IDW Publishing: Reign of Starscream Issue #2 Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: June 4, 2008
Written by: Chris Mowry and Chris Ryall
Art by: Alex Milne
Colors by: Josh Perez
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Edits by: Denton J. Tipton
At Hoover Dam, Starscream warns the humans not to fight him, but they attack anyhow. He fights back but he has a bigger goal, extracting Frenzy's remains from the base. He gets inside, squeezing through the hallways and finally finding the Decepticon's body. Two scientists are rolling Frenzy along on a gurney but Starscream convinces them to let him go. Starscream takes the headless body away and he blasts off.
Outside, reinforcements arrive in the form of Sector 7's Agent Salazar. Salazar unveils a new weapon identified as "L.M.-1", a dune buggy that he attempts to transform, but it fails. Starscream takes advantage of this and fires on the Sector 7 team, taking Salazar captive. He is too low on power to keep fighting so retreat is the best option. He questions Salazar, but miscalculates the human's ability to take the upper atmosphere and winds up killing him accidentally as he ascends into space.
As Starscream descends onto Mars, Cosmos is tracking him and reports back to a nearby Autobot team that is preparing to strike!
When Starscream arrives, Thundercracker greets him and takes him to the regeneration chamber. Starscream explains that the Megatron is gone, and despite their relative weakness, the humans are very resilient. He orders Thundercracker to plug in Frenzy and begin transmitting the information from the small Decepticon stolen from Sector 7 to Cybertron. He hopes to recreate the Allspark and return to Cybertron to conquer it once and for all.
Just as Starscream's plans are set in motion, Hardtop reports from scouting outside the Decepticon base. There is a group of Autobots coming and when the Decepticons look, they see a team that includes Cliffjumper, Arcee and Camshaft heading their way!
I admit that before beginning the review of issue #2 I read through the entire series to remind myself of what it was all about. At the same time, reading that issue reminded me that this issue is very much a transition issue. While the events of the first Transformers movie were epic and powerful in their own way, we were only given a hint as to the larger Transformers universe in the film. In this issue we are slowly introduced into that larger universe. We meet more Autobots and Decepticons in the present day, not just in flashbacks as we did in the first issue. I am especially happy with the choice of Autobots and Decepticons introduced since they all have action figure equivalents, including exclusive toys that were only sold in certain stores such as Target such as Hardtop. This really adds a bit of "legitimacy" to those characters, taking them beyond simple redecos and making them into full on characters who are part of a storyline set in the movie universe. It's also cool to see Arcee come into play since the character was originally intended to be in the first film but was later replaced with Ironhide.
It seems an odd term to apply to a villain, but in this issue Starscream shows himself to be quite heroic. I don't mean that in the traditional sense of course, but in his perspective and that of the Decepticons, he was low on resources but dove in to attack the dam and recover Frenzy himself. While low on reserves he also made an attempt to extract information from Salazar. In other words, this Starscream isn't all about self preservation and letting others do his work for him. If he has to, he will get down and dirty and take care of business himself, even if it means potentially sacrificing himself in the process. This adds a level of unexpected depth to the character and I was glad to see this instead of him say, calling Thundercracker to Earth and having him do all the work while he watched from a distance.
We also get a hint that his plans are much more grandiose than just bringing more Decepticons to Earth and attacking the Autobots again, another element I like. This Starscream is thinking big, well beyond leadership and instead . Also, yay for the mention of the Space Bridge long before it was used in "Revenge of the Fallen" as a mode of transmission and conveyance.
I found the sub-plot of Sector 7's "Landmine" drone malfunctioning nicely conceived. While I would have loved to see Starscream fight a "new" Transformer, it would have been a very predictable way for the story to go. By having the malfunction, the humans are brought down a notch and even Salazar's rather stone faced demeanor has to fall. I have to admit that seeing some of the trademark Sector 7 overblown confidence get taken down several notches was sort of fun after the events of the first movie.
I have to confess that I haven't been a big fan of Alex Milne's human artwork in the past. Many of his characters seemed rather generic and too "anime" looking for my tastes since this book is set in a more "real" universe (unlike say, an Armada comic book would be). However this issue was a pleasant surprise. These humans look anime influenced, but not as overtly anime as his past work. They are also very diverse in appearance. Aside from some of the generic soldiers running around everyone including Salazar, the scientists with Frenzy and others all look very distinctive. I was very happy to see this.
Starscream of course, takes center stage in this issue and he looks great in every scene. Milne manages to balance the look of his complicated mechanics with the smoother lines on panels that come from his jet mode. When we see other Transformers, their design influences are clear, despite still being in their Cybertronian forms. Thundercracker is clearly a variant on the Protoform Starscream figure design. Milne has also found a way to make characters instantly recognizable (if you're familiar with the movie toys) based on one or two identifiable features. For instance, Cosmos' face has the eyes and mouthplate of his G1 counterpart despite his head being a different shape. Hardtop has a flat panel on his chest that makes him recognizable despite the rest of his body being heavily modified. Seeing characters in their "pre-Earth" forms really speaks to their nature as creatures who are constantly able to change their forms and it's always a thrill for fans to see what they were before we saw them in Earth based forms.
I also really enjoyed this issue's artwork because it was able to move beyond the recreation of scenes from the movie in the last issue. While I did like Milne's ability to recreate scenes vividly from the movie, it is important for this mini-series to begin doing it's own thing story-wise and art-wise. The only time we get a scene from the movie is Starscream leaving Earth, and even that is played with some added elements that make it distinctive from what we saw on screen.
"Reign of Starscream" #2 is a great bridge issue that takes us from the events of the first movie and begins to expand the scope of Starscream's plans beyond vengeance or simple leadership. It also introduces a whole new set of characters into the mix, making this a fun ride and must read for fans. Highly recommended.