CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
Transformers: Escalation #1 (of 6)
#11 of an ongoing arc
Reviewed by Denyer
As suggested by the synopsis, this is quite an explosive
start to our third story arc (the second set on Earth) with IDW. With the
increased cast there’s naturally more pace than with issues focusing on just
four or five main protagonists, and it seems likely Furman has also taken on-board
comments that Infiltration felt slow to some.
With the increased cast also come character moments for Jazz
and Prime, the latter who’s still very much active in the galactic war against
the ‘Cons despite having come to Earth. I like, very much, the idea that
Earth’s not the be-all and end-all of TF operations, as often seemed (and
continues to be, for some series) the case in most of the 80s/90s fiction. It’s
more of a focus with the super-Energon discovered here, but a busy universe.
As is often the case when I’m talking about things I like,
at this point I’m happy to sit back and find out what happens next. I’d be
fairly surprised if Sunstreaker is actually dead, unless the Machination has
access to Cybertronian tech – remember, Ratchet survived a point-blank shot
from Blitzwing in tank mode, not so long ago. Hunter is a different matter.
Though there’s been speculation that the smokescreen is part of a ruse to
capture an Autobot and leave a shell behind (that the Autobots couldn’t break
cover to verify is their team-mate) it’s still possible the human has bought
Su’s art has moved up a notch, helped by the wider range of
subjects in each issue and presumably by having development time between the
Earth story arcs to tweak the designs. Jazz in particular has been doing a spot
Also of note is that the letters page mentions Zac Atkinson
will be taking over colourist duties fully starting next month, and if he’s
responsible for a fair chunk of the pages in this issue then I look forward to
seeing more. Not wanting to be unduly harsh to Rauch, as it’s my understanding
there were other deadline issues to be juggled on Infiltration, but from the
non-TF pages of his I’ve seen he shies away from sufficient palette range to
really do justice to art on a TF book. Stripping things down to basics and
avoiding bright primary colours can be done to the extent that it becomes a
The Machination agents seem confident about ambushing and
taking down a Transformer. It appears their employers think enough is likely to
remain in a gutted shell to be worthy of study.
Hunter, Verity and Jimmy are somewhat resentful about being
returned to their lives; especially Jimmy, whose premises were destroyed.
The Autobots seem confident enough that the Decepticons
don’t deal in “petty retribution” to send the humans off without more
protection than a short-term escort. They’ve learned some body language for
their holo-avatars from the three, including avoidance of creepy fixed smiles.
Jazz is pleasant, Ratchet apologetic and Sunstreaker his usual surly self at
having to interact with fleshies. Although Sunstreaker has also been ‘friendly’
enough to design a console game to keep them occupied, with himself as the lead
character… realistically it’s the type of simulation a sentient robot could
probably knock together in a few minutes, and it seems in keeping with his ego,
but it is at least a token gesture towards being pleasant.
Megatron is already suspicious that Energon did not appear
as a natural progression on Earth, despite not knowing of Shockwave’s seeding
project (see Spotlight: Shockwave for more details.) He offers the earthbound
Decepticons – except Starscream, who isn’t seen – an amnesty, with no further
second chances, after their rebellion in Infiltration.
The other Decepticons are understandably cowed by Megatron.
Optimus calls humans an indigent species and wants the
Autobots to maintain a healthy distance (either Furman means indigenous, or
Prime doesn’t think much of us…) He’s actively involved, taking conference
reports from off-world Autobots.
Ironhide is prepared to cause civilian casualties in an
attempt to escape and pursue when he realises they’re being ambushed.
Sunstreaker is also ready to open fire on the Machination agents, but hesitates
when Hunter mentions civilian casualties.
The rest of the issue suggests the Machination agents use
Sunstreaker as their simulation profile, but the car remains on the first page
have Wheeljack’s characteristic front bumper.
Ore-13 is five or six times as potent as Energon, and we
know from Infiltration and Stormbringer that most Transformers are currently
operating using Energon substitutes, as Cybertron is uninhabitable and was the
only known source of ‘natural’ Energon. Astrotrain claims Earth has at least
eleven separate seams of Ore-13.
Megatron orders “the facsimiles” activated, which current
speculation suggests are connected to the desiccated corpse Verity stumbled
across in Infiltration. If the Decepticons are capable of cloning and
programming humans, any organic character we see in the series could
conceivably be a facsimile.
This upgrade to Transformer technology may seem huge, but
previous continuities have included Pretender shells and bioengineered Nebulans
– and. as a race, Transformers have access to mass displacement, teleportation,
interstellar travel and other advances way beyond our means (something that
made many older stories irritating when characters who were otherwise intelligent
made stupid decisions simply to advance a plot.) We’ve already seen the
Autobots make use of holo-avatars to keep their cover on Earth, and facsimiles
may be the considerably less ethical Decepticon equivalent; disposable meatbags
that can move amongst a population and act to destabilise it (as Ratchet
suggested their modus operandi was in Infiltration.)
Sunstreaker is unable to transform quickly enough to respond
to the Machination agents carrying scramblers. This probably has more to do
with Hunter being inside him than transformation being a slow process.
No preview for another comic in the back of this issue,
which actually makes it feel longer. There’s a page of letters, plenty of
cross-promotion for other TF books, and the customary cover checklist. Su’s
cover for #1 is used effectively as a “next issue” teaser, showing Jazz and
Wheeljack on the painful end of Machination electro-scramblers.
QUOTES OF NOTE
Jazz: “Listen, I just wanted to say thanks, y’know, for the
crash course in Earth culture and integration. I mean… I never even knew the
smile was freakin’ people out!”
Prime: “It’s important we maintain a healthy distance […]
Especially when, ultimately… we may not be able to save them or their world.”