IDW Publishing "Transformers Nefarious #1" Comic Book Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Published: March 17, 2010
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Carlos Magno
Colors by: Kris Carter
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Associate Editor: Denton J. Tipon
Edits by: Andy Schmidt
High above Earth, the Decepticon known as Soundwave looks down, absoring all the various radio waves and transmissions that come his way. He feels that nothing happens on Earth without his notice. At the moment he is observing a N.E.S.T. team chasing down Alice, the Pretender Transformer that had confronted Sam months before. Alice has stolen a van and crashes her way through the streets of Seattle until the Autobots catch up to her. Soundwave considers helping her, but he always considered Alice a mistake, believing that by taking on the disguise of a human she would inherit their "madness", which her rampage seems to prove. Before he can contemplate this further, Sideswipe uses his blade to destroy Alice before she can wreak any more havoc.
Despite this victory, Soundwave is not discouraged. He knows that Theodore Galloway, a government agent has a huge grudge against N.E.S.T. and William Lennox, so he trusts that Galloway's efforts to destroy N.E.S.T. will dissolve the human/Autobot alliance eventually. As he continues to monitor the airwaves, he suddenly encounters a news report showing Ravage destroying military helicopters! Shocked that his warrior has somehow come back to life without his knowing, Soundwave realizes he now needs to get personally involved. He heads down to Earth stunned at this new development.
Back on Earth, a remote site allows in a giant truck, and when it unloads its cargo, it reveals itself to be a yellow bulldozer armed with powerful weaponry! This doesn't go unnoticed as Optimus Prime and Lennox talk about N.E.S.T.'s dwindling funding back at base. Five Spark signals are traced going to the site where the bulldozer is, and a team led by Bumblebee is sent in to investigate.
Breakaway is overhead, but Bumblebee tells him to just observe. The Autobot watches as humans in green suits with alien looking equipment seem to be putting some sort of cage together. Breakaway isn't the only observer. Buzzsaw is nearby as well, observing for his master, Soundwave! Soundwave decides to dispatch more warriors to destroy the humans, leaving only one alive to interrogate! He sends Beastbox, Rumble, Ratbat and Buzzsaw, all given the forms of ferocious animals. The Decepticons make a lot of noise as they attack, but the humans actually manage to use their technology to gain the upper hand, confounding Soundwave. He decides to get directly involved in but encounters Breakaway in the air. The two fight and ultimately Breakaway is destroyed. The other Autobots engage the Decepticon, but the humans and Soundwave eventually decide to retreat, leaving Bumblebee confused as to what just happened.
Elsewhere, a secret meeting is taking place. No one is actually in the room, but rather everyone meets via virtual avatars. The most prominant is an old man hooked up to a ton of equipment on a wheelchair. He believes the humans are on the cusp of recreating an amazing power: The Allspark itself!
I must confess that "Revenge of the Fallen" was a very mixed experience for me. While I loved a lot of the visual effects and some of the character moments in the film, for the most part the movie was an exercise in frustration for a long time Transformers fan. The movie didn't take itself seriously when it needed to and didn't lighten up when it needed to (in sharp contrast with the first film, which achieved these criteria more often than not). However, in the hands of long time Transformers scribe Simon Furman, I tried hard to trust that the story would be compelling while also fun, and he has definitely not disappointed!
What I liked most about this story is its ability to straddle "real life" story points you would expect from a non-animated incarnation of Transformers while also mixing in the fantastic elements that the concept of sentient robots that transform demands. On the real life side, we have a grudge against NEST by Galloway. In a perfect world, N.E.S.T. and Lennox should be heroes of the highest order, having saved Earth itself from destruction. Instead, the Autobot/human team is being treated like they are not needed or appreciated. All too often in life, heroes or those who make a difference can be maligned and that is what we see here.
In terms of personalities, I enjoy the diversity in how Transformers are represented here. If indeed Transformers are sentient beings intended in some ways to mirror humans in the narrative, it makes sense that they all don't necesarily agree with each other, even if they're on the same side. Sideswipe's conversation with Ratchet over the worth of humans strikes that chord the most in me, as does Soundwave's internal monologue waxing over his own superiority to all those below him. Not only are these interesting personalities that enhance the drama of the story but they are also true to the personalities of the characters. Sideswipe has been a warrior since G1 and while it was often Sunstreaker who was said to be more "ruthless", Sideswipe was no slouch and his killer attitude is reflected here. Soundwave has often been portrayed as loyal to Megatron (sometimes to a fault) but here we see more of his power hungry side taking the form of feeling superior since he has so much information and intelligence gathered from around Earth. The fact that this belief is undermined by the end of the issue is very compelling. In the live action Universe, Transformers are powerful, but not quite as omni-powerful as past animated fiction has portrayed them. Seeing Transformers brought near defeat by human forces and a Transformer as powerful as Soundwave actually confused remind us of this, and I think fallible characters are far more interesting to read about than those who are all powerful and perfect.
To be honest, at first I felt like we were seeing a bit of a rerun of the "Z" organization from IDW Publishing's G1 based series with humans using Cybertronian technology. However, unlike the Machination which is pretty much evil, this "Initiative" seems more like an organization that believes they're doing the right thing to protect Earth. While it seems like they could have easily taken down the Autobots for their own gain, they left them and made a strategic retreat. I believe they are perfectly capable of turning on Autobots and Decepticons alike, but the fact they showed any restraint at all was an interesting touch.
I'm telling you right now, I so want a poster of Soundwave "launching" his warriors into battle. Seeing the movie versions of Ratbat, Beastbox, Buzzsaw and Rumble was ultra cool. I was a bit surprised that Buzzsaw is portrayed in Laserbeak's colors, but that's very minor in the face of Rumble being a rhino based robot! I dig the idea of making Soundwave's minions all based on animals. In this universe at least, Frenzy was more of Barricade's "buddy" so I dig that Rumble just wasn't a different colored Frenzy. The name Rumble suits a rhinocerous perfectly and I think I smiled ear to ear when I saw that panel. I enjoyed seeing these designs as they were mostly based on their G1 counterparts, but not so ultra stylized that they looked too different. Contrast that with Ravage who wound up with one eye and a ton of spikes in "Revenge of the Fallen".
Carlos Magno does a bang up job with his artwork. It was nice to see well drawn humans, vehicles and Transformers all in the same book (not something you always get). I'm particularly impressed with his grasp of when to use a lot of detail and when to hold back and let things look clean. When he draws humans, they are (for the most part) very clean without lots of lines used for unnecessary detail. In contrast, his robots are generally very intricate. Check out the panel where Soundwave's hand is in the foreground or when Ratchet is working on Alice's fallen body. In each of those panels you see some amazing detail on the robots themselves, especially in the gaps between their armor or in between joints.
Color-wise, I enjoyed the lighter palette used in this issue than most movie universe comics have had. Sadly, with its concentration of black, silver and gold colors, many of the movie characters look quite plain as they flash by the screen. Here we get quite a variety, especially with Bumblebee's team and Soundwave's forces. Each had a diverse color set that stood out well in contrast to the junk or military uniforms around them. Excellent work on the colors.
"Nefarious" #1 is an intriguing first issue that not only sets up mysteries, but also provides some cool Transformers action in the process. It's fascinating to see humans getting the upper hand in this universe since results have been mixed on that count in the first two Transformers films. Combined with strong artwork, this issue is highly recommended!