IDW Publishing: "Regeneration One" Issue 82 Comic Book Review
Title: "Loose Ends" Part Two
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Simon Furman
Penciler: Andrew Wildman
Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Editor: John Barber
Editor in Chief: Chris Ryall
In the land once known as California, Earth has looks like nothing but a burnt out wasteland. Shambling across this destroyed landscape are Decepticons who have all been partially lobotimized by their very own leader: Megatron! Wanting to keep them under control, Megatron has turned most of his warriors into zombie like creatures, all but Starscream whom he has allowed to remain partially aware so he can witness everything but do nothing about it! Mounted on the front of his sled vehicle is the head of Ratchet, the former Autobot medic, now eternally aware of the fate of this world, but unable to do anything to stop it!
The Decepticons find the crashed escape pods from the Wreckers ship, but the Autobots themselves are long gone. Miles away, Roadbuster and Springer take in the magnitude of what has happened to Earth before rejoining Kup and the others. Not everyone is in great shape. Topspin has one arm down, Broadside can barely think and everyone looks banged up. Kup is upset about the condition of Earth, feeling partly responsible since the Autobots abaondoned Earth decades ago. Springer thinks they should try to fix whatever can be fixed. Before further discussion can happen, Whirl shows up with a recon report. He tells the Autobots about the lobotimized Decepticons heading their way and the Autobots decide they need to get to a satellite dish, send a message to Cybertron and try to stay alive long enough to change things on Earth!
Light years away, a shuttle comes out of warp and enters Nebulan space. Onboard is Grimlock, who has come to Nebulos in hopes of finding a cure for the Nucleon "sickness" that has stricken his fellow Dinobots. He watches a video from Nebulos about a process to reintegrate the original heads of Transformers such as Highbrow and Brainstorm onto Transformers bodies (since their original bodies, and their Headmaster partners were destroyed in the Unicron Wars). However, the process initially failed. Later, technology was found in Lord Zarak's old base but it is unknown how the second round of testing went. Grimlock decides to land and find out!
On Cybertron, Trailbreaker delivers an unpleasant report to Ultra Magnus. Footage shows Kup taking the shuttle. Magnus is furious at the position he's been put in, trying to maintain the peace while being pushed into action that could disrupt that peace!
On Earth and Nebulos, Kup and Grimlock each fight desperate battles. On Earth, Kup tries to distract the Decepticons so the Wreckers can send the signal to Cybertron. On Nebulos, Grimlock is attacked by Nebulans in aircraft. Eventually, both Autobots go down in battle. When Kup is brought to Megatron, the Decepticon explains he wants the Wreckers to send the signal to get the attention of Optimus Prime!
Elsewhere on Earth, Rack n' Ruin and Topspin come across a group of humans who flee from them. When Rack n' Ruin tries to communicate with them, a figure zaps the ground in front of him to stop him. Above him flies a cybernetically enhanced human calling himself Circuit Smasher!
Wow. I must confess this issue of "Regeneration One" left me stunned and feeling very uneasy. I had to read it over a couple of times to settle down a bit emotionally before absorbing the story and dialogue more. A lot happens in this issue, and despite the tragedy of the Last Autobot's loss, it feels like his demise was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of tragedy in this book. After two readings, I found myself angry at the Optimus Prime of this universe. I know, I know, this is a lot of emotion to invest into a comic book right? But when we read these fantasy tales, emotional involvement is (to me) part of the enjoyment. The fact is, this devastated Earth is the same Earth that Buster Witwicky first helped save Bumblebee. It's the same silly Earth where the Car Wash of Doom almost killed Buster and it's the same Earth where we last saw Fortress Maximus beating the tar out of Galvatron. To see that Earth, with so many memories from the Marvel Generation One series laid waste like this is tragic and uncomfortable to say the least.
I can't help but agree with Kup in this issue (and I'm sure that's the point). Whereas last issue I thought maybe he was off his rocker, here it's clear that had the Autobots intervened en masse with Optimus in the lead, maybe Megatron could have been stopped or at the very least held at bay from causing this widespread destruction. Instead, he's tutoring Hot Rod millions of miles away while a generation of humans is born into a devastated world. Knowing Furman's storytelling, there's a lot more going on here than is being let on, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating to see California nothing but a barren wasteland out of a "Mad Max" movie. The fact that Furman can draw this emotion out of me is very good and smart. He's devastated the world that we held dear and that's a bold move.
The other shocker that made me feel something unexpected was Megatron's treatment of his very own warriors. The comic book Megatron never pretended to be a freedom fighter that so much of current "Transformers" fiction makes him out to be. He was a conqueror, simple as that. We've seen examples of Megatron losing his temper and mind many times in the past Generation One title, but he never went as extreme as basically torturing his own warriors en masse so they would serve him. Usually he would use one Decepticon as an "example" to extract obedience from the others (Brawl comes to mind. He once literally crushed the Decepticon's head to make a point) but to rip out bits of their brain so there would be no dissention or failure to obey? That's just super harsh and I found myself thinking that the Decepticons on Cybertron right now are the lucky ones.
Megatron's behavior here is completely insane, and it would seem exposure to Nucleon and twenty years plus of "boredom" have really sent the old guy over the edge. It's quite possible he has a plan beyond "Get Optimus Prime's attention" and it will unfold later, but by all appearances, the Megatron we saw beginning to go made at the end of the Marvel Comics run continued his downward slide in the following years. One odd point: if Megatron knew where this dish was - why didn't he just send some images to Optimus Prime himself and send the Autobots coming in full force? I wonder if part of it may be because he doesn't know Cybertron's current location? And how come he didn't attempt to build a Space Bridge or a Warp Gate? He had the Ark and all its technology for parts and the resources of a conquered Earth to do it with (and had done stuff like that before). There's some interesting questions here and at the moment they look like plot holes, but I get a feeling we'll learn why later.
It's also very sad to see Ratchet's fate. What's interesting is that I suspect keeping Ratchet in the sled isn't just about a gory display of victory, it's also a way of Megatron protecting himself. When last we saw Megatron and Ratchet, they had been fused together at the atomic level in a horrible accident. Even once separated into two bodies, they could still feel what the other felt. If this remains true, then Megatron needs Ratchet immobile and protected for his own sake!
In another part of the galaxy, I enjoyed seeing Grimlock's story begin. I confess to being quite amused at the Headmasters sub-plot. I had completely forgotten that the "original heads" were not the ones used for the Headmaster conversion process, and I'm really curious where this "second life" for some Autobots may go. Before that however, I want to see what comes of the Nebulan sub-plot. There was a creepy, blank expression in the Nebulan showing, looking almost as if he (she?) is being controlled with a blank stare in the place of any emotion. Something big has happened on Nebulos and I wonder if it has anything to do with tryng to "reverse" engineer the Headmaster process.
Finally we have the state of the humans. While it was good to see there are still humans on Earth, we're not given any indication as to how many, are there any cities left etc. The world is a big place, and even Megatron can't be everywhere at once. What of the state of China? Or Russia? Also, the humans seem to have a champion in the form of "Circuit Smasher", an obvious homage to the character of Circuit Breaker, originally introduced in the old Marvel Comics series. Unfortunately, due to legal issues, that character couldn't be used here, but it did create an interesting role to fill. Looking at Circuit Smasher, I can't help but think that what we're looking at is a post-Headmaster Spike. It would make sense since he already had Cybertronian technology integrated into his body. I hope this storyline treats Spike better than the "Chaos" storyline in the IDW Universe did!
The artwork in this issue is simply haunting. We're exposed to one nightmare vision after another. Seeing the California wasteland, the "Zombie" Decepticons and Megatron's "sled" with Ratchet in it really drove the point home that Megatron (by his own admission) was no longer looking for conquest, he simply wanted attention from Optimus. I also appreciate Wildman's attention to detail in this issue. Everyone looks seriously beat up with scrapes, dented armor, missing pieces and so on. That type of detail isn't easy for any artist to draw over and over in an issue but I appreciate the effort here. Using fantastic pencils and topping it with brilliant inks with Baskerville's characteristic strong lines and then Bove's fantastic colors really completes a beautiful picture. While this title is a celebration of the Marvel Generation One days, I appreciate that the colors are modern and don't use some of the tropes of the old Marvel issues which would include coloring all background characters one color in a panel or sometimes miscoloring characters altogether (Soundwave was purple for most of the Marvel run, something most people never understood). Here, even less well known characters such as Hun-Grrr are colored correctly and it's deeply appreciated.
The cover artwork for this issue is fantastic. Cover A boldly shows the old Action Master Grimlock prominently, something we haven't seen in decades. The "retro" cover gives us a look at a much simplified (but missed) Generation One styled Grimlock in dino mode and the Retailer Incentive cover gives us both in a metaphorical "Grimlock vs Grimlock" style using Geoff Senior's signature style. It's an appropriate sequence of covers and they make it hard to pick any one favorite!
"Regeneration One" #82 is a disturbing issue but it also raises the stakes higher than we had previously been led to believe. It definitely shifts the tone from the original Marvel series, which was always slightly hopeful, to a very dark and dangerous place. And how can you not love the return of Grimlock (and Furman's Grimlock!). Highly recommended reading.