IDW Publishing: "Regeneration One" Issue 81 Comic Book Review
Title: "Loose Ends" Part One
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: July 11, 2012
Writer: Simon Furman
Penciler: Andrew Wildman
Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Editor: John Barber
Editor in Chief: Chris Ryall
At the Debris Barracks on Cybertron, Kup is in a simulation room taking on holographic enemies including Galvatron and Bludgeon. When Springer enters, the simulation ends as the Autobot explains that there is a situation in a De-Com Depot in Kalis. The Neo-Decepticons are threatening to detonate warheads causing a danger to everyone! Kup quickly gathers The Wreckers and they head to the facility.
At the Pax Cybertronia Decommissioning Facility Ultra Magnus is there with Autobots holding back crowds of onlookers as he turns down Kup's request to go into the facility. Kup believes Magnus and Optimus Prime have lost their edge against the Decepticons, but Magnus explains that Optimus wants the current peace preserved no matter the cost! One of the crowd watching nearby is Soundwave, who ejects the Insecticons Chop Shop, Venom and Ransack - sending them on a mission inside the base to turn their fellow Decepticons into martyrs!
Inside the facility, the Skyscorcher team of Eagle Eye, Windrazor, Afterburner and Terradive are trying to figure out how to get out of the facility alive. They decide to use one of the warheads to create a localized explosion, allowing them to escape. They tell Magnus they will surrender on their own terms, but before they can execute their plan the Insecticons strike! The Skyscorchers are quickly taken down and the Insecticons begin to work on a warhead using a "bug" to detonate the warhead once they're safely away. However their plan gets interrupted when the Wreckers smash into the facility! The Decepticons are all quickly rounded up and the situation is resolved.
Later at the Hub Capital Nova Point in Iacon, Optimus Prime is talking to Ultra Magnus about the Wreckers and their actions. Magnus believes they can't be allowed to set such an example for the new peacekeeping forces he is training (The "Cybertronian Civil Defense" force). Optimus is just happy everyone got out alive, but as the discussion continues he has a vision of Unicron returning!
Outside, Hot Road and Kup are talking, with Kup being impatient, feeling like Optimus returned to life only to become soft, and that his mentoring of Hot Rod is just a way to lift responsibility off his shoulders to someone else. Hot Rod is shocked by this and doesn't quite know how to respond. We also learn that Grimlock has gone into space to find a cure for the adverse effects of Nucleon. When Ultra Magnus comes back out, Kup has already left.
Later, at the Debris base, Kup gathers The Wreckers and explains he is leaving Cybertron to visit the worlds that the Great War has touched. He doesn't tell the other Wreckers to join him, but they decide to do so on their own.
Much later, after being dropped off in the Solar System by Berko (last seen running the Cosmic Carnival Space-Train) the Autobots launch probes to scan Earth - only to find major cities everywhere long destroyed including Tokyo and Paris. Soon one of their cameras is taken out of their control - by Megatron! What follows is a volley of missiles, destroying the Autobot ship!
I felt an almost otherworldly experience as I read this issue that could only be explained by the fact that mentally, I was re-entering a world that I had let go of over twenty years ago. When the original Generation One title by Marvel was canceled, that, as they say was that. There wouldn't be a full scale revival of "Transformers" for years to come, and the Marvel Comic was that last thread of fiction that bound me to the toy line. Afterwards, characters began to have less meaning and were more just "toys" than memorable warriors like Thunderwing or Blaster. Diving back in to this world, even with the passing of time felt like my sixteen year old self was somehow reaching through time and saying hi again - and it felt right.
With shades of the current "Robots in Disguise" title coming into play, Cybertron is not a happy place. As we saw in the preview issue of "Regeneration One", the Last Autobot has been destroyed and the Neo-Decepticon faction is intent on keeping old conflicts alive. As Optimus Prime tries to foster a new era of peace, Kup and others like him still have the mindset that they are at war and force is the way to deal with things. This is not a new conflict, it was actually played out a few times in previous issues of the Marvel comic book series (including a notable storyline where Kup and Optimus Prime argued over how to deal with Megatron and Ratchet fused together in one body). However, the stakes are higher now than the life of one or two Transformers, the future of an entire civilization will be affected by the decisions made on Cybertron. Kup is every bit as belligerent as I remember him being towards the end of the Marvel Comics run, and it's an interesting use of the character since he was portrayed as almost the exact opposite in the original "Transformers" cartoon series and it's a far cry from his mentor/tough guy role in the IDW continuity. I found it interesting that he, not Springer wound up leading the Wreckers as most of the other members shown (including Topspin and Roadbuster) had been members of the group more consistently in the past. I enjoyed seeing Kup's rampage and I'm really hoping he and the Wreckers are around so stir up things even as Prime seeks peace back on Cybertron.
Speaking of Optimus Prime, it surprises me that he continues to be so passive. I like to think that he knows what's going on with the Neo-Decepticons and that he has things firmly in hand. On the other hand, I'm almost curious if he truly is willing to sacrifice a lot now to preserve an overall peace. The thing is, there's a fine line between making sacrifices for the greater good and having the planet blow up into an all out war again and I'm going to be curious to see how he plays this out, especially with Hot Rod under his mentorship. Truth be told, part of me expects Prime to be dead again by the end of this series with Hot Rod in his place as Rodimus. However, before that happens, I really want to see some aspects explored a bit more if/before he goes. I'm curious - is there an Autobot Matrix anymore? Why is he just sitting there staring at visions? What is he looking for? And on a very, very basic level - can he even transform? Wildman seems to still be mostly using the "Action Master" body for Prime's design (though the colors are more traditional Prime). I hope future issues tell us more, especially about the Unicron vision. Last we saw, Unicron was blown to bits so where is he coming back from if at all? I'm personally good on there being no "alternate universe" Unicrons coming into play.
I enjoyed a lot of the Decepticon initiatives shown here. At present, you have at least three key Decepticon plot lines: Soundwave's "Neo-Decepticons", Bludgeon's plans and Megatron's. This doesn't even count potential small splinter groups. I can't help but think at some point they're all going to wind up crashing (either literally or metaphorically) into each other and I'm really eager to see the results of that. Megatron has clearly been a busy 'bot and I find myself wondering if he's even aware of what's going on elsewhere or is he laser focused on Earth. All these goings on really help set up what could be an epic Transformers tale instead of a self contained series of one off battles. Fingers crossed!
Solidifying its connection to the rest of the Transformers universe (and the original Marvel Comics series in particular) there are several references to other eras of Transformers stories:
- When the holographic Bludgeon attacks Kup, notice his helmet is slightly damaged. This matches his final appearance in the Marvel Comics series.
- Of all the Wreckers, Rack N' Ruin is the only one who is not based on a toy, but he was one of the original Wreckers in the UK Marvel Comic book series.
- The "Pax Cybertronia" from Beast Wars is referenced in this issue.
- The foreshadowing of Thunderwing's Pretender shell uses an outline of his shell that looks very much like the way he was drawn in the old Marvel series.
- "Berko", who provides Kup a ride is the head of The Cosmic Carnival Train, a major story point of issue #44 from the Marvel Comics series.
The artwork in this book was part of the experience of being "taken back" to my youth. For newer fans, this style will seem strange. Not everything is perfectly proportioned, some perspectives and angles are a bit "off" and the Transformers all look sort of like humanoids with armor plating on rather than hulking mechanical constructs. He also makes everything look very fluid. His strengths include making Cybertron look worn down, the characters imperfect with scratches, damage lines and so on. The cumulative effect of his style for me has always been a sense of movement from panel to panel. Wildman's art with Baskerville's inks is a strong combination that sometimes makes me feel more like I'm watching panels of a cartoon storyboard rather than a comic book. Bove does a great job on the coloring, and even better there are no odd color errors and/or choices that sometimes found themselves popping up in the old Marvel title. Even with more obscure characters such as the Skyscorchers, the artwork made each one distinctive from the other.
I'll be the first to admit that the artwork in this issue won't be for everyone. Some people like more hyper stylized Transformers (such as those in "Robots in Disguise") while others may want more traditional, blocky Transformers (which are used to some degree in the current "More than Meets the Eye" series). This is a very specific style and either it will appeal to you or it won't. For me, it's a great trip down memory lane and I look forward to seeing more of it!
While it's only the first regular issue in the series, this already gives you the idea that a lot of story points are being set up here. Along the way however I appreciated the Easter Eggs and homages thrown in (the Pax Cybertronia, the "Thunderwing" outline in Bludgeon's base etc.). While there is a huge nostalgic craw to this title, there's also set up for something epic and I can't wait to see what it is!