IDW Publishing: "Regeneration One" Issue 83 Comic Book Review
Title: "Loose Ends" Part Three
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 Mojave Desert, the human/cybernetic hybrid known as Circuit Smasher hovers above Autobot Wreckers Rack 'N' Ruin and Topspin. Circuit Smasher is angry and blames everything that has happened on Earth on the Autobots having abandoned their planet. After a moment, Topspin realizes who Circuit Smasher is: Spike Witwicky! Former Headmaster to Fortress Maximus! The other Wreckers show up, but Topspin tells them to stand down as he continues to try to talk sense into Spike. Before things escalate, Gordon Kent, one of the survivors with Spike tells him to accept their help. Like it or not, the humans need the Autobots!
Cybertron: Nova Point
Optimus Prime continues his teachings with Hot Rod. Optimus explains that all decisions have consequences, and strength is learning to live with those consequences. He admits to Hot Rod that he doubts himself often, but forges on regardless. Suddenly, Ultra Magnus says he's coming up to see the two and Optimus knows that his holding on to the current peace has now caused its own set of consequences!
The humans lead the Autobots to their secret base. Along the way, Springer tries to contact Kup but receives no reply. Spike tells him Kup is most likely dead. He explains that Megatron's "Zombies" feel no pain and take no prisoners in battle. Spike explains as they walk that twenty years ago, someone got to the Autobot ship The Ark before he could protect it. They woke up Megatron, and the Decepticon leader was more ruthless than ever before. By manipulating the nuclear launches humans attempted to use on him, mankind decimated its own cities. Megatron then unleashed the "Ex-Bots", the zombified Decepticons who had been stored in The Ark since their deactivation at the hands of Starscream during the Underbase Saga. Spike and Fortress Maximus tried to resist, but in the end, Megatron still won.
Leadfoot is confused however. Megatron never had the know how to pull off everything described. Soon, the Autobots and the humans arrive at Argus Base where Spike explains an "elite military unit" once resided. Now long gone, they have taken their place instead. Soon, the genius behind the technology in the base is revealed: G.B. Blackrock! His first question to the Autobots is simply: Where is Optimus Prime?!
On Cybertorn, the Autobots examine a signal from Springer asking for help. Further analysis then picks up Megatron's signal challenging Prime to come to Earth and resolve their business once and for all! Optimus orders the Autobots to prepare a ship and head to Earth.
On Earth, the Autobots have moved elsewhere and meet with G.B. Blackrock and Spike as holographic projections. G.B. explains that The Ark is Megatron's ultimate weapon. It contains weaponry and technology that has prevented the humans from winning. The Ark is now their prime target. The Wreckers have schematics of the ship, which can help, but Megatron's Ex-Bots are resistant even to Circuit Smasher's considerable power. When Springer asks how Spike became Circuit Smasher, G.B. explains that when Fortress Maximus died, Spike was "dead" in a mental sense, but he was able to bring him back using technology he had developed previously in conjunction with the Nebulan and Cybertronian tech already built into Spike. The result was Circuit Smasher!
Suddenly, a message is transmitted from Megatron that shows Kup captured and infected with the Scraplet virus! Megatron dares the others to try to rescue him, but this gives Springer an idea. While Megatron is in Washington expecting someone to take him on, he believes now is the time to go after The Ark!
Cybertron: Scramble City Complex
The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus are boarding a ship with some of their more experienced warriors to clean up the mess on Earth. Hot Rod wants to go, but Optimus tells him to stay. His destiny lies elsewhere. After the ship leaves, the Decepticon Dirtbag reports to Soundwave telling him the key Autobots are gone, leaving only inexperienced warriors behind. Soundwave then contacts Bludgeon, who is busy razing the world of Torkulon. The Decepticon warrior sees opportunity, just as he finds what he's been looking for: the disassembled body of Thunderwing!
If you read my comic book reviews regularly, you'll notice the synopsis above is long. It's not because I'm trying to be verbose. Heck, I've stripped some details out just to keep some air of mystery about the issue so you guys will go buy it. What this speaks to however is the amazing ability of Simon Furman to pack so much into one issue, and yet still have it flow naturally and not feel forced. Each story point blends into the next perfectly, even as we go from Earth to Cybertron and back. The stakes in this issue are higher than we thought. By bringing in The Ark as a MacGuffin and a sort of "Big Bad" resource, we now also see that Megatron has not only won the war, but how. I do appreciate the mystery that surrounds his victory however. Leadfoot's points are true: just how did Megatron pull this off on his own? Or did he? My personal pet theory is that his mind is somehow fused with Ratchet's and there may even be a betrayal involved that ultimately led to his victory. It's also clear a screw has come loose somewhere within Megatron. He was always ruthless, but he's downright unhinged now and I am fascinated to see just what led to this state of mind.
This issue is choc full of references to previous Transformers comics and animation. You don't need to "get" all the references to fully understand the story or appreciate it, but knowing them really helps you enjoy the story at a deeper level. Here's a list of the ones I plucked out (from beginning to end of the issue):
- Circuit Smasher is based heavily on the "Circuit Breaker" character introduced in the G1 comic book. This was the "ex employee" referenced by G.B. Indeed, Circuit Breaker appears alongside Fortress Maximus in the flashback scene. However, Marvel still owns the character, so references to her are deliberately opaque.
- Fortress Maximus (only seen in a flashback panel) is a Transformer who once led a group of Autobots off Cybertron to the world of Nebulos. There, the Autobots and Decepticons started their war again, this time many of them binary bonding with the Nebulan natives to become "Headmasters" and "Targetmasters". When Fortress Maximus' original partner, Galen died on Earth, Spike took over as the "Headmaster" of Fortress Maximus.
- Optimus Prime's "feeling" that Hot Rod is destined for greatness is a not-so-opaque reference to Hot Rod becoming "Rodimus Prime" in various continuities. In this continuity, the Transformers "God" Primus greatly resembles Hot Rod (or is it the other way around?). Coincidence? I think not!
- The Autobot ship known as "The Ark" was last seen crashed into a snowy area of Canada. There, Fortress Maximus fought and defeated Galvatron at the crash site.
- The "Underbase" refers to a power source that once fell into the hands of Starscream and he caused all sorts of havoc, including deactivating several Autobots and Decepticons who would later wind up in storage inside The Ark.
- Argus Base is said to be a former base of an "Elite, Ultra-Secret Combat Unit" that once tangled with the Transformers. Most likely this refers to G.I. Joe, who crossed paths with the Transformers during the 80's in the Marvel Comic books. Indeed, one of the vehicles seen in the base resembles a G.I. Joe Snow Cat.
- Inside Argus Base are two red and blue robotic suits. These are based on a similar suit used in the Marvel G1 story "Robot Buster!" (originally published in the UK).
- G.B. Blackrock was a millionaire introduced in the original G1 comic book as the "Tony Stark" (aka Iron Man) of the Transformers universe. It's no surprise his genius is behind the technology used by the humans.
- The "Scraplet virus" used by Megatron calls back to a two part story in the original G1 comic book where "Scraplets" were shown as tiny Transformers who ate away at Transformers until there was nothing left. Their portrayal here is a bit different than what was seen before. This looks more like a growth of some sort (sort of like mold) but in G1 they were small robots.
- The "Scramble City Complex" on Cybertron is named after a mini-series from Japan that focused on the combiners such as Superion and Bruticus.
- The world of "Torkulon" was originally introduced in the G1 cartoon series episode "Webworld" where it was shown as a planet of psychiatrists running an asylum.
- The big ship seen pummeling Torkulon is the "Warworld", a giant ship created by Bludgeon in the Marvel comic book series.
- The Transformer in pieces at the end is Thunderwing, a Decepticon who once gained the power of the Matrix and corrupted it before Unicron destroyed him.
The story of Fortress Maximus and Spike grips me quite a bit. I've said before that Fortress Maximus is one of my favorite characters from Generation One, so to see he met such an end is really sad for me and it drove home the tragedy of the story (compounding the horror of an all out nuclear assault on the planet). Given what he's been through, I'm kind of amazed Spike didn't wind up destroying Rack 'N' Ruin and Topspin on the spot. Seeing his world destroyed for twenty years because Optimus Prime and the Autobots decided to take a vacation has definitely scarred him deeply and Simon Furman's "commentary" has indicated that the repurcussions of Spike's mental scarring will not be pretty!
The artwork in this issue really reminded me of how much I love Wildman's pencils coupled with Baserville's bold and confident inks. Together, the two manage to portray Transformers in a very different fashion than any other artist. The Transformers look like organic beings in suits of armor. This is not a criticism. In fact, it's one of my favorite things about this style. This gives the Transformers a wide range of expressions with tons of detailing ranging from damage marks and scrapes to reflections off their armor. The coloring is awesome too. Bove manages to make the title bright and vibrant and thanks to some of the less than conventional colors of G1 characters, the color palette winds up being brighter and quite different than what most people saw in the recent live action Transformers movies. I admit this style of art isn't for everyone. For those who want more anime inspired art or something that looks more like the "Transformers Prime" cartoon will have to look to the other IDW titles.
This issue really drives home the horror that has occurred on Earth and manages to evoke a nightmare vision of what would happen if Optimus Prime just sort of "gave up" instead of continuing to fight. Sure he's back in the fight as of next issue, but is it too little, too late? This story is moving fast now and we're only three issues in! I'm excited (but kind of scared) to see what comes next!