Dreamwave Comics "Prime Directives" #1

in 2002, Comic Book Review, Generation One

Comic Books

General Information
Publication Date: April 2002
Written by: Chris Sarracini
Pencils by: Pat Lee
Inks by: Pat Armstrong
Backgrounds by: Edwin Garcia
Colors by: TheRealT!
Graphic Design: Paul Villafuerte
Pre-Press: Kell-O-Graphics

Synopsis:
It is a dark night as two guards converse, one alert, one less so. As one guard takes a break, he does not see a giant robotic hand reach out of the forest and crush his partner. By the time he sees the culprit, it is too late and a large explosion wipes out the camp.

Cleveland, Ohio
It is early morning and Spike Witwicky wakes up, no longer the smiling youth we knew from over a decade ago. As he goes through his morning ritual, he nearly leaves the house without his helmet. Daniel is there to remind him however, but as the two trade good byes, two strangers appear at
Spike's door. The older gentleman introduces himself as General Hallo, his bodyguard is introduced simply as "Lou". General Hallo is the head of the government based DWT (Development of Weapons Technology). He explains that the government needs Spike's help, and that he has been given a "leave of absence" from his job and that bank account would be taken care of while he is away. Seeing no choice, Spike decides to go off with the General.

Northwest Territories, Canada
Bishop, a self described Freedom Fighter (a.k.a. Terrorist) is being driven to a remote site. Being a man of few victories during his freedom fighting career, he needs help, and the mysterious Lazarus is willing to give it to him - for a price. Bishop does not appreciate having a bag over his head, but Lazarus explains secrecy is important. Soon enough, the driver, Lazarus and Bishop arrive near their destination and must walk the rest of the way. As they leave the area, the jeep they came in changes form and stands guard, its arms crossed. As the trio enters the base, Bishop's bag is removed and slowly he is given a look at a familiar red and white form with thrusters on its legs.

The Pentagon, Washington
Spike is in a waiting room as he reads an article about the destruction of the Ark II spacecraft. A janitor warns him that things are "more than meets the eye". With that, General Hallo meets up with Spike. They recount the tale of the Ark II, a ship with both Transformers and humans on it that exploded shortly after lift off. Although most people believed that everyone on board was destroyed or killed (including Spike's father Sparkplug), the General assures Spike that this is not
the case. He brings up video from the attack on the guards from the beginning of the story, and when the camera zooms in on the attacker, Spike sees the last face he probably ever wanted to see again: Megatron!

Back in Canada, Bishop is astonished that Lazarus has actual Transformers at his disposal. Lazarus explains that he has rewired the the Transformers' minds so that he commands them, but they are still capable of enough independent thought to allow them the ability to "think" while in battle. Lazarus uses Megatron to demonstrate his control. He tells the Transformer to stand, move on arm, then the other, and finally, kneel. Megatron performs all these actions except the last. Lazarus dismisses this as a glitch and the two continue on their tour. As the lights go dim however, Megatron's eyes glow with life!

Back in Washington, Spike is being escorted to Area 24. Hallo explains that the government believes that the Transformers have been reprogrammed to obey someone with less than reputable goals. They need to combat whomever this is, and they will need help to do it. Hallo explains that the government has also found a Transformer. When they reveal who it is, Spike is surprised again as the unconscious form of Optimus Prime lies before him!

A clip of a news article in the back of the comic tells us the tale of the Ark II. Tired of Decepticon aggression, humans and Autobots united to defeat the Decepticons. Once beaten, the Ark II was constructed to bring the Decepticons back to Cybertron. A small group of humans was selected to go to Cybertron and study it. However, moments after takeoff in 1999, the ship exploded and theories continue to abound as to just what happened that fateful day.

To Be Continued...

Story:
Reading this story felt a lot like watching "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace". There are a lot of introductions and a lot of build up, and ultimately the reader is left craving more. This is not necesarily a bad thing, especially when Dreamwave wants you to purchase the rest of the series! Although one can complain that not enough happens, I believe the pacing of the comic is appropriate. After so many years of a Generation One absence from the comic book shelves, a nice, calm introduction is appropriate.

The one scene which stands out for me more than any other in the comic is watching Spike get ready in the morning. Nothing is said, but you can tell from the beginning, even before we learn about the Ark II's destruction, that something is weighing heavily on his heart and soul. Once he sees his son,
we see one of the few glimpses of happiness in his life. Clearly things have changed a lot for the character we used to know as an idealistic youth. It is interesting that we never get to see Daniel's mother (who we can assume at this point is Carly, Spike's girlfriend during the original series). It will be interesting to see if she is included in this storyline at all.

The use of the Transformers in this story is interesting. Visually, there is a build up as we only see parts of Transformers such as Megatron's hand or Hound's crossed arms. However, by the end, we are hit full on visually by Megatron's appearance and the body of Optimus Prime. This was a good approach as it whets the appetite as the issue goes alone, and by the end, we want our favorite robots in disguise to be all over the battlefield again.

Continuity Notes:

  • The mention of Buster Witwicky indicates that this "universe" is an amalgam of both the cartoon universe and the original Marvel comic book universe. In the Marvel comic, both Spike and Buster were brothers. However, Spike was killed when he (in control of Fortress Maximus) destroyed the Ark in hopes of stopping Megatron during "Generation 2". This story steers clear of that, and even shows Daniel Witwicky, Spike's son and a definite tie to the cartoon continuity.
  • Sparkplug Witwicky never appeared in any post-Transformers: The Movie episodes, and it was often speculated that by that time he had passed away. His death aboard the Ark II agrees with this theory.

Artwork:

Pat Lee's Transformers art style is heavily influenced by the way Transformers appeared in Manga during the run of Generation One in Japan. The exaggerated angles and
use of details found on the toys (but removed from television show models) are welcome. Also worth noting is the use of the "worn" look. This is evident on Megatron during the footage of his attack on the guards. Even when he is sitting in Lazarus' base looking shiny, there are hints of scratches and cracks in the armor.

The colors are bright and vibrant, giving one the feeling that they are watching an animated episode done in high quality anime rather than just "another comic book". This look is important as it also plays the additional psychological role of reminding readers that once upon a time, Transformers ruled the airwaves and that in their own way, this is Generation One coming back to plant a flag into the ground. There is real love going into the art here and it shows.

Final Thoughts:
A nicely paced beginning to what I hope will be the first of many mini-series involving the Generation One crew. Its primary fault is that it's just too
darn short. A