IDW Publishing "Reign of Starscream" #5 Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: August 27, 2008
Written by: Chris Mowry
Art by: Alex Milne
Colors by: Josh Perez
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Edits by: Denton J. Tipton
Finales in comic book mini-series are usually a cathartic affair. You spend several issues (sometimes way more than the four that preceeded this one) before everything goes to hell in a hand basket. This issue does that and more. This issue is enjoyable not just because of the action (of which there is plenty) but also because it manages to continue its focus on Starscream as a character. Before reviewing this issue I randomly fooled around a bit with a few Transformers figures from the movies including the new Revenge of the Fallen Starscream Voyager figure, and it struck me that for the first time since I purchased the figure a few months back, the toy felt like a character, not because of the movies, but because of this mini-series, and I think that says a lot.
For me, the defining moment for Starscream in this issue happens towards the end of the comic. When Dreadwing tells Starscream that he only did what Starscream himself never had the courage to do, Starscream tells him that courage and treason are not synonymous, and I found that fascinating. I think many past portrayals of Starscream would have gone directly against that, and in many ways it struck me how Dreadwing is used in this issue as an example of how Starscream may once have been seen. Dreadwing led a legion of drones and thought he could just take power, but he underestimated his target and that led to his downfall. On the other side, this really does help give us insight into why this Starscream always acted so loyal to Megatron in the films and never seemed to attempt to take leadership himself, even when Megatron was getting thrashed by the humans in the first film. He may have had ambitions for power, but that didn't mean he was going to betray his leader to take it. Considering all his rather bold moves and assertions in this mini-series, I would not call this cowardice, but rather the mark of a cunning opportunist, a quality I imagine is most useful in the Decepticon army.
Related to Starscream's final showdown with Dreadwing, I enjoyed the nod to the G1 animated movie. When Dreadwing is about to say "I still function" but gets stabbed followed by Starscream saying "Wanna bet?", this is a mirror of a similar exchange between Starscream and Megatron from the 1986 movie. It's always nice to see homages to what came before in this new universe.
I did find the failure of Starscream's plans quite appropriate however. First, if all it took to restore the Allspark was creating a replica, scratching out some symbols and hitting it with the power from five Allsparks, I get the feeling Megatron would have done this ages ago and not even bothered chasing the Allspark into space. Second, if this plan had succeeded, it really would have destroyed a lot of the mystery and magic that surrounds the Allspark as a device. Part of me remains convinced that in this Movie universe, the Allspark still somehow ties into Primus, or some variant on the Cybertronian myth ingrained into other continuities. It also represents Starscream's hubris very well, something that has felled the plans of previous Starscreams before. It's perfectly in character, but gives just the right amount of suspense to worry you until the end of the story.
Kudos to the writers for taking the bold step of killing off several characters by story's end. I think it would have cheapened the story quite a bit if at the end everyone's Spark somehow magically reappeared in their bodies, and since we didn't particularly get attached to the likes of Warpath or Grindcore, their deaths don't quite hold the same emotional resonance as say, Bumblebee's would. I'm also happy that all the deaths in this story actually serve a purpose in this tale, and aren't just deaths for the sake of saying "Kewl, we offed some 'bots!".
The end of this tale is satisfying, and by destorying the Mars Space Bridge and cutting off Starscream from Cybertron, it puts him right where he needs to be for the events of "Revenge of the Fallen". On Cybertron, it is good to see that there is still life there and that Autobots continue to struggle against the Decepticons, opening up possibilities for stories in the future.
Alex Milne really outdid himself with this issue. Up until now most battle sequences have been small skirmishes compared to having dozens of drones, Decepticons and Autobots smashing each other to bits. I think my favorite panel here is Starscream flying up and nuking the bejeezus out of several Dreadwing drones. That sequence really shows the breadth of Starscream's power, but it also manages to represent his own relief of pent up frustration from watching his plans all go to pot.
I haven't commented on this previously, but I thought I'd also take a moment to say how much I like Milne's designs for Dreadwing and Ramjet. Of course, Ramjet is largely based on the "Protoform Starscream" figure in robot mode, but he manages to redesign the head just enough so it resembles the Seeker heads used on the toys while having a "conehead" shape as well. with Dreadwing, he really made all his parts very sleek looking, and he managed to adjust the proportions of the character so his upper and lower bodies are more even (the action figure was quite top heavy). Since movie based Transformers generally transform their own arms for weaponry instead of carrying pistols, it was cool to see that principle applied to Ramjet and Dreadwing when they aimed their arm weapons. Of course, Dreadwing's arms were basically already big cannons, but Ramjet's were not. I also love theintricate ways Milne draws the various panels that form the arms and weapons. It fits in perfectly with the look of the movie aesthetic.
"Reign of Starscream" #5 brings this tale to a fantastic conclusion, and leaves things at a point where they do not contradict story point that would emerge later in "Revenge of the Fallen". It's a fantastic read and I recommend it to anyone who wants to see further adventures of the Transformers in the movie universe.