CURRENT TRANSFORMERS COMICS FROM IDW PUBLISHING
Reviewed by Blackjack
"That, is the best story ever."
Bullets’ primary focus is on Ironfist, and dealing with the choices that led to him joining the Wreckers and how he would rather have a dignified death of his own choosing instead of dying randomly in a room. It certainly makes the ending of Last Stand of the Wreckers feel like it makes more sense, with Ironfist’s death being explained instead of feeling like a random death just to screw us over, and it certainly feels like a pretty great epilogue about Last Stand of the Wreckers. Ironfist’s monologue throughout the story, his desperation and his general geeking out… I also do like how everyone is happy and generally reacting nicely about the Fisitron’s datalogs. Ironfist certainly feels much more developed in Bullets as we learn about his personality pre-Wreckers. The other main character here is Springer, struggling against his choices on choosing people that might die, as well as constantly struggling against Prowl’s bureaucracy and struggling with constant comparisons against Impactor. It’s pretty solid writing in general.
We also get some scenes for Guzzle, Pyro and Rotorstorm, and while Pyro is just more moments of him trying to emulate Optimus Prime, both Guzzle and Rotorstorm get really powerful scenes. Guzzle being emotionally stunted is something that doesn’t really come off at all in a comic format, but as part of a text story it certainly delivers pretty well, detailing how Guzzle with his lack of emotion finally manages to feel something thanks to the incident with Kup. We also get a pretty great look into Rotorstorm’s head, seeing his backstory and having him go from the fake blustering fake identity he’s crafted to just mulling over how much he’s just joking and doing whatever he’s doing to get over past traumas. We certainly learn a lot more about these characters as they grow – I certainly like how it’s meant to be read after we read the main Wreckers story, and how all these things that happened in the past help to build the characters in our head after what we’ve already known from the ‘main’ LSOTW story. Guzzle, as I’ve said before, is probably the one who benefits the most among the non-Ironfist characters.
There are some rather fun moments as well, too. Pyro trying to find a great speech, first wining over Afterburner quoting what he said against the Tremorcons, and when he’s going all ‘united to… united to…’ and Guzzle offering ‘to shoot Decepticons!’ ROTORSTORM: SKY GOD also made me chuckle, as is Kup and Springer bitching about Prowl and sharing a story on how Prowl drove a Decepticon to suicide.
We also get a new major character in this story in Skyfall, and we generally find a pretty nice build-up on how Kimia works… Brainstorm being a psycho, ethics committee, stuff like that. I do like how Skyfall was initially built up as Ironfist’s quirky friend, how he’s been trying to sabotage Ironfist all throughout the story while still managing to look like ‘man, this guy is so fun!’ He tries to get Ironfist out of Kimia (shooing him away), trying to rip the cerebro gun apart to get rid of evidence under the guise of avenging Ironfist, having an excuse for not correcting Optimus Prime… while I initially balked at having a random character turned evil like this, I found that Skyfall is, well, a practical nobody, and certainly I did not expect for Ironfist’s death to be elaborated upon beyond ‘malfunctioning gun’. It builds up a little mystery which makes the story feel like it’s interconnected even more, and the little conspiracy and how much it’s built up over the course of the story is pretty awesome.
There’s also a bit of world-building going on again, foreshadowings about Brainstorm and his suitcase, First Aid, the Decepticon Justice Division, Rung, Swerve and a bunch of others, though it’s not particularly as chock-full with it compared to its sister story Zero Point. As always I’m also a big fan of giving us something about the Cybertronian culture and history… Rung’s talk about how vocal emotions are something that came about later, urban legends like the Shimmer, Gideon's Glue, air academies, all that other stuff.
There are some stuff I didn’t like, though… I thought the Shimmer was a bit weak, being foreshadowed heavily as being this mystical event throughout (with Flattop being a red herring) and oops, it’s just Springer’s hologram. I thought it was a bit oddly written and served as too much of a distraction. The amount of 113 shoved into the Bullets story certainly isn’t subtle, especially compared to all of Roberts’ other stories. I also thought that First Aid and the DJD bullet and all that took too much time being built up (though First Aid geeking about the Wreckers is certainly fun to read) without really ending up being anything but just building up the DJD. I think it’s a bit of a distraction from the main plot of showing Ironfist and the other Wreckers prior to the events of LSOTW. It feels to be a bit too much of a distraction.
It’s generally still a solid read throughout, though, and certainly puts Last Stand of the Wreckers a far better story as a whole especially regarding Ironfist’s rather weak death. Certainly a great supplementary read to complement the main story.
‘Bullets’ is first released in the trade paperback. The hardcover would have some minor revisions, the most notable being Rung’s deliberation about how vocal synthesizers have made a psychiatrist’s job far easier over the ages.
Several mentions of the number 113, being the very first Marvel UK issue James Roberts had read, is mentioned over the story: Pova is Wreckers datalog #113, the dreaded ethics committee trials happen in Room 113 and Springer’s double agent among the DJD is called Agent 113.
Skyfall makes some jabs over Ironfist’s style of writing, how he is always using a lot of adverbs, interior monologue, as well as some ‘Fisitronisms’ such as ‘Over – finished’ (later mentioned by Ironfist near the end) and ‘the end of the road’. This is, of course, a little joke about Simon Furman and his Furmanisms. The excerpt of Wreckers: Declassified that First Aid reads also contains the Furmanisms ‘over – finished’, ‘like some predatory bird’, ‘way out of our depth’ and ‘rather fight and die than live with the knowledge that I ran’.
Squadron X’s ship is named the Pale Fire
Several characters which will play rather major roles in James Roberts’ future stories in More than Meets the Eye make early cameos here:
- First Aid is a rather major character early on, and is working in Delphi under the directions of Pharma. Another medic there is named Ambulon, who is described as having skinny limbs.
- The Decepticon Justice Division and its function is elaborated upon by Springer. Springer mentions the presence of an eccentric deep-cover agent amongst his ranks, which as of the moment of writing has not been revealed. He is known to be eccentric and good enough of a sniper to hit the right eye of Autobot insignias, though.
- Rung appears, of course, his first actual appearance after being mentioned in character profiles. He is old enough to see the change of Cybertronians to adapt speech patterns from other alien lifeforms. Of course, he has a model of Ark-1 on his desk.
- Bluestreak is mentioned as Rung’s longest-standing patient… Bluestreak very recently joined the MTMTE cast, and was initially part of James Roberts’ first choice to be on the ship before being replaced with Swerve.
- All three members of the Ethics Committee: Xaaron, Animus and Trailbreaker, would join the MTMTE crew, though Animus would be one of the first casualties and Xaaron hasn’t really done anything.
- Chief Justice Tyrest, who will show up later, also makes an appearance.
- Brainstorm makes a short appearance as one of the most notorious weapon-makers in Kimia, and was about to go to the ethics committee with a certain slim briefcase handcuffed to his fist. Brainstorm tells Ironfist and Skyfall that the briefcase contains an MCP (Malevolent Counterintuitive Pathogen), based on the Uncertainy Principle – opening the case you’ll find whatever you least expect and then it’ll kill you. Ironfist dismisses it as a joke, but with the Uncertainty Principle being recently brought up by Nautica it remains to be seen how much Brainstorm is joking about.
- Roadbuster being involved in an incident with a ‘Sparkeater’ is mentioned – it was later seen in ‘Interiors’ as a weapon used by Whirl.
- Both Swerve and Atomizer, characters who will appear in MTMTE, are given short cameos.
While being mentioned by Springer as being a prior Wrecker, Whirl is heavily implied by future stories to be Jetstream, Rotorstorm’s psychotic and abusive mentor. MTMTE #6 establishes that Whirl has changed his name before in the past, and worked as a flight instructor before under a different identity. Bullets establishes that Jetstream had changed his name after leaving the academy.
Delphi, here the name of a secret Autobot base in James Roberts’ fanfiction novel Eugenesis, is here used as a medical base. Rung, likewise, originates from Eugenesis.
Rack’n’Ruin, confirmed to be dead in both Bullets and Dead Men’s Boots, is mentioned on Fisitron’s writings as having a ‘tragic prognosis’ which he/they told the other Wreckers around the Pova mission. Zero Point would also reveal that they are ‘ailing’ during the trial of Impactor.
The Cryogenic Regeneration Chamber, otherwise known as CR Chambers, is a concept that originates from Beast Wars cartoon.
Rung’s patient Flattop seems to be a reference to a generic Autobot from the Marvel UK #245 instead of the Decepticon Micromaster from the toyline. The original Marvel Flattop was a friend of Tailgate who is killed by the Mutants living in Cybertron’s underground tunnels.
Babu Yar as an atrocity could be briefly glimpsed during Flame’s trial in Last Stand of the Wreckers #5. With Flame being involved in the Gideon’s Glue incident, and Ironfist stating that Ultra Magnus, Chief Justice Tyrest, Prowl, Xaaron and Nightbeat being all present for the investigation, it seems that the scene of Flame on trial is indeed the Babu Yar trial.
The Shimmer is a green light that signals a death soon to come. As the story would later reveal, the Shimmer would actually be Springer’s hologram appearing to the potential Wreckers. Even Flattop, who seemed to actually die thanks to the Shimmer, was actually a potential candidate that Springer crossed off the list thanks to him dying from just looking at a holoprojection, and his death was thanks to a delayed case of Gideon’s Glue.
The scenes of Springer appearing to the Wrecker recruits and being mistaken as the Shimmer would correspond to the same scenes in Dead Men’s Boots. In addition to Ironfist and Springer’s dialogue being practically identical, we also see Rotorstorm’s guns smoking in Dead Men’s Boots, having transformed and opened fire during Bullets.
Ironfist is mentioned to keep fiddling around with a data slug – the same one that later contains Aequitas – when he’s troubled.
Some mentions are made about the Surge, the great Decepticon offensive seen in All Hail Megatron, which is precipitated by a treacherous Autobot and making the Autobots suspicious of each other.
Pyro mentions liberating a world on ‘Phase four or five’, referencing the Infiltration protocols from the Furman series. Afterburner’s account of Pyro taking out the Tremorcons seems to be based on Optimus Prime’s famous charge against the Decepticons in the 1986 movie, with Pyro even mentioning that it’s a famous maneuver. Pyro is rather embarrassed by the words he speaks after the charge when he confronts the Tremorcon leader (even though Afterburner thinks it’s awesome), thinking that he needs to instead say ‘something to do with standing or falling’, of course a reference to how Optimus says the iconic “one shall stand, one shall fall” after that particular charge.
The Tremorcons were first mentioned in the ‘Chaos Theory’ story. This issue lists their members as including Seizor (the leader), Aftershock, Fracture and Tectonix.
Pyro mentions he had modified his chest compartment to fit the Matrix, ‘just in case’. While another sign of how he’s gone off the deep end regarding the primus apotheosis, we also see this chest compartment in play in LSOTW where Verity is stuffed inside.
Debris, of course based on the Wreckers base in Marvel Comics, orbits Klo – the setting of the final battle between the Autobots and Decepticons at the end of the G1 Marvel comics.
Springer lists Hyperion and Crest as former Wrecker leaders other than Impactor – Hyperion would later show up to die in MTMTE.
The setting of Igue-Moor and Dipstick heading a reconstruction effort there, and the four new Wreckers mucking around with Ironfist’s Lightformer Cannon, would lead straight into their first scene in the first LSOTW comic.
Guzzle briefly mentions the disease corrodia gravis, a disease from the Marvel UK comic which afflicts Snarl.
Skyfall taking credit for Optimus Prime’s ion cannon is mentioned in LSOTW #4 and Ironfist’s bio published there. He is revealed to be imprisoned in the Grindcore prison camp – seemingly named after Grindcore, who was part of the Ark-1 crew.
Skyfall’s role as part of the Garrus-9 security is a reference to how Skyfall was among the Action Masters who were part of the staff there in Spotlight: Arcee. It’s revealed that the Wreckers apparently showed up later on to repel the Decepticons there.
Gorlam Prime is mentioned briefly.
The reason why the four absent Wreckers aren’t around is that Roadbuster is involved with the Sparkeater weapon, Whirl being an increasing liability (his mental state is practically cuckoo in MTMTE), Sandstorm is behind enemy lines and Broadside is ‘all but lost to them’. While the first three will later be expanded upon later on, it’s not elaborated why Broadside is not an option, considering he is an active Autobot all throughout the Costa and Barber runs.
Rung doing a pre-ops screening on the new Wreckers coincides with the Autopedia entries.
Springer uses a Communicube to communicate with the Wreckers.
The Wreckers are briefly noted by Rotorstorm as a ‘Suicide Squad’, a possible reference to the DC comics superhero team.
Pyro says ‘Til all are one’ without realizing that he’s quoting Optimus Prime.
"Out of Bullets"
The Hardcover edition has a special ‘Out of Bullets’ section, detailing four scenes that had to be shortened prior to the release of the original trade paperback:
- When Trailbreaker asks Ironfist whether he is proud of his inventions, Ironfist goes on for a bit about how he’s never thought about the ramifications of the weapons he’s designed, and how that might constitute responsibility even if he’s not the one using them.
- Springer mulls over the four names he’s chosen, how when you’re brought into the Wreckers you’re almost always replacing someone who’s ‘out’. The reason why the four other Wreckers are not present for the mission is also expanded – Springer sympathizes with Whirl’s problems, and he mulls over how Sandstorm might already be dead. He mentions Autopedia. Springer also mentions how even if you’re just replacing a heavy hitter for a mission, there are only three ways of exiting the Wreckers: Death, Dishonourable Discharge (mentioning Impactor) and Dementia (Springer reflects on how Blocker, Sandstorm’s predecessor, was found nibbling on his best friend’s cog one day in his room).
- The meeting with Kup is expanded upon, and Springer mentions how Prowl notes that he wanted Kup and Perceptor along for the mission – Kup was ‘plan B’, something which is probably because of Prowl’s unknown control over Kup, whereas Perceptor seems to be the only one that is aware of Aequitas needing to a sacrifice to be activated. It also seems to imply that despite Kup and Perceptor (and Drift and Blurr and others) working with the Wreckers in Spotlight: Drift and All Hail Megatron, they aren’t exactly officially Wreckers until now. It seems to have been dropped in favour of them being part of the old team straight away.
- An expanded scene of Ironfist deliberating the two alternatives of his death after receiving Prowl’s call, between a meaningful death as part of the Wreckers, or just spluttering out without anyone knowing in a room.
There is no space between the paragraphs of First Aid’s “But-but-I-I-why-” dialogue and the paragraph after that where Springer replies.
Rung reflects on how Zeta Prime had been sniped at the back of the head, but Transformers: Autocracy would reveal that Zeta Prime’s death was not an assassination attempt but rather an assault led by Orion and Megatron when he went crazy… though the death was still a shot to the head courtesy of Megatron.
The timeline of Bullets and Last Stand of the Wreckers will put this story as taking place around the Costa ongoing, but Sandstorm is among the Autobots there instead of being behind enemy lines.
On page 5, Skyquake is parsed as ‘Sky Quake’.
Igue-Moor, previously parsed with a hyphen, is constantly spelt ‘Igue Moor’ throughout the story.
A relatively long scene with Ironfist starts off with a random short sentence of Perceptor talking to Topspin and Twin Twist about vicarious perception, which probably should’ve taken place in the previous scene in Debris. This error wasn’t fixed in the hardcover.
At the end, Skyfall fears that the communication might be Perceptor asking about a brawl in the Exit Rooms, but Perceptor would still be with the other Wreckers since the message was triggered by Ironfist’s death.