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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

IDW Publishing
(2005-now)
Devil's Due
(2003-2007)
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(2002-2004)
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(2001-now)
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(2001-now)
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CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING

Transformers Spotlight: Ultra Magnus
Reviewed by Inflatable Dalek

Issue Review

Absolutely fantastic. Despite some flaws in the set up to get Ultra Magnus into the story, this rounds of the first bunch of Spotlights in considerable style.

Furman always seems to give Swindle good material on the few occasions he's written for him, and here is no exception, with the Combaticon almost playing Quark to Magnus' Odo.

From this good start, through the infiltration of the Corporation (making this the third out of five Spotlights to feel like a spy show. Is Furman working through his 24 boxsets as he writes?) to the fantastic, subversive death of Zarak everything’s on song here. And after the more standalone Sixshot the way this plays into the big arc again is more than welcome. With Scorponok almost certainly now on Earth, the stage is set for exciting developments.

The only way this comic could be better would be if instead of “Zarak!” Scorponok had instead screamed “Mo!” when his friend got shot…

Notes

The bulk of this issue is set before events seen in Stormbringer (where large chunks of Nebulos gets toasted by Thunderwing), and presumably before the Decepticon infiltration unit seen there was established, as the fugitive Scorponok would be a fool to set up camp right on top of the people he's running from. Magnus catches up with Swindle "29 stellar cycles" latter, so this is probably decades ago. However, the last page takes place at the same time as the first issue of Infiltration — the call Magnus makes reporting his capture of Swindle is one of the conversations Prime is listening into when we first see him.

The Nebulans seen here are a different colour from those in Stormbringer, more sickly yellow than green (with the exception of Zarak, so it's probably a nice attempt at showing different ethnicity amongst the aliens than a colour goof.)

Zarak was, of course, the headmaster to the G1 Scorponok — this is the first time he's been blessed with a first name, though. Whilst it's fair to assume that the process the Nebulans are undergoing will create headmasters (and the name "The Cranium" heavily implies it) there's no firm evidence on display here, and it might well all be a double bluff (as the appearance of Zarak turns out to be). Certainly, despite having undergone the process Zarak isn't joined with Scorponok as the latter has his own separate head. Either as a bit of foreshadowing, or just random coincidence, Sixshot's guns made a ZAARAK! sound last issue.

The name of the Zarak Corporation is probably a play on The Z[arak] Foundation as seen in the Budiansky written Cas$h and Carnage! (Marvel US #46.)

Ultra Magnus is effectively a neutral policeman enforcing the "rules that all sides obey, even in war." He claims to be authorised by the Tyrest Agreement — as Tyrest is a region on Cybertron in other continuities this suggests that this agreement was reached between the Autobots and Decepticons before the planet was abandoned. Supplying weapons to less advanced cultures is forbidden by the agreement (though no doubt Swindle's desertion is the main thing the 'Cons want to punish him for), and Magnus has enough faith in it to feel safe taking Swindle to the Regional Deception Command Hub without fear of being imprisoned himself. See "Goofs" for more discussion of this...

Scorponok is in the big league of private enterprise, and he and Magnus have fought many times before. Normally he betrays his partners and destroys everything to cover his traces [he does seem genuinely concerned for Zarak, but it might well be because of the technology within him rather than friendship. The fact he gives up on the fight as soon as Mo dies at least suggests that Scoropok would have had little chance of making a similar pact with whoever replaces him.]

There's no mention of Swindle ever having been part of a group here — certainly if he was a Combaticon, his defection will not have left him on best terms with his team mates. One of the weapons he's selling to the Warlord Lorcha draws its power from the energy of a collapsed star.

Simulcrums can alter their appearance to that of anyone they come across, and unless the controlling Autobot disconnects his cognitive functions he feels any pain inflicted upon it (shades of Optimus Prime's relationship with Roller.) Simulcrums can also be detected with special glasses, supplied by Scorponok just in case no doubt. It has to be said that the top secret lab full of alien technology and glasses that have a secret double purpose is somewhat like the scenes with the 3D Glasses in the 2006 Doctor Who two-parter Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. Considering the direct quoting of a earlier episode in Nightbeat, this probably isn't a coincidence.

Scorponok's artificial wormhole presumably uses too much energy to transport troops en-masse as to date we've see the other characters all sticking to space ship travel rather than this more efficient form of getting from place to place instantly.

New artist Musso has stated in a interview he drew Magnus' transformation to make it clear that, unlike the Dreamwave version of the character, Magnus isn't just a white Prime in a suit. This was the last of the initial line-up for the Spotlight title, though the titles' success has guaranteed at least three more being announced at the time of writing.

The first five pages were previewed on-line. The comic closes with a preview of IDW's new Star Trek: The Next Generation comic, the first time a non-Transformers title has received this treatment.

Goofs

Let's deal with the biggy first: The idea that the Autobots and Decepticons could ever come to some sort of agreement that would allow a freelance operator to police the rogue element of both sides is completely daft. There might be "rules you don't break, even in war," but getting such ideologically different sides to agree what those rules are is hugely unlikely (even allies can take a drastically different takes on things — just compare the way the Nazi's generally stuck to the terms of the Geneva Convention in WWII but the Japanese didn't.)

Certainly, whilst the Decepticons would certainly want a defector back, it's highly unlikely they'd give a toss about Swindle's interference with the development of a primitive world (which is, after all, exactly what Megatron's doing to Earth in the main arc.)
The Autobots are also fairly daft to just hand these individuals over rather than offering them deals for information, especially as doing that here gets Magnus closer to Scorponok than he's been in years. And, from a more moral point of view, Magnus is almost certainly handing Swindle over for summary execution. That doesn't sound very Autobot, does it?

And one final point on this issue: if he really wants to be neutral in this, Magnus really shouldn't still be a badge-wearing Autobot...

What are the odds that the Nebulan letter which starts Zarak's name happens to look exactly like a Z? [It's a translation conversion.]

Despite being undercover Magnus doesn't seem to bother to adapt to a Nebulan alternate mode (it's hard to tell with the cab, but certainly his robot mode stays the same throughout the issue, suggesting he makes no changes to the car carrier.)

If Scorponok is so worried about simulcrums getting into the Corporation that he provides the Cranium with those funky glasses, why not give them to the guys on the door so that Magnus wouldn't have gotten right into the heart of the operation and seen so much? [It's possible the glasses are actually just part of the bio-engineering process and the detection of Magnus is just a coincidence.]

On the last page Swindle's "lets make a deal" speech bubble is duplicated higher up. It makes it look as if the Stargate thing is talking to Magnus...

Zarak’s first name is Mo. Mo Zarak. Not a goof as such, but it’s lucky he dies here as there’s too many people with silly names in the IDW canon already…

 
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