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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

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CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING

Transformers Spotlight: Hardhead, Revelation Part 2
Reviewed by Inflatable Dalek

Issue Review

Ready for whatever's next, be it death, change or something in-between. I go to meet my destiny.

Nick Roche is brilliant. There are probably obscure tribes up the Amazon Basin who have taken to worshipping him as a God. Every single bit of art is him at the top of his game and the only conceivable reason for him not being the artist on All Hail Megatron is that IDW know that if there's any justice he'll be too expensive for them to afford very soon.

As for the plot, it's not as strong as Cyclonus but is still a top notch comic. One thing that may be noticed from the synopsis and notes is that Hardhead himself doesn't get mentioned very much. This sells him short... whilst his main purpose is as an exposition sounding board his quiet, taciturn nature makes for a memorable character who steals all the best lines. This also works perfectly with Nightbeat as that sort of character is very noir-ish.

Everyone else is also on good form, with the first real chance to meet Nemesis Prime emphasising the tragic exile angle of the character that makes him a interesting lead villain.

However, we also get the first real signs of the plot being condensed. The sudden "Let's make Pretenders!" thing is covered by the goofs, but there's a bigger problem conceptually: Optimus Prime is being sidelined.

Now, normally this wouldn't be an issue, Optimus may be the main heroic figure in the franchise but he doesn't need to be the lead, or even to appear at all, in every story. But Nemesis Prime is set up as his personal... well, nemesis. His equal and opposite in every way the story should have the two of them front and centre but all Optimus has done up to the halfway mark is have people explain the plot to him whilst he watches the exciting stuff on TV. Nemesis almost gets as shoddy a treatment with Jhiaxus being his plot explainer but does at least gets one lengthy and good speech about his motivation and gets to make the stakes personal by deciding to kill Optimus. The big red guy hasn't had that yet. It's like Goldeneye having Bond sitting in MI6 headquarters with a cup of tea for the first hour whilst Bill Tanner and JW Pepper sort out the former 006.

This isn't as yet a story-destroying problem as there's still time for the next two issues to redress this balance, but it's a worrying sign and if it isn't dealt with the arc is going to seem strangely unbalanced.

Despite this, Hardhead remains a superior entry in the series, with the death of Nightbeat and the destruction of Banzaitron's base adding to the "end of an era" feel. Next month's artist is going to have a tough act to follow though...

Notes

Since Nightbeat's last visit (only a matter of weeks before from his point of view, if he remembered it at all that is) the people of Gorlam Prime have gone into the next stage of their evolution. Whilst the implication before was that this was a natural process here we learn Jhiaxus has engineered the entire process as a way of creating life that will survive the Expansion. Whilst we don't actually see any Gorlam natives become mini Transformers it would seem they are the end process.

Ah yes, after giving us Decepticon Pretender Monsters who aren't Decepticons or Pretenders we now have Furman driving reviewers mad by featuring thirty odd characters based on Micromasters who aren't called by that title, nor their team names nor even their individual names. Virtually all of the initial wave of Patrols with the exception of the Rescue and Monster Truck teams, and Sunrunner and Trip-Up. All have some effort at non-Earth modes (unlike Dreamwave's Micromaster comic.) As with those seen back in Nightbeat there's no indication of individual sentience or personality.

After close to two years we discover exactly what was behind Nightbeat's kidnapping and brainwashing -- he was to assassinate Optimus Prime at a specific moment. At present we don't know when this was to be, how Nemesis Prime could be sure Nightbeat would be summoned to Earth by Prime (though Optimus' vision of him in Escalation hints at some sort of mental link), or why it not happening is potentially disastrous and requires Nemesis' personal involvement to kill his successor (as opposed to say, just sending Galvatron [who can kill people with his touch] to do it.) When the cranial implant is activated Nightbeat seemingly comes under the direct control of Jhiaxus who speaks through him.

Ark 1 is still drifting through the Dead Universe, though it crumbles to the touch now.

Hardhead is the go-to Bot for tough and difficult assignments that might require him to kill a renegade colleague. It's hard to be sure if Nightbeat is entirely dead (as opposed to mostly dead), but it's a specifically targeted accurate shot from an expert marksman that takes him down so it's very likely. It's harder to say at this stage what Hardhead's final fate will be.

When Jhiaxus/Nightbeat claims the current Transformers are obsolete he reflects his Generation 2 namesake's views.

Banzaitron and Arcee seem to have met before, and she's also able to ID Gutcruncher and Axer on sight (though possibly as part of information given to her by Fortress Maximus.) It's hard to tell if these two are dead as when seen through Arcee's "Predator" vision when she's scanning for lifesigns they don't look that different from Banzaitron. This was a deliberate choice on the colourist's part in order to keep their options open on the characters future.

The Monstructor 6 were broken out of jail by two beings unknown to Banzaitron, presumably Straxus amd Grindcore who are otherwise absent from the issue (possibly one of them could be Galvatron, but Cyclonus is unlikely as he was at the limit of the time he could spend in our Universe last issue and would likely need a certain amount of time back home before returning.)

We learn there are three Nega Cores in total, each with their own guardian. As well as Thunderwing the other two are probably Monstructor and the recently acquired (in Devastation #6) Sixshot.

Nemesis Prime looks to still be carrying the Matrix. I say looks as Optimus was drawn with it implied in Stormbringer, which may have been a mistake or a suggestion there is more than one in this continuity. If there is just the one then (unlike in Dreamwave continuity) Optimus wasn't upgraded physically by it when he became leader and thus the Orion Pax lookalike in Megatron Origin wasn't him. [Unless he was upgraded in some other way. Sadly we can't retcon out M:O that easily. -Ed]

Cloudburst and company were all Pretenders in the original toy line, so the dangerous procedure that Jetfire intends to put them through to survive the Benzuli Expanse should be obvious to the astute reader.

The Magnificence was stolen and hidden by Hot Rod in his Spotlight, where we also learnt Dealer was a Double agent working for Banzaitron. We don't yet know if his coming forward here is simply part of his plot to steal it, a genuine result of the alliance formed between Banzaitron and Arcee or him playing his own agenda. Next issue will tell all...

The full title of the last issue was Cyclonus: Revelation Part 1, for this issue it moves things around to Revelation Part 2: Hardhead. The copyright note on the credits page of both titles simply drops the Revelation sub title entirely.

As this is the first time a Spotlight series has been part of a proper ongoing narrative we get a extra page recapping the story so far.

In-jokes this issue:
- Nightbeat has the registration M1N-3RV4, a take on Minerva, the toy's name in Japan (where he was a teenage schoolgirl in fancy dress. No, really).
- Jetfire's scans of the cave Thunderwing is hiding in include: Tipton Factor: 0%, Su Capacity 100%, Roche Levels [Hard to read but looks like 100%], and Dipple Varience 0%. Dipple is Kris Carter's girlfriend. Page 22 includes a monitor with the names of Nick Roche's girlfriend and Josh Van Reyk's (who to the best of my knowledge isn't dating Simon Furman). Though only Van Reyk's Emissions are really visible on the finished page.
- Two of the Gorlam Prime inhabitants are dressed like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.
- The brief mention of Hardhead being an appropriate name is evocative of a discussion between him and Bomb Burst in Marvel US #75 On The Edge of Extinction!... there, as here, it's one of the last things the two characters do before seeming death.
- The consoles Nemesis Prime crushes on Ark-1 are very like the ones either side of the Captain's chair on board the USS Defiant in Star Trek: Deep Space 9.

Goofs

Difficult to 100% sure mark this as a goof, but all the people and vehicles we see frozen on Gorlam Prime are perfectly preserved as they were, even the ones in mid step or driving (presumably) fast on the motorway. No one fell over or crashed at full speed after freezing?

On page 12 Nemesis Prime has an Optimus style face plate.

Why does Jhiaxus bother explaining his grand plan to Hardhead rather than just having Nightbeat shoot him?

When Arcee scans him, Banzai-Tron is spelt with the hyphen (ala the original toy) rather than the IDW hyphenless way. This was apparently due to Nick Roche putting the names in the scan himself rather than the letterer... likely he just copied the name from the toy guide he was using as a visual reference for the character. Or he's playing with our minds.

Even by Jetfire's eccentric scientist standards instantly jumping to Pretender technology as the first thing to try when coming up with a way to enter the Benzuli Expanse is just a little barking. Whilst Thunderwing is a tough nut, none of the other proto-Pretenders seen in Stormbringer were anywhere in the same league and all pretty much insane (which even Optimus points out here.) [This is the most obvious example of the narrative being artificially sped up from the original plan.]

Last issue the Dead universe cast all seemed to be ready to cross over into our Universe, or at least had all gathered together for something important. Here the bulk of them have buggered off (two have gone to get Monstructor it seems, are the others on a tea break?) and Nemesis and Jhiaxus are expositioning at each other whilst moping on Ark 1.

Quote/Unquote

Nightbeat: I want you to watch me like an Ardurian Roc, and if I lose control, even for an instant eliminate me.
*BEAT*
Hardhead: Sure.

Hardhead: I keep Nightbeat in my sights, target locked. If it comes to the crunch, I'll do what's necessary. It won't be the first time.

Hardhead: This'll buy us some time, but I'm nothing if not a realist. Eventually, everyone runs out of places to go.

Prowl: It's hopeless. Futile. Suicidal! [A fair review of All Hail Megatron there.]

Nemesis Prime: Yes, thanks to you Jhiaxus, our long exile in this forsaken place of fossilized tears is now almost over. Finally we shall return to the light, but take the darkness with us.

Jhiaxbeat: We are... preparing... a template for the entire Universe here... on Gorlam Prime, fine tuning an existing species to make it...capable of withstanding the very worst extremes of this or... any other reality! Soon... two universes will... be fused into a synchronised whole. A... clockwork mechanism maintained by and regulated by the Cybertronian elite. You [Hardhead] have no place in it!

Hardhead: [After surviving being shot point blank in the head] It's not just a name y'know.

 
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