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Transformers Evolutions: Hearts of Steel #2 (of 4)
Reviewed by Denyer

Issue Review

The plot moves along a reasonable amount, but readers looking to be surprised won't find anything unexpected here. The redesign work Guido has done on robot and alt-modes continues to keep things interesting visually, with just a little less detail evident on some pages — in particular there's less intricate hard shading, giving some panels a cel-animation tone.

Storywise those looking for a fire-fight will have to hang on for issue #3 or #4, as the only skirmish here is the Insecticons raiding a shipment of cash and bullion. The Autobots aren't really investigating or being proactive, so the Decepticons are able to steal a march on them, nor does the wider world know about the threat amongst them. In many ways it's like reading Infiltration displaced into another time period, and would work better if I hadn't just read a several-month story about Transformers getting established on Earth. There's nothing to take a strong dislike to (unless you don't like the archaisms in the dialogue, and I do like 'em) but I'd like something to sneak up and make me think "wow, never would've thought of that"...

Fitting a story into four issues means some shortcuts have been taken with the cast and pivotal actions. It's very understandable that Starscream hasn't chosen to revive Megatron, but why would Prowl not want Optimus brought online to deal with an unknown Decepticon threat? It seems as though Dixon has read Infiltration and is parroting some of it back. A simple "he needs longer to complete self-repair" aside would've helped. On the plus side, Dixon has nailed characterisation for Shockwave, Starscream, Bumblebee and others — much better than you might expect a writer fresh to the Transformers to.

There are a few art irregularities. Somehow during the issue Skywarp develops a huge riveted chin, which immediately made me think Nick Roche was doing fill-in pages or it was a deliberate in-joke amongst the IDW freelancers. And what's up with the random colour-changing on the seekers throughout the issue?

Overall I'm enjoying this series more than I thought I would, though there's still part of me that's wondering what the point is and impatient to get to something genuinely new. I think I'm just not the target audience for this.

Character Development

Barring a quick exclamation, John Henry quickly gets used to the idea of a giant robot being in front of him, as do the army men guarding the bullion train. Maybe people were made of sterner stuff back then...

Muldoon doesn't press Starscream for the source of the cash and bullion, seeming to act in good faith until he overhears the varmints talking about their real plans... I don't think real world logic is in operation anymore, Toto.

Vanflint is clearly modelled on Snidely Whiplash / Dick Dastardly, fitting every stereotype of an mwuhahaha-evil stiff-the-workers capitalist pig-dog. This type of exaggerated shorthand adds to the book's rather cartoony tone.

Bumblebee says that he was "created for a designated task", as were the rest of the Autobots. This task (referring back to what he says immediately beforehand) seems to be to advance civilisations through science. Since the Decepticons use similar rhetoric (even though we assume they've no intention of acting peacefully once they have resources) it makes me wonder if they were made for this purpose by a race more benign than the Quintessons and without the "fight to develop combat skills" imperative of the old Primus comic storyline. At the very least this seems it could be a different and relatively fresh origin/direction to take, if there were further development of it.

Neither Starscream nor the other Decepticons give the game away during the time they know Muldoon is around. They're industrious and don't squabble amongst themselves — and the Autobots expect this level of competency from them...

Other Details

The Decepticons don't seem bothered by operating underwater.

Bumblebee appears to need human assistance to operate in his train alt-mode.

As mentioned by Starscream last issue, the human supplies imagination whilst Transformers supply technology — the Decepticons develop Muldoon's designs for solid metal flying machines into working models in ways contemporary science couldn't then do more than theorise. Whilst any flying craft would attract attention, they might pass for contraptions of human construction.

Why would Starscream need an electrical power generator to destroy Megatron, if he's currently deactivated?

This issue includes three pages of preview for Generations #6 (The Bridge to Nowhere), ads for Alt Optimus Prime, the TF:TM adaptation from Bob Budiansky and Don Figureoa, the Infiltration trade paperback, posters, and one by Sony for the 20th anniversary TF:TM DVD that looks noticeably cheap and unprofessional. There's also a cover gallery in the back.

Quotes of Note

John Henry: "It's change, Brawley. Change ain't always a welcome thing."
Brawley: "What could be wrong? It does all the work for us, Big John!"
John Henry: "That so, brother? I see men fetchin' water and wood for it. Looks more like we're workin' for it instead of the other way 'round."
Cletus: "Same ways we fetch you biscuits and beans, John Henry?"

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