CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
Transformers: Rising Storm #1
Reviewed by Blackjack
“Lord Starscream. How would you and your little army like to make amends for your transgressions?”
Better than Nefarious, but then that’s a given. John Barber has a lot to fix here, especially the loose ends of Nefarious. Being the smart guy he is, he ignores all the uninteresting crap about Fortress and the Initiative, and instead focuses on the brainwashed Transformers, who, at least we care enough about. They all have red targets marked above their heads, since we all know guys like Shockwave or Starscream or Sideswipe have plot immunity, but everyone else can die. Barber is the kind of meticulous guy that wants to fix every plot hole, and intertwine the Mowry stuff with the Furman fiasco with upcoming Dark of the Moon movie. And do it he does, yes. First up, to set up the mood that the Autobots aren’t exactly in hiding, he introduces us to Salvage and Longarm. Remember them from Reign of Starscream? Chances are that you don’t, and see them as another pair of generic Autobots. But for those who care, this means something. That somebody cares about this franchise they are working in. And even though Salvage and Longarm die almost immediately, they get themselves more personality than Knock Out and Dune Runner and everyone else introduced in Nefarious and had six times more screentime than those two. Optimus’ monologue throughout the issue is a nice contrast to Megatron’s monologue throughout Foundation. A stark contrast in quality compared to Nefarious.
But Barber isn’t the type to piss on another’s work, and indeed we see those Autobots introduced half-heartedly at the tail end of Nefarious. Brawn, Blazemaster, Smokescreen (whom great escape from death we have yet to know) and Armorhide (whom great escape from Thundercracker we have yet to know) are used to set up the whole Sentinel Prime thing by using brain damage as their excuse. Humans dealing with Transformers, trying to set up arms dealing and stuff, is far more realistic and much more satisfying compared to the shite Furman fed us on Nefarious. It’s also more fast paced than Alliance or Reign of Starscream, making John Barber the next best thing the Movie comics had gotten since Chris Mowry. Every line is preciously delivered, and I particularly like the fact that the Twins get to talk in their gangsta wannabe accent. The whole battle scene, with Epps mumbling about everybody telling him to bring the rain, the Twins mucking around, the Arcee sisters basically stealing the entire show, Fearswoop being a sissy, Ironhide getting one of the best lines ever…
The Arcee sisters. Despite Chris Mowry’s great work with Tales of the Fallen: Arcee in giving the tripartite Arcee an origin, it seems that either Hasbro mandate (or maybe a plot point in Dark of the Moon?) or Barber’s personal like that all three Arcee sisters have their own personality, like the toy bios suggest. Certainly he wants to use Elita-One in the present day in contrast with his work in Foundation. But he doesn’t just walk over all of Mowry’s hard work. The Arcee sisters start off like how they were in Tales of the Fallen, apparently one being… until it is revealed at the end that they are three in one, and that the others have taken to identifying them as three beings. Chromia, Elita-One and Arcee. The retcon from their death… well, it could’ve been messy, but Barber handles it superbly. Not perfect, mind, but maybe it’s just my bias because I prefer the one-spark-in-three-bodies instead of three-sparks-with-mind-link theory. But the Arcee sisters undoubtedly steal the show during the battle scene. Galloway was loads of fun too, surprisingly, a nice and realistic twist due to Furman using him in Nefarious.
Decepticons. Shockwave and Astrotrain enter. It is doubtful whether Astrotrain would stay up to Dark of the Moon (indeed, it is worrying with the large cast… Bumblebee’s cadets and the refugees won’t stand a chance of appearing in the third Movie and Barber needs to get rid of them somehow) but Shockwave needs somebody to boss around. Shockwave is pretty entertaining, with his own brand of wit. Starscream, sadly, has been reduced to something akin to his G1 persona, loafing around in a junkyard while idiots cater to him. No wonder Shockwave comes to put him in place! But this is in stark contrast with Mowry’s ambitious, for-Cybertron’s-good Starscream. Still, this puts both Starscream and Shockwave in the map after the disastrous Soundwave fiasco in Nefarious. And this new ‘Brains’ character seems to be an original one to take the plot in Rising Storm. A rather entertaining character, this Brains, with his punk attitude. It’s so much better than Nefarious, and so much easier and less painful to read, that I don’t mind the rather sub-par art. Carlos Magno really needs to define his lines more, although a proper colourist coming in instead of whomever he got in Nefarious helps. His art is still horrible in places, like when Longarm’s robot mode is revealed, but it’s not as terrible as his work in Nefarious #5 or #6. Not as brilliant as Foundation, but it’s getting there. And it’s surprising, being a sequel instead of a prequel.
Whoo-ee. There’s a whole lot of this. First up, chronology. The bookending bits, with Optimus going after Megatron, happens during the Autobot-Decepticon War, but after the Primes’ death in Tales of the Fallen #3 and #4. it is set sometime after Defiance #3 and the first half of #4, but before the AllSpark was launched into space in Movie Prequel #1/Reign of Starscream #1/Defiance #4. The past, with Sentinel Prime and the AllSpark being brough back into life, happens considerably a long time before the events of Defiance.
Salvage and Longarm was last seen waaaay back in Reign of Starscream #2, where their vehicle modes were loaded by Sector Seven into a base, along with Landmine’s vehicle modes. While the Landmines would make an appearance in Reign of Starscream and later Alliance, this is the first time anyone remembered that Salvage and Longarm had been foreshadowed but forgot to be introduced. Since their toys were released in 2007, some four years ago, they get the instant death treatment. Longarm speaks Chinese, though.
Longarm’s head had been redesigned. Instead of a head based on G1 Hoist like the toy and the game design was, it’s now based more on Animated Longarm, with the scuba mask thing. Anyone catch on the irony that Longarm is killed by Shockwave, whose alter ego was Longarm in the Animated cartoon?
Again, the Autobots (well, Longarm in particular) are no longer that concerned about hiding but puts saving lives above priority.
The ‘refugees’ are drawn and coloured properly this issue. From last issue, we get the named Blazemaster, Armorhide and Brawn. Armorhide is still in a design that the robot mode resembles his new Landmine-repainted body, but with the kibble of his original first movie truck toy (which was seen during Nefarious). A fourth Autobot is apparently Smokescreen, coloured correctly instead of the block-coloured blob during Nefarious. Presumably all the Decepticons seen in Nefarious (the unnamed Tankor, Detour, Thrust and Mindwipe) have all been killed or captured.
Galloway is now on good terms with NEST after the events of Nefarious, and even helps to serve as bait.
The three Decepticons that arrive have gotten themselves some Carlos Magno redesigns, although not as extreme or hideous as Ransack. Skystalker merely got himself a new head, while Fearswoop has a proper head instead of a lens head his toy had.
The big one now, the Arcee sisters still talk in their Reflector speech, but unlike the ‘one-spark-in-three-bodies’ thing established in Tales of the Fallen #6, apparently it has been retconned that Flatline used the dead bodies of Arcee’s sisters—Chromia and Elita One—which isn’t implausible, for his experiment. And only now do their three personalities begin to emerge properly. Or something. They still talk in triplicate, finishing each other’s sentences, but outside battle Elita-One is certainly chatty when talking to Prime. All three sisters can feel what the others are feeling. It’s not a goof, and not such a major retcon. Probably Hasbro-mandated, but it still makes sense in the context, and knowing Barber he isn’t the type to just steamroll over someone else’s work. I’m confident there’ll be an explanation for this change later on.
Also, if you haven’t noticed, despite Michael Bay insisting so in the DVD commentary, IDW has retconned Arcee into surviving from a grievous ‘wound she got in Egypt’ instead of dying outright. I’m betting that this wound is what jarred the three personalities back.
The ‘age that Elita did not approve of’ refers to Optimus Prime’s single minded determination to kill Megatron during the bookending parts of Foundation #1.
Not so much as a notable one, but this is the first time in IDW movie-based fiction (I’m not sure about Titan) that Skids and Mudflap actually talk in their gangsta wannabe speech pattern instead of stunted or idiotic or lisped or Dinobot-style speech.
Galloway refers to Epps’ trademark ‘bring the rain’ line from the movies. Epps apparently, shockingly, does not approve of being told to bring the rain every time.
Epps swings down from a purple t-rex robot. Purple t-rexes are a deadaway reference to Beast Wars Megatron. Or Barney the Dinosaur. No prizes to which one is the real homage.
Epps quotes Jetfire’s line “I’m too old for this crap.”
Apparently after the events of ROTF Starscream has gone independent from Megatron. Unlike the ambitions the IDW comics has established him as having, he is now lounging around in a car junkyard until Shockwave comes by.
A throne made out of wrecked car parts is also used by a lazy Megatron during the olden Marvel Comics days.
One of Starscream’s minions is Deadlift, the repaint of the Dirt Boss toy (although here Deadlift is rendered a sick yellow instead of orange), but the other confounded everybody until Barber revealed it to be Ruination. Ruination is not based on a toy, but shares his body design with Incinerator from the first movie toyline. He comes from the Veiled Threat prequel movel for ROTF, who described him as being really similar to Incinerator. Note that Salvage and Longarm also feature majorly in the Veiled Threat prequel novel.
Wheeljack says that they have ‘five minutes’ left. How can a Cybertronian know about human analogy when we are but a bunch of half-sentient monkeys without any culture?
Last seen, Divebomb was in Reign of Starscream #5, being blown up by Starscream to make his way into Dreadwing’s shuttle. The yellow Decepticon jet has Divebomb’s characteristic brown camo pattern, and for all purposes looks like Divebomb. Whether this is really Divebomb who cheated death, or a lookalike, he’s dead now.
Smokescreen has also apparently cheated death from Reign of Starscream, since we last saw him being blown up alongside a wounded Air Raid on Mars. Although the explosion happened offscreen and he might
Also, Smokescreen has eyes instead of a visor.
Throughout the entire issue, Ironhide is really stumpy. Most notable is in page 18, where Sideswipe and even Knock Out are taller than him.
On the other hand, Blazemaster is much larger than the others, while in Nefarious he’s of average size.
Also on page 18, there is an ugly, unidentified robot head on the far left of the page, beside Optimus Prime’s arm on the foreground.
Also on the same panel, Knock Out is coloured red, and the giant Blazemaster blue.
It’s a given that the Arcee bikes be miscoloured as each other at least once.
Both Ratchet and Deadlift are constantly coloured a sickly shade of yellow instead of neon green and orange, respectively.
Salvage: “All aboard! Last train to, uh… well, to not burning to death, I suppose. Sorry, that was a lame line. I really hope you guys don’t speak English.”
Longarm: “<Dang it… looks like my arm can’t reach. Now that’s funny, y’see… ‘cause they call me Longarm!>”
Optimus Prime: We are protectors. We want only to save lives…but war has a way of finding us.
Ratchet: “They are going to get better, Prime. Trust me, I am a doctor.”
Galloway: “I’d, you know, really like to buy some space guns from you… because buying guns is what I, um, do. Professionally.”
Chromia: “Prime wants you alive for”
Arcee: “Questioning, Decepticons. Surrender”
Elita-One: “And we might grant his request.”
Galloway: “Epps, this is Galloway! Do it! Bring the rain!”
Epps: “‘Bring the rain,’ Epps, ‘bring the rain’. What do they think I am- a damn weatherman?”
Mudflap: “Hey—pu’me down! They don’ know who they’re dealin’ with, Mudflap!”
Skids: “None’a ya’ll know who you dealin’ wit’—I’m Skids, you’re Mudflap!”
Lennox: “I miss the old days, director—before you were trying to help!”
Skystalker: “Is this what the Autobots have come to? They send their women to die in battle?”
Elita-One: “We didn’t need another”
Chromia: “Reason to kill you, but”
Arcee: “Thanks anyway, Skystalker.”
Elita-One: “We are”
Chromia: “One as”
Arcee: “Three and—”
Arcee, Chromia and Elita-One: “—Three as one!”
Epps: “I’m too old for this crap, Lennox.”
Lennox: “You’re four years younger than me, buddy!”
Epps: “Yeah, and you’re way too old for this.”
Brains: “Dumb joik, t’inks ‘cause he’s bigger’n me he don’t have ta talk…”