IDW Publishing: "More than Meets the Eye" #5 Comic Book Review
Title: How Ratchet got his hands back
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: May 22, 2012
Written by: James Roberts
Art by: Alex Milne
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor: John Barber
At the Delphi Medical Facility, Fortress Maximus is (literally) tearing into the two Decepticons from the last issue. As he takes them down with his bare hands, Ratchet tries to talk him off the proverbial ledge. Once the Decepticons are destroyed, Fortress Maximus stops, admittedly feeling better.
Suddenly, Pharma aims a blaster at Ambulon! He tells everyone he used to be a Decepticon who defected after being made part of an experimental combining team and he is responsible for what is happening. Ambulon admits he was a Decepticon, but has since switched sides. First Aid doesn't buy it however. He aims his own blaster at Pharma, explaining that Pharma had falsely identified the Decepticons as "Monoformers" and his "injuries" are self inflicted. He also explains that transformation is the key to the disease overtaking the Delphi facility. If one doesn't transform after infection, they don't show any symptoms. Pharma refuses to transform and knows he's busted. He instead chooses to destroy a life support machine and makes his escape as the medics scramble to keep the Autobots on life support alive! In the process Ratchet is forced to transform to give Backstreet a boost. Fortress Maximus chases after Pharma but loses him down a secret hatch that he can't fit into. While Ambulon and First Aid deal with the patients, Ratchet, now infected with the disease taking over chases after Pharma.
Meanwhile, on The Lost Light, life continues. Tailgate has decided to become an Autobot, so Ultra Magnus is going to put him through his paces with a ten thousand page military manual with him. Tailgate is shocked, but decides to undergo the torture to become an Autobot. During the course of the session, he hears about a section "1984" and Magnus explains it refers to "Thought Warfare"!
Elsewhere on the ship, Rung is in session with Red Alert. While Red Alert has made progress over the years, Rung worries that his paranoia is growing again. Red Alert talks about hearing something from the lower levels of the ship. At first, Rung doesn't believe him, but then Red Alert plays him a recording, sped up to make it into speech that says "Me kill..." over and over!
Back on Delphi, Ratchet has caught up to Pharma and discovers a hidden room full of equipment and transformation cogs! Pharma explains that the only way Delphi is still standing with the Decepticon base nearby is a trade off. He has provided the commander of that base with transformation cogs for years to satisfy his need to transform. He's addicted to it and that is what has kept them all alive. The problem is that using the cogs of dead Transformers wasn't enough. Pharma began to "help" his patients die and he doesn't intend to get caught! Pharma explains he then recruited the two Decepticons "Sonic" and "Boom" to use their sound based abilities to create a virus in anyone within earshot of their sonic blast! While they did their work, he sealed himself in the sound proof chamber to keep himself safe.
Ratchet has been slowly falling apart while Pharma explains his plan, and that means he's leaked on the floor. Pharma has been touched and is now infected! When he leaps in surprise, Ratchet uses the opportunity to attack! Pharma blasts him and knocks him down, but he's not out! As Pharma exits the Delphi facility, Ratchet's (malfunctioning) hard light human hologram appears, distracting Pharma long enough for Ratchet to catch up and send him over the edge! Pharma has the antidote for the virus on him, which the hard light hologram manages to catch. At the edge of a cliff, Pharma hangs on tight, but Drift suddenly appears and slices his hands away! Pharma has a choice: transform and let the disease take him (but fly away) or fall. The Autobots do not see which choice he makes.
Later, the surviving Autobots are in a ship heading back to The Lost Light. Ratchet tells First Aid he performed admirably and should be the Chief Medical Officer from now on. In the final panel, we get to see Ratchet is fully repaired - including the hands of Pharma replacing his own!
"How Ratchet got his hands back" is a really fun issue. A lot is revealed and I'm glad that the clues laid out in previous issues made senes, but never gave away the entire mystery. One of the strengths of this issue is playing on Transformers as flawed beings, but those with a rather unique biology. To humans, the idea of a "sound based virus" sounds insane, but from a robotic standpoint it makes sense if that sound can cause a robot's own biology to turn on itself. I also dig the idea of transformation being the key to "activating" the virus. That's both crazy and cruel to a being whose nature is to change shape. The idea of a Transformer "addicted" to transforming is also fascinating and I'm almost sad we never got to see just who this loon is and just how he manages to effectively manage any facility if he's busy transforming every five minutes.
Kudos to making Ratchet the hero of this piece and giving First Aid redemtion. I may be in the minority but I've always love characters in "Transformers" lore who are medics. It's simply not a role we see very often. I think of "Transformers medics" and really only about four come to mind immediately: Ratchet (in various incarnations), First Aid, Fixit (the Micromaster) and Minerva (sorta). In the original Marvel comics, it would have been easy to leave Ratchet back at base just fixing guys all the time, but he wound up being written as one of the most heroic characters among the Autobots in that series, saving the Autobots, facing down Megatron and helping revive the Dinobots. This version of Ratchet seems equally heroic, and I loved his line about having faced down some of the worst Decepticons including Megatron. To him, I'm sure Pharma was a low level enemy compared to them! I also loved the reuse of Ratchet's "driver" hologram whom we haven't seen in quite some time. Ratchet comes off as quite the hero and certainly had echoes of his G1 Marvel comics predecessor.
First Aid's story also made me quite happy. I was sad for the character when we first meet him. Demoted down to a nurse, seemingly sad, I kept thinking First Aid was "better" than this somehow. And the moment Pharma blasts the life support machine, seeing First Aid spring into action was fantastic. He's not bashing any 'cons, he's not shooting at anything, but he thought quick and didn't panic: two hallmarks of a hero. I'm glad he's taking on the "Chief Medical Officer" role, something fans have sort of seen him do before in the post-movie G1 cartoon universe after Ratchet was destroyed in that universe. I'm really looking forward to seeing how he fits into the crew of The Lost Light. I'm also wondering if his transformation cog will be repaired one day, allowing him to become part of a combiner group perhaps?
The other character who makes an impact here is Fortress Maximus. I was saddened by his fate in "Last Stand of the Wreckers", so I was super happy to see him return here. However, this is not the Fortress Maximus we knew in G1. Originally played as a pacificst who was forced into war, this Fortress Maximus has a ton of anger issues to work out and the way he disposed of Sonic and Boom was both comical and scary all at the same time. Being torn to shreds the way he was by Overlord, you figure he must have quite a few psychological scars to deal with. I can't wait to see how he fits in with Rodimus and Magnus in the chain of command given his prior position as the guy in charge of a prison.
The artwork in this issue was fantastic. Whenever a Transformer has to be damaged or in this case, dying of a horrible disease I know it can't be easy for the artist to draw the character consistently degrading. There's also a lot of shifting of locations which are handled very well with the panel placement. At no point do you feel "lost" at all in the facility. I also have to give major kudos for Fortress Maximus' crazy battle scene (or maybe slaughter scene is more accurate). You could feel the character's frustration in every panel being vented. It also shows us that despite his prior defeat by Overlord, this guy is no slouch!
This issue was spectacular on many levels. The pacing was solid, the action both gory and amusing and the dastardly plan was one that is unique to Transformers and not generic in any way. Kudos for an amazing issue!