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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

IDW Publishing
(2005-now)
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(2003-2007)
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CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING

"The Veiled Threat" Novel
Reviewed by Blackjack

Review

Novels have a clear advantage over comics in that they have more pages, and more space to describe the characterization of a character and their thoughts. However, action scenes in novels are usually confusing. Transformers has never had many novels before, and other than the movie adaptations, and the short-lived Keepers trilogy, the only Transformer novels are Ghosts of Yesterday and The Veiled Threat, prequels to the live action movies. Suffice it to say the prequel to the first movie, Ghosts of Yesterday, is a whole load of trash. It suffers from an unengaging setting, random and bland human characters, underdeveloped stereotypical characterization, ignores continuity and, in short, is total crap. Whereas if a novel is unengaging and we'd throw it aside, at least with a comic there are still pictures to look at.

The Veiled Threat is, I'm happy to say, greatly better than Ghosts of Yesterday. Alan Dean Foster clearly had plenty of material to work on, did some reading, and collaborated with IDW Movieverse scriptwriter Chris Mowry (Reign of Starscream, Alliance and Defiance) to create a story that has no continuity errors only as many continuity errors as any other Transformers story. Whilst not once referencing the ROTF sequel Alliance, the Veiled Threat focuses on NEST's exploits against the Decepticon masses and gears the audience up for ROTF. Cliffhangers like the Decepticons trying to revive Megatron, the crab spy and Simmons are good parts. Foster also learned from his errors in his first novel and made some changes in his style of writing that fit writing about Transformers better. First of all, he limits the usage of human characters. The main humans in the novel are the already-established Lennox and Epps, the Japanese chick Kami, and the Russian Petr. By keeping the number of the original fanmade humans to two, Alan managed to develop more characterization and gives more screen time to the Transformers. Toy-only characters like Knockout, Longarm and Dropkick are given wonderful monologues, which I appreciate, particularly as his first novel gave very stereotypical characterization for the Autobots and Decepticons. Thirdly, Alan introduced generic Transformers to kill off; a death toll is always welcome where it lends weight to events. The writer also manages to turn redshirt Macerator into an interesting character.

Of course, the novel has its shortcomings as well. There's no mention of the Fallen at all (though this might be to keep his identity a secret). The scene where Salvage spins around and throws Ratchet onto the dam is weak. There's absolutely no reason for Starscream to team up with African rebels, and they didn't appear after their initial debut and the raid at the supply depot. Also, the final battle scene at Rome is poorly-written, with Starscream and Bruno Carrera's master plan being trapping Optimus in a hole. Barricade's inclusion is unnecessary, and the fact that Prime doesn't kill him is plain weird. There are numerous character continuity errors regarding Salvage, Longarm, Payload and Swindle (Dead End might be another Dead End- see notes). Still, at the cover price, about half that of the Alliance TPB, it's worth it.

Notes

NEST's top personnel include Lennox, Epps, Japanese scientist-warrior Kaminari and Russian scientist Petr, plus Optimus, Ironhide, Ratchet, Longarm, Salvage, Knockout and the late Beachbreak. Petr's experimental weapon is a electric discharge gun that sends electricity into part of a Decepticon's body, which gives a stinging or numbing sensation. Kami's weapon is a localized, one-way EMP gun, which also only stuns Decepticons.

Events in this novel presumably happened sometime after the halfway mark of Alliance #4, as Bumblebee had left NEST, and NEST had been operating for some time. Simmons had been fired. References to Starscream's one month absence from Earth, as well as Dreadwing's coup are present.

This novel confirms that Energon exists in the Movieverse. Although still a power source, it behaves differently to previous incarnations. It is much more stable than other 'lesser' (i.e. Earthen) power sources, and, according to Ironhide, only Cybertronians can activate it. Transformers do not need to consume Energon much, only once in a while. A movieverse Transformer's spark gives a transformer most of the energy they require. If a Transformer over-energized, the energy would be expelled, like humans expelling body heat. The Megatron fanatics were planning to use over-energized Decepticons to revive Megatron's spark. Energon is very powerful, and the batch of Energon Ironhide is amassing in Diego Garcia, if detonated, would blow up the island and India as well. Bloody hell. Ironhide assures NEST that it is absolutely safe, though.

Holograms are also discussed in greater detail. While the details are unclear, it seems that maintaining a hologram require conscious effort, as at one point, Optimus and Ironhide are caught without holograms and promptly 'copied' Salvage's. This suggests that the holograms are not automatic. As seen in the case of Knockout, holograms could be modified at the owner's whim, when Epps complained at Knockout's choice of holograms. Also, the holograms are just that—not holomatters like the ones used in IDW G1 comics. Lennox threw a stone that passed directly through the Decepticons' holograms.

How does Frenzy remain alive even though he's only half of a head? Well, various profiles for him described him as having a 'non-central nervous system', meaning he has no specific brain. More accurately, any part of him could be severed and he could still think, sort of. It's possible that, in terms of sparks, that his spark is in his head, as he did survive getting beheaded in the first movie. Simmons siphoning excess power into him, inadvertedly reactivating his spark, is a dead ringer for Optimus' later discussion that excess energy could reactivate Megatron's spark. Hints? Possibly. Although, if this is possible, there's another conflict with the Mowry-written comics.

Epps has a wife and three children, and is very interested in learning about weapons from Ironhide. Ironhide calls his guns 'nice toys'. Hey, Prime did tell Ironhide to be honest.

New weapons for old characters make their way into the novel. Starscream's arm can transform into a 'glistening, studded metal club'. Starscream is also to produce from his body a certain yellow metallic element that the human rebels greedily gather. He's a walking gold factory, dammit. Both Barricade and Swindle can also morph their hands into guns, while Payload has new tank weaponry to play with.

Epps reprises his line from the movie ('back pocket' and 'left cheek') when asked about where his wallet is by the pirate.

References to earlier eras, while not abundant, are present. The insult 'Chrome Dome', possibly referencing G1 Chromedome, could be found. The hypothetical idea that Starscream might be using the hydroelectric dam to collect hydroelectrical energy is a direct reference to the Decepticons in various G1 episodes. Fighting one-on-one without help from other Transformers is also a possible reference to the G1 episode 'Heavy Metal War' and several Beast Wars episodes where similar events occur. Ruination takes his name from the RiD gestalt, whilst Kickback is named after the G1 Insecticon.

The crab spy is never named. He reports to a dark shape completely submerged in the water. It's a safe bet that this is either Soundwave or the Fallen.

Novel-only Characters

A lot of new characters appear in this novel, many of them of the transformable sort. I'll go in detail into each Transformer and NEST agents introduced here rather than clog up the notes section.

Beachbreak is one of the newly-arrived Autobot. He's about ten feet tall, likes Bumblebee and a bit sensitive about his height. He transforms into a 'stealth jet ski' developed for use by US Navy SEALs and UK commandos. He is responsible for saving Optimus Prime from falling down Victoria Falls. However, as he was celebrating this, Starscream flew by and knocked him off Ironhide's shoulder down Victoria Falls. Kami was very upset by it.

Macerator is the generic Decepticon with the most page time. He transforms into a garbage disposal machine, with spinning blades. He is a squat robot, and often engages in banter with Dropkick and Payload. Macerator's hand can alter into a gun or rotating claws. He hates trash, ironically. Macerator has a lens eye, as evidenced by his interaction with Payload (lens-to-lens). He admonishes Dropkick for choosing an aesthetic alternate mode instead of a more functional one. Macerator was stabbed through the spark by Optimus Prime.

Ruination is a V22 Osprey, whilst his partner Blademaster is a helicopter. Ruination seems to be based on the Incinerator toy or Springer toy. Regardless, similar to the two, his rotor blades become his hands. After being beaten up by Knockout, Blademaster was blinded by Petr's weapon, and fell down the cliff. Ruination swooped down to save him, but their ultimate fate is not resolved. Being non-toy redshirts, it probably never will be.

Tread and Trample are Decepticon twins who transform into excavators. They were among the Megatron loyalists in Australia. Being twins, they computed a strategy together, and Tread was able to feel Trample's death but it didn't affect him physically. Trample was killed by Salvage whilst Tread was blown up by Ironhide.

Kickback transforms into a bulldozer, and was among the uranium miners in Australia. He was among the Megatron loyalists. Kickback has a shield, and a hammer-arm that transforms into a sonic pulse gun. He constantly mocks his enemies. Prime killed him.

Kaminari Ishihara is a Japanese hot chick. Trained in the arts of battle, as well as being so brilliantly smart having 'graduated MIT with a PhD in both physics and engineering at age 22', claiming black belts in four martial arts and having a hot body and beautiful face, is also brave and saved Autobot lives with her experimental EMP weapon. In their first meeting, Epps was rendered completely speechless by her, and she also flirted (sort of) with Petr and Lennox. When she moved in the NEST base, she is 'followed by the eyes of every living male creature in the vicinity'. Longarm likes her with a scuba mask. Give her two big swords and we get a human version of Drift.

Petr Androdov is a talented Russian scientist, with an experimental weapon that shoots batteries which disrupt a Cybertronian's systems. It has been described as a numbness or a itchiness by Transformers. He has a nice sense of humour (he was trying to feed Epps guinea pigs in Peru) and is very interested in insects and biology. He can multi-task but not rap. At the end the novel both he and Kami return to their respective countries to report to their governments.

Bruno Carrera is an enterprising businessman who threw in his lot with Starscream, promising to help him kill Optimus Prime in exchange for Europe once the Decepticons dominated the Earth. Seeing his confidence, Starscream followed his plan, which actually extends to trapping Optimus Prime in a hole covered with superstrong metal. It only stopped Prime for a while. Bruno asked Starscream to forgive and forget, but Starscream doesn't do forgiveness and promptly blew up Bruno and his residence.

Goofs

In Reign of Starscream and Alliance, Longarm and Salvage (or at least vehicles that look like them) are taken from Mission City and withheld by Sector Seven. This is one of the hanging subplots Mowry left unresolved. Well, in this novel, Longarm and Salvage are newly-arrived Autobots. Longarm is described as a 'veteran', and they have been described as newly arrived reinforcements.

Swindle and Dead End had been killed in NEST's first mission in Alliance #3, yet they appear to cause trouble here. While the Dead End might probably the Dead End in the ROTF toyline (the one killed in Alliance was actually named Jolt in the toyline), this doesn't explain Swindle.

Payload's supposed to be killed with Stockade at the end of Reign of Starscream, or at least stranded on Cybertron. Furthermore, Payload was one of the conspirators with Dreadwing, not a likely candidate for a Starscream loyalist. The Payload in this novel transforms into an anti-aircraft tank. All other incarnations of Payload, including the toy, is a armoured truck. While it's not entirely impossible that this might be another Payload—possibly another generic; or an upcoming toy—Payload did get a lens-head, a la his toy. You decide.

For all its funding, NEST couldn't get decent satellites. Even Sector Seven, twenty-something years ago, had precise satellites (Movie Prequel #3) that let it determine Bumblebee's car model. However, NEST couldn't get a decent satellite that could spy on the Decepticons. When they do, it takes a long time for the satellite to move and it gives sub-par results.

Ratchet is constantly described as an ambulance when he is not. Movie Ratchet is a Hummer H2 rescue vehicle.

And Kami. Seriously. A super-intelligent, gun-toting, ultra-hot samurai chick with four black belts and degrees in numerous stuff? Where the hell did she get the time to study all those? Is she one of those superhuman Witwickys? Apparently her name means 'Thunder'. Strange name for a girl.

Simmons is such a jerk he doesn't let anyone use mayonnaise on the food at his mama's deli. Seriously, he should've been smarter than that. Also, how did he get all that equipment into his basement without the landlord knowing?

Whatever happened to Knockdown, Salvage and Longarm during ROTF? It looked from the dialogue as if they were going to Shanghai as well.

If sufficient energy could reactivate Frenzy, why didn't Starscream do so in Reign of Starscream? He would've obtained an additional warrior. Possible reasons: 1) Starscream 'forgot'. 2) Starscream is irritated by Frenzy's voice. 3) Simmons is smarter than Starscream. 4) Frenzy is supposed to appear in ROTF. Again, you decide.

Barricade has four eyes. The novel only states he has 'one pair'.

Quote, Unquote

Longarm: "I much prefer your appearance with the artificial lens in place over the forepart of your upper skull. It gives your face a more mechanical facade."
Kami: "Your tastes differ from those of the males of my species."


Lennoz: "Well, if you had, you'd know that she graduated MIT with a PhD in both physics and engineering at age twenty-two. She's all kinds of wonky on robots and cybernetics. On top of that, she's got black belts in four different martial arts and spent three years working for Naicho, the Japanese intelligence agency. Something about doing her patriotic duty, rather than cashing in all that talent with a private robotic firm."
Epps: "Damn, definitely not just a pretty face."
Lennox: "Oh, and Andronov? Formerly of Russia's Spetsnaz. We aren't dealing with geeks and nerds here."
Epps: "Yeah, yeah we are. We're just dealing with geeks and nerds who are trained to kill. Like I said, 'Damn!' "


NEST supply chief: "My team and I have been ordered to furnish you with whatever you want."
Optimus Prime: "We need nothing. What we want is time, and understanding."
NEST supply chief: "It's my understanding that both items tend to be in short supply in world capitals, but I'll see what I can do."


Salvage: "That noise Knockout generates in his terrestrial guise. It is oddly engaging."
Ratchet: "It is excessively loud. A waste of energy resulting in nothing more than a premature announcement of one's incipient arrival."
Salvage: "True, true. But engaging nonetheless."


Dropkick: "Starscream was right. Humans are easily impressed."
Starscream: "I am always right."


Dropkick: -on beer truck- "This is a simple vehicle, even for one of human design. I could mimic it easily."
Starscream: "Do you want to carry humans? Keep the form you have already chosen. Humans are sensitive to exact duplication and react differently to it than we do. They are defined by their differences, not their similarities."
Dropkick: "I am fond of the shape I have chosen. It boasts a primitive elegance."
Macerator: "Aesthete. Observe and admire a form far more functional and useful for our purpose." -transforms-
Dropkick: "Primitive."


Frenzy: "Body. Where body? Gone, gone, taken, gone. Bring it back. So far away, taken..."
Simmons: "What are you trying to say? Are you asking about your body? I don't know where it is, chrome dome. Maybe if you gimme a hint, I can look for it. Give you your body back, yeah, but without the Cuisinart capability, if you know what I mean."
Frenzy: "Body missing. Not fair. Frenzy do his job. Perform all tasks, obey all orders. Accumulate requisite information..."
Simmons: "Yeah, information. Vital information. Tell me. Any information is good information. Tell me about the Autobots. Tell me about the Decepticons. This war of yours—what's it all really want from us? From Earth? Tell Uncle Seymour all about it."
Frenzy: "Need full body, remaining neural components to— INSECT! Ambulatory macrobiotic pulp! Frenzy chop!"


Frenzy: "All humans must submit! Release Frenzy or suf... or suf...!"


Ironhide: -on Epps' gun- "Very nice toy."
Epps: "Thanks. Give it back, man."
Ironhide: "I am not a man. I am an Autobot. We are autonomous robotic lifeforms from the planet... Oh, I remember now. A linguistic colloquialism."


Epps: "Man, is there anything you don't know?"
Androdov: "Da. I cannot rap."


Knockout: "I was right! My perception was correct. The Decepticons are-!"
-Longarm slaps Knockout-
Longarm: "You have acted recklessly, endangering not only yourself and me but the humans as well! What have you to say for yourself?"
Knockout: "I..."


Kickback: "What's the matter, Prime? Getting old? Can't take a hit anymore? Even the greatest Autobots get old and slow."


Simmons: "This place you come from — what's it like? No people there, obviously. Just you mouthy toasters."
Frenzy: "Home... Beautiful, once. Then war, dissension. Weak rule. Megatron deciding. Optimus objecting. Dissension. Fighting, war. Allspark lost. Searching, searching..."
Simmons: "Yeah, right. We're all searching. I can see why you tin toys wound up here. Trouble for you guys is, this dirt is already mortgaged. And we ain't movin' out."
Frenzy: "Insects. Submit or die! Megatron will-!"
Simmons: "Megatron sleeps with the fishes."


Starscream: "Vile insect, you have failed me utterly. Prime lives. Your plan was worthless!"
Bruno Carrera: "My part of the plan worked. It is not my fault you could not execute your end of the bargain. Come, let us forgive and forget. We have much to plan together."
Starscream: "Together? Oh insect, I will indeed forget, but I never forgive."

 
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