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Old 2014-08-06, 07:22 AM   #1
Blackjack
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Default Text Story Review: Zero Point [uploaded]

Zero Point
Bonus five-page text story only found in the Hardcover TPB
Written by: James Roberts

Synopsis: In Debris, Roadbuster spend part of his every day routine caring for the dying Springer, most notably cleaning his eyes, being a reflection of the state of the spark for a Transformer. Roadbuster also spends his time talking to the coffins there, learning to read or making weapons. However, despite the massive medical equipment that Springer was hooked up to, and while he’s not dead, he doesn’t seem to be coming back to live, having remained unresponsive since the battle with Overlord nine months ago.

Springer, meanwhile, finds himself hovering between life and death and flashes back to the past, back when the war was in the early days, when the world was still black and white. However he soon considered being decent held him back, and wished to join the Wreckers, still unnamed and mostly classified back then. However, he met Impactor at Sherma Bridge and witnessed a Wrecker mission, and was enamoured with the team, how they can make a difference for the greater good. After that meeting Springer had bugged Kup to add his name to the Wrecker reserves, and for a long time no word came until Impactor shows up on a battlefield one day and recruited Springer, ending his black-and-white life.

Roadbuster remembers how the medic Kaput had told him and Kup that Springer’s death has begun despite not being alive. After conversations regarding the repairs made to Springer’s face and legs, Roadbuster had dropped the niceties and tells Kaput to tell him straight why Springer can’t wake up, and Kaput had said that they can’t find the ‘zero point’. Despite what organics think, Cybertronian physiology is not similar to mere machines, and isn’t as simple as disassembling and reassembling parts. The zero point is a small cavity between two nerve circuits that prevented a Spark from completing its vital journey around the body and robbing it of life. While there had been inexplicable recoveries such as Ultra Magnus, recovery seemed unlikely. Roadbuster has, for several months, reading the Complete Works of Fisitron to Springer. While he had never liked the Wreckers: Declassified series before (or knew how to read at all), Kup’s old friend Rung, a psychologist, had suggested Springer’s Spark may respond to emotional triggers, prompting Roadbuster to read from Fisitron’s work every day. Roadbuster had read 331 out of the 332 logs twice while learning to work his way through the more difficult words and more repetitive parts, and was reading a particular log detailing Springer rescuing Impactor from being killed by Megatron. Roadbuster stopped partway, however, feeling that his efforts don’t even seem to have an effect on Springer. Taking a chance, Roadbuster selects the final log he hasn’t read, the Showdown on Pova – the only Wreckers: Declassified log that wasn’t an embellishment... but rather an outright lie.

Springer remembers how he had jointed the 17th incarnation of the line-up, with Impactor and the discharged Valve being the only survivors from the original lineup. He had considered Impactor similar to an older brother, and reflected on how the Wreckers ended up going darker and dirtier as the war progressed. At first, Impactor’s justifications and the fact that he was responsible for the atrocities mollified him. However, with Squadron X, Impactor was obsessed with it to the point of ignoring many other dangerous threats. After the hell that was Pova, Springer remembered how he had slipped away from the others and contacted High Command to arrest Impactor. Impactor had resigned from the Wreckers, and shortly afterwards Roadbuster, Whirl, Broadside and Rack’n’Ruin all came to Springer (each of them thinking they’re the only one) begging him to be their leader for fear of Prowl shutting them down – as well as admitting that they regretted the events of Pova. Roadbuster, in particular, whose gun was used to execute the Squadron, claimed that he was under the assumption that Impactor wanted it for self-defense while cutting the Decepticons lose. Springer had later testified in the Aequitas trial that damned Impactor and defended the others.

Roadbuster tries to read Fisitron’s account on Pova, but can’t make it through, disgusted by the lie. He finally confesses to Springer about the truth. Everything that’s been told to Springer is a lie, since all the other Wreckers had known Springer had been fanning the group’s hatred by listing everything evil Squadron X has done, as something of a justification to give himself an excuse to let loose. Roadbuster confessed that he knew Impactor was going to murder the Squadron and was even proud for his leader – and he confessed that both he and Whirl had considered stopping Springer back then when he crawled towards Impactor. And they had lied to him so that the rest of them weren’t brought down alongside Impactor – Springer was leadership material, whose disgust at Impactor’s method could be used to ‘correct’ the Wreckers and satisfy Prowl and the others. But whatever the reasons were, Roadbuster considers Springer to be their best leader.

Suddenly, Roadbuster sees a small tear on Springer’s eye, and as he tries to look at the oddity (considering how he’s been cleaning Springer’s eyes all the time), one of the life-support machines registers a resurgent Spark, Roadbuster checks the tear in Springer’s eye and sees a little of its old Matrix blue colours coming back…

Featured Characters: Roadbuster, Springer, Topspin (mentioned), Twin Twist (mentioned), Rotorstorm (mentioned), Ironfist (mentioned), Pyro (mentioned), Overlord (mentioned), Impactor (mentioned), Zeta Prime (mentioned), Kup, Heliobots, Slicers (killed), Kaput, Fixit (mentioned), Prowl (mentioned), Ratchet (mentioned), Pharma (mentioned), Ultra Magnus (mentioned), Bumblebee (mentioned), Optimus Prime (mentioned), Rung, Megatron (mentioned), Xaaron (mentioned), Sandstorm (mentioned), Bludgeon (mentioned), Omega Supreme (mentioned), Whirl (mentioned), Valve (mentioned), Macabre (mentioned), Squadron X (mentioned), Broadside (mentioned), Rack’n’Ruin (mentioned), Beachcomber (mentioned)

Review:

”No more fiction. If ever there was a time for truth, it’s now. I can’t let you die with a lie in your head.”

This five-page story is beautiful. The story revolves around Roadbuster tending to Springer and it’s almost heartbreaking to read the descriptions as he tries to get up hope but ends up caving under the pressure. Him caring for Springer, cleaning him, reading to him in an attempt to rouse him, is just pretty sad. Throughout the five pages we can see how much he tries to try and make himself feel better and deal with the grief – talking to Kaput about how Springer’s legs used to hum, distracting himself with noting Ironfist’s writing styles, talking to the coffins… it’s just so sad. We also see how he’s barely holding his frustration and anger in, with that description of considering to crush Kaput’s head for not trying hard enough, being angry at Prowl for his poor heartfelt foreword regarding Ironfist, and generally being all around frustrated and conflicted about seeing a man he respects so much reduced to a coma. It certainly hits home really hard. And to a certain degree being a fan of Roadbuster I really like how he gets a shit-ton of characterization here as Springer’s most loyal friend, all the while wracked with guilt for not coming clean to Springer about how he’s secretly been proud of Impactor killing Squadron X all along. His sadness as he confesses to Springer in the end is pretty great, and I love how he doesn’t do a 180. He feels guilt for lying to Springer, but still considers what Impactor did to be right. I do like this.

Springer himself hovers between life and death and we see how he goes from a simple black-and-white Autobot to something more ambiguous, and throughout the Wreckers’ descent into madness Springer still tries to keep himself as honorable and ethical as possible. I absolutely like how Springer doesn’t deny his complicity in being passive, and the slow, gradual descriptions of the war cries the Wreckers committed, and Springer’s flawed justifying that he’s better because he leaves the Decepticon as vegetables or crippled or as disembodied sparks half-buried in the ground instead of killing them outright.

The main theme seems to be about dealing with guilt, guilt for acting passively, and both Springer and Roadbuster are written so beautifully. You can feel the history between the two that drove Roadbuster to read through so much stuff to try and jog Springer back to life.

Both Kup and Impactor get a few nice scenes this time. Kup shows up and is described as Springer’s fond friend and mentor, and while it’s nice it’s nothing we didn’t particularly already know. Impactor’s slow descent into more morally ambiguous waters works really well, however, as his brutality increases. We see how obsessed he got from Springer’s description. The other Wreckers, too, got a fair bit of characterization as a whole thanks to them still being proud of Impactor whilst acknowledging that Springer is indeed the better leader. Prowl gets a fair bit too, with the hilarious and powerful description of ‘Prowl’s heartfelt foreword that had the warmth and sensitivity of a subpoena’.

Roberts’ forte is certainly in text stories, being obviously more experienced in writing in the text medium, and it certainly shows. That’s not to say that his comics are bad – it’s that his text stories are a whole other beast. We get some great descriptions throughout, describing the increasing brutality as the Wreckers proceeded which felt brutal without being too graphic. The usage of the word ‘tear’ and the alternate meaning as in the liquid that drips out of your eyes when you cry, and tear as in scar, is a nice little attempt at making it look like Springer just cried all cheesy-like, and then it’s the other meaning as in a sudden break in Springer’s eye. I thought it was pretty nice word play. I like certain details, like the 120-hour day on a different planet, and a lot of insight into Cybertronian culture. The Matrix Blue eyes, the connection between eyes and spark, how the war went into capitalized The War… also all the history of the war, the various conflicts and the like, is great lore-building.

My favourite point has to be the two paragraph description of how the medics are not engineers, which is truly brilliant. Not only does this solve the problem why they didn’t just rebuild Springer’s body, it also gives us insight into the Transformers’ unique physiology – just because they are machines doesn’t mean they aren’t living creatures, and while they work like machines they also have this complex mechanical physiology that organic creatures can’t understand. I do like the insistence that medics aren’t the same as engineers, how a Transformer isn’t identical to just another machine… as a medical student myself I really loved the powerful descriptions which made Springer’s condition feel so much more permanent – the description of a microscopic space interrupting the flow of the Spark, and Springer’s general condition, seems to be an attempt to adapt an embolism-induced-coma into Transformers, but with the unique mechanical detail of the Spark being unable to complete an entire circuit. I do love this build-up of Transformers culture that Roberts favours in his work, be it political, religion, law or medical – it makes the Transformers culture feel so much more sophisticated than just robots fighting each other.

We also get a few little playful jabs at Furman’s writing style, but considering James Roberts holds Furman is such high esteem and Furman himself seems to make fun of his own Furmanisms every now and then it’s doubtful it’s meant to be an actual shot at him.

Sometimes, an ongoing work of fiction reads really well when you go back with knowledge of later material and go ‘oh, right, they mentioned it before, sly bastards!’ And then there is James Roberts, undoubtedly the One True Master of innocuous foreshadowings. There is so much details here that feels just like random details that Roberts loves… and who would think two, three years down the line those are actually references to extremely major plot lines? Who would think ‘Ultra Magnus made a miraculous recovery one point’ would be significant? I mean, there’s the little details of characters like Rung and Pharma dropped here and there, Whirl showing up and being not quite good like Roadbuster and Impactor, and that’s tame. But we then get the scene between Impactor and Megatron which gains a whole new level of significance when we learn of that other scene with them in MTMTE – especially clever considering the prose itself dismisses it as Impactor just writing nonsense, and even then a reference to Megatron’s intentionally flowery Furman-like dialogue. There’s also this moment you have to realize that Sandstorm’s name is the only one missing from the people who spoke to Springer, and whether intentional or not even something like this will be followed up on. I’m really curious just what else Robrets has sneakily hidden in these text stories that will make a lot of sense later.

And in spite of fitting so much culture and foreshadowing, it’s still a really sad and sweet story about Roadbuster admitting his guilt to Springer and starting to bring him back to life, possibly in the near future. LSOTW has truly made Springer a really likable character, and I eagerly anticipate the return of both Springer and Roadbuster.

(5 out of 5)

Notes:
This story is first printed on the hardcover edition of Last Stand of the Wreckers.

The transformers’ eyes are literal windows to their soul – or rather, their sparks. The eyes of a Transformer are illuminated by their Spark, and depending on how healthy an individual is, the brighter or dimmer their eyes will be. Springer’s eyes are a special shade of blue called ‘Matrix Blue’, suggesting he was compatible with the Matrix.

The setting of this issue would be mentioned in More than Meets the Eye #6, where Whirl tried to euthanize the comatose Springer before being kicked out of the Wreckers by Roadbuster.

Roadbuster name-drops the Nanocons as Decepticon airborne micro-assassins, which will later make an actual appearance in the More than Meets the Eye annual.

Roadbuster and Springer are at Debris, the traditional Wrecker base first mentioned in Marvel UK’s Target: 2006. Debris is located above Hydrus 5, which was previously mentioned to be the location of a conflict Pyro participated in ‘Bullets’.

Sherma Bridge first made its appearance in the Roberts-written Chaos Theory.

Impactor’s words to recruit Springer are lifted directly from the same scene in the earlier-published Dead Men’s Boots.

Springer used to work with the Heliobots, first mentioned in ‘Bullets’. The Toxic Sludge Swamp they were operating in originates from Snap Trap’s bio, and both the Swamp and the Slicers mentioned here would later appear in Spotlight: Orion Pax.

We get a reference to Springer’s thigh hydraulics, which according to his original toy bio allowed him to spring up and down. It used to hum before and annoyed Springer to no end, but Kaput fixed it.

One of the foreshadowings which would make sense after reading the More than Meets the Eye ‘Shadowplay’ story would be Impactor having a drill hand prior to obtaining a harpoon. Megatron and Impactor’s exchange here makes more sense considering that it’s revealed that they used to be friends before the war, fellow workers, and Megatron wrote a lot of things which Impactor dismissed as poetry. Ironfist, not realizing the significance of the ‘NOT MORE POETRY’ Impactor scratched on the ground, dismissed it as nonsense to distract Megatron.

Kaput, a medic with poor bedside manners first mentioned in Bullets, reappears here, and it’s mentioned he uses a wheel to move around. He would later make a physical appearance in Spotlight: Orion Pax.

Pharma, also briefly mentioned in Bullets, is name-dropped quickly along a list of Autobot medics. More than Meets the eye fans will know Pharma as a recurring renegade Autobot.

Ultra Magnus is one of the few people to make a miraculous recovery from a seemingly impossible condition similar to Springer. Again, while this might not mean much, anyone who’s read the ‘Remain in Light’ portion of MTMTE will realize that this again is clever, subtle foreshadowing about Ultra Magnus’ backstory.

Roadbuster mentions a statue was erected in Kimia (Ironfist’s old working place), which was glimpsed in the first issue of the Chaos arc.

Roadbuster is pissed at his depiction throughout Wreckers: Declassified as a one-dimensional character that keeps commenting on guns and big guns. This, of course, sums up Roadbuster’s personality in every single incarnation other than this one. Of course, even in this story Roadbuster notes how he spends his spare time when not caring for Springer building and sorting out guns.

Rung! Rung is, of course, a major enigma character in More than Meets the Eye. Initially mentioned in profiles, Rung makes appearances in both Bullets and Zero Point before appearing in MTMTE as a major character. As everyone else does in MTMTE, Roadbuster initially gawks at Rung’s eyebrows. It’s mentioned that Kup and Rung are old friends, keeping in line with the fact that Rung is far older than he looks.

Valve is mentioned by Springer as being one of the founding members of the Wreckers who ‘didn’t count’. As other material included in the hardcover will reveal, Valve had defected and joined the Decepticons and was for a time leader of Squadron X.

Among the things ignored by the Wreckers while hunting down Squadron X are the Black Epoch (mentioned in Guzzle’s LSOTW bio), the Dethroner (this story at the moment being the only mention), the Crucible (mentioned in Pyro’s bio) and the Simanzi Massacre. Simanzi was first mentioned in Rotorstorm’s LSOTW bio, and would later gradually be mentioned multiple times in glimpses throughout MTMTE. Other things mentioned here is an anti-matter clone of Sandstorm.

The Wreckers leave Pova abroad the Xantium, the Wreckers’ spaceship seen exactly once in Stormbringer. They land in G’th Semane spaceport, where Springer makes the call to presumably Prowl… G’th Semane is probably a reference to the garden of Gethsemane from the Bible, where Judas betrayed Jesus.

Rack’n’Ruin, mentioned to have died in ‘Dead Men’s Boots’, is noted by Springer to be “ailing”. Maybe he got sick?

Ironfist’s writing style, as noted by Roadbuster, repeats a lot of phrases, as a playful reference to Simon Furman and his Furmanisms. ‘Reap the whirlwind’, ‘never did want to live forever’, ‘all the dirty jobs’ and ‘power beyond measure’ are singled out by Roadbuster specifically, as is the word ‘grimly’, whereas the excerpts we read contain ‘over – finished’ and ‘one way or another – ’.

Notably Sandstorm is the only one who didn’t try to get Springer to take charge so the Wreckers can be unpunished, which will be followed up on Sandstorm’s major role ‘Transformers: Punishment’, released nearly two years after this.

It has been mentioned before that there are 332 Wreckers: Declassified logs after the fact that Marvel UK ran for 332 issues. #113 of it is the Pova incident. 113, of course, is a running gag that keeps appearing in Roberts’ work, issue 113 of the UK comic being the first issue that got him hooked. “The Wreckers’ Air Attack” has been mentioned before in Ironfist’s profile.

References to aspects of the Marvel comics include: Sky-Sleds, Nucleon, Xaaron as someone needing the Wreckers to rescue, Inhibitor Claws, Guardian Droids being present when Impactor was arrested and Roadbuster’s gun being the Path-Blaster. Inhibitor Claws and Guardians have appeared in Last Stand of the Wreckers and Stormbringer, respectively, while Sky-Sleds will make an appearance in the More than Meets the Eye comic.

Goofs:
Topspin is parsed as Top Spin in page 1.
 

Last edited by Blackjack; 2014-08-13 at 04:04 AM.
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Old 2014-08-06, 07:26 AM   #2
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The amount of foreshadowing in these text stories is unreal. Who'd have thought Ultra Magnus recovering from certain death has been foreshadowed before? Who'd think Sandstorm's random flipping out in Punishment is likewise something planned from two years back?

Man, putting this off for two years actually managed to accomplish something.

Springer and Roadbuster already have Voyager class toys. Bring the bastards back already.
 
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