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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

IDW Publishing
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CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING

Transformers Spotlight: Sideswipe, Revelation Part 4
Reviewed by Inflatable Dalek

Issue Review

I wish I could find it within me to mourn your passing.

This is just about the best single drawn issue of a Transformers comic ever. E.J. Su excels himself with a personal best that eclipses everything we've seen before. This is also a extremely quotable issue, nearly every line (bar the exposition ones) is memorable. But other than those two factors, this is staggeringly, amazingly bad.

Part of what's wrong is the choice of lead character, for the second issue in a row it's someone superfluous to the main action who should have had their arc finished in Maximum Dinobots or not at all. Sideswipe gets barely anything to do, and what he does have takes up space that could have been used to more develop the more pertinent plot threads. And whilst his final decision could be seen as clever subversion, it has to be said that him deciding the quest he's been on for over a year (from our point of view) isn't actually worth following through is deeply frustrating and makes you wonder why he bothered in the first place. Considering his monologue finishes the issue anyway Jetfire should have been the featured Autobot.

The mishandling of leads in the last two issues effects everything else like a cancer. The resolution to the various plotlines are far too convenient and easy (Grindcore and Straxus are pussies, the space bridges means the guardians can be avoided, the oh so useful Solar Pool). There's also very little explanation or rationalisation for several important plot points, most obviously what the Darkness wants from all this. And it remains a shame that the complex, tragic and almost sympathetic Nemesis Prime of the first two issues is ultimately reduced to a Marvel Thunderwing retread.

Then there are the myriad little disappointments. Whilst the art is brilliant the Pretender design doesn't really work, looking too much like Transformers in space suits to suggest dangerous new technology. In this case using the more organic looking Pretenders such as Longtooth would have helped the visuals. Then we have the complete non-appearance of the Autobots Optimus brought with him, bar Hardhead Nightbeat and Prowl (who hasn't been seen since issue 1). Considering the Autobot abandonment of Earth was both contrived and unlikely in Devasation the fact the bulk of them could have stayed on the planet whilst Prime and the other three took a shuttle makes that plot point even worse in retrospect.

Furman does have some outside constraints working against him, but he has made the situation worse than it needed to be. The Solar Pool sums it all up perfectly. It's lazy, poorly explained and not followed through properly. A highly polished turd of an issue that gets a cube and a half more than it deserves for the art.

Notes

This issue effectively ends the Dead Universe story arc that ran through the bulk of the Spotlight issues beginning with Nightbeat two years ago (though last issue retroactively made the preceding Shockwave part of this storyline as well). Sideswipe began his quest to find Sunstreaker in Galvatron, though the fact he really doesn't get on with his fellow Autobot is revealed here for the first time.

There is however one lingering plot thread left over, Galvatron is seemingly still alive at the end and has learnt the secret of his origin from The Darkness. If this is ever going to be touched upon again it will likely be in The 13, a title covering the origin of the Transformers written by Furman due out sometime in 2009.

There are a few other loose ends that aren't dealt with in the issue, such as the final fate of the four Guardians [Though the fact Monstructor is being attacked by Banzaitron and the Combaticons suggests the Decepticons recapture the gestalt, which fits in rather nicely with the appearence of Devastator in All Hail Megatron] and exactly what happens to the Magnificence. Some, all or none of these may be dealt with in Maximum Dinobots and the remaining issues of All Hail Megatron.

Exactly what the Darkness is, how it came to be in a Universe without any sort of life, what it hoped to gain by joining the two Universes and what its connection to the Matrix is also remains unsaid. Personally though, I wouldn't be surprised if The 13 reveals some connection to Unicron.

It's also worth noting that, whilst we are firmly told at last that Optimus is indeed part of the Matrix succession, at no point is it actually said he's carrying the Autobot lifeforce so that's still not 100% confirmed.

Of the Decepticons seen battered in Banzaitron's base in Hardhead Axer at least has made enough of a recovery to take part here.

The designs of the Autobot Pretender shells are based more closely on their toys than the Decepticon ones seen thus far, but are portrayed more like spacesuits with no human faces inside the helmet.

Straxus and Grindcore don't seem to be as powerful as Nemesis Prime and Galvatron, as they don't have the death touch and are taken down rather easily by Sideswipe.

Sideswipe and Warpath have taken on Earth modes (as has possibly Hound, though his former body was close enough in robot mode so as to be to be sure if the differences here are just artistic ones). This is the first really firm hint that changing their alt modes is very easy for IDW Transformers as its unlikely they'd go to the effort otherwise when they're in such a rush.

We learn that the one Nega Core is on Bhul's fourth moon rather than the planet itself.

The Solar Pool was visible in the last issue, but this is the first time it has been referred to by name. Exactly what a large uncovered lethal energy source is doing in the middle of a prison is unexplained, but whatever it's for Galvatron's body clogging it up for some time has no effect on its operation as no one seems to notice he's still in there.

The final fate of Gorlam Prime is very like the origin of the Go-Bots in their cartoon. Perhaps as a homage New Cybertron is shown not to be a complete sphere (in this case with a hole in the pole), like Gobotron. One of the inhabitants bears a resemblance to Movie Arcee, possibly implying they maintain the male/female division. It's not clear what Hardhead has been up to during all the time the change needs, though Arcee is likely happy chopping up Jhiaxus forever.

The epilogue takes place "Deca-Cycles" later; in the meantime, the Autobots have faced the Machination Empire (Maximum Dinobots), Megatron's all out assault (presumably All Hail Megatron, though it might refer to any Megatron attack at a pinch) and the return of Shockwave. Assuming the writer has listed them in chronological order Shockwave won't be showing up in any of the stuff set before All Hail Megatron.

This is the first Spotlight to have narration by someone other that the title character, as Jetfire closes the series.

Though there have been other times where if the Autobots hadn't won the long term result would have been the end of the Universe (just about anything with Unicron) this is arguably the first Transformers comic to have them do one specific thing that stops all of creation being destroyed.

E.J. Su becomes the first artist to do every bit of the art on an IDW title. His painted work is really rather good.

Goofs

[As means of saving time I won't repeat the myriad loose ends and unexplained events already covered in the notes section].

Is there no one living on Bhul or Rotan who might take an interest in the large scale fighting on their planets, or are they as abandoned as China seems to be?

What have the rest of Prime's crew (including Verity and Jimmy) been up to for the last four issues?

It takes about three seconds to scan a entire Universe for life signs. The claim that the Dead Universe is completely incapable of supporting life of any sort is rendered nonsense by the fact half a dozen Transformers have been surviving perfectly well (if evilly) there for millions of years despite not even being natives.

Why do Sideswipe and Warpath (and possibly Hound) take on Earth modes, but none of the others do? Why don't they pick disguises that might blend in a little better with rural China?

Galvatron just strolls into the Autobots maximum security prison without anyone noticing him. Really, Fort Max should be looking for a new job after the events of the last few days.

Optimus has lost his gun since last issue.

Galvatron's touch suddenly stops being death when Optimus grabs him.

Whatever a Solar Pool is for, is it really a good idea to keep it uncovered when any passing escaping prisoner could fling a passing guard into it? The Pool also looks completely different to how it did last issue (if not for the fact it was pool shaped and had solar panels it'd be hard to say they were the same thing).

Quote/Unquote

Hound: I know [Sideswipe's] a loose cannon, and a pain in the posterior plating but in a situation like this he's exactly what's needed.

Cyclonus: [After Cloudburst's team have escaped to the Technobot ship] Don't think for a moment you can cheat me of my rightful kill!
Cludburst: [Leading the pretenders out] Oh- Perish the thought!

Jhiaxus/Bludgeon: Congratulations Jetfire, you have graduated from an irritation to a full blown nuisance and in so doing you merit an untidy death.

Nemeis Prime: I command the Darkness Optimus Prime, not you.
Optimus Prime: It commands you!

Galvatron: It spoke to me too, promising answers to the riddles of who I was, what I was destined to become. But in the end it could not resist the yawning tug of the Matrix vacuum within Nova Prime. It is the final piece of the puzzle, after all this time I shall be complete. Release it Prime, it will come to me. Choose, the crossing or the pool!
Optimus: I choose... [Passes Darkness]
Galvatron: Yes! Yes! It all becomes clear! The veil parts! I am-
Optimus:... Both! [Hurls Galvatron into the Solar Pool]

Arcee: I just love these [Micromaster] things. Bite-size!

Arcee: There's nowhere to run, Jhiaxus.
Jhiaxus: Wrong. Where I go now you cannot follow. Beyond lies only death and decay. Unless, Arcee you are willing to pay the ultimate price-
Hardhead: She doesn't have to.
Jhiaxus: Who?
hardhead: I already did.
Jhiaxus: Hardhead!
Hardhead: Looks like all your old ghosts [Arcee runs Jhiaxus through] have come back to haunt you!

 
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