IDW Publishing: Reign of Starscream Issue #4 Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: August 13, 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 the site of the new Allspark's construction, the Autobot Grindcore has been worked to exhaustion and he collapses. Fellow Autobot Warpath tries to help him up, but Stockade puts an end to that. In the distance, Dreadwing captures Signal Flare, adding another Autobot to the roster of Autobots that will be used for Starscream's plans. As everything begins to come together, Starscream contemplates the future. In his vision, Cybertron will be a great empire again, one to be feared and "war criminals" such as Optimus Prime will be brought to his own brand of justice.
Elsewhere in Trypticon, a lone figure destroys two Decepticon drones and sneaks its way off of the Decepticon ship Starscream arrived in. It's Arcee and we see through flashbacks that she survived her encounter with Starscream and managed to grab onto the ship's landing gear before it teleported. She knows her mission isn't over and races off to seek out some of the Autobots remaining on Cybertron to help her before it's too late.
At the construction site, Starscream arrives along with Dreadwing and Thundercracker. Payload arrives shortly afterwards with Crankcase and some drones following behind. Signal Flare and Elita One try to appeal to Starscream for mercy but he is not going to spare anyone. When Crankcase shows some attitude, he disables his vocal circuitry and adds him to the group of soon-to-be victims!
Meanwhile, Arcee has arrived at a former Autobot training base, now one of the last sites left for Autobots to hide. There she finds Clocker who takes her inside. A small group of Autobots is hiding there including Crosshairs, Wingblade, Breakaway and Skyblast. The small group is planning to rescue their captured comrades and Arcee is ready to lead the charge.
At the site of the new Allspark, construction is complete! Starscream and his Seekers arrive and he finds himself growing more anxious. For a moment he wonders if he has become like Optimus Prime and Megatron, obsessed with a singular goal. He dismisses this however and focuses on facts: he is leader, he has the Allspark and he feels nothing can stop him.
Nearby, the Autobots have gathered and race to the scene. When they arrive, they are shocked by what they see. The Decepticons are gathered at the base of the cube where their comrades and Crankcase have been strapped to the sides. Has Starscream won?
Now that we are moving towards the end of this mini-series, it is interesting to see the gradual change in Starscream that occurs as he draws closer to his goals. In previous issues, Starscream's moves were very calculated and while he did state his distaste for (as he calls them) "war criminals" like Optimus Prime, he was quite assured that he was not like them. In this issue we see Starscream doubt that for a moment, but then he dismisses this line of thinking since his arrogance won't let him accept the possiblity that he has become as power hungry as his predecessor, Megatron. This is a nice, subtle way of using the trademark arrogance of the character. Past iterations of Starscream often showed his arrogance being worn on his sleeve and so over the top that it borderlined on parody at times. This Starscream walks a tightrope between dedicated Decepticon and someone who wants to revel in power and it is an interesting balance to see played out.
Just as with earlier issues, it is cool to see characters who may not have appeared in other Movie based media other than action figures getting their due. Seeing the likes of Grindcore, Warpath, Breakaway and Wingblade adds a layer of depth to the story. It helps us see who it was that stayed behind on Cybertron when Optimus left, and it also gives some characters whose toys were all redecos (some store exclusives) a chance to shine in the spotlight. The story element of having them hiding away in an old Autobot base is hardly new, but it really did bring me back to the G1 Marvel Comics days when fans were brought "back" to Cybertron to find the Decepticons largely in control and the Autobots hiding out underground. I have a special love for those issues and this one echoed those issues sufficiently for me to really enjoy another iteration of the "Underground" Autobot movement.
Artwise, the highlight of this issue is the introduction of several new characters being shown in their "Cybertronian" forms. As I mentioned in past reviews, Alex Milne has a fantastic talent for taking characters who were largely based on redecos of figures from lines like "Cybertron" and redesigning them to fit the movie aesthetic. He adds sleek and complicated line designs, extra armor bits here and there along with Cybertronian glyphs in close up panels adding up to some distinctive looking robots. I would say my favorite design is Crosshairs. Despite his figure being a Scout Class he is drawn as a larger, bulkier character giving him a powerful appearance that befits a character wielding an axe as a weapon. On another note, kudos to Milne for going through what must be a relatively long process of drawing all the symbols on the Allspark cube. That can't be a quick bit of art!
I also have to give high kudos to the coloring by Josh Burcham. There are several types of lighting throughout this issue, from the daylight shots of Arcee going to the Autobot base to the dimly lit command center inside the base. Each of these is very distinct, changing the tone of entire pages beautifully. I confess I'm also glad that characters are colored distinctively as well. Despite the excellent pencil work, some of the characters use sculpts that were used on more than one character such as Skyblast and Air Raid and it helps to see the differences between the two in color.
This is a tension building issue as we get closer to Starscream's plan coming to fruition. I enjoyed reading his inner thoughts and seeing him trying to balance between Cybertron's savior and maniacal leader. Meeting up with the Autobot resistance is also fun. Coupled with awesome artwork and this is a fun issue that promises to lead up to a big bang of a conclusion!