IDW Publishing "Infiltration" #1

in 2005, Comic Book Review, Generation One

IDW Publishing

General Information:
Title: "Infiltration"
Cover Price: $2.95 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: EJ Su
Colors by: John Rauch
Letters by: Tom B. Long & Robbie Robbins
Edits by: Chris Ryall


Andrew Wildman Cover Guido Guidi Cover James Raiz Cover E.J. Su Cover Guido Guidi Foil Cover James Raiz Foil Cover
Wildman Gatefold Cover

Synopsis:
A flashback shows Hunter O'Nion browsing the web, visiting web sites dedicated to the urban legends of giant robots able to change their forms fighting a secret war on Earth. However, the present is far less calm. Autobot medic Ratchet has two human passengers: Verity Carlo and Hunter in tow - and they are being chased by a most tenacious set of hunters.

Ratchet tries to explain (in somewhat vague terms) that life as these humans have known has changed forever thanks to what they have already seen. Worse, their lives are all still threatened as Runamuck and Runabout, the Decepticon Battlechargers continue their high speed pursuit through Southeast California. While the Battlechargers utilize more traditional firepower in the form of missiles to try and stop Ratchet, he uses everything from acidic gas to sound waves to damage the two. Though this gets them off their trail for a bit, it hardly does enough damage to stop them for good!

When Thundercracker appears, Ratchet quickly uses dark exhaust that sticks to the Decepticon, making him spin wildly out of control.

Ratchet and the humans need a place to go fast, and Verity boots up the hand held computer she stole in issue #0 to contact a friend. Ratchet tries to ask for help from his fellow Autobots, but Prowl denies his request citing a lack of resources. Verity has more luck however, and soon the group meets Jimmy Pink at his garage in Riverside.

Jimmy and Verity have been internet buddies for a while now, and he is more than happy to help the trio. Ratchet's human hologram helps Jimmy along as the human repairs most of the external damage while Ratchet repairs most of his internal damage himself.

Meanwhile, Verity and Hunter talk and he grows more suspicious. Soon he looks into the stolen computer at the center of this chase, the very one the Decepticons are hoping someone will boot up so they can track it!

Ratchet finally confirms what Hunter is saying, showing an image of Starscream on the computer screen. Verity is more than annoyed and storms out - only to come running back in frightened to death! Soon, the entire garage is torn apart as the Battlechargers reveal themselves in full robot mode - and they want the computer now!

To be continued...

Story:
There are two basic ways to tell any Earth-based Transformers story set in a modern era. You can have Transformers be semi-secret beings whom only a select few know about or you can have them stomping all over the place to the point where people see Transformers and think "Oh hey, it's an eight foot tall robot strolling down the street, I wonder what I'm going to have for lunch?". Clearly this book intends to use the former approach.

The risk of this approach is the potential for absolute boredom. Let's face it, at the end of the day you read a Transformers book to see Transformers. Humans are a necesity to a degree, but it is a mistake to ever think that you need humans to relate to a Transformers series, because as many shows have proven in the past (most notably the first two seasons of Beast Wars, you do not need humans in order to have a good Transformers story.

It is fortunate that IDW chose long time Transformers scribe Simon Furman to write this tale. While some of his stories incorporated humans in the past, for the most part he knows that the Transformers are "human" enough on their own as characters to sustain a title on their own. Humans can act as protagonists or antagonists along with the Transformers, but they need not take the place of the robots in disguise.

What keeps this issue from being boring in any way is the chase. By sheer numbers and having to protect the humans, Ratchet is at a severe disadvantage. Seeing the humans freaked out adds a layer of concern for the reader resulting in a wild ride indeed.

Verity's inability to accept what is going on around her (at least, until the end of the issue) is a nice counterpoint to Hunter's "I want to believe" mantra. Even Jimmy seems somewhat more amendable to the idea of robots in disguise. It offers two points of view, one that truly believes - and the other that is forced to believe. After twenty one years worth of Transformers series where the existance of Transformers are pretty much taken for granted, this was a refreshing thing to see.

The pace of the story does pause when we reach Jimmy's garage, but it gives the characters a chance to acknowledge and (somewhat) get to the bottom of the mystery at hand. It's clear from Prowl and Ratchet's brief interaction that Ratchet is not following protocol here, especially by offering any explanation about the Transformers. However, I like Furman's approach at using a tiny bit of dialogue mixed with events to unfold the events rather than have Ratchet blurt everything out in one big panel full of speech balloons about "Millions of years ago..." As a side note regarding Ratchet, I do find it cool that the concept of "fake" human drivers has upgraded from being "cutouts" in the G1 Marvel title all the way to a hard light hologram now capable of holding objects.

Artwork:

First, a note to IDW: the exuberance of a first issue (and indeed say, the first four) of a comic book series does not justify ten separate covers. Each cover is nice in its own way, but by Primus' right thumb, is it really necessary? Four covers fine, four with variants of the two, great. As someone who likes to support any Transformers title and thus purchase all the covers, I simply cannot justify spending about $100 on one issue of a comic. The artwork is great on some, bringing back well known artists such as Guido Guidi and Don Figueroa as well as a classic artist in the form of Andrew Wildman. With that said, I do applaud IDW for printing each cover on the last page of the book so fans who don't spend the money can at least see the various works of art.

Ok, on to actual reviewing. There is no doubt that artist E.J. Su has a wonderful grasp of making machines look complicated and intricate. Any time more complex machinery reveals itself it is choc full of details and layers, adding a visual richness that not all artists use. Clearly this is Su's trademark, and in the context of this book's story, it is a perfect match. For the most part, little is revealed in this issue until the last page. By virtue of that most of the artwork is very basic. We see humans, vehicles and set pieces. However, at moments such as Ratchet revealing the control panel built into his dashboard, it suddenly smacks the reader out of a daze and reminds you that there is some serious tech underneath this simple looking ambulance.

The color tones in this series are interesting. They are not harsh and leaning towards blues and greys as Dreamwave's titles often did. Nor do they emulate the cheery brightenss of the G1 Marvel comic. Rather, I would say that this is a natural evolution of many of the desert settings and lighter tones of the G1 animated series. However, instead of being harsh, everything is rather subtle, giving it a slightly more reality based tone. The colorists aren't perfect however, Prowl is painted as if he were Ironhide when he tells Ratchet he is not sending help!

Another nice touch is the use of different types of speech balloons for the Transformers. Their balloons are all more rectangular in shape and have blue or red borders (blue for Decepticons, though I wonder if this was meant to be purple).

Final Thoughts:
A good first issue, but its appreciation will be highest from those who once were or have been fans of Generation One. Newcomers to Transformers will still enjoy the issue, but I think the appreciation will be on a different level altogether. It is recommended that you read issue #0 with this one to really get caught up to speed (even though this issue touches on issue #0 in flashbacks).