Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Marvel G1 #36: Spacehikers!

Spacehikers! is the thirty-sixth issue of the Marvel US G1 ongoing Transformers comic. Bob Budiansky continues to write the comic. José Delbo joins the staff as artist - he'll be with the book for a long time to come. Akin & Garvey continue to ink, Albers letters the book, and Yomtov colors it. We get another Frank Springer cover.

This cover tells a decent story, though it's a tad misleading. The four human children, dubbed the 'Spacehikers' in this issue, walk a metallic plank into space. They're wearing space suits at least. Snarl and Slag stand guard menacingly. They're not the focus of the image, though. That would be Sky Lynx, bearing down on them like some vast, predatory bird! With his sharpened teeth and dangerous claws, he's actually quite scary. Great execution all around, though I'd have colored the ark a different shade to make Sky Lynx stand out all the more.

The book opens with a splash of Sky Lynx, this time in shuttle mode, warping through space. A caption informs us that it starts several hours before the end of the last issue. Sky Lynx gives us some personal backstory via flashback; he was getting tired of war without end on Cybertron, and so jumped at the chance to help out Wheeljack. He arrives at Earth just as the Ark launches from the surface. Inside the Ark, Grimlock chokes Wheeljack for not tracking down Blaster sooner. Blaster is, of course, inside Blast Off with the human children. He warns Sammy to stay away from an air lock hatch and reminds the audience that the mode lock keeps Blast Off under control. He also informs the kids that the new Autobot leader, Grimlock, is leading his fellows astray. Right about then, they notice the Ark following them and opening fire, bringing us to where the last issue left off. It's a slightly clumsy device, backing up like that. It works fine for Sky Lynx and Grimlock, but it seems like a cheat to also do it for the Spacehikers.

Blaster tries to get away from the Ark, aided perhaps by Wheeljack's reluctance to fire on Blaster. Wheeljack, though, is surprised to see Blaster apparently teamed up with a Decepticon. Right about then, Sky Lynx calls in, asking if he can help apprehend Blast Off. Wheeljack, still trying to figure out what's going on, asks Sky Lynx to hold back, which doesn't sit well with his bloated ego. Meanwhile, Blaster has come to the conclusion that he can't outrun the Ark, and so decides to give up. Sammy, though, won't condem Blaster to that fate, and chucks the Autobot out the airlock.

Soon Blast Off is brought aboard the Ark, and a cadre of armed guards are ready to greet him. The Autobots seem more concerned about Blaster than about Blast Off, which is appropriate but still somewhat funny. Only the Spacehikers are on board the Decepticon, though, and they quickly surrender.

Blaster, meanwhile, floats through space until a satellite passes nearby, allowing him to commandeer its stabilizing rockets and head for the Ark. He interrupts an episode of Sledge Hammer! along the way, which was a pretty fun and cheesy show from the 80s.

The kids are in Wheeljack's custody. When they complain about the cold, they're all outfitted with space suits (even the teddy bear Daisy.) They're still a little nervous around Wheeljack, though, perhaps understandable given their unfriendly reception. Soon the little squirts are brought before Grimlock, presiding over the Autobot Multi-Circuit Court. Grimlock doesn't think they even deserve a trial, though Wheeljack points out that ALL sentient creatures are entitled to one. Rather, he starts to point this out before Grimlock tells him to shut up. Once Sammy admits that they helped Blaster escape, Grimlock sentences them to death. Even Snarl thinks that this might be going too far, given the strong sympathies the other Autobots have for humans. Grimlock, though, is using it as a ruse to draw out Blaster.

Soon the humans are walking the plank, and Wheeljack is asking Sky Lynx to intervene again. Thus, the scene on the cover is explained, with Sky Lynx's role actually entirely benign. Blaster uses this scene to get close to the Ark, though, he gets a little fried by the exhaust when Grimlock starts to pursue Sky Lynx. The spacehikers get to know Sky Lynx for a bit, before Grimlock's pursuit forces them into a nearby asteroid field. Grimlock and the Dinobots hunt Sky Lynx, who proves too fast for them. Blaster gets inside the Ark and tries to rally the other Autobots against Grimlock. Unfortunately for him, Grimlock has outsmarted (!) Sky Lynx, surrounding him. The other Autobots are prepared to fight through to Sky Lynx, but Blaster realizes that that will put the humans in danger. In exchange for letting Sky Lynx and the spacehikers go, Blaster surrenders to Grimlock.

Overall, I find this tale uninspiring. It functions, more or less, as the climax of the Blaster rebellion storyline. As such, it's a disappointment. The actual fight doesn't happen (that'll have to wait until issue #41), with Blaster surrendering to save human kids. Grimlock comes across surprisingly well, though villainous. He's tactically shrewed, out-manovering Sky Lynx and outsmarting Blaster (after all, Grimlock wasn't really prepared to allow the humans to die.) Sky Lynx's introduction isn't too bad - it feels like it adds, rather than detracts, and that's something. Delbo's art is ... perfunctory. It's very much on-model, which I appreciate. But it tends towards static poses. That said, there are some very nice bits in there, like Grimlock forcing the Spacehikers off the plank.

Spacehikers! is available in  Classic Transformers Volume 3. Pick it up from Next month, we're told that 'A child's playthings are all that stand between the Decepticons and world conquest in "Toy Soldiers!"' After two issues revolving around children (four if one counts Man of Iron), yet another one seems like overkill. Ah, well, we'll find out soon, won't we?

1 comment:

Hans said...

I LOVED Delbo's art when I saw it the first time, I really thought it was a major improvement. Everything looked a lot more "tight" than it did previously, more consistent and everything just felt more "3-D", for lack of a better description. What's sad though, is that Akin and Garvey remained as inkers for only one more issue after this. They were the ones that gave the Transformers their superb look in the early days. When Delbo was inked by Dave Hunt (starting with #38 I think), the art became a lot less attractive.