IDW Publishing Spotlight #7 Kup Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: April 25, 2007
Written by: Nick Roche
Art by: Nick Roche
Colors by: Andrew Elder
Letters by: Robbie Robbins
Edits by: Chris Ryall and Dan Taylor
On an alien world, a ship crashes and its passenger is stranded. The old Autobot Kup arrives on the scene, and the passenger thinks he is saved until Kup thrashes him, sending his head flying!
Kup's daily routine on this world has been a disconcerting one. He goes to a set of crystals that "sing" to him. As he bathes in their glow his damaged psyche finds some solace before he returns to the shelter he and Outback created from the remains of their ship. When the pair tried to create a communications device, it overloaded, destroying half of Ouback's body, killing the Autobot. This revealed to Kup that the use of energy weapons in this highly unstable environment was dangerous. Unfortunately, Kup's damaged mind has yet to acknowledge this and he continues to talk to "the kid" as if he were alive.
When night comes, fear begins to overtake the old Auobot as he sees a strange image of Springer telling him that they're coming to get him. As the figures call his name, they reach for him and he thrashes at them using Outback's arm as a club. He repels the attackers until morning when they disappear and the crystals "sing" again. This cycle repeats itself the next night when the creatures come in force, but again despite his failing systems he repels their attack.
One of the "creatures" jumps back to his point of origin: the Ark 17 in orbit. After removing his helmet, the "creature" reveals himself to be Siren, the lone survivor of the rescue team assigned to bring back Kup. He is not happy, having watched his team being decimated by the old Autobot. He explains the energy levels are off the scale, preventing energy discharges. He also explains that Kup is low on reserve power, yet somehow keeps finding the strength to fend the Autobots off. Springer explains that he has been trying to send a signal through Outback's holo emitter to communicate with Kup as well.
Later, Springer communicates with Prowl they argue over whether the mission is worth the cost of so many lives. Springer tells Prowl that he knows the cost is high, but so many Autobots including Prowl were trained by Kup that they owe him. Prow allows him to continue the mission, but explains that the loss of lives and resources are on his head. Perceptor agrees with Prowl's assessment, but Springer cannot let his loyalty to Kup go. At that moment, Sizzle walks in and explains that back up has arrived!
Another night comes and once again the Autobots come for Kup. He takes down several of them, but his Spark core begins to destabilize and as he beats a hasty retreat, he is greeted by none other than Trailbreaker! Using his force field abilities, the Autobot manages to contain Kup's Spark core but the shock knocks out the old Autobot.
Back on the ship, Springer chastises himself for letting so many Autobots fall to get Kup back. He realizes he should have waited until Trailbreaker arrived to handle the situation. Sadly, Kup is sitll unconscious and his old body will make it difficult to upgrade him to modern Transformers technology. Still, where there is life there is hope, but it makes Springer wonder if it was all worth it.
Transformers has crossed over into other genres before. At its core, it is a science fiction tale, but it has gone into territory ranging from westerns to comedies. However, one genre it rarely crosses over into is horror. At first we see Kup's "visions" from his point of view. His world is a crazy, nightmarish one where the warrior in him is swtiched on constantly. His killing of the alien in the beginning is brutal and frightening to see in an Autobot. Then the "creatures" that come after him look like robotic zombies with their skull faces and thin limbs. Even though we know Kup is delusional at this point, it makes the scene no less frightening. The "gore" factor is definitely in place as we see Kup's old body falling apart and his use of Outback's arm as a weapon - a fantastic touch that adds a layer of depravity to Kup's actions.
The beauty of this tale is that even once we learn what the mysterious "creatures" are and what the real situation is - it doesn't lessen the horror, it deepens it. While he may not be the most popular Transformer of all time, many fans have fond memories of Kup as a wise, old character who tells stories and argues with Hot Rod. Here we learn that he trained some of the best Autobot warriors out there as well. This compounds the sadness of the situation, showing us just how far this Autobot has fallen. Yet Springer's dogged loyalty is a ray of hope, showing that Autobot ideals can still win out at the end of the day.
The way in which Trailbreaker is used to save Kup is brilliant. Trailbreaker is a totally underutilized character in the grand scheme of the Transformers universe, especially considering he was one of the first Transformers introduced in the original series. It's cool to see his force field ability used as the key to saving Kup. When I saw that, the old skool fan in me smiled.
On top of writing a brilliant tale, artist Nick Roche does an amazing job with the artwork. His redesign of Kup as an antiquated, worn down warrior is awesome, evoking the feel of an old 50's pick up truck that is worn down and ready for the scrapheap. I love the way he plays with imagery during Kup's delusional states including drawing Springer's holo projection like a genie coming out of a lamp and the nightmarish faces of the Autobots in their suits trying to rescue the old Autobot. He has a great sense of how to convey grit and detail, much of which comes off in the scenes where Kup is fighting off the Autobots from getting into his shelter. From Outback's wrecked body to the details of Autobots being torn apart, this is probably one of the most graphic depictions of robot violence to date in the IDW comics.
In sharp contrast to Kup's visions, when Roche gets to draw Transformers as they are in reality, his lines are clean and sharp. Each character is proportioned nicely to the others. Sizzle actually looks smaller than Springer for instance.
In both styles (Kup's visions and reality) Roche has an excellent grasp of facial expressions. The two page spread where Springer talks to Prowl and then Perceptor is fantastic. You see an emotional range going from anger to sadness to happy surprise. Not all artists are particularly adept at drawing facial expressions even if they are able to draw robots very well.
Adding to Roche's art, Andrew Elder's colors work brilliantly. When we see Kup's visions, colors are distorted a bit. A lot of dark colors come into play, and he uses the dark lighting very well to convey a sense of dread. In the day time, things still seem a bit "off" on the planet as the yellow light the crystals eminate seems too strong. Even without words the images tell us that something is very wrong as Kup embraces the crystals and lays out among them.
In sharp contrast, the colors used onboard the Ark 17 are sharp and tight, which match up with the ship being "reality" whereas Kup's visions are warped, paranoid delusions. He also uses colors very well to convey moods. One of my favorite panels is Kup turning his head slightly and the panel being washed over in red, showing his anger. Little visual cues like that aren't as common as they used to be in comics and I enjoy seeing them now and again.
Spotlight Kup is a fantastic piece of work. Very well written, a brilliant cross over into the horror genre for Transformers and a sad tale all at the same time. Highly recommended!