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Transformers Evolutions: Hearts of Steel #3 (of 4)
Reviewed by Denyer

Issue Review

This is getting increasingly silly. It always was, but it takes the Decepticons in a race against time to lay track and reach the empire state — and Mark Twain blowing up a clockwork puma — to drive it home. Along the way there's the promise that if the 'Cons reach an electrical generator in New York they'll become near invincible, bad folk music, and a generic Decepticon trooper that transformers into a signal gate. MacGuffins aside, it's fun in a rather delirious "City of Steel" way.

The art is kind of sketchy in places, with a fill-in artist doing some pages. It'd be terrible of me to say that I actually find the work produced against a problematic deadline more dynamic, so... er, I won't then. If you can ignore the random Decepticons that show up out of nowhere (built in the factory base, perhaps?), fact that Starscream's head varies from panel to panel, and the way Kickback seems to have turned into one of the Dark Judges from 2000AD, give yourself a pat on the back. Like I said, the story's silly. You can either pick out the pages that are fill-in (and it's really obvious which ones they are) or grab an alcoholic beverage of your choice and go with the flow.

It's not all inebriated games. We get a stock cardboard-cut-out businessman allying himself with the Decepticons for personal profit, after verifying that they've already stolen millions from the federal government. It's another convenience that Ravage happens to burst in and confirm Muldoon's story as he tells it to Twain and Stanford. And in addition to the irritating folk song the railroad crew are making up about John Henry, there's a random page of what looks like Cliffjumper in shadow spooking a guy on a horse.

One random detail I particularly like is that Bumblebee ends up pulling Autobots transformed into freight trucks, leading a battle convoy comprised (that we see) of him, Ironhide, Ratchet or Prowl, and what looks suspiciously like Optimus Prime from the head. It probably isn't, but the mental image of Bumblebee towing Prime into battle tickles me. Actually, no, scratch that, there's more than one random detail... Ravage flailing in the centre of a fireball as he soars out of the ruin of a parlour, Twain casually lighting up and tossing a cigar into the gas-filled house in the first place, Ravage bursting through walls and being faced down with an ornamental sword and shield... they're all as OTT and full of life as the Little Engine Who Could pulling towards New York at the end.

Stupid honest fun. I'm uncertain how this is going to round off in the one issue remaining, but for the first time I'm hopeful this "Cthulhu Robots by Gaslight" adventure might include a few surprises.

Character Development

Jacob Lee Bonaventure isn't the sharpest knife in the draw. Starscream practically tells him that the Decepticons will turn on their allies after gaining the resources they want...

Ravage is the voiceless big metal cat of the old show, rather than his laconic comic personality.

Muldoon is really rather brave, facing down Ravage. Mark Twain, meanwhile, remains calm in the face of danger — but then again, it isn't his house he's blowing up...

John Henry and friends give up their pay from the current line and ride to New York with the Autobots, which has a surreal dream-like quality to it, or at least not much realism.

Other Details

"The Astrotrain" is pulling cars marked with an Autobot logo.

This being the penultimate issue, it seems as good a place as any to mention for non-Americans who haven't cottoned on yet that John Henry is a semi-mythical folk hero. You can find out more on Wikipedia and perhaps pay particular attention to the character's dialogue "That dagged song's gonna be [...]" and the way the folk stories with him typically end...

Twain's simile of "Horatio at the bridge" recalls a rallying image popular in revolutionary-era America and afterwards, of one man allowing a retreat by holding off huge odds. Horatius (the tale dates back to classical Roman times) also survived his stand. A similar point that may be worth annotating is that Bedlam was a thirteenth century (British) lunatic asylum before the word gained a more modern sense of "a confusing uproar".

Quotes of Note

Starscream: "Squawkbox!"
Squawkbox: "Yes, Starscream!"
Starscream: "Get on the wire to all Decepticons."

Brawley: "Bumblebee was an engine forged from Pittsburgh iron had a furnace for a heart and a bellyful of coal and he'd win or he'd die tryin' lawd lawd he'd win or he'd die tryin'."

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