CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
Transformers Spotlight: Jazz
Reviewed by Inflatable Dalek
I’ll tell you…
When this was announced I was apprehensive. After years of fan artists making the crossover into official stuff (Don Figueroa, Nick “God” Roche) there has been a depressing lack of fan writing talent making the same leap. However, whilst the Mosaic
project has been a worthy one I was worried that the writers had been chosen for convenience rather than talent, or worse yet as a reward for some of the stunning brownnosing to be found at the IDW board.
This worry was pretty much groundless; there’s nothing new or stunning in Jazz
and it does have the feel of a Mosaic
writ large, but it’s done with style and panache.
And more importantly it gives us a new authorial voice. Furman at times seems to be a box with switches that when pressed produce the clichés at random (“It’s a dirty job that never ends when it’s over… finished!”) and McCarthy has no discernible talent whatsoever. But here we get naturalistic (or as naturalistic as giant robots are ever going to get) dialogue and lots of it. Characters talk in paragraphs! Every line is a gem, even the ones that should by all rights be cheese on a cob, such as Jazz’s definition of a Autobot or Tracks’ last sentiment. Razorclaw is also well written, again he’s from stock (the honour-obsessed baddy) but in a wonderful way.
Su’s art is, surprisingly, a let down compared to his usual high standard. The colouring especially doesn’t help, with Priscilla clearly not being the queen of crayons. This doesn’t distract too much though, partly because sub standard Su is still pretty good and mainly because it’s a story about words, so the images don’t matter so much.
It’s hard not to feel that perhaps the original idea was to do a Tracks Spotlight
with the story being entirely from his point of view but that this potentially more original and challenging idea proved too difficult. However, what we get is more than good enough and the first thing set around the All Hail Megatron
framework to be in any way a success. More please; the authors clearly do have all that jazz.
The present day segment takes place between the Autobots' exile to Cybertron and Kup arriving in All Hail Megatron
issue 4. There are some continuity errors with this we’ll cover in the Goofs section, but in a nice touch whilst everyone else seems absolutely rapt in track’s story Sunstreaker has a pissed off / doubtful face in his couple of panels.
The past section occurs on Cybertron before Thuderwing’s assault (as seen in Stormbringer
) rendered the planet virtually uninhabitable.
The past story occurs over less than thirty cycles, the amount of time Jazz had before stasis lock set in after removing his auxiliary energon reservoir. The idea of a robot creating a bomb out of their power core is similar to one in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
This is something of a structural departure for the Spotlight
series, as all the narration comes from Tracks rather than the titular star, and it’s him literally telling the story rather than it being an inner monologue (though Jetfire’s closing speech at the end of Spotlight: Sideswipe
may have been something similar).
Exactly how much Tracks is embellishing the story is unclear. Based on the fact he talks about his rescuer teaching Razorclaw a lesson as we see the Predacon instead beat the crap out of him suggests that, whilst the narration may be unreliable, the actual content of the flashback is “real”.
And does Tracks really not know who saved him? If we assume Jazz doesn’t have that distinctive “how a middle aged white guy thinks a young black man talks” speech pattern and voice in this continuity then it is possible. Though tellingly no one hearing the story turns to Ironhide when he’s brought into it to ask him who the Autobot was, so it’s possible that they all really know.
Josh Van Reyk and Shaun Knowler have been instrumental in setting up and running the Mosaic
project over at the IDW board, and perhaps unsurprisingly have been the first choice for fan writers to tackle an official project.
[As the flashbacks are potentially an unreliable narrative it’s effectively impossible to pick out any goofs in them, even art mistakes could just be Track’s misremembering. A cunning ploy on the part of the writers, no doubt.]
Despite being set during the early stages of All Hail Megatron
the Autobots all look shiny and new instead of beaten and battered. (With the exception of Trailbreaker who looks shiny and new but with a missing arm.) Despite being ostracised and number one traitor suspect Mirage has a big dumb happy grim on his face throughout the story, and Ironhide can stand two places away from him with a equally cheerful look [clearly Tracks is a master storyteller and has missed his calling fronting Jackanory
. I bet his reading of Iron Man
would be nearly as good as Tom Baker’s was.]
Tracks: Do you really think standing around yelling at each other is going to help? Besides… we still have hope.
Bumblebee: HAHAHA, did you just say that, Tracks?
Cliffjumper: And whadda you know about it commander wax-n-buff? When have you ever gotten your hands dirty?
Divebomb: Shall I take them out from here?
Razorclaw: Such an anonymous, impersonal kill? No, a worthy prey such as he deserves a more hands-on approach.
Jazz: Whoever shot the shuttle down might come back to finish the job. We’ll need to be able to bite back.
Tracks: With what? I doubt a single rifle can take out an entire squad of Decepticons at once.
Jazz: True, so we try a little improvisation with my auxiliary energon reservoir.
Tracks: Are you crazy?
Jazz: Only if it doesn’t work.
Tracks: I’m going to die.
Jazz: Look, I know this is going to be hard for you, but if we work together like Autobots should we’ll make it through this. You’re just going to need to have some faith.
Razorclaw: Make this easy on yourselves! Surrender now and we promise a quick and painless death!
Headstrong: [Whispering] Well, quick anyway.
Tracks: I couldn’t believe my own vocal processor. I was alone against the most feared Decepticon squad and I was insulting them. Maybe I was more damaged than I thought.
Razorclaw: I have to admit, Autobot. I am impressed. I can’t think of the last time someone got the best of a Predacon, let alone three of them. You have my respect. But I have run out of patience and you have run out of places to hide.
Jazz: That team on the shuttle -- my friends -- they gave their sparks to rescue you and to protect a way of life! Don’t you dare say they died for nothing! When we put on this badge we made a promise. A promise to ourselves. A promise to the people of Cybertron. A promise to each every other Autobot, past, present and future. We don’t give up. We don’t lose hope.
Jazz: Ironhide! How’d you boys find us?
Ironhide: Hey, same way we usually do. Just follow the explosions.
Tracks: Excuse me Sir, the ‘bot that saved me, do you now who he is?
Ironhide: Yeah kid. He gave me a message for you. He said to tell you that he was just an Autobot. Just like you are.
[Cut to present]
Tracks: “And never forget what that means”. We’ve all seen terrible times, awful things- and had plenty of chances to walk away from it all, but we didn’t. And neither should we now because we’re Autobots, so long as we stay true to that we’re never truly defeated.