IDW Publishing "Autocracy" #5 Comic Book Review
Cover Price: $.99 (Digital Exclusive)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: March 14, 2012
Story by: Chris Metzen & Flint Dille
Art by: Livio Ramondelli
Letters by: Robbie Robbins
Editor: John Barber & Carlos Guzman
In the Rust Narrows section of Nyon, Orion Pax and his team have arrived to capture the fugitive Hot Rod. He is said to be hiding in the Ancient Cybertronian Acroplex, a place that Silverbolt can't cover them. The rumor is that Hot Rod was engineered for speed and precision, but by who no one knows. Suddenly Hot Rod appears! But before anyone can get him he speeds away, leading the Autobots deeper into the complex.
Inside, the Autobots find statues of Transformers said to be the "Knights of Cybertron" who ruled Cybertron with wisdom in its glory days. They pass many elements such as inscriptions and the symbol of the Matrix, believing them all to be mythological. As they go deeper in, Laserbeak is spying on them, transmitting back to Megatron. Megatron is counting on Hot Rod to reveal truths to Optimus Prime that will disrupt Iacon to its core and he wants to see the results first hand!
Soon, the Autobots reach a series of Energon Tanks in room filled with dying Cybertronians trying to find energy wherever they can. Hot Rod appears and explains that this is the result of Zeta Prime's plans. Orion knew this however and Hot Rod tells him he won't resist, but he wanted him to see the truth. Moments later as Orionsteps outside, he sees Omega units fighting off in the distance - and his future path is clear!
The current "Transformers" universe in both the "Fall of Cybertron" fiction and IDW's continuity really paints a bleak picture of modern day Cybertron. In the IDW continuity, Cybertron was a dead husk of a planet until very recently. In "Fall of Cybertron" it's a dying world and in the live action movies, it's still a dead planet. Most visions of Cybertron before the Great War begin paint Cybertron as a place of relative peace and prosperity that got all turned around when Megatron made his big push, but every issue of "Autocracy" shows us more and more that the Cybertronian Empire was rotting long before Megatron declared all out war on those who stood against him. Even in this age of him gathering his power, we see that the Autobots' own government was already doing plenty of damage on its own. Zeta Prime's Vamparc weapon has clearly been doing its nasty work for quite some time now, and it was great to see Orion Pax come to face the very thing I think he had been hoping was not true: a Prime was committing acts of evil (without his first name being "Nemesis"). I'm very interested to see what comes next for the young and future Prime.
Speaking of future "Primes", this introduction to Hot Rod winds up painting a much more interesting picture of the character than we've seen in the "More than Meets the Eye" title so far. Here he is painted as a leader figure whose construction is more "modern" than other Autobots and he has an independent streak as well. These are all elements that play into the ways Hot Rod was first introduced to audiences in 1986, and I really enjoyed the serious manner in which he's shown. His mission is just and he's not shy about it which fits perfectly with what we've seen of the character so far. Another nice touch that connects this Hot Rod to the "More than Meets the Eye" version is the hiding out in the temple of the "Knights of Cybertron", the very group that he hopes to find in the future.
The Decepticons take a back seat in this story, and I really think that helps make it even more powerful. Megatron is not stomping across the battlefield, Starscream isn't leading legions of Seekers in battle. All the 'cons are doing is sitting back and watching as Zeta Prime's machinations create a horrible situation that the Autobots have to deal with internally. It's not often we get to see the scheming part of G1 Megatron (at least on this scale). Often that's been more relegated to "Beast Wars" Megatron's role, so it's really cool to see it here. If anything, it makes Megatron even more of a threat that he can perform minimal manipulation and still cause this much chaos.
In terms of artwork, Ramondelli gets to flex some of his muscles in creating grand, mysterious and sweeping scenes. Sure much of the action is tight and focused on characters, but some of the best panels in this issue involve the environment around the characters. The grandeur of the "Halls of Order" definitely comes shining through with the gigantic statues, the Matrix inscription and even the rather techno-organic looking Energon tanks. The final panel of the issue with the Omega units was breathtaking and really makes you want to see more in the next issue!
"Ruins" is really the turning point the last few issues have been leading to. Orion's eyes are now open, and I suspect much of what we see him do next will help shape him to become the "Optimus Prime" we all know. I really enjoyed Hot Rod's appearance and the role he served in the story, particularly the nods to who he will become in the future. This is a great issue that breaks some tension while forging new directions. Recommended!