The Legacy Of Unicron! Part 2 was scripted by Simon Furman, drawn by Geoff Senior, coloured by Steve White and lettered by Annie Halfacree.
The cover was by Robin Smith and unfortunately does not really live up to the excellent issue that it is wrapped around. Firstly, it's too yellow. In lieu of a proper background we have a yellow sheet with Unicron's gloating face etched onto it. I understand that the figures in the foreground are the important bit, and Unicron's face lurking in the background is quite a good idea, and thematically relevant, but really, your first thought upon looking at the cover is "man, that's pretty yellow," rather than "look at those cool robots fighting."It fails to emphasise the important parts of the issue. Really the eye should be drawn first to Death's Head and Shockwave, as their battle is the main part of the issue and the Unicron head should be noticed second, but the huge block of yellow messes this up and detracts from this aim. Then again, Smith's versions of Death's Head and Shockwave are both pretty awkward looking, so perhaps it doesn't really matter.
Despite the shocking appearance of Unicron's head at the end of the previous issue, Part 2 does not pick up immediately after that. Instead we are back on Cybertron where we find Shockwave preparing to deal with the return of Death's Head, bearing the remains of Scourge and Cyclonus and demanding payment for them wrecking his hit on Rodimus Prime. It's both funny and creepy to see Shockwave throwing his arms wide and telling the bounty hunter that it's good to see him again. It's unlikely that Shockwave would be able to carry off this forced jollity but luckily Death's Head isn't interested in greetings, he just wants his money.
Shockwave is happy to pay if they really are dead, as he may need Death's Head in the future but he has not risen to the ranks of Decepticon commander by trusting people so he has Soundwave conduct a mental sweep of the room (Furman loves Soundwave's tech-spec mind-reading ability, no other writer really bothers with it). This sweep reveals, as Shockwave suspected, that it's all a ruse and Cyclonus and Scourge are still alive!
Death's Head, his cover blown, fires on Shockwave but the Decepticon is too quick for him. Hear starts a game of cat and mouse between the two of them while Scourge and Cyclonus "miraculously recovered" face a tide of Decepticon reinforcements. Death's Head pursues Shockwave and seals a blast door behind him, proclaiming "Shockwave's mine!"
Meanwhile, back on the planet of Junk, Wreck-Gar has come home (ostensibly this is ten minutes ago, and each subsequent panel on this page ticks down a few minutes until we get to NOW! but it's a little bit pointless - a potentially nice device rather ruined by being crammed into one page). He, Smokescreen and Inferno are a little surprised by the lack of a welcome from the Junkions. Wreck-Gar finally spots some and the trio set off to see what they are up to. Nothing can prepare them for the sight of Unicron's disembodied head giving orders, mentally, to his current pawns, Death's Head, Scourge and Cyclonus!
Back on Cybertron, Death's Head follows Shockwave into a target range featuring facsimiles of prominent Autobots. He is struggling with Unicron's influence, revealing it is based on reward and punishment, rather than a complete takeover. Original thoughts are possible, but punished with pain. Distracted, he is barely able to dodge Shockwave's surprise attack and rails against Unicron for clouding his thoughts and nearly getting him killed.
Shockwave, his usual veneer of icy calm gone, blasts furiously at the locked blast door, desperate to get hold of Scourge and Cyclonus. Soundwave is trying to get through to help him, by having Menasor attack the barrier, but he will be too late.
The Decepticon leader is unimpressed when an Autobot dummy rolls out of the darkness, thinking that Death's Head will attack from another angle. Unfortunately for him, the bounty hunter is actually hiding behind the dummy and pops out to shoot Shockwave square in the back. Further shots blast holes in Shockwave and wires pour out like entrails.
Another shot tears his arm from the shoulder and leaves him helpless on his knees, smoke and sparks pouring from horrific wounds. Death's Head approaches him and tells him that he was a worthy opponent and on a different day he might have enjoyed their fight but that in these circumstances, with his mind not his own, it just makes him feel sick. He blasts Shockwave at point blank range and the Decepticon literally comes apart. Death's Head opens Shockwave's disembodied head, removes his brain module, and crushes it between thumb and forefinger, promising all the whole to "avenge [them] both."
Meanwhile, Soundwave has Scourge and Cyclonus at his mercy. Death's Head emerges and explains that he has executed Shockwave and that Scourge and Cyclonus must take his place as leaders of the Decepticons. Soundwave disagrees but Death's Head backs his point up by threatening to blow his starship, and everyone in the base, into pieces. Soundwave, ever the pragmatist, does not argue and immediately hails Scourge and Cyclonus.
Back on Junk, Unicron is talking to himself. He explains that with Scourge and Cyclonus in command of the Decepticons, he will force them to lead a devastating attack on the Autobots which will leave few Transformers alive, paving the way for his return to Cybertron and its destruction!
The decision to take us to an unexpected place after the shock reveal of Unicron's survival pays off enormously for this issue. What could easily have turned into a simple story of Death's Head fighting the diminished Unicron on the Planet Of Junk has turned out to have dire consequences for Cybertron and the entire Transformer race - as any Unicron story really should.
One aspect I like so far about The Legacy Of Unicron! is that it focuses on Unicron's tendency to act through catspaws, as Death's Head is treated similarly to the way Galvatron was in the animated movie. This is important because Unicron himself is hard to relate to. He's so big and so destructive that he needs smaller minions to carry out his more subtle plans and to give the audience something less cosmic to follow.
Shockwave's destruction is a genuinely shocking moment. Of course this happens in the distant future (2oo8) so readers can still enjoy stories about Shockwave from the present day (1987) but we have never quite seen a major character, even a Decepticon, dismembered in such a brutal fashion. The crushing of the brain module is a particularly memorable and disturbing touch, telling us, without being so crass as to put it into words, that Shockwave isn't coming back.
Unicron's plan makes a fair bit of sense as well and has a bit more intrigue behind it than simply wanting to get stronger and attack Cybertron. I like him using Scourge and Cyclonus as his puppets, since they were created by him in the first place but I rather get the impression that picking Death's Head might have been a mistake. The strong-willed bounty hunter gives several indications in this story that Unicron's control might be less than total and one slip and he is going to come looking for revenge.
When it comes to artwork, really only Geoff Senior could be relied upon at this point in the comic to deliver the kind of dynamism that the death of Shockwave demands. He steps up, giving us one memorable panel after another. It says a lot of his art that we can feel empathy for a being without a proper face.
We're in an exciting place here. The Autobots are approaching Unicron and clearly have a big part to pay but we cannot count Death's Head yet, and will the Autobots and Decepticons be forced to break the stalemate they've been mired in at Unicron's bidding? We are promised "TOTAL WAR!" next issue, so there's a chance!
NEXT UP… RETCON!
1 month ago