential major error is that Bumblebee is shown as alive in the future despite being (seemingly) killed in the present. And nobody seems to remember Galvatron has visited the past, despite several of the Autobots here having run up against him in Target 2006. I think this saga could have benefited from a brief explanation of the alternate timeline theory, especially as a recurring point on the letters page at the time was that Optimus Prime's death in the present day had seemingly invalidated the future.

Caitlin said...

I remember getting this issue...IT CAME WITH CHOCOLATE therefore it was awesome

Eugene said...

@Tim, well Bumbles did get repaired later.

About the Death's Head thing, seeing as IDw has gotten friendly with Marvel (with the awful TF/NA crossover anyway), and they are now organising another bunch of UK reprints, chances are, Fallen Angel and Legacy of Uniron will see the light of day soon.

Chuffer said...

Something I noticed about the “Grant me mercy, Prime” scene is that the first three panels seem to reference the Optimus/Megatrom duel from TF: The Movie (both language and positioning are very similar). The difference is that Rodimus actually pulled the trigger, so maybe Furman was trying to draw a contrast between the two Primes.

I loved Death’s Head’s casual execution of Bumblebee (well, not ‘loved it’, I was horrified and too young to be familiar with the “I got better” comic book trope) – a real jaw-dropping end to the story.

Last point: why were Rodimus and Nautilus drawn so sparkly? They look like they’re standing under a disco ball.

Anonymous said...

the joke refers to an advertising campaign for the Renault Five which was being shown in the UK when this issue ran. the slogan was "Renault 5 - what's your's called?

Kids into cars at the time would have got it, but since it was a UK exclusive campaign which only ran for about 3 years I doubt anyone outside the UK or older than say 30 will remember it.

I agree the cover doesn't really work as Rodimus Prime is a tenuous association with Renault Five.

As for the story, I don't remember this issue very well as I've only seen it in reprint once. I do recall Bumblebee's death was a hastily added re-write because the UK title was going to skip the GI Joe crossover which introduced Goldbug and substituted this story in its place. OOPS that's a bit of a spoiler as it isn't till later in this saga when GB is introduced - sorry.

Anonymous said...

hmmm, continuity for the UK comic was always trouble if you think of it as part of both the US comic continuity AND that the events of Transformers the Movie (or at least its comic book adaptation) were all canon. Little things like Tracks being missing in the UK stories, but still a background character in the US material, or for that matter the two origin stories for the "Special Teams" and Goldbug. Plus the UK featured characters like Octane, Ratbat, Sandstorm, Springer, Broadside long before the US and featured characters like Red Alert, Outback and Top Spin when the US didn't.

Part of the problem was that British commissioned stories were written to fill up a weekly title, when the US version was monthly. A US issue filled (at best) two issues of the UK title, leaving on average 2-3 issues with nothing to print. The way round this was for one off side stories (but this soon got dull and caused some complaints) so Simon Furman was asked to try and write bigger plots - often with no knowledge of where the US title was heading for more than one issue at a time.

Think of it like the novels written to tie into shows like Buffy or Star Trek, they finish up where the next episode was supposed to start, but often include elements that are invalidated later in the TV run. They are alternate continuities that share similarities with one another but have dubious canon.

Bishbot said...

Thank you Anonymous friend! Interesting about the Renault 5 joke. It's true that I am not old enough to remember it, but I do remember the Renault 5. We had one. It was tiny and had nothing in common at all with Rodimus Prime.

Tim and others: I actually think the US and UK continuities mesh together really well, considering the inherent problems that Furman was working with. Introducing time travel was quite a smart move, although perhaps not deliberately, as it allows for some fluidity to the future.

Although I've read all of the big storylines several times, I haven't really read it all in order until doing these reviews, so I'm not absolutely certain, but I would suggest that the Movie future is the established future for the UK continuity up to Time Wars, which, by implication, replaces it with the US encounter with Unicron.

Also, Eugene, while I'm sure Marvel would let IDW use Death's Head, it would be at a price which I'm not entirely sure they'd pay. I live in hope, but I wouldn't hold your breath. I'd say grab the Titan trade while it's still fairly available.

Chuffer - While I noted the tone of the movie being sharper, I have to admit I didn't really notice the exact phrasing, which is actually unforgiveable, since that scene is burned into my memory and can't be removed. I think I'll have to edit to include that.

Caitlin - chocolate AND a good story. You can't say fairer than that for your money, and, since it was a crap cover anyway, at least it wasn't ruined by the chocolate sticker!

Bishbot said...

Edited - thanks to Chuffer - with a caveat though that I'm not sure it's as big a contrast as Furman maybe wanted it to be.

Anonymous said...

the "joke" on the cover is also a reference to Wreck-garr "talking TV", since he would communicate in advertising slogans, continuity announcer clich├ęs etc. So referencing a contemporary car advertising campaign would have made sense in 1987. Sadly since the event depicted was set in 2007, it makes little sense really. Perhaps using a more universal TV idiom might have sold the concept better. How about "Rodimus Prime Sponsors safe driving - film at eleven.".

Eugene said...

Was at the IDW forums- Andy revealed they WILL be reprinting the Death Head Arcs (Fallen Angel and Legacy of Unicron). Along with lotsa UK stuff (Man of Iron, Warth of Grimlock, the B&Ws (recolored), friggin Raiders of the Ark...)

So um, yay?

Anonymous said...

Yay indeed! I thought the early UK stuff might get reprinted soon when I saw The Enemy Within in their Best of Starscream trade.

Also of note in this issue is 'Con air commander with the devil horns who gets his request denied by Rodimus. I don't think there's any fan-consensus on a name for him; the only one I've heard anyone bother with is Jhiaxus on the Obscure TF site calling him "Blue-Wings". But in Last Stand of the Wreckers, he shows up in a squad of "elite" (Marvel exclusive) Decepticons with the moniker...Ferak. Yeah, the first of many 'Cons to be wasted by Blaster in US #17. He never transformed into robot mode before his untimely death, so I guess no one can prove they didn't have similar robot modes...but did their jet modes look that similar? Allowing for differences between artists, maybe.

Just thought that was noteworthy.

Night Heron said...

Have you ever seen The Return of Opimus Prime? where the Quinisons must restore Optimus Prime in order the save the world froma hate pluague released by a crazed scienists its has a pretty good ending but what became of Wheelie?