Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Marvel G2 #5 - The Power and the Glory and Tales of Earth (pt 2)

The fifth issue of the US G2 Marvel Comics run of Transformers contains two tales.  The creative teams for both stories are mostly the same.  Furman scribed the tale, Galan penciled it, Amask inked it, Starkings with Gaushell lettered it.  Only the colorist changed, with Chia-Chi Wang on Power & Sarah Mossoff on Earth.  Oh, and editors Tokar and DeFalco are credited as 'Power' and 'Glory,' continuing that fun tradition.  The cover artwork is, of course, by Derek Yaniger, his only contribution to this particular G2 issue.

However, as far as contributions go, it's quite quite lovely.  Megatron clutches the severed head of Bludgeon, still dripping oil and exuding smoke.  "Alas, poor Bludgeon" it says, one of the most effective uses of text in a Transformers cover that I can think of.  This particular scene from Hamlet would be homaged again in The War Within.  In fact, I've got the original Figueroa artwork from that piece.  I'll stop bragging now and get back to the review.  Once again, Yaniger's style proves dramatically successful when depicting robots that have been beaten and battered.  Megatron looks hard, and Bludgeon, well... he's seen better days. The homage certainly works well with a skull-faced 'bot and lends a bit of extra literary weight to the issue.

Our first story opens with some Cybertronian landscapes.  Bustling around on Cybertron are Wheelie, Blurr, and Scourge... pretty odd choices, really.  The Primus origin of the Transformers is restated, as Optimus Prime straps himself into some kind of contraption surrounded by robed robo-monks.  He's a bit nervous about allowing the natural properties of Cybertron to be used to better tune himself to the Matrix, but what choice does he have?  Down he goes, with some lovely lettering on his screams.  Once again, all of this is starting to feel a bit familiar to me, a bit repetitive.  It's also a bit of a letdown, since last issue we were promised 'Cybertron.'  It seems like we're getting more dreamscapes instead. 

Cut away, briefly, to a world teeming with life getting colonized by G2 Cybertronians.  A nervous functionary reports to Jhiaxus, though he has only good news to report.  Really, though, Jhiaxus is more interested in bad news... he was hoping to lure forth the Autobots, and yet nothing.  The silence disturbs him, as well it should.  What could Prime be up to?  The highlight of this scene is probably the scurrying administrator mention the "flourishing deceptic -- er, Cybertronian Empire."  I also like the designs on the futuristic construction vehicles bulldozing the landscape.  I can't help but think that, if this story was told in 2005 or beyond, those would have been Constructicon green.  Much as I like the designs, though, it's all a bit silly.  If they're going to cyberform whole worlds, they wouldn't be doing it by hand, now, would they? 

Back to the past, though, Optimus sees the first robot crawl from the primordial nanobots of Cybertron, then seemingly get imprinted with a unique design.  It's kind of an odd visual, but it's so in synch with things like the protoforms of Beast Wars that I have to wonder at the coincidence.  To me, the logical way that robots would come about would be off of some kind of assembly line, so this organic-analog of creation is simultaneously interesting and counter-intuitive.  Prime's vision continues, and one of the creatures starts to bulge out, in some kind of bizarre process reminiscent of Akira.  It's not apparent to the reader what's happening, though Prime gets it right away. 

Cut away again, this time to Autobase.  Hot Rod trains with the Aerialbots, leading them into an ambush.  This somewhat awkwardly leads to Kup wondering about Hot Rod's 'youthful exuberance' being odd, what with all Cybertronians being the same age.  Aren't they?

Nope, as Optimus Prime learns, they aren't.  What he's witnessing is some kind of budding.  He sees the birth of Jhiaxus, and realizes that the racial memory of their species budding was lost for a reason.  The race wasn't meant to grow as large as it did, their morality diluted as the spark of Primus was spread too thin.  He rips himself free of the contraption, as he resolves to get help fighting the G2 Cybertronians.  Upon a moment's reflection, one realizes that the only beings who he could reasonably look to for help would be the G1 Decepticons.  Intriguing!  Sadly, he missed the last part of the vision, sort of dark residue of the process drifting into space and becoming a kind of massive amorphous cloud, moving 'with direction and purpose!" 

Thus ends this exposition laden tale.  It's certainly a new idea to try to digest.  While I'd never given much thought as to the specific mechanism by which Primus endowed his creations with life, budding would have been pretty far down on the list.  Also, while I can grasp the idea that too much duplication would spread the essence of Primus too thin, resulting in a race more amoral than immoral, the idea that this process would as a side-effect produce a mass of black energy in space seems pretty odd.  There IS a kind of comic book logic to it, but I'm not sure I fully accept it.  Since this issue is all about exposition, there's not much more to say.  The interludes we get serve more to remind the reader of who the other players are than to do anything to advance the plot.  All told, a bit weak.  No action, a repetitive means of conveying new information, and artwork that isn't particularly compelling.  I'll admit that having a title cribbed from The Lord's Prayer is somewhat clever, given the divinity central to the Transformers creation. 

Once again, it falls to the back-up story to carry the issue.  (It's telling that the cover is from this six page story, rather than the longer The Power and the Glory.)  Bludgeon laments how things have turned out.  His glorious symphony of carnage was meant to draw out Optimus Prime... not Megatron.  Megatron declares his intentions, though could there ever have been a doubt?  Darkwing is the first casualty, but then the battle begins in earnest.  Bludgeon disarms Megatron, but gets beheaded in return, a pretty uneven trade.  But wait, Bludgeon is a Pretender, and Furman remembers this.  Beheading his shell doesn't kill him, and he manages to score, in his tank configuration, a direct hit on Megatron.  Megatron transforms and returns the favor, and just like that the fight is over. Skydive watches from behind cover and realizes that he's in way over his head. 

I can help but think that, as awesome as Bludgeon was, he deserved a cooler death.  Sure, Megatron is pretty amazingly bad-ass, but Bludgeon was always written as a very canny fighter.  Two and a half pages of battle just doesn't seem adequate, especially one where he commits a tactical blunder, survives it, and then gets overpowered in a tit-for-tat tank exchange.  Still, finally, it feels like the pieces are where they belong.  Megatron is once again standing at the head of the G1 Decepticons.  With Optimus Prime on the hunt for another alliance, we seem poised to get to the real meat of this story.

Taken as a whole, another weak offering.  Too much exposition in part one, just not quite enough of part two.  We could have cut out the Autobot training exercise from Power and given that space to the Bludgeon/Megatron battle and I'd have been pretty happy.  Galan's artwork fails to excite here, though I really do love the clever use of lettering in this story, like Prime falling or Megatron shooting through his own cannon's onomatopoeia.  However, when the biggest praise I can muster for a book is the lettering, however nice, you know it's not top shelf material.  Still, I feel like finally the pieces are positioned, the backstory told, and we're ready to start moving forward.  Unless I miss my mark, issue #6 will be a big step up in quality.  Here's hoping, anyway.  Both parts of this story have been reprinted in   Transformers Dark Designs  by Titan publishing, available used at Amazon.


TheForgottenTaxi said...

I reread this recently and was shocked by how short the Megatron/Bludgeon battle was, since it definitely loomed large in my memory. I guess the cover had a lot to do with that.

Still, a two-page battle to the death is a better send-off than 95% of characters in the Marvel continuity got, so I don't think you can complain too much that Bludgeon didn't get his due. As I mentioned, it was at least memorable, which is more than you can say for many major characters.

Eugene said...

And he actualy got a few good licks in. That's beter than most of the characters in the Underbase saga, even much-loved, major ones like Grimlock, Blaster and Goldbug, could say.

Salt-Man Z said...

Remember the old line from #65: "whatever damage is sustained by a Pretender shell is felt by its owner...only more so"? Were that actually the case, Bludgeon would have gone pretty much catatonic when his shell got decapitated! I always thought it was a ridiculous premise (why have armor that actually hurts you more?) and am glad that Furman promptly forgot about it.

Anonymous said...

At last Furman started tidying things up with this issue. It feels like the stories that should have been running before they slapped Generation 2 on the cover as an epilogue to Generation 1.

While I liked Bludgeon (perhaps more than Scorponok, Thunderwing or even Megatron for that matter) I was certainly not sorry to see (what from a toy line perspective) an outdated figure finally gone from the title. I had much the same feeling about characters such as Ratchet in Generation 1 who (at the time) didn't even have an Action Master figure.

Art wise I'm still far from happy with this issue, but the cover is marginally better than most. At least it wasn't weirdly out of scale.

Anonymous said...

I forgot about that "rule" from #65, but just 4 issues prior to that, Bludgeon decapitated the pretender shell of Jazz, who acted like he didn't even feel it. It's not impossible to rationalize both cases: Bludgeon is a skilled enough swordsman to decapitate someone so cleanly they don't feel it, and the discipline of mastering Metalikato could give one amazing pain tolerance.

And if Pretender shells increase all sensation...well, this isn't the sort of fansite to explore the possibilities of Cloudburst becoming the second one.

And the way Prima (or Primon, or whoever) blobs out of the surface of Cybertron seems consistent with what we glimpsed in the Keeper's story in #61. Robots coming off an assembly line is how it worked in 5 Faces of Darkness, and I'm guessing Furman wanted his origin story to be as different as possible. Or has he stated that he completely ignored the 'toon, like Bob Budianski?

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

Shocking as it may now sound, the original Transformers cartoon wasn't much of a force on British television in the 1980s - if memory serves me correct the first season was shown in the weekend children's breakfast slot in 1985/6 but otherwise it was limited to satellite and video releases.

Furman was certainly aware of some of the cartoon because the UK letters page in the Soundwave & Grimlock eras was written by him and a recurring theme was the heavy dismissal of the different stories & characterisations in the cartoon. (This may be part of the reason British fans traditionally had little time for the cartoon.) He's since said the cartoon has grown on him and his reaction at the time was because he felt it was pitched too young - it sounds like a traditional evolution of a fan.

Whether his familiarity extended to the Quintesson origin I'm not sure - but by the time he wrote the first Primus origin there was no reason to assume the bulk of the readership would be aware of it.

LBD 'Nytetrayn' said...

I may have the issues mixed up, but I don't remember Bludgeon decapitating Jazz's shell; just nicking it around the chin/jaw, as Jazz himself was ducking out of the way, coming out of his shell.