IDW Publishing: "Regeneration One" Issue 88 Comic Book Review
Title: "Natural Selection" Part Three
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: February 13, 2013
Writer: Simon Furman
Penciler: Andrew Wildman
Inker: Stephen Baskerville
Colorist: John-Paul Bove
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Editor: John Barber
Editor in Chief: Chris Ryall
Scorponok has arrived on Cybertron, and with his arrival comes chaos! As his former-Headmaster Autobot warriors use the "Gene Key" on unsuspecting Autobots, he goes to recruit the remnants of the Decepticon forces on Cybertron. When Misfire protests, Scorponok destroys his former follower causing the other Decepticons to quickly fall in line. However, unbeknownst to him, Spinister has activated a device to let Soundwave know what is going on!
As for Soundwave, he is currently on Bludgeon's "Warworld" where the Decepticon Pretender shows off his work. He explains that he has been gathering technology from different worlds, culling it together to create the perfect warrior body - a drone of sorts, but it is missing the "spark" of life. However, with the remains of Thunderwing (containing Matrix energy) and something in the Pyrcu-Pi, Bludgeon believes he has found the key to victory at last!
On Cybertron, the Autobots who have been changed by the Gene Key are running amok! Destroying statues, randomly attacking each other - the peace Cybertron has enjoyed for twenty years is disintegrating. In the midst of the chaos is Grimlock, who is looking for the Dinobots. Skyhammer attacks him but keeps on going and soon Overdrive arrives, wondering what is going on - he has not yet been affected! Grimlock is only concerned with finding the Dinobots, and before he can do anything, Brainstorm arrives and uses the key on Overdrive, sending him into a destructive rage. Brainstorm then tells Grimlock that he is being summoned by Scorponok.
In the Senate Forum chamber, there Crosshairs, Grapple, Blurr and Hosehead have gathered - all unaffected by the Gene Key thus far. They use a secret door to the lower levels. They wonder who's left, including where their stand-in leader Hot Rod is.
Deep underground, Hot Rod is being pursued by the "Demons" from Cybertron's ancient age. The creatures first though Hot Rod was their creator, but soon realized their mistake and attacked! The chase is fierce, with Hot Rod already damaged, but he manages to get away briefly enough to find a hidden room where he is greeted by an ancient looking Sword and a Golden Disc!
At the Iacon Civil Defense Hub, Scorponok is waiting with Hardhead and Highbrow. He has the Powermaster Decepticons bring in Punch, who has proven immune to the Gene Key. Hardhead hands Grimlock his blaster and he is told to execute Punch to prove that he is truly committed to Scorponok's cause. Grimlock refuses and instead tries to blast Scorponok! The Decepticon is protected by a force field, and quickly takes down Grimlock using a crystal that controls Grimlock's body!
Scorponok quickly gets in touch with Perceptor, who is supervising the construction of a gigantic Gene Key in the Sonic Canyons. His plan is to cause what he calls the "Grand Epiphany", causing everyone on Cybertron to become violent like the others unless they have the "proper genetic lockdown protocols"!
Elsewhere, Galvatron has been hard at work uncovering the mysteries of The Ark and how Megatron succeeded in controlling it and executing his horrific plans. Using Shockwave's higher functioning systems tapped into The Ark, Megatron has had the ship working on regenerating itself. After managing to access The Ark's systems, Galvatron learns The Ark will be ready for flight in six solar cycles. Happily he tells Starscream that soon they will be going home!
One of the hallmarks of a successful issue of any comic (or any book, story etc.) is its ability to take you through a range of emotions across the tale. Excitement, sadness, anger, dread, humor and even touches of nostalgia all converge in one issue, which is a different experience than most of the issues so far in "Regeneration One", which have largely been a dark, foreboding affair. It's a bit of a roller coaster, starting off with a bit of humor as we see the Decepticons thoroughly unimpressed with Scorponok's grandstanding, but following him more out of boredom than any sense of actual loyalty. Toss in some foreboding thanks to Soundwave and Bludgeon's plans to use the Matrix energy and an army of drones, then sadness at watching Autobots tear their own world apart but then heroism on Grimlock's part in the face of overwhelming physical and emotional odds. This is definitely a very "complete" story all in one isssue.
I mentioned nostalgia - just where does that come in? It's pretty much all over the place. Part of it involves bringing in characters who either have not appeared in the comic before or those who have never played a significant role. Such characters include Skyhammer and Overdrive, who have never been "feature" characters, but it was cool to see them appear briefly. It was also interesting to see Skyhammer using his "vehicle outer shell" instead of the inner robot. For Overdrive, I smiled at the use of his "flying car wings", a feature of the actual toy itself. Another bit of nostalgia? The Golden Disc and Sword artifacts found by Hot Rod! The Sword is a reference (or perhaps "the" sword?) used by Primus to battle Unicron eons ago, and the Disc? Well that's a fun nod to "Beast Wars", where the Golden Disc playd a crucial role in the conflict between the Maximals and Predacons in the future. Every one of these elements be it a cameo or an important story point really made me smile.
Hot Rod's story is an interesting one, and it's finally leading somewhere. I think most fans already have a good sense of just where it's going, with him being erm..."Primed" for leadership, but his path there has been an interesting one. Hot Rod is hardly defenseless, yet when he is up against the "Demons" he refuses to destroy them. We see him kicking them around, blowing smoke but he never outright tries to blast them, which is interesting and I wonder if this is due to him realizing he is invading their space and trying to be the "better robot". In a way, it feels a lot like a test of leadership. Having the "Demons" recognize his deep connection to Primus is interesting, and even more interesting to me is that Hot Rod actually kind of knows why the "Demons" are angry. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this story goes!
Grimlock's tale is a sad one. The Dinobot leader is quickly feeling more and more like a character who's simply beaten down. The Dinobots reject him, but that still doesn't stop that vein of loyalty in him for them. It's a trait to be admired, but it's gotten him in deep trouble. Seeing how he deals with Scorponok towards the end of the issue reminds us of the Grimlock we know and love, but I figured his new body would come with a price deeper than making a devil's bargain. This particular thread reminded me a lot of a similar story in "Beast Wars" where that series' Megatron controlled the warrior Rampage by keeping a piece of his Spark and torturing him with it if he got out of line! I wonder if this will play out in a similar manner.
The scene with Punch is an interesting one. It shows that not everyone is succeptible to the "Gene Key". It's also interesting that Scorponok mentions there's a way to protect against it with the proper "lockdown protocols". It seems those who are more balanced (such as Punch, who walks a mental tight rope due to his Autobot and Decepticon identities) are fine. Others such as Grimlock himself who have embraced their violent and non-violent natures such as Grimlock are probably equally "safe". Part of me wonders if "saving" those affected by the key has to do less with a "reverse switch" than perhaps those Transformers balancing their non-violent and violent sides. I'm also very curious to see what will happen as Bludgeon and Galvatron's agendas collide with a planet of crazed Transformers under Scorponok's rule. Let's also remember Ultra Magnus and his crew who are on the way back home. Much like the IDW Universe right now, the war has changed from a simple "Autobots versus Decepticon" struggle. Indeed, what has happened instead is more of a free for all and it should make for some spectacular action down the line.
I found the art in this issue particularly strong. Wildman definitely went a lot tighter on proportions and I'm sure he had to dig out a ton of reference material for all the relatively obscure characters who appeared including Gunrunner, Skyhammer and (I believe) Rapido. With Baskerville's bold inking and Bove's brilliant coloring at times I felt like I was looking at frames from a stylized animated movie. It looks really great and it was great to see characters like Grimlock, Hot Rod and the "Demons" drawn in his very distinct style. Visually I love all the background buildings on Cybertron and the wear and tear in the underground tunnels.
This is one of the best issues yet. It covers a lot of ground across many settings and it really does push the point that the first arc with Earth was just the beginning of this odyssey. I can't wait to see what happens next!