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Transformers: Infiltration #4 (of 6)
#4 of an ongoing arc
Reviewed by Denyer

Issue Review

It's Bumblebee month. If you were a kid reading this twenty-two years ago, you'd be badgering your parents to go Minibot shopping. Not only does he get the best lines and shoot down Skywarp, he has a big gun and his holo-avatar is a redheaded chick. Slightly more interesting than moping off and getting kidnapped by the Decepticons again, methinks.

Notably, he's a lot more practical than Ratchet, considering the human trio expendable if information is secured that prevents the loss of a planet and its resources to the Decepticons. And to emphasise the threat posed, we get another fatality this issue — though we don't know who the guy was, the rictus scream on a husk of a body doesn't suggest an easy death. Verity's reaction is suitably catatonic, reminding us that the average person would find having such things a few feet away from them quite disturbing.

The corpse throws up some intriguing possibilities. Medals on the uniform suggest a general rather than a flight attendant, and that the Decepticons have been kidnapping ranking figures... but whether for information, cloning or use as templates for holo-avatars, we don't yet know. The staff would presumably be missed, so this could well mean that infiltrating operatives are already active in the field.

If you hadn't gathered, I love fiction that gives me points to speculate on. Random predictions for the next few issues include: Jimmy being the next fatality, the shadowy Machination corporation taking Ratchet's body hostage, and the Decepticons having a spy within Machination ranks. (Note: I'm using the term from an interview Simon Furman gave, but it hasn't come into the story yet. I'm expecting them to play less of a role in the two issues concluding this story arc, and the thread to be picked up in the next story arc, Escalation...)

The fight scenes are enjoyable, tending towards realistic use of transformation rather than both sides becoming robots and shooting from behind cover of trees and rocks. They make the issue a quick read, but pack two decisive takedowns into a short span of pages. The two pages of black and white preview lineart for next issues go even further, revealing a shattered Ratchet ground into the terrain by tank tracks. Blitzwing or Megatron? We'll have to wait and see.

Production-wise, Rauch's colouring is superior to preview issues, including photo-realistic clouds, saturated tones on the jets and bunker interior, and a range of lighting effects. There's also more attention paid to small details. And on the art side of things, Su is now firmly in the swing of laying out panels and selecting viewing angles for variety and effect.

What we could definitely do with in terms of script (and covers for #5 hint reassuringly towards) is an explanation of how Starscream intends to make a bid for power against Megatron...

Several people who'd avoided reading the text of solicitations noted that Verity's discovery of ol' bucket head was spoiled by his spot on the inside-front-cover roll call being uncovered and named, whilst others felt this should represent characters in the issue rather than characters seen in the series to date. If IDW are going to continue this tradition in the next story arc, it might be better to run an "also this month: Generations #7, Evolutions #3, etc" spot and stick the roll call at the end. On the plus side, Megatron's appearance in his Cybertronian form should still have come as a surprise regardless.

Other stuff following the story: #4 lineart, readers' letters, a BW #4 advert, BW #3 preview pages, the regular cover checklist, and third-party adverts for Alternators Optimus Prime and for Free Comic Book Day.

Lastly, for added amusement, one of the letters from the back is from the illiterate "it 5uXXoRs" portion of the fandom you all know and love. He gets a genial and tactful response... (if he's reading, explanatory link.)

Character Development

Bumblebee is living up to his "least likely can be most dangerous" billing, remaining unphased facing down Skywarp's attack run and dive. It's left to the reader to wonder whether he uses a separate voice for his female holo-avatar, or a neutral tone for all purposes.

Verity's quick flashback at the beginning provides a moment for her to recall when she comes face-to-face with Megatron. Her obstinance and bravado fall away in suddenly dangerous situations. She also careless loses her comm patch.

Jimmy takes things a little less seriously than Hunter but admits to being "spooked like Scooby". Hunter, meanwhile, is thrust into the role of teacher on a school trip.

Skywarp lacks the tactical skill and intelligence to use his teleportation ability accurately.

Ratchet apparently knows a fair amount about Blitwing and triple-changers in general, but also seems to lack firsthand combat experience against them and be easily caught unaware.

Other Details

A credible reason is given for Skywarp's teleportation not being the ultimate advantage some would see it as.

There's a design uncannily like Shockwave's head visible on the pencil cup seen on the social worker's desk.

Bumblebee can use and aim his BFG whilst in vehicle mode.

Ratchet's license plate includes the letters 'IDW'.

Question: where did the Autobots get human-sized video cameras?

It's possible the Machination and their field agents use pseudonyms, drawing from fiction and names of writers.

Quotes of Note

Bumblebee: "Harsh as it sounds — and balanced against what else we know could be happening right now — these three, ultimately... are acceptable losses."

Bumblebee: "Think you're so clever, don'tcha? Well... I'll wager my processor speed against yours any day!"

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