Dreamwave Comics "Armada" #14

in 2003, Armada, Comic Book Review

Dreamwave Comic Books

Armada #14 Cover
General Information
Written by: Simon Furman
Pencils by: Don Figueroa
Inks by: Elaine To
Colors by: David Cheung
Graphic Design: Heli Bartman
Letters: Paul Villafuerte

Synopsis:
Autobase: Earth
Hot Shot comes through the Space Bridge with Sparkplug and other Mini-Cons to find the Autobots gathered around Optimus Prime. But this Prime is not the one they are familiar with. Not only that, this Optimus Prime is a wreck, with parts smashed and exposed!

Downtown San Francisco
Over-Run is still trying to find Optimus Prime, carrying the mysterious object he brought with him through time and space. He finds a bare construction site and quickly gets to work.

Cybertron: Decepticon Command Headquarters
A ball of energy forms in mid-air as powerful and familiar shapes take form, jumping out of a portal. Their leader tells them that they each have their tasks to perform and that failure is not an option! This reality will be consumed!

Autobase, Earth
Smokescreen explains that upon his return from Death Valley, this "Optimus Prime" was in the base already. Astroscope speculates that it is a Prime from an alternate universe, citing past failed Cybertronian experiments which tried to breach the gap between realities. As the Autobots and Mini-Cons speculate, the Prime suddenly grabs Red Alert's hand and utters a warning about walls crumbling and chaos! Optimus Prime then dies as the Autobots look on.

Silver Ridge, Nebraska
The Decepticon transporter is not working properly, and Leader-1 speculates that there is some disruption in the inter-spatial network. Megatron sends Starscream and Demolishor out to see if it is the Autobots who are causing the disruption.

Back at the Autobot base, Hot Shot has gotten in touch with Jetfire, who believes the Decepticons might be causing the oddities. Sparkplug reports that in California, a residual trace of energy has been found. Hot Shot decides to get proactive and puts together a team to check things out. When they arrive, they find Over-Run's vessel, which he used to transport himself to this time frame
(and universe). Astroscope reads a spacial pulse and decide to follow it along with the others.

In San Francisco, Over-Run has built a device to contact other Transformers. However, the one that appears is not who he wanted! As the Autobots arrive, so does Starscream. Before they can intervene, Galvatron knocks Starscream away, knocks out Hot Shot with a blast form his cannon and smashes Thrust! When he's done, Over-Run seems to have disappeared, and Galvatron leaves through
the portal he used to get to Over-Run. Once Galvatron has disappeared, we see that Mirage has manage to hide Over-Run using his cloak. Mirage thinks they're safe, but Over-Run knows better. If Galvatron is around, then things have gotten much worse than he originally thought!

On Cybertron, Optimus walks through the wreckage that was once his homeworld (or a planet very much like it). He runs into Spinister, the Decepticon Targetmaster who babbles abut harm and pain and something coming back - to eat Cybertron!

To Be Continued...

Story:
As scene after scene unfolded in this issue, all I kept thinking was "classic Simon Furman". While the previous story arc was interesting and different, long time Transformers fans (and readers of the G1/G2 comic books) will recognize a lot of familiar themes in this story:

  • Transformers of different times (and/or universes) crossing paths.
  • The looming threat of Unicron, and Unicron using Decepticons to do his
    bidding.
  • Galvatron kicking everyone's collective behinds.
  • A Transformer dies (albeit, it's an alternate universe Optimus Prime
    but still...)

Although the concepts are familiar and comfortable, they are being applied on a new canvas and the stakes are bigger. Rather than several Transformers
trying to defeat a common enemy, the Transformers (for the most part) don't even realize that there's a big bad on the way to shake things up. What's
really neat is that the story works on two levels: 1) If you are a long time fan and keep up with the latest Transformers happenings, you know that Galvatron and his buddies are serving Unicron, and that the coming threat is bigger than just Galvatron smashing up a few
'bots and 'cons and 2) If you are not a long time fan at all and have little familiarity with Generation One, this story still works because everything is a mystery.

As he did with the "Moon Base" story arc, Furman takes the Mini-Cons and makes them an active part of the Autobot team. Instead of being "cutesy Transformers" or just another tool/resource to be fought over, he makes them active participants in the mission, which is really good to see. It's clear these Mini-Cons have made a choice to help the Autobots and they have their own knowledge to contribute to the mission. Seeing Astroscope explain what was happening was a nice touch.

I found it interesting that Hot Shot is taking such a lead with this situation. The cartoon series would have you believe Red Alert or Scavenger, being the "older" guys might take over, but clearly the characters are being portrayed differently here. When Hot Shot consults Jetfire, it looks almost like two command level Autobots talking to each other, not just a higher ranking telling a lower
ranking one what to do.

I was fortunate enough to chat with Simon Furman a bit about this issue, some of the things he mentioned are in the notes below.

Notes:

  • The five Decepticons who come through the portal towards the beginning are: Galvatron (center), Bludgeon (top, left), Scourge (bottom, left), Dirge (top, right) and Thunderwing (bottom, right). Bludgeon, Galvatron and Thunderwing are long time favorites of G1 comic book fans. Galvatron was a prominant, maniacal character while Thunderwing and Bludgeon were rescued from being obscure toys to characters with full story arcs. Scourge is a spawn of Unicron, so his presence is almost required. As for Dirge, Furman wanted to use one of the Decepticons that he did not get to use when writing Beast Wars' final episode. Plus, according to Furman, Dirge has "..a cool doom-laden name".
  • At Dreamwave's request, the G1 characters could not be called by name (you'll note no one ever yells out "Hey Galvatron!" or anything like that). This may have been for legal reasons, but Furman was unsure. Their dialogue is being kept at a minimum on purpose. As Furman put it: "Galvatron and the Gen 1 hit squad are no-nonsense killers, pure and simple. Minimal dialogue, maximum kick-ass."
  • The "alternate" Optimus Prime that dies in this issue is a modified version of artist Don Figueroa's "Maraudimus Prime" character.
  • As Megatron berates Starscream and Demolishor, note Starscream giving Megatron the finger behind his back!
  • Leader-1's small appearance has a nice little in joke. When Megatron summons Leader-1, he asks "You bellowed?", something which Blackarachnia once asked Megatron in Beast Wars (also voiced by David Kaye) when he called for her.
  • When Galvatron says that "this reality will be consumed", it brings up an interesting possibility. Obviously he and his hit squad are from another reality, yet we know Unicron is the big bad here - so does that mean the Unicron that we're going to see is actually from another universe? Furman speculated that it is possible there is really only one Unicron and that he crosses universes in his path of destruction. Only time will truly tell.
  • Astroscope's mention of "Nucleon" is a nice "cross over universe" tid bit which shows the mysterious and dangerous power source also exists in this Armada comic-verse.

"Worlds Collide" Part One is a truly exciting start to what promises to be an intriguing storyline.

Artwork:

I really enjoyed Don's artwork in "War Within" (and in some pieces I commissioned from him years ago), so it's always a pleasure to see him work on a Transformers title. The two characters that stood out the most for me were Jetfire and Galvatron. Jetfire (although he appears on one whole page) looks so awesome in this issue. He's not the squat, sorta pudgy shuttle/robot he is in the toys (and to a degree, the TV show). Here he appears sleek, but bulky in a powerful way. Seeing Blurr and Sideswipe by his side was also very cool.

Galvatron's "redesign" is interesting, incorporating elements of the cartoon and toy. His general shape is directly from the G1 cartoon show, but some of the details are definitely from the toy. His four squares on his "abdominal" area look much more like the ones on the toy than the animated version. His legs are more rectangular, again something the toy version had. Also, he has serrated teeth like designs on his crown, which bring about thoughts of both Armada Megatron/Galvatron and the "Zaraks" such as Scorponok from G1.

The coloring work in this issue is absolutely beautiful. The scenes with the "alternate" Optimus Prime were very well done, his fading body acting as a visual cue to the character's demise. Even the brighter characters such as Sparkplug and Hot Shot don't come out looking too bright, which is a big plus in my book.

One last interesting note, I like the way the artists worked to make Mirage's "invisibility" effect visually work like G1 Mirage's. Seeing the rectangle forming around Mirage and Over-Run was very cool.

Final Thoughts:
Strong story, exciting cameos and strong art make this one of the "must reads" for both Generation One and Armada fans (not that the two are mutually exclusive or anything). Go out and pick this issue up now for some good Transformers comic book goodness!