CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
Transformers #22: Chaos Theory, Part 1
Reviewed by Blackjack
“This planet is diseased, Impactor, and that’s the cure.”
James Roberts! Sometimes I feel bad for Mike Costa and the like for not being Roberts or Roche, whose works always gets great reviews. But hell, do they deserve it! This is one of the best Transformers pieces I’ve read full stop, and Optimus Prime is so much well defined that the Optimus Prime we’ve seen in ongoing issues thus far looks like it’s been written by a newbie fanfic writer. We really get into the heads of Optimus Prime and Megatron here, and the plethora of continuity notes and sheer reference to Marvel comics… and not just Optimus Prime and Megatron. We’ll get to the big two later, but let’s start with the Transformers race as a whole. The idea that the Transformers still has to adhere to a legal system which gives them trouble because Megatron surrendered instead of becoming a casualty of war is a great concept. Many others like the Technoism, or the caste system, or a corrupt military oppressing random people in bars… it’s a great, great political piece, and mind you, we’ve seen how terrible such things could be if not handled properly (Megatron: Origin is the prime offender, dropping similar threads but not following up at all).
The art by Alex Milne is simply gorgeous. While he’s no Don Figueroa or Guido Guidi, Alex Milne’s progress can clearly be seen. Dig out Megatron: Origin from wherever you tossed it away, and just compare the pre-war art. It’s a great improvement, and while there are places where it wavers a little (like the Maccadam’s scene), Alex Milne’s art is spectacular here, a word I won’t normally use for his art. In this issue, Roberts excellently makes use of secondary characters. Be it one or two panels, they are used so well and fits to the occasion. Ratchet, Perceptor, Impactor, Xaaron, Ironhide, Rodimus, Whirl, Prowl, Bumblebee, Magnus, Omega Supreme… all of them have little great moments in one or two panels that other writers struggle with several issues. I particularly like the Ratchet and Perceptor scene, it’s chock-full of great characterization. Ironhide and Rodimus both play off Optimus Prime nicely, Ironhide being a great confidant and Rodimus being the guy who doesn’t want to usurp leadership but points out flaws in Optimus’ leadership. Using Whirl as a guy who beats up a prisoner is a nice move, since Whirl is basically a blank state and as a Wrecker he’s a violent guy. Impactor, likewise. You could see how corrupt the system is if the guy who crippled the cadets becomes a leading military squad leader while the innocent guy is oppressed until he leads a rebellion. Special praise has to go to Xaaron, though. As usual, Xaaron is awesome, being the political guy that LSOTW pegged him as, while still retaining the ‘wily old buzzard’ feel when Simon Furman first did Xaaron. This proves you can have a character still be awesome without needing to drastically rewrite him, as IDW did Alpha Trion and Arcee among others.
Now, a testament to Roberts’ writing skills. We see one of the six-panel conversation page, a big offender in the ongoing. But damn it, the conversation between Optimus Prime and Megatron is so interesting! This thing deserves the six-panel bubble page, not some random repeated bullshit between Optimus and Spike that is either repeated or opposite of the conversation from last issue. Optimus Prime and Megatron discussing ideologies and stuff is so well done, and it’s surprising considering it’s just the two leaders sitting down and reminiscing. I particularly like how they discuss old to-the-death battles like how one would discuss individual games of sports. It’s nice to see how Optimus is so tired of war, and how unrepentant and savage Megatron is. But at the same time you can’t just kill him, so what can you do? I also like the idea that Megatron used to be a visionary and a decent person, and even speaks against violence to Impactor. It’s something that should by rights be in Megatron Origin but they just didn’t bother with it. The fact that Megatron and Optimus knew each other before the war, and were even friends, is a great concept. The point is that, this issue made Optimus Prime and Megatron into actual characters with their own viewpoints instead of living plot devices with half-assed vague motivations. Now I could see why exactly Megatron surrendered in past ongoing issues. This makes the two of them actual characters, something I stress again. Not being a slavish G1 fan, in my head G1 Optimus Prime and Megatron was always ‘those guys who didn’t have a personality save in the late-Marvel Furman stuff’. Now they are again proper characters. Speaking of late-Marvel Furman, doesn’t anyone find it funny that the best stories with Optimus and Megatron is the ones where they are on rather friendly terms?
Not exactly a masterpiece yet because it’s a bit of a pain reading through the wave of words, but it’s damn close to being one.
The sequences in the past take place prior to the events of Megatron: Origin, detailing Megatron’s origin better than said miniseries about why Megatron is so angry and willing to turn into violence.
In a fun twist of the norm, the bar Impactor and Megatron are at is Maccadam’s New Oil House as opposed to Maccadam’s Old Oil House.
After Nova Prime, the Prime that took office is revealed to be Nominus Prime, who, according to Megatron’s treatise, does not show any progress at all. Presumably he is succeeded by Sentinel Prime, which means that Sentinel’s time in office is quite short.
Impactor is revealed to be of the same worker class as Megatron, and even before the war his left hand is already a drill.
Impactor mentions using ‘Pathblasters’. The Pathblaster is a weapon used by the Wreckers, Roadbuster specifically, in the Marvel UK Time Wars act. It kinds of blows up in people’s faces.
Rung appears physically this issue. Previously, he has only appeared in character profiles and text stories. Rung is a psychoanalyst whose first mention is in the unofficial James Roberts-penned novel Eugenesis.
The Knights of Cybertron are mentioned numerously this issue, and is apparently a group of religious templar knights of some sort.
Present-day Ratchet and Perceptor at one point discuss a superpower Megatron was given in his original bio that most canon story has ignored, namely that of Megatron being able to tap to the powers of a black hole. Preceptor disses it as being silly. Ratchet also mentions it as ‘the thing with his eyes’, a reference to how in the Marvel G2 comics Megatron was able to create a localized antimatter explosion with his eyes. Ratchet harmonizes the two power into a single thing. A similar power was hinted (but not shown) in IDW’s own Escalation.
Megatron is strapped onto a VVH, a Variable Voltage Harness. It’s the equivalent of a torture chair that first appeared in the Marvel Comics as a means for Grimlock to torture Blaster.
Emirate Xaaron, after a cameo in Last Stand of the Wreckers and mentioned in passing several times, appears for good this issue in a redesigned body. He mentions working on Kimia, the Autobots’ weapons development station.
Xaaron wants to offer Wheeljack an empty workshop on Kimia, most likely referring to the sadly departed Ironfist’s workshop.
Some of the graffiti in Megatron’s cell reads ‘peace through tyranny’, Megatron’s toy bio motto. Later Megatron says ‘peace through tyranny’ in person while speaking to Optimus Prime.
Springarm makes a gag on Megatron’s name, first mistaking him as ‘Megaton’, and then correcting it as being combined with ‘electron’. This was how Bob Budiasky came up with the name Megatron. Optimus Prime makes the same gag later on with ‘electronic’. Megatron reveals that he took his name not from ‘electron’ or ‘electronic’, but from ‘neutron’, as in bomb.
Megatron comes from Tarn, just like his G1 counterpart.
Megatron knows his right, and wants a Communicube. Communicubes were introduced in the Marvel UK story Target: 2006, and has appeared in IDW material before.
Cybertron used to have apartheid based on whether you were forged or constructed cold. It’s a supposedly abandoned practice, but like all cultures it persists after being outlawed. This leads some new aspects at how Transformers are created.
Wheeljack and Ratchet hold a bet with 50 shanix. Shanix is a Transformer currency introduced, again, in the Marvel comics. I think it’s in the UK issue with Death’s Head, but I’m not sure.
The montage of scenes in war include a scene from nearly all IDW miniseries. One by one, this would be:
-Thunderwing rampaging in Stormbringer
-Arcee waving a lightsaber around, could come from the Spotlight issues or Revelations.
-Metroplex leaving Cybertron from Transformers: Ironhide.
-Drift and Dai Atlas from Transformers: Drift.
-Verity with the PDA from Infiltration.
-Megatron shooting Optimus Prime from Escalation.
-Shockwave battling Grimlock and Swoop from Maximum Dinobots.
-Ironfist facing off against Overlord from Last Stand of the Wreckers.
-Kup choking… someone, either from Spotlight Kup or the Infestation crossover.
-Scorponok’s damaged head from either Devastation or Maximum Dinobots.
-Alpha Trion and the hoverchair-bound Sunstreaker from Transformers: Ironhide.
-Devastator rampaging from All Hail Megatron.
-Ironhide’s death from the first ongoing issue.
-Thundercracker stopping the nuke from All Hail Megatron.
-Galvatron standing around, could be from anywhere.
-A bas relief of Nemesis Prime’s face.
Megatron’s fantasy has him sitting on a throne with the heads of the Autobots Prowl, Grimlock, Blurr, Optimus Prime, Brawn, Ratchet, Wheeljack, Cosmos, Bumblebee, Jazz, Sunstreaker, Trailbreaker, Gears and Bluestreak incorporated into it.
Sherma Bridge is probably a gag to the two leaders battling on Sherman Dam in the first episodes of the cartoon.
Among the many battles of Optimus Prime and Megatron, Optimus Prime nearly brings up Brasnya, referencing the events of Escalation.
In the Vorsk Offensive flashback, Optimus uses a sword similar to that used by his live action and Prime incarnations.
Megatron is revealed to have gotten a gun mode, albeit an alien gun mode, in the past. Optimus shattered Megatron’s transformation cog and he was trapped in said mode for two years. Transformation cogs are a concept introduced in the Sunbow cartoon.
Based on dialogue by Megatron and Xaaron, the Transformers are revealed to have a barely-functioning legal system active, and have been shunned as a species by the intergalactic community and the Galactic Council because of their war.
We learn a wee bit more about Chief Justice Tyrest, a former Autobot now recognized as a neutral by the Galactic Council. Tyrest has been mentioned numerous times by Ultra Magnus from the earliest IDW issues, and appeared in one panel of Last Stand of the Wreckers.
Prowl mentions the Aequitas trials, referencing events in Last Stand of the Wreckers.
Prowl mentions Scraplets, the killer self-replicating Transformer-eating tiny swarm of vermin first introduced in the Marvel comics.
A drone similar to the Diagnostic Drone in the Beast Machines cartoon appears in Optimus Prime’s officer. In the same vein, look at the red guy with the same design as Springarm—remember him. He’s named Wheelarch.
The idea that Optimus Prime and Megatron having met each other before the war, and Optimus agreeing with Megatron’s ideals, is very similar to Optimus Prime and Megatron in the War for Cybertron novel Exodus. This one handles the encounter much better than Exodus ever did, though.
A wee bit of art nitpicking here. The cadets that threw Rung across the bar have blank faces.
Spotlight Blurr and a cameo in Megatron: Origin had Optimus Prime in a cartoon Orion Pax-based design before adapting to his usual War-Within-inspired Cybertronian form, but here pre-war Optimus is already in that form. Granted Orion Pax is a fugly design.
The flashback on the Hell’s Point battle has Megatron in his Don Figueroa War Within tank body, but later Megatron claims that he was trapped in gun mode. It is possible he was reformatted, but it’s not made clear.
While we’re not sure how Cybertronian dates work, Megatron was created in ‘1st cycle 012’ and some pre-Earth battles mentioned included ‘2nd Cycle 087’ and ‘3rd Cycle 199’. However, in Last Stand of the Wreckers, Ironfist claims the war has not even begun in ‘5th Cycle 522’. It could be a before-war and after-war thing, though.
Seaspray looks quite distorted in the flashback.