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Transformers: Infiltration #1 (of 6)
#1 of an ongoing arc
Reviewed by Denyer

Issue Review

The opening of this issue will have a little more impact for readers who haven't checked out the #0 preview issue; if you have, it has to spend a few pages establishing character names and identities. I rather hope that when this gets collected in paperback, the preview is omitted or published at the back, because this will force more pace in the unfolding.

That's not to say that the script is slow — however, a concerted effort is being made to keep the story accessible to new readers, and those who are picking up a Transformers comic for the first time in a while. Seeing things first from the perspective of human characters helps create a strong sense of the TFs as alien, not to mention the Decepticons as extremely dangerous.

The art is frankly a breath of fresh air, considering I bailed on the main storyline of previous TF comics by Dreamwave partway through their G1 Volume 2. I've since read almost everything Dreamwave published, and things were better under different artists on their War Within series and later choice of artist on the G1 book, but the overriding lingering impression was of garish colours, badly proportioned robots that looked as if they'd been inflated, and piss-poor storytelling abilities. Most of the blame for which can be laid before the company's main artist and former co-owner, Patrick Lee, currently plying his lack of talent on Iron Man.

By contrast, EJ Su seems to know what he's about: realism. Not an artist I'm familiar with, but apparently he did internal diagrams for the Transformers Ultimate Guide published by DK. This technical background really comes through on the vehicles and Battlecharger robots modes at the end — a lot of cues seem to have been taken from the recent Alternators / Binaltech toylines, with even more attention paid to making transformations and movements credible. It's like porn for engineers.

The writing also turns in many sharp touches, such as it being implied that Verity has swiped a bus ticket from a family left arguing in the station ("I handed it right to ya!") and Hunter's website includes nods to the Dinobots and previous series (including the obvious date of the original series, but also the year Dreamwave 'revived' TF comics.) Furman's having fun here, and giving us some human characters the average Transfan in 2006 should be able to relate to — whether Hunter's geekiness or Verity's building a network of friends and acquaintances online. The everyday social uses of technology haven't been forgotten in bringing the series to a modern era.

The use of techno-babble possibly goes a little far in the Decepticons' dialogue — when one says "think we should discorporate the null bubble[?]" this seems to be a euphemism for "think we should break the silence?"

Production-wise, the colouring offers warm, muted tones rather than an artificially bright palette sponsored by Crayola. The action's set in the early evening, so we get a yellow cast to the sky throughout. After the main story, we get two pages of preview lineart for issue #2, three pages of preview for Beast Wars #1 (due to start in February), and three pages of letters dealing with the #0 preview issue. There's also a BW 10th anniversay toyline ad from hasbro, backpage advert for BW #1, and an illustrated list of covers for the current issue on the inside back cover. Personally I picked the Raiz cover for this month. For those who collect cover art (or don't mind covers that have less to do with contents of the issue) there's a veritable selection on offer, employing a number of artists who were left out of pocket when Dreamwave filed for bankruptcy. It's nice to see IDW giving back to the community in this manner, and being able to pick a cover by a favourite artist makes me that extra bit happier.

All-in-all, this is a good solid start. Any attempt at an Ultimate Transformers series would be remiss in not including a flavour of the "robots in disguise" stories that kickstarted the line in the Eighties.

Character Development

In Hunter's room you can just about make out an X-Files "I Believe" poster and Ghost in the Shell / The Matrix DVDs. We can assume that he's only using Internet Explorer to test his website against Microsoft's broken stylesheet model, else his geek credentials are severely under suspicion... Hunter is also something of a military buff, recognising the style Thundercracker's missiles were designed into.

Verity considers herself a "net hiker"... it seems unlikely she's been travelling for long, though, judging by her possessions and general appearance. She's extremely skeptical about the existence of alien robots until confronted by two of them.

Ratchet calls himself a "conscientious objector" — his excursion that turns out to involve rescuing the two humans is against orders given by Prowl.

Thundercracker is described by Ratchet as "a grunt, a follower of orders" whilst the two battlechargers are worse because they "like to play!" Thundercracker is thus still a character reluctant to kill without being told to, whilst Runabout and Runamuck have no such reservations.

Jimmy is a gifted mechanic at the young age of 17. He's quite cocky.

Other Details

When Hunter first turns to stare at Ratchet's holo-human, a ripple of interference runs across the hologram. This may be a visual clue for the reader rather than occurring in the story. In a similar vein, the Autobot and Decepticon symbols on characters may not actually be visible within context of the story.

Ratchet travels at over 190mph, by Hunter's estimate. His ambulance mode also carries an astounding array of gadgets that can be turned to offensive uses. Unlike his original transformation model and toy, this design doesn't appear to involve a separate medical/combat deck. He has repair systems to patch up internal damage. The medic's holo-human isn't entirely for show; it can interact with physical objects.

The three Decepticons maintain a comms network and can easily scan for the handheld computer logging onto a wireless network, even over considerable distances.

Runabout's interior design doesn't include room for passengers — his alt mode is strictly external disguise.

The Autobot base appears to be parked on the bed of an ocean or huge lake — it's an area of water large enough to feature underwater mountain ranges and some form of shark.

Quotes of Note

Verity: "Stuck between sugar'n'spice-me and mister creepy-fixed-smile there in this total twilight zone of an ambulance... sounds like every geek's ultimate fantasy!"

Thundercracker: "Think we should discorporate the null bubble and check in?"
Runabout: "No. I think we should find the little puddles of nucleoplasm and step on them. Then report."

Ratchet: "Get inside me!"
Jimmy: "What?"
Ratchet: "Inside the- vehicle."

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