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Blackjack
2013-08-06, 07:32 PM
Spotlight: Thundercracker: The Hunting Party
Publication Date: 16 January 2013
Written By: John Barber
Pencils By: Chee Yang Ong (credited as Chee)
Colours By: Ronda Pattison
Letters By: Shawn Lee
Edits By: Carlos Guzman & Thomas Boening

Synopsis: Space, long ago: Blitzwing, Thundercracker and a group of Insecticons search an asteroid for signs of Metroplex or the other Metrotitans, for Megatron desired the Space Bridge technology within them. Despite Thundercracker getting some odd readings, an irritated Blitzwing ignores him. Thundercracker mulls over the fact that they had destroyed an alien outpost for being in their way of the hunt while the group returns. Thundercracker the mulls over the fact that the reason he was assigned to the hunt of the Metrotitans was because he was present at an earlier meeting between Bludgeon and Alpha Trion, where the existence of the Titans were confirmed. Thundercracker also remembers how Optimus Prime had raised Metroplex, and he served as Autobot headquarters before vanishing.

Having retrieved a piece of unusual metal from where Blitzwing had knocked his datapad to the ground, Thundercracker runs a scan when they return to the ship, tracking a rare radiation wavelength. Thundercracker reports to the leader of the search – Bludgeon – but merely calls it a ‘hunch’, and keeps wondering to himself why he had lied. Bludgeon orders the ship to quantum jump to its target, but they are followed by an Autobot ship consisting of Nightbeat, Bumblebee and Jetfire, who follow despite not very confident about their chances. Days later, the Empirion arrives at its destination, where a surface scan reveals a reservoir of pseudo-energon, which seems to indicate Metroplex’s presence. Thundercracker is ordered by Bludgeon to eliminate the alien race which has settled above the reservoir, despite his reluctance. However, understanding the need for the lack of witnesses, Thundercracker complies and leads the rest of the squad down. The Autobots, despite knowing how outnumbered they are, decide to intervene to rescue the innocents. Thundercracker attempts to use his sonic booms to warn the aliens, but instead lures them out into the open, a tactic which is complimented by Blitzwing. Thundercracker lands, which is noted by an unsuspicious Bludgeon, who assumes that Thundercracker had located the Titan and orders an orbital bombardment… but is interrupted by the Autobots, who ram their shuttle onto the Empirion (although Bludgeon escapes the crash), and taking out Waspinator in the process. While Nightbeat and Jetfire hold off the Decepticons, Thundercracker enters a geothermal vent to hunt Metroplex, followed by Bumblebee.

Still plagued by insecurities and blaming himself for the planet’s destruction, Thundercracker finds Metroplex himself, albeit slumbering and absorbing energy from the pseudo-energon reservoir. Thundercracker engages Bumblebee in battle, and his aerial superiority lends him the upper hand. However, one of the local alien jumps into the fray to help Bumblebee, and when Thundercracker tosses the alien aside, the wounded Bumblebee steps inbetween them. Thundercracker realizes that while the alien probably knew that he couldn’t make a difference, he made a sacrifice play – either to save Bumblebee, or at least to help prevent his death for a little while. Thundercracker realized that like the alien, he lied to Bludgeon not for glory or duty, but to protect others by keeping Metroplex out of Bludgeon’s hands. He radios Bludgeon with a lie that Metroplex is already gone, and after telling Bumblebee that he wished all Autobots were like him, transforms and flies off. His sonic boom splashes the pseudo-energon onto Metroplex, awakening him and allowing him to teleport to continue his mission. Bumblebee and the alien reunite with their fellows, although the Autobots are temporarily stranded there. The Decepticons have their ship destroyed, and depart the asteroid in their alternate modes. They have all reached the conclusion that Thundercracker led them into an Autobot trap, and with Blitzwing’s goading, Bludgeon decides to remove Thundercracker from the titan hunt, something Thundercracker does not contest. However, doubt still lingers as he wonders if he had found what he was looking for.

Featured Characters: Blitzwing, Barrage, Thundercracker, Waspinator, Venom, Chop Shop, Metroplex (flashback and present), Orion Pax (flashback), Alpha Trion (flashback), Metrotitans (flashback), Fasttracks, Bludgeon, Nightbeat, Bumblebee, Jetfire

Review:
”I’m going to be stuck with this crew. I resign myself to my fate.”
John Barber may not be able to write characterization quite well, but he is certainly not a bad writer. And for one, he is your go-to man to tie together messy continuity. In this case, the mess is caused by Autocracy and its stupid, insipid attempts to shoehorn in backstories in the unrelated War for Cybertron games into the IDW continuity. Though I’m not here to judge IDW’s toy-whoring tendencies, but to judge this issue. And all in all, it’s a pretty good issue. It’s set in the past, though, and mostly sets up things to the plot threads which will be picked up in the main MTMTE and RID titles… and a largely unnecessary read since the main titles will no doubt re-explain all this.

Out of the non-Starscream Seekers, Thundercracker is the one who gets the most love in the IDW continuity, in no small part due to Mike Costa. While Mike Costa is at times a dreadful writer, he handled Thundercracker and his doubting fits pretty well. This issue generally just gives us more of the same, which isn’t exactly a bad thing… all in all the monologues are pretty solid, and ties in nicely with continuity with stuff like Bludgeon and Bumblebee showing up. But all in all the issue just feels mainly redundant and kind of truncated. All the other characters other than Thundercracker are basically ciphers… Blitzwing is the generic bully, Bludgeon is a generic evil Decepticon officer, Bumblebee is very generic and heroic. It feels more like an expanded version of Thundercracker’s toy bio, which is not a bad thing (we saw what they did with poor Ramjet, didn’t we?) but it still adds nothing new to the plate, and really feels like a rehash.

The art here… well, Chee certainly has learnt how to properly draw robots since the fiasco that was Transformers: Bumblebee. It’s not the best art out there, the perspective feels off at times and it feels very simplified, but it works well with the story. I think the change of colourists helps draw out the art’s detail very well.

All in all, though, there are so many things being explored here, yet so little actually happened. There’s the whole Metroplex continuity fix deal, there’s picking up the torch with Bludgeon from Spotlight: Orion and setting him up for his role in RID, there’s Bumblebee and Thundercracker meeting and being set up for their (chronologically later) meeting in the Costa series, there's setting up the Deluxe Insecticons for MTMTE appearances, setting up Waspinator, there’s the whole doubting Thundercracker deal… it just really feels like truncated padding and setting up plot lines, and while not a bad story, it really feels that it has not much in way of meat.

(Two point Five out of Five cubes)

Notes:
As mentioned at the beginning of the issue, this story takes place after the events of Transformers: Autocracy, and could be assumed to take place after Monstrosity as well. While this seems to be quite some time after the stories set on Cybertron, it’s still long before any of the present-day stories.

This issue and others in this series of Spotlights (Orion Pax, Megatron, Bumblebee, Trailcutter and Hoist), are all released as pack-in comics with their respective toys in the Generations line, with an over-arching plotline involving the search for Metrotitans (which, of course, is to promote the giant Metroplex toy out in the shelves at that time), as well as diverging plotlines which will eventually tie in to the main titles of More than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise, as well as tie up several plot-holes left by the Costa series. The issues themselves were released long before the toys hit the shelves, however.

Waspinator, the popular Beast Wars character, appear here as part of Blitzwing and Thundercracker’s team, replacing Ransack amongst the ranks of the Deluxe Insecticons. It’s not until nearly half a year later that it was revealed that Waspinator would also be getting a toy in the Generations line. As the running joke that keeps surrounding Waspinator, he gets blown up and seemingly left for dead here. Both Waspinator and Barrage are shown defeated by the Autobots and are not among the retreating troops, but both would later make subsequent appearances in the IDW continuity.

Thundercracker is, of course, in his new body based on the toy, which itself is based on the Seekers’ appearance in the High Moon games. Bumblebee likewise dons his War for Cybertron body here.

Thundercracker mentions the events of Spotlight: Orion Pax, where Bludgeon’s team (which included him) captures Orion Pax.

Optimus Prime rips off the Fall of Cybertron videogame and raised Metroplex in issue 10 of Autocracy and played a relatively minor role for the rest of that series. The MTME and RID Annuals (and other issues) would subsequently retcon this blatant shoehorning in Autocracy to fall in line with Metroplex’s appearances in his own Spotlight issue and in the Ironhide miniseries by introducing a backstory for the Titans. This issue is one of the few that retcons Metroplex to have disappeared some time after Optimus Prime rose him from his slumber and used it as the Autobot base.

Joining the ripping-off of the High Moon games, Thundercracker has suddenly taken a degree in science like his War for Cybertron counterpart, something which IDW Thundercracker had made no mention of prior.

The rest of Bludgeon’s crew are modeled after Fasttrack, the little drone toy which came with the original Scorponok toy.

Thundercracker briefly mentions the ‘Decepticon Justice Division’ in his ruminations, which as we find out in More than Meets the Eye, are a group of powerful warriors specifically tasked to track down and execute Decepticon traitors.

Orbital bombardments were first mentioned way back in Stormbringer, but like in Stormbringer, it is aborted prematurely here.

Bludgeon’s ship is modeled after the Mayhem Attack Squad’s ship in the Marvel UK comics (identified here as a DVX-class Heavy Transport), although in the Marvel comics it was the incarnation of the Mayhems led by Carnivac which used the shuttle instead of the one led by Bludgeon. The Autobots’ ship are based on one of the shuttles from the Generation One cartoon.

The tusked, boar-like alien race which got caught up in the battle here is based on an alien from one of the space scenes from the Marvel comics, specifically from issue #52. While on the subject of alien races, the Nibarian race mentioned off-handedly by Nightbeat is an obscure race from a Fun Publications story, namely ‘the Razor’s Edge’.

Thundercracker’s sonic boom’s sound effect is THA-BOOM, consistent with his first sonic boom way back in Infiltration.

Goofs:
Bludgeon’s ship is referred to as the ‘Empirion’ and ‘Emperion’ alternately, and both by Nightbeat. It could be the Autobot misremembering things, but I blame the editor.

Despite having his appearance modeled after his Stormbringer appearance and having obvious tank kibble, Bludgeon transforms into a flight-capable mode, before returning to a decidedly Earth-based tank mode based on his ROTF toy. While it is not out of the question for him to change alt-modes between the years, or that he’s a triple-changer (admittedly, his flight mode is basically a tank with wings, but still…) it’s still an error that he turns into an earth-based vehicle.