IDW Publishing "Spotlight Megatron" Comic Book Review
Title: "Spotlight: Megatron"
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: February 6, 2013
Story & Art by: Nick Roche
Colors by: Len O'Grady
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Edits by: John Barber
Editorial Assistant: Thomas Boeing
On a distant asteroid, Megatron has been reborn. His new body, complete with an updated version of his Fusion Cannon and a built in Space Bridge is complete! As Soundwave escorts him to see the other Decepticons, he strides in to be shocked at the condition of his warriors. Many have missing armor pieces and Needlenose is missing both his hands! Megatron is disgusted at this state of affairs, and when Shockwave asks to check his newly installed internal Space Bridge, he tells Shockwave it should be fine and not to worry (while questioning Shockwave's motives).
Soundwave escorts Megatron further to his private chambers. He tells Soundwave that his escort will no longer be necessary. Inside, Starscream is chained up, damaged and looking defeated.
Megatron attempts to goad Starscream into talking about his failed reign as Decepticon leader, how in three years the Decepticon army fell apart while Megatron was gone. His initial attempts get nothing out of Starscream, who merely sulks after asking Megatron to destroy him on spot. However, Megatron pushes forward, "summarizing" what has happened during the Reign of Starscream, summing it all up as a failure. Starscream finally loses his temper and blasts Megatron into a wall!
Thinking he may have damaged Megatron, Starscream runs, transforming into vehicle mode and crashing into space! Megatron pursues him in his new "Stealth Bomber" mode. As the two fight and chase through the asteroid field, Megatron contemplates how he has been wanting to trash Starscream since his reactivation. However, it is a two sided struggle. Starscream is suffering from guilt, and this battle is his penance! Finally, the two stop as Megatron forces Starscream to crash into an asteroid. He tells Starscream to use his self hatred to fuel him going forward. He also reminds Starscream that he only kept him around in the past because he reminded Megatron to watch his back, but now he is more important as a critical resource in desperate times!
As Starscream lays defeated, the other Decepticons have gathered and watched the tail end of the battle. Megatron makes a huge speech, getting his troops to rally (at least spiritually) and soon his plans will be set in motion, bringing the Decepticons back to their former glory!
While this issue was referred to as "Spotlight: Megatron", in many respects it is actually more of a "Spotlight: Megatron/Starscream" story. The subject of Megatron and Starscream has fascinated fans for years. I remember reading fan fiction back in the day (before even the age of "Beast Wars") that speculated on just why Megatron kept Starscream around when he kept trying to take over leadership. Many theories were bandied about, including the possibility that Megatron kept Starscream around to keep him on his toes.
That particular theory, and shades of others (including Starscream being a good warrior) are featured in this issue. I enjoyed the way the issue gives us Megatron's internal dialogue so we could understand why he does what he does. Much of it solidifies what fans have speculated on for years. Does Megatron count on Starscream to help keep him in check? Yes! Does Megatron trust anyone around him? Not really, even the ever present Soundwave who most fans associate with being Megatron's most loyal soldier. I also really enjoyed Megatron's speech at the end. It is the kind of speech you'd expect him to be able to make. Part of his reign is politics and charisma, and he uses those tools effectively.
Fan favorite artist and writer Nick Roche takes on the reigns of writing and performing art duties on this issue, and that's a huge order for any creative force to take on. He does very well on both counts. The story flows very well and he manages to convey the horror of what has happened to the Decepticons in the beginning and the issue takes us through a good emotional arc, starting at a low point and slowly building up to something near elation by the last panel. It's not an easy thing to do, but by starting the issue with Megatron putting together what has happened bit by bit and then unleashing his fury over the course of several pages, we get taken through this arc in what feels like a natural progression.
It's also interesting to read this issue when you think about Starscream as he is "now" in "Robots in Disguise". Once Megatron was (seemingly) out of the way, Starscream takes what appears to be a confident and more political path. He knows he can't conquer as a military leader, she he chooses the path of politics and manipulation. I think that ties neatly into this issue as here he truly learned he will never be Megatron, but I can imagine the conflict in this issue began the process of Starscream determining just what he could be. In a way, this issue marks a significant change in the codependent relationship between Megatron and Starscream.
Art-wise, Roche tends to have two styles: an extremely exaggerated style (which was most recently used in the "More than Meets the Eye" title) and his more "mechanical" style which lends itself to fealty towards mechanical and toy-based designs with expressive faces and body language. Here he is using the latter, which is the style I prefer. Roche does a brilliant job of illustrating a "made up" design (Megatron's) and a "toy design" (Starscream's). I found the use of Starscream's "Masterpiece" design an interesting choice as the forms of the various characters in the IDW Universe fluctuate. The "Masterpiece" design was used before for the Seekers around the time frame this story takes place, so the choice works well. Another art challenge in this issue was keeping up with damage on the Transformers. It's relatively easy to draw straight lines, unblemished panels etc., but drawing away armor that's torn away and revealing machinery underneath is an extra challenge and one that Roche's art skills are more than able to accomplish!
This is one of the few "Spotlight" issues where you really don't need to know anything else about the IDW Universe to enjoy. There's enough exposition so you can understand what led up to these events, but it's ultimately about the codependent relationship between the two characters and how even though the specific dynamics are changed, they still serve as integral parts of each other's roles in the Decepticon army. A nicely done issue that any Transformers fan can enjoy!