Dreamwave Comics "Micromasters" #4
Title: Recipe for Hate
Cover Price: $2.95
Publisher: Dreamwave Productions
Written by: James "Brad Mick" McDonough & Adam Patyk
Pencils by: Rob Ruffolo
Inks by: Erik Sander
Colors by: Sig Torres, Eric Burns, Josh Perez and Josh Burcham
Letters by: Ben Lee
The Hot Rod Patrol has come to Countdown for help. They tell him Little Iacon has been invaded. Countdown already knows this, having monitored activity on Cybertron since last issue. Groundshaker reports his vehicle is ready to go, and everyone eventually agrees to work together. However, instead of going to Little Iacon, Countdown has decided the Micromasters are going to hit Decepticon Headquarters itself!
The Decepticons including Thrust, Ramjet and Octane are all watching a holographic image of Shockwave's head telling them to attack the Autobots, that now is the time for their ultimate victory. The Decepticons are excited and set out to follow their leader's orders. Little do they know, Shockwave's head has been detached from his body and is being manipulated by Skystalker's Micromasters. He explains that he has done this to send the "Guzzlers" to their deaths, and drain any survivors of the conflict until they are dead as well. While he is thrilled with his plan, Barricade and Motormouth are not as confident.
Barricade then remembers his time as "Runner", his name when he and the other Micromasters were still in training. He always tried to be better than everyone else, gain the edge that no one else had. He eventually decided to join the Decepticons, but realized not too long after that he had been duped into merely helping the Decepticons increase their forces with little room for advancement of his own.
Fortress Maximus is upset. He has resigned himself to the fact that he and the Autobots will have to intervene to help the Micromasters, but he's not happy at all. Magnus tries to remind him that just because one fights, it doesn't mean that he does not want peace.
The Micromasters manage to penetrate the Decepticon base by going through waste disposal tunnels, allowing them to go undetected. Once inside, they are quickly spotted by Ransack. Groundshaker quickly dispatches of the Decepticon but Barrage is there as well! One missed blast from him frees the other Micromasters, who quickly escape. Roadhandler quickly lends a hand be wrenching Barrage's head off! When Venom comes in, Blaze Master makes short work of him with his rotor blade.
In the chaos of battle, Trip-Up blasts Barricade, who begins to pass out and tells Motorhead to take over. Desperate to prove himself, Motorhead takes over the lead of the Decepticon Micromasters - and attacks the Autobots!
The Autobot and Decepticon "Guzzler" forces have met up and a battle rages as Fortress Maximus and Ultra Magnus encounter the Decepticon force sent by Skystalker. The battle does not go well for the Autobots.
Countdown walks into the control room to find Shockwave's head and Skystalker looking down at him triumphantly! The two Micromasters battle until Skystalker gains the upper hand. Just as he is about to send Shockwave's head crashing onto Countdown, Big Daddy arrives on the scene and saves him! Soon the Micromasters all gather, including the Decepticons. Motorhead still thinks he's going to fight the Autobots, until Barricade enters and tells him that the real conclusion he's come to is that the Autobots have had it right all along. Not all the Micros are convinced, so Countdown appeals to their sense of unity, against the Autobots and Decepticons alike.
The battle is ending, with most of the Autobots defeated. Just then, the Micromasters appear with Countdown in the lead. Octane talks tough until they throw down the head of Shockwave! The Decepticons panic and retreat. As things settle down, Big Daddy reaches one conclusion. He cannot just follow the philosophies and directions of others, it is up to him to find his own path - on his own.
I read this comic four times before writing this. Skimmed it twice the day I bought it. I tried, really, really hard to like it. But I've just concluded the whole Micromaster mini series was a bust. An experiment with good intentions and the kernel of some good ideas that all just fell apart in the end.
I'm going to try to be fair here and first state what I thought were good ideas both in the series overall and this issue:
- The idea of Transformers pulled into a war they did not volunteer to be a part of.
- Countdown's return to Cybertron after being away for a long time.
- Skystalker's return to Cybertron, with a fierce reputation following him.
- Skystalker's ideas for conquest.
- Big Daddy's search for his path in life (mirrored by Motorhead's).
- The idea of a sub-culture for Micromasters.
These are all wonderful ideas, and fantastic bits of setup. Here are reasons why a few of the above points just didn't work for me:
The idea of Transformers pulled into a war they did not volunteer to be a part of
I covered this in my review of issue #1, but the origin of the Micromasters still bothers me. I have a really, really hard time believing that Autobots would so willingly go along with a morally questionable plan put forth by the leader of the enemy, this alone stretches credibility big time.
Countdown's return to Cybertron after being away for a long time
G1 fans know that Countdown is this celebrated figure who has had dozens of adventures across the galaxy. However, in this series he's every bit as questionable as Ultra Magnus and Fortress Maximus. Not only that, he's not a particularly interesting character either. Groundshaker has ten times the personality he does, and he appeared significantly less! The way Countdown should have been written is the way Roadhandler was written. Someone who can talk the talk and make a Micro see his point without a long, drawn out speech. The character deserved better.
Skystalker's return to Cybertron, with a fierce reputation following him
Once again, potential wasted. Through what we've been told, Skystalker is a powerful enemy, not one to be taken lightly. Last issue, we saw an example of his treachery, and it was a good one. So we reach the last issue and he is going to have his big showdown with Countdown and all it amounts to is them shooting at each other a bit and then Skystalker trying to squash Countdown with Shockwave's head. Imagine if the fight between Optimus Prime and Megatron in the movie had been that dull. Who would really care about the outcome? I know I didn't. I was wondering the whole time why Skystalker wasn't doing something sneaky to win (since even he mentions he's weaker than Countdown) and where the heck was Skyhopper?! I kept expecting him to pop out to give Skystalker the upper hand. But nothing that exciting happened.
The idea of a sub-culture for Micromasters
I like this idea a lot, but the execution was just lazy. Half the time the Micromasters wound up sounding like extras from a bad hip-hop video.
Seeing a Transformer say stuff like "'sup" was so mind numbingly bad it's scary. I agree that they should have had their own speech patterns and culture. But that could have been reflected in many things in alternate ways. Their speech, first and foremost, could have used idioms and words that are unique to Cybertron (this was a core opportunity to introduce new words into the Transformers lexicon). The bar was a great way to show that the Micros had their own territory going, and the race in the last issue was a good display of how the Micromasters have tried to work out problems without shooting at each other. These are the types of things that they needed to establish their own culture more than street talk that's going to look dated in five years. For the record, I had a similar reaction in G1 (even as a kid) when Grimlock said that something looked "Rad", so this sentiment is by no means unique to this title.
Things were just so uneven in this issue in particular. Suddenly the Micromasters can go one on one with larger Transformers. Well, gee, if they could do that after being locked up for a while, why couldn't they do that in previous issues? Countdown spends time criticizing Magnus and Maximus, but he's not much different from them (of course, that may be the point). And geez, do any of the Micromasters have abilities other than hand to hand combat and firing tiny guns? The Micromaster toy line had such a range. You had the combiners, who could form unique vehicles, you had the Transports, who piloted vehicles, you had bases (some mobile), the list goes on. There was just so much potential to make the book more interesting, and it was squandered.
Last issue, I mentioned that while the art was bad overall, there were some bright spots in the issue. This time, the same applies, but in a drastically different ratio. For the most part, Ruffolo's strength seems to lie in details and close ups. He's good with facial expressions, doing small things like cracks and layers. His drawing of Fortress Maximus' neck really showed some cool mechanical bits. That's pretty much where the good stuff ends.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Ruffolo seems obssessed with making the Transformers (Micro or Guzzler) look "puffy". Everyone's arms and legs are bulging out like they're going to explode any second. Quite simply, this is not a good style. Transformers are machines, made up of exacting standards, carefully measured parts. One scene which just blew my mind was one showing Runner (the future Barricade) jumping off a cliff of some kind, so we see the underside of the vehicle, and the underside is so bloated that it juts out beyond where the tires would clear...so in effect, the vehicle would wind up dragging the underside along the ground! Another example that just made my eyes bug out occurs when Blaze Master takes down Venom. He stabs him with his blade, great. But his blade is so darned thick it's not believable that it could cut through anything (no less keep him aloft in flight mode).
The pudginess of the Transformers gets seriously bad in the case of Fortress Maximus. In two separate panels (pages 14 and 21), Maximus has a tiny, tiny head and this big, bulky, FAT body. I mean, people may think Energon Prime is fat, but Fort Max here has him beat.
While I recognize this is an artistic style, another thing that just raked its claws on a chalkboard whenever I saw it were upper legs overlapping waists. You will see many examples of this all over the issue. You only need to look at page one to see what I mean. The upper leg overlaps the waist piece, with some black, nebulous space between the upper leg and the waist. That just looks ugly and makes the legs look displaced. Want to see how legs should connect to waists? Just look at the cover drawn by Milne. There the Micromasters are well proportioned and their legs actually attach to the waist, not just float around ambiguously.
Okay, enough about pudginess. There were some very odd editing errors in this issue that looked like whomever printed the book or read over the final copy wasn't paying attention. One example can be found on page three, where the members of the Hot Rod patrol are saying that they're onboard for the mission.
Half of Trip-Up is cut off! We see him slamming his fist into his palm and part of his upper body, but his head isn't in the panel! This happens again on the page where Countdown is giving his speech to the Micromasters. In the panel where Barricade looks over to (who/what I presume to be) Big Daddy, most of the figure next to him is cut off. No head, barely any upper body. You just wonder "What or who is that?!" Only the colors indicate it's Big Daddy.
Although not exactly related to the art, there are some lettering errors too. On page seven, as Ultra Magnus speaks, the words "Autobot-Sponsored" wind up being "Autobot Sponsore" and the words "your training" are printed "your trainin". Then on the last page, Countdown's sentence should end "convince this group to stay." but instead is written "convince this group to stay" with no period, making it look like a run on sentence with the next one.
When I think of this issue and the mini-series overall, two words come to mind: train wreck. Some very good, basic ideas were completely wasted or mishandled. The art bounces from good to purely sloppy. A sad effort overall.