IDW Publishing Spotlight #13 Mirage Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: March 5, 2008
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Guido Guidi
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Edits by: Andrew Steven Harris
A series of images flash back and forth in Mirage's mind. In Stasis inside his ship in the Pegasus Star Cluster, he sees images of himself working with Autobots against Decepticons and it bothers him since he is now a Decepticon! Once awakened, Mirage haggles with Megatron over the price of his help in eradicating the last of the Autobots. For his assistance, he asks for a share of Megatron's Energon Minding profits. The Decepticon leader refuses at first, but soon gives in, realizing that it is a small price to pay for eliminating the Autobots forever.
Elsewhere in the Pegasus Cluster, the last Autobots have gathered at a remote location to hide out. Jetfire is near deactivated and only Hound, Ratchet and Optimus Prime remain. The Autobots have run out of Energon, and their efforts to harness an energy called the "Zodiac Energy" have failed so far. Hound explains the energy has cross-dimensional qualities that make it difficult to utilize. The Autobots see Bumblebee at the door and are relieved. When he enters, he explains that the other Autobots are gone, and then he destroys the security system!
"Bumblebee" suddenly reveals himself to be Mirage in disguise and the Decepticons attack. The Autobots fight bravely and begin to win, but when Mirage holds Jetfire hostage, the Autobots surrender in the hopes of saving their comrade. When Mirage contacts Megatron, he orders all the Autobots to be destroyed. Mirage is reluctant at first, but despite Optimus Prime's pleas, he destroys Hound. In a rage, Optimus knocks him into the Zodiac energy tank and he blacks out.
When Mirage awakens, things are as they should be. He awakens with Hound standing over him, and then in a repair bay and is an Autobot again, haunted by the nightmare he has of being a Decepticon.
"Spotlight Mirage" is a head scratcher for me. Part of me genuinely wonders "What the heck is going on here?" and the other part of me is disappointed that a whole comic issue was wasted in the sense that it does not further the larger story begun years ago with "Infiltration" as other Spotlights have. Even those that do not take place on Earth or Cybertron have some direct bearing on the larger story or another Spotlight, but this book seems to have been thrown into the pot to sell an extra comic using the "Spotlight" banner.
Mirage is an interesting character. Since the original G1 cartoon series, there was always a hint that he questioned the Autobot cause, but his original tech specs indicated this was due in part to him being used to a more care free lifestyle hunting "Turbofoxes". Sure this shows a lack of priorities, but nothing has ever indicated Mirage was outright evil. Two scenes are stuck in my brain: his cruel jibe at Hound when he reveals himself and his killing of Hound. Why does Mirage hate Hound so much? Why did he betray the Autobots to begin with? None of this is explained, and frankly wanting a share of "Mining Operations" seems like a really, really weak reason to betray your comrades. Mirage's reasoning and plan is flawed as well. Once he betrays the Autobots, what's to stop Megatron from having Astrotrain, Starscream and company just blast him into little bits right there and then?
What disappoints me most about this issue is that we learn nothing. Can I accept the story of an Autobot betraying his own kind? Sure, but explain to me why he did it. What were the circumstances? If you're going to show animosity between two characters, explain to me why that exists when no previous fiction has ever hinted at it. And just how were so many Autobots slaughtered? I mean, it comes down to Prime, Hound, Ratchet and Jetfire? You're telling me Mirage's "betrayal" was enough to take down the likes of Omega Supreme or the Dynobots? This universe's Optimus Prime must be one horrible leader. If this were the first issue of say, a Mirage mini-series I'd chalk this up to plot points being left dangling for future issues, but since this is "it" for this weird tale, there are way too many questions left hanging in my opinion.
I do give the issue one thumbs up, which is the mention and use of the "Zodiac" energy, a reference to the Zodiac Energy introduced in the Japanese "Micromaster Zone" cartoon. The mention of "cross dimensional" properties makes me wonder if somehow the energy has mentally linked the two Mirages, but if that's the case how did "our" Mirage get involved? Again, too many questions are left without an answer for my taste. Considering the disjointed nature of this issue, I'm going to roll with my pet theory that Mirage in this universe is just bugnuts insane and we're seeing his delusions and nightmares.
As disappointed as I am in the story for this issue, I have to say the artwork is absolutely gorgeous. Guido Guidi has always been one of the strongest Transformers artists out there. He has a strong abiliy to emulate the look of the original animated series, and he brings his skills to bear here in spectacular fashion. Despite the fact that this takes place in a universe decidedly not related to the G1 cartoon, the style he uses makes it look like it is set in some alternate future of the G1 cartoon universe, and I love that. He doesn't just adapt the style in well known figures such as Optimus Prime, but he also takes E.J. Su's redesign of Ratchet and fits into that style. I also love his use of the "Classics" Astrotrain design for that character in this issue.
Guidi's use of detail is really well done. He knows when to keep things simple, such as Optimus Prime's head design, but when you let him get complex, he goes to town. This is best seen in the pages that reveal Mirage in his stasis chamber. It's a tech detail festival in those pages and as a non-artist, I shudder to think how long it must take to draw and ink all those line details!
The colors in this issue are spectacular. They're bright, vibrant and glow. There are many panels where you feel as if you're looking at stills from an animated program rather than a comic book. Coming off the rather muted tones of Spotlight Grimlock this is a refreshing palette to expose one's eyes to. It's not all super brightness of course. When we see "Decepti-Mirage" awaken, the panel is appropriately dark and creepy. When the Autobots are looking at the Zodiac energy, it is bright and mysterious looking. The pencil work is already fantastic in this issue, but the colors just really elevate it to another level.
"Spotlight Mirage" feels like a big waste of potential. There could have been a really interesting story told here, but instead we just see a Mirage that could have come out of the Shattered Universe for all we know acting eeeeevil with no reason at all. Then we see Autobots die and all of a sudden our Mirage is driving somewhere on Earth. It's not even boring, it's just senseless. On the other hand, this is some of my favorite artwork out of IDW's comic books so far, so if you want a bunch of really pretty pictures, this book is for you. Recommended only for the artwork, not the story.