CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
Transformers Spotlight: Cliffjumper
Reviewed by Inflatable Dalek
Look, how about we just say “magic” and be done with it?
The hard-edged soldier finding a brief period of happiness away from war before being suckered back in is a very old plot, one that Transformers
has done a lot. This is basically the same story as Skids and Charlene in Marvel US #20, or the Triggerbots and the Doctor Zoidberg look-alike vampires in #63. Whilst this once again shows McCarthy doesn’t have an original bone in his body (and there’s also a whiff of all those cartoon episodes where a woman fell in love with a Autobot for no good reason), at least this time he’s nicked something that actually has a plot to it, even if it’s a hackneyed one.
This results in what is his best bit of writing to date, it’s silly and throwaway but has a beginning, middle and end as well as some entertainingly daft moments as the Decepticons fall over themselves to run away from Cliffjumper.
However, the big flaw is - if we go for the probably placing of before All Hail Megatron
- that we already know these events have no long-term impact on Cliffjumper at all. We’ve seen him as bloodthirsty and gung ho as ever, so despite the attempt to paint this as a deeply affecting experience for him, we know it’s got no more substance than any episode of Star Trek
that ends with Kirk madly in love only for the bint of the week never to be completely forgotten about the next episode (Gamesters of Triskelion
is one of those. Perhaps the waistcoat is a warning?).
The other problem is that old McCarthy one of the love of machismo. Before this, Cliffjumper’s limited characterisation was that of the guy who’d try to shoot Megatron down in cold blood but completely balls it up. In effect, despite his attempts to be cool and macho, he’s more a lovable screw up. Under McCarthy he’s like Drift, Springer, Kup, Jazz and no doubt what Mother Teresa would be if he were to ever write about her - a one man deadly army so bad ass everyone’s scared of him. He’s the guy who’ll brutally murder a bunch of Decepticons in the process of running away from him, rather than try and take his dying friend to medical aid. As with Sideswipe pulling the plug on Hunter after giving a big “All life matters and how Furman has written us up till now is wrong” speech, we’re getting some seriously mixed messages from McCarthy here.
The ever-reliable Robby Musso has some fun breaking out of his usual style to do the full manga thing, but at the end of the day the very best of McCarthy is decidedly lightweight by the standards of anyone else.
Placement on this one is tricky, presumably it’s before All Hail Megatron
, likely fairly soon before. However, with no frame of reference it could well be millions of years ago or millions of years in the future.
Cliffjumper is a one-man assassination squad. This is probably inspired by his attempts to shoot Megatron in the back from a distance in the opening episode of the original cartoon (though that Cliffjumper was a terrible assassin). This idea of the Autobots pre-All Hail Megatron
being nearly as bad as the Decepticons is a recurring theme of McCarthy’s.
The planet, the species and the special guest star Decepticons are all unnamed. Though several of the latter share design elements with other Decepticons rather than being true generics. For example, the Lead Decepticon is basically a jazzed up version of Starscream’s Cybertronian mode, whilst one of his comrades has an Onslaught style canon on his back.
We’re told that Cliffjumper’s ship was destroyed, and there’s no mention of something like an escape pod having been seen crashing near where Kita finds him. This suggests some sort of emergency escape teleport on the ship.
Without having met a member of the species before, Cliffjumper can speak the local language. He explains this as a program Cybertronians have that’s part of their ability to blend it, which sometimes involves listening into local transmissions first. This is a neat merging of the “It’s a Time Lord gift” explanation for everyone speaking English in Doctor Who
and the way the 2007 Autobots learnt English of the Internet.
There’s actually no indication of transmission on the planet, or any sort of advanced technology. However, aliens don’t surprise Kita so she may just be living in a back to basics style society.
Cliffjumper has a silver waistcoat. There’s no seeming reason for this, but visually it does make it seem like he’s wandered in from the Gamesters of Triskelion
episode of Star Trek
. He also has an extendible pikestaff thing, just like a Predator and/or a Ranger from Babylon 5
(delete according to preference). And to round off the pop culture reference, Cliffjumper misquotes the tagline to Mars Attacks!
(“Nice planet, we’ll take it!”) as he jumps the Decepticons.
I wonder how much of a coincidence it is that Coll seems like a contraction of Casey Coller’s surname?
Cliffjumper knows the Decepticons will almost certainly be the first to respond to his message (as they’re the ones nearby and looking for him), yet still sends it. If he was trying to lure them in to steal their ship why not do it from a deserted area out of the way of his friends?
Decide for yourself how well a bright red and silver robot would be able to hide in a shrubbery from a group of Decepticons out looking for him really hard.
Kita: What are you?
Cliffjumper: I’m an Autobot.
Kita: That’s your race? Autobot?
Cliffjumper: Yeah, no-I mean I’m a Cybertronian.
Kita: You’re made of metal. Or-or are you inside?
Cliffjumper: No, this-I’m -this is me.
Kita: Do you like flowers?
Cliffjumper: Well, not really- I, uh, I wouldn’t know what to do with one.
Kita: You give them to girls, silly.
Lead Decepticon: They won’t come. You’re what the Autobots refer to as “acceptable losses”.
Reinforcing Decepticon: Did you say “red runt”?
Lead Decepticon: Yeah, little red-
Reinforcing Decepticon: Small?
Lead Decepticon: Yeah.
Reinforcing Decepticon: About so high?
Lead Decepticon: Yeah.
Reinforcing Decepticon: Horns?
Lead Decepticon: Yeah, but-
Reinforcing Decepticon: Arm yourselves” Hurry! We-
Ciffjumper: Nice ship, I think I’ll take it!