Thursday, November 18, 2010
Review: Marvel G1 #75: On the Edge of Extinction!
The cover is certainly evocative. Unicron holds Cybertron, which is way too small, but it's not a literal cover so I can accept that, and cracks it open to pour out the juicy Transformers within. Grimlock, Hot Rod, Kup, Galvatron, Optimus, and Scorponok pour out. I'd have swapped Hot Rod out and put in Starscream or Shockwave, given the recent prominent cast members, but that's a nit. It's a powerful image of doom and gloom, with the bold inking and stark geometries that Senior is good at. "Double-sized all-out action anniversary issue!" entices us up above, while in the corner it asks us if this is "THE END?! ... or the beginning?" I don't know if the bit about the beginning was necessary. I can't help but think that, when Furman took over the book, getting to 75 must have seemed like a real stretch goal. I'm glad that, after his initial four-issue foray into the field, he started laying groundwork for this milestone issue. He made it, and five issues on top of that. Sadly, by the time this issue saw print, behind-the-scenes the cancellation was already finalized. Still, even had things ended here, this would be considered a seminal run of Transforms.
The first voice of hope is, oddly, Thunderpunch, the human displaced to Cybertron with the rest of the Neo Knights. He won't run -- after all, there's no where to go. He convinces his team to stand and fight, something that ironically Unicron wants. Astride Cybertron he stands, blasting away at his ancient enemy, cajoling them to fight back. For a battle that he's anticipated since literally before the beginning of the universe, it's too easy for him. Primus seeks to give him what he desires, as the god of light snares Primus in bonds of 'nauseating, choking pureness.' Primus tries to bluff his ancient adversary into submission, but Unicron sees through it and obliterates his enemy. "Xaaron!" calls out Scorponok, and an almost comically wide-eyed Optimus cries out "Primus!" They've lost their god today; they're on their own. This moment comes in most good stories, when the mentor dies and leaves the young ones (even if the young ones, in this case, are millions of years old. It's a relative thing) on their own. By placing Primus' demise so early in the story, it gives that much more weight to the battle about to erupt.
The battle is kicked off in earnest by Galvatron. It was him, after all, that woke Primus and the god to call home his children. Galvatron seeks to humble Unicron, make the dark god pay for humiliating the ultimate Decepticon. He taps into Cybertron's energy and blasts off to do battle with the Chaos Bringer, hoping to rally the panicked Transformers into action. He hits Unicron full in the face, stinging the monster, but he's promptly swatted aside. The artwork here is terrific, from the amazing energy of Galvatron blasting off, to the casual backhand that chnnks Galvatron aside, to the way Galvatron flies through a building and bounces off the ground. Galvatron has thus played his role, that of the instigator. It's the part he was born - er, created - to play.
Amazingly, though, it worked. Faced with such courage, Autobort and Decepticon alike begin to fire back, showing Unicron exactly what four million years of war can do to military innovation. Darkwing and Dreadwind, Cloudburst and Nightbeat and Siren and Jazz, Highbrow and Finback and Misfire and Hardhead and Bomb-burst, Quake and Joyride and Waverider, and presumably many more, all go off to do battle with what is just about literally the devil. For most of them, it doesn't go well, as robot after robot is destroyed. Optimus takes a mighty blow and crashes to the feet of Scorponok, who he begs to carry on the fight.
Another hero, boldly charging forward, is Thunderpunch, who somehow managed to get beat up but not killed. I'm not sure how that works, but I'll accept it for the sake of drama. Dynamo is trying to channel Cybertronian energy, but his body is having a tough time of it. Circuit Breaker is still catatonic, so that leaves Rapture. She snares Unicron's mind, but only for a fleeting instant. His fantasy, by the way, is of... nothing. Emptiness. The void. Blackrock does the unthinkable, and attempts to rouse Josie by slapping and mocking her, all the while hoping he can forgive himself.
The late arrival of the Ark gives the Cybertronian warriors some badly needed reinforcements. The Ark rams Unicron, causing him some damage but totaling the ship. When Prowl criticizes this strategy, Grimlock shoves him out a hatch to 'go fight.' Wheeljack asks Grimlock if battle at this point is wise, given the unstable energy reanimating them, prompting a fantastic exchange. "Should what!? Have holiday? Put feet up?" Grimlock mocks. He charges forward, with the Dinobots (and a reluctant Wheeljack) in tow. Thus does Grimlock play his part, that of the impetuous and fearless warrior.
Even this isn't enough for Furman, though. We get one more page, one shrewdly marked "Prologue:" and thus promising more tales to come, wherein Battletrap and Runabout take a walk and muse about how even this hasn't really changed who they are. From the shadows, Hi-Q watches as a hand grabs Runabout and pulls him into the ground, where he is promptly devoured. It's actually a slight anti-climax, but labeling this section a prologue salvages that somewhat.
And that's the end! It really was a fantastic story. So many characters, big and small, got to shine here, though the stand-outs were Optimus and Scorponok, Autobot and Decepticon. The emotional arc, from sheer terror to resolve to triumph, is masterfully executed. I also love how many pieces of the story come together here, including Grimlock's Nucleon arc, the Matrix, Galvatron's abduction from the future, and the Neo Knights. Plot, character, and emotion, all of them working together to make this the biggest Transformers story ever brought to the comics. The artwork, too, is great, a perfect accompaniment to the powerful story. Though as a kid I didn't really appreciate Senior's style, I now could hardly imagine anyone else tackling this story.
Next Month: "A holiday? A chance to put your feet up? NAH!" We're promised even more action, shocks, thrills and intrigue. Frankly, I find that hard to imagine, though I love the call-back to Grimlock's line to Wheeljack. On the Edge of Extinction! is the first chapter in IDW's Classic Transformers Vol. 6, available for purchase at Amazon.com. This volume also contains both the Headmasters and the Movie miniseries, for some extra added value. Again, if you haven't read this story and you're reading this blog, you're doing yourself a disservice.