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Transformers: Stormbringer #2 (of 4)
#8 of an ongoing arc
Reviewed by Denyer

Issue Review

Woo-ha. Things continue to move at a fair pace, packing in not one but two worlds which the Decepticons have infiltrated. Plus that whole subplot with Thunderwing and Cybertron...

There's a ton of stuff to like here, as we finally get a demonstration of things only hinted elsewhere, and the Autobot lines really seem to be stretched thin dealing with Decepticon incursions across the galaxy. Once again, the ideas and the sense of freshness are as rewarding as the immediate plot — how many fronts are out there? Have the Decepticons settled any worlds, or just broken what's left down for resources? Do the Autobots have their own mining strips on uninhabited worlds or asteroid belts? Treaties with any planets they've saved? Thus far the Transformers seem to be a leading force in the universe, and that's something I'm glad to see; back in the day they were being beaten up and dismembered by giant organics, Mecannibals, scraplets, and virtually everything else.

Prime's response to Springer telling him he should consider disintegrating Cyberton is underlined by a flashback sequence immediately following, in which Megatron made the same suggestion (albeit after Thunderwing had apparently been taken down) and Prime refused to countenance it. The sequences are woven neatly so that when Prime replies to Dogfight that he hopes sentiment prevails, it's a hope that the young soldier won't regret being eager to go into battle alongside his hero, but also that Prime's hope of resolving the conflict without making what he considers to be an ultimate sacrifice is still alive.

I consider it a nice touch that Thunderwing is a zombified body without sentience (at this point at least — though I'd rather that's how things remain, there's at least a passing chance the resolution in this miniseries is going to involve what's left of Thunderwing briefly regaining faculties. Maybe I'm just too cynical about sci-fi clichés — c'mon Simon, blow the planet, wave two fingers at the status quo, you know you want to.)

Another great detail is that Prime makes slight upgrades over the course of the issue as he's preparing to head over to Cybertron, strapping additional armour over his chest plating and what look like another two energy cannons that poke out over his shoulders. Don's really going to town artistically with this series. (The Wreckers' battlecruiser, the Xantium, takes some cues from Fortress Maximus and has been mentioned to be based on one of his old Macromasters designs.) It's wonderful fanservice, without crossing the line to being fanwank because it doesn't form the meat of the story or art.

There are some production issues similar to those in the first issue with the placement of faction symbols, but altogether the art, colouring and interiors remain excellent. I do have one small nitpick other than the logos, that being that I'm a little disappointed with the cover... I got sent the regular B variant, and for some reason the coloured version of the art is relegated to the back with the original black-and-white artwork mirrored on the front. Surely burning yellows and oranges would be more likely to catch people's attention on a store shelf? No great shakes — heck, I think I ordered the wraparound from my supplier but the story's the main thing — just some constructive criticism.

In short: keep up the good work, production team, and please keep piling on the revelations.

Character Development

As well as looking suitably samurai and skeletal, Bludgeon reminds a bit of Alpha Trion with his appearance and metaphysical rambling. His plan to restore Cybertron is based on "sympathetic magic" — the notion that symbolic acts affect the empirical universe. Whilst a primitive grasp of cause and effect is common amongst humans, particularly historically, the effect is strikingly uncanny in an alien race made of what we consider technology.

Still on the subject of Bludgeon, his disrepair is a lot more evident this issue. This could reflect the singlemindedness of his efforts to revive Cybertron using Thunderwing, or that he's symbolically sacrificing non-vital parts of his armour to contribute to the process. Either or both, it all emphasises how driven and insane the character is.

Prime looks a touch disappointed at Dogfight's eagerness to head into a probable battle situation. He's very much "first amongst equals" with his command staff — he's regarded with awe and reverence by Searchlight and others, but Springer talks back to him and generally seems much more seasoned than we've seen in previous continuities. The leader of the Wreckers is also able to joke about phases of Decepticon occupation whilst laying siege to a heavily fortified bunker.

The rest of the Autobot special ops team are similarly stoic in the face of fire. Their numbers include Scoop, whilst familiar faces Roadbuster and Topspin are using hefty external weapons systems rather than their integrated weapons.

Megatron is grim and practical. He suggests nuking the planet as a precaution, warning when Prime threatens to stop him that he won't be held responsible for the outcome otherwise.

Afterburner and Nosecone seem quite inexperienced and begin to crack under the combined pressure of their shuttle exploding, the toxic smog on the planet's surface and patrols of Centurion drones.

Not much to say about the Decepticon infiltration team on Nebulos yet, except that they seem to recognise Thunderwing — or at very least that they're witnessing a huge threat.

Other Details

"Primacron" appears to be a common invocation, two characters using it in this issue. Given that Jetfire is one of those it seems likely Primacron is an historical figure, apocryphal or otherwise, rather than a prophet or entity considered mystical in origin.

The thing Thunderwing became is referred to as "a force of nature" by Jetfire. This is how Furman described Unicron back in On the Edge of Extinction (Marvel US #75), and probably one or two other things I remember less well...

One of Bludgeon's Decepticons mentions something called "ultra-Energon" being used to revive Thunderwing. This is presumably the composite formed by asteroid bombardment that was mentioned in issue #1, which led the Autobot science team to investigate the abandoned planet.

The scale of the conflict Prime is coordinating makes Prowl's reluctance to bother him with the findings of a possible Decepticon plot in Infiltration much more credible, as well as the militaristic approach of the Autobots on Earth. Additionally, from what we've seen, it isn't the nigh-indestructible Transformers that get hit hardest by the war — it's the other planets and peoples caught up in the crossfire.

Nebulans are green-skinned and hairless, with slightly pointed ears and yellow eyes without pupils. They apparently favour domed buildings. The Decepticon unit sent to infiltrate their planet consists of a range of characters including those from sublines we'd previously have known as Triggercons, Powermasters and Headmasters.

Centurion drones look a bit like a cross between Beast Machines tank drones and Cylons. The Xantium is drawn suggestive of having a robot mode, but this is probably an artist insertion rather than a plot point.

Transformers are familar with using "foldspace transitions" to cross interstellar distances.

The colour tone used in some of the flashbacks was less pronounced this issue, but panels still have that crinkled edge to remind us. The placement of faction symbols is sloppy and inconsistent in places — noticeable on two facing pages where Bludgeon's Decepticon emblem jumps around on his chest and changes shape/size drastically.

Quotes of Note

Bludgeon: "Worlds will burn — a mass sacrifice that will appease the spirit of this planet and return it to its once and former glory!"

Jetfire: "If you let it loose, there'll be no stopping it. You can't just turn it on and off, it'll consume everything... you included!"
Bludgeon: "I think not."

Springer: "Look, Prime... if it is Thunderwing, conventional weaponry won't cut it, we know that from bitter experience. If all else fails... I say we burn what's left of Cybertron and that monstrosity along with it!"
Prime: "I'll... take that under advisement."

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