Thursday, June 23, 2011
Bish's Review: Marvel UK - 1988 Annual - "What's In A Name?"
Time today for another story from the 1988 Annual - published in August 1987. Only a little one for today but the third and last story from this book Ark Duty will also be reviewed in the next few days.
What's In A Name?, written by Simon Furman, is a prequel story set while the Transformers were still all on Cybertron and Optimus Prime was not even the leader of the Autobots, merely a field commander. It is told in flashback by Swoop:
Swoop explains the situation - how he used to be known as Divebomb before an unknown Decepticon came out of nowhere, defeated him in battle and rubbed his nose in it by taking that name. Unable to take the insult Swoop tracked the Decepticon down, against orders, and engaged him once again.
Divebomb surprises Swoop - I am a big fan of his dragonlike Cybertronian alternate mode here - and the pair battle while trading insults. As Swoop takes to the air Divebomb hits him with a fragment rocket and forces him to crash. Swoop is able to surprise the grandstanding Predacon with a quick blast from his afterburners but is soon down again thanks to Divebomb's energo-sword.
Swoop says that he could have lived with this defeat but for the fact that he is suddenly saved by his least-favourite commander - Optimus Prime - whose orders he disobeyed to find Divebomb.
The story cuts back to the present where we are treated to the reason behind this reminiscence - Sludge has shown Swoop a news story about the Predacons recent deprivations on Earth. Swoop recognises Divebomb and begins to plan his revenge.
- this story will begin to pay off in Issue #135
Even given it's scant pagecount - only five - I really like this little story. It stands in good contrast to the modern trend of "decompressed storytelling" that you get a good slice of what makes Swoop tick as well as a few pages of decent action. Furman is obviously fond of the Dinobots because there was no real need to revisit the theme of Swoop's rivalry with Optimus Prime but it adds good context to the longer and more epic stories as well as threatening to pay off in the present. Furman could have done this story either way, of course, but it is highly unlikely that he would have had the idea if "Divebomb" hadn't been a Bob Budiansky suggestion for Swoop's name which Hasbro ultimately rejected before repurposing it for the Predacon flyer. Dinobots vs Predacons certainly makes a good deal of thematic sense and having a personal grudge like this raises the stakes in exciting ways. I cannot wait to cover Grudge Match.
The art, by Will Simpson certainly tells the story in an effective way. This is particularly important because with such a small amount of pages to work with the action needs to be clear and easy to follow or a reader will skip over the pictures and miss half the point. It is always good to see Cybertron again and as mentioned above, I love Divebomb's alien-looking bird mode as well as Swoop's Cybertronian plane mode. This is very effective in the way that this is clearly Swoop but still very different from the prehistoric Pteranodon we're used to, even to the point of him folding his wings slightly differently in robot mode and gaining thrusters in his feet. As it is, Will Simpson, whose art I have had a lot of issues with in previous stories, really turns in a strong piece of work this time.