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

Issue Review

As expected, things get faster with more characters in the mix, panel time being spread in more directions and there being more interaction. Parts of this issue, notably the Autobots on the ridge and particuarly Sunstreaker, remind of the Marvel UK Earthforce stories with an ensemble cast — certainly not a bad thing in this context.

For one of the few times in comics, Megatron comes across as a genuine threat, and not the sort of mech others even want to be on the same continent as. The bulk and contrast of his Cybertronian form with the Earthern 'Bots and 'Cons drives home differences even further. He's truly a powerhouse, against whom the other Transformers we've seen so far don't stand a chance even at four-against-one odds or higher. How precisely this works is unclear; you'd expect all Transformers to augment their armour and defences wherever possible, so Megatron presumably has access to the choicest materials and either knows a good surgeon or is adept at self-modification. Multiple near direct hits from Starscream's cluster bombs, powered-up null rays and impact damage just get shrugged off, and I'd go so far as to say this is one Megatron that'll never need a Galvatron-style upgrade (indeed, I hope we never get the stock Unicron / Galvatron plots beloved of movie plagiarising fanfic'ers and recent Transformers shows.)

Setting aside the joygasm Megatron fans are probably experiencing right now, most importantly there's the feel of things being established on Earth with this issue. It's even nice to get a forced perspective splash at the end — something I didn't think I'd be saying about a TF comic anytime soon — given that it has a reason (being viewed from Hunter's height.) Thrown in for good measure are holo-avatar personalities for the remaining Autobots (wonder what Prime's will look like if he uses one, eh?) and the Machination subplot is brought forward. But the immediate threat of Escalation (the next story arc) should be the double-whammy of Megatron and super-fuelled Decepticons, setting "phase two" into motion.

All in all, I'm satisfied and I look forward to more, especially if the Machination ultimately doesn't get their hands on Cybertronian tech they can magically understand. (Which would be a bit Dreamwave and/or RAAT, in my opinion.) There's some solid work done on both art and story, drawing things together after a bit of wandering towards writing-for-the-trade style plotting last month. Infiltration could very well have been a tightly-paced four issue arc, minus much of the human interest and grounding, but I think the page usage has overall been very reasonable — the series has certainly been an entertaining and anticipated book each month for this reader. I'm not much different from those in the fandom who remember the later off-Earth Marvel comics fondly, but do think there's a place in a clean-start continuity for at least one arc focusing on humans thrown kicking-and-screaming into the conflict. It gives the title a jumping on point for all readers, particularly any new ones who might discover it in 2007 following the release of a new film.

Time for a bit of a rant. Colouring. I don't want to get into accusing specific individuals of being a bottleneck in the production process, not least because I'd be speculating. What is evident is that a lot of Rauch's colouring throughout the series has tended to omit highlights, whether through being pressed for time or stylistic choices. Metal and glass surfaces often look uncomfortably matte. It's a real shame when a few pages away we can see what the guy's capable of, or (on issue #6) what the assistant colourists are also capable of, given the same art base. Hopefully the publishing gap between Infiltration and Escalation will allow buffers to be built wherever they're needed, and future issues to gain that little bit of extra polish. It can really makes a hell of difference to how the art as a whole is perceived.

If you've been waiting for a collected version of the first story arc, IDW should be offering it in two formats... regular trade, or a smaller format ('manga'-sized) volume. No more information than that is available just yet, except that a preliminary Amazon listing stated that the manga volumes will be in black & white — which'd offer a full look at the original inks. I don't repurchase comics as a general rule, but I'm tempted.

Anyway, bring on Stormbringer and the series of character focus one-shots! Variety is a good thing.

Character Development

Runamuck and Astrotrain aren't confident about their chances against Megatron, even with the Ore-13. This is the first indication they won't stand and fight when it comes to a confrontation.

We get some insight into why Starscream challenges Megatron, beyond the opportunity for personal gain and advancement — the realisation that his respect for Megatron is only fear. He's as arrogant as ever.

The humans are in a state of weary shock, the reality of the situation hitting Verity when Jimmy points out they're lucky to be alive. Since it's Jimmy making the pretence of driving, Hunter gets to offer a shoulder to bawl on.

Wheeljack, Jazz, Sunstreaker, Ironhide and Prowl all have holo-avatars like the ones Ratchet and Bumblebee have. Wheeljack and Ironhide's have less creepy expressions. Both Wheeljack's alt-mode and avatar aren't exactly inconspicuous, which rather suggests he doesn't leave the Ark much. Ironhide's avatar reflects his age, Jazz's his original voice actor. Prowl has a Matrix-esque agent with black sunglasses, whilst Sunstreaker has an older version of the blonde female Bumblebee uses, presumably with attire more fitting to the stereotypical driver of a sports car.

Megatron doesn't appear to stop to check the lie of the land on arrival at the Oregon bunker. (Scanning for defence systems from a remote point, or just supreme confidence?) He's extremely annoyed, but nevertheless gives these four Decepticons the opportunity to stand down that Blitzwing and Skywarp never seemed to get last issue. He reminds them that they're all expendable. He also regards plays for personal power amongst his lessers to be a thing of the past, and a united faction to be desirable. His attitude towards the Autobots is almost as dismissive as of Verity last issue.

The other Decepticons know exactly what's coming when Starscream has exhausted his immediate power reserves... either that or Starscream is frozen in acceptance of his fate. There's some banter between the observing Autobot and Decepticon squads.

Bumblebee's espionage skills don't extend much beyond using trees for cover, unless Runamuck has identified the radio signal he was using to stay in touch with the other Autobots.

Sunstreaker is both curious to know whether they'll be striking before the Decepticons get back into the bunker, and relieved at not having to engage Megatron. He still views the humans as some kind of annoying infestation or pet species.

Prowl takes everything in, quickly assessing wider ramifications of the situation. Megatron and a confirmed source of super-fuel means Earth will be far more important to the intergalactic war being waged across other planets. He concedes that Ratchet was correct in wanting to contact Prime, not realising that Optimus is already on the base (and has probably already met the humans...)

Jazz is making headway into human idioms, probably referring to "closing the stable door after the horse has bolted" when explaining to Sunstreaker that it's a bit late to be locking the humans up.

Optimus Prime, Ratchet at his shoulder, doesn't look entirely happy — although it's admittedly difficult to tell with the faceplate unless he's saying something. He's already fitted with an Earth mode, the robot mode of which suggests the Masterpiece Prime / 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime toys were the inspiration for.

Dante reveals that his mission is to procure a Transformer for the Machination, and he seems confident that this objective can be achieved.

Other Details

Starscream mentions "no more artificial Energon derivatives"... is Ore-13 a fuel source itself or merely a catalyst, allowing the Decepticons to process more abundant forms of fuel? Is Energon currently scarce in this continuity? This may tie-in to the previews we've seen for the Stormbringer mini-series.

Starscream's aerial maneuverability is considerable, but he still gets clipped by Megatron's cannon before deciding to transform and take the fight to his leader. Fliers seem quite vulnerable to the targeting abilities of other Transformers, as demonstrated by Bumblebee taking down a teleporting Skywarp a couple of issues ago.

Ratchet seems to have been thoroughly repaired in the space of time between the Autobots overseeing the Starscream/Megatron brawl and them returning to base; also, darkness has fallen in this time. Megatron, meanwhile, is able to teleport from Nebraska to Oregon — whether by personal means or with the aid of a craft in orbit (Bumblebee mentions an orbital bounce.)

The Autobots access their base under cover of darkness, simply sealing alt-modes and driving into the lake.

Quotes of Note

Starscream: "Ultimately, Megatron is argonized steel and polymer sinew. Just like us. He can be hurt... he can be killed."

Megatron: "We are Decepticons — the dominant, the unbowed, the bastion."

Prowl: "At a stroke, Earth has gone from just another entrenchment to possibly the pivotal frontline."

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