The cover is a bit disappointing to me. Omega Supreme stands amid a group of Decepticons, taking their fire and doing a pretty good job of mangling them. "You asked for him -- you got him! OMEGA SUPREME!" we're told. And while it's certainly possible that kids with the toy were writing in and asking for him, since he's never appeared in the comic before it feels like yet another new character rammed down our throats. The action is oddly static, and the angle doesn't really showcase Omega's size well. We see that he's bigger than the other cons, but they just wind up looking small somehow. Something to indicate scale might have helped.
The inside of the book, thankfully, does not disappoint. We start with a lovely Perlin splash of Omega Supreme in rocket base mode, outside of the Ark with all currently functioning Autobots in attendance. This includes the Dinobots, not seen since issue #8.
With the Ark now secured, Optimus Prime is now ready to go on the offensive. First order of business, learn the secrets of combiner technology as represented by Devastator. To this end, he's planning to launch an all-out assault to provoke a combination. This is set against the visual of Omega transforming into robot mode for the first time. Ratchet and Skids both have objections; Ratchet is worried about the safety of his patients, at least until Omega reassures him, and Skids is worried that walking into a fortified Decepticon base is perhaps unwise. Optimus has considered this, which is why the plan is to break off the assault as soon as the information is procured. This part of the plan does NOT sit well with the Dinobots. They're fed up with being stuck at base for lack of suitably discrete alt modes, and won't go to war just to run away. The headstrong bots desert, which prompts MORE anguish from Skids. However, Optimus has already factored their potential reaction into his planning - the mission will procede.
It's nice to see Optimus taking the initiative. Most plots seem to be initiated by the Decepticons; while this is somewhat inevitable, it makes the Autobots seem a couple of steps behind. It's also nice to see an explanation, abliet a not particularly convincing one, for why the Dinobots haven't been seen. Optimus seems poised and confident, definitely a command performance from him.
The Decepticons, though, are dealing with a divided command structure. Having put aside their differences, at least for a while, Shockwave and Megatron seem to be sharing a joint command of the Decepticons. Shockwave seems almost passive-aggressive as he points out the relative value of the Constructicons (retrieved, and indeed created, by him) vs Donny Finkleberg's Robot-Master. Megatron, having reluctantly made the decision to employ this deception, now has to defend his decision to Shockwave. Megatron, unwilling to sit in a fortified hole, takes the bulk of the Decepticon forces to the space bridge rendezvous point to meet with Straxus' troops. The tension between Shockwave and Megatron is nicely done; clearly these two won't be sharing a joint command for long without some kind of resolution.
As the Autobots continue to return home, they get a radio message from Omega informing them of the many Decepticon casualties. Skids apologizes to Optimus for doubting his plan, prompting Optimus to reply that until they're back at base, they are still vulnerable. Prescient words, because as they retreat past the military encampment, irate driver Jake runs in front of Skids, trying to flag him down. Skids skreeeches to a halt, but the silent Ravage (pursuing the escaping Donny) takes the opportunity to fire a missile into skids at close range. Optimus makes a command decision to continue the retreat rather than put more Autobot lives at risk. It's an odd call; while it's true that Prime doesn't know exactly who the Autobots are taking fire from, one would think that he would have at least ordered the others to proceed while going back for Skids. It's a bit of a misfire in what is otherwise a very strong issue. (I know that this is to set up the next issue, but still, each issue should stand on its own.)
Overall, another excellent issue. We are invited to dwell on the symmetries between Optimus Prime and Megatron. Both lead attacks on enemy fortifications. Both, despite failing to breach those fortifications, claim success on their missions and solidify their positions as leaders of their respective factions. Megatron, though, loses six warriors and shrugs it off as irrelevant. Optimus loses one warrior and agonizes over it. There is even a bit of symmetry between Shockwave and Grimlock, the other commanders in this issue. Grimlock, unhappy with Prime's decision not to fully commit, angrily wanders off. Shockwave, convinced of the validity of Megatron's decision TO fully commit, voluntarily submits to his authority.
Add to the well-structured story a dash of some great artwork, at times bombastic, at times very touching. Sprinkle with great characterization, with a dash of great dialogue and you've got yourself a winner. One of the stand-outs in the Budiansky run, and hot on the heels of his excellent Cybertron two-parter. Highly recommended.