IDW Publishing "Robots in Disguise" #2 Comic Book Review
Title: "The World & Everything in it"
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: February 22, 2012
Written by: John Barber
Art by: Andrew Griffith
Colors by: Josh Perez
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Edits by: Carlos Guzman
The events of the last issue play out again but this time we get to see Skywarp's perspective on the situation. As Horri-Bull beats down a non-aligned Transformer, Skywarp reports to Ratbat that the Decepticon is out of control. Ratbat tells him Soundwave will take care of it - and a moment later Horri-Bull's head explodes! With that, Skywarp teleports back to the Decepticons.
Back at the Decepticon camp, Ratbat explains that his plan is coming together. Once the Memorial for Rodimus and his crew have kicked off, Ratbat plans a revolt! With the help of Shockwave and Soundwave, he has taken control of the I/D chips, freeing the Decepticons from all restraints on their abilities. Starscream doesn't believe this plan will work and leaves. Ratbat sends Long Haul to follow him.
Later at the Autobot base, Starscream approaches and several Autobots including Sideswipe, Bumblebee and Metalhawk watch from above. Bumblebee goes out to meet Starscream but before the Decepticon can deliver his message, Bumblebee uses his walking stick to shock him into unconsciousness.
When Starscream wakes up, he is inside an Autobot prison cell and he explains Ratbat's plan to Prowl. Ratbat's first strike will be to assassinate Bumblebee during the Memorial Ceremony.
Not too far away, the Decepticons Skywarp and Needlenose beat down the Cybertronian Horri-Bull was thrashing earlier. Once unconscious, Skywarp mysteriously teleports away with the fallen Transformer!
The ceremony soon begins and as Bumblebee gives his speech, Skywarp teleports into a nearby tower with his fallen victim. He sets up a rifle but before he can do anything Prowl leaps into action, taking out the Decepticon (after some resistance). In the crowd, Starscream and Long Haul are watching the speech when Long Haul realizes something is wrong. Starscream suggests he tell Ratbat that the plan has gone off without a hitch, something the unsure Long Haul does with only a bit of resistance.
When Ratbat hears the news, he prepares the Decepticons to launch their final assault! As he goes to his quarters to prepare, he is suddenly attacked by Arcee, swords blazing! She makes quick work of the Decepticon, leaving him impaled on a sword against a wall.
Back at the ceremony site, Arcee meets up with Prowl and tells him Ratbat is dead. She lies and tells him that she gave the Decepticon a chance to surrender, but ultimately the threat has been removed and that is what Prowl cares about the most. Below, Starscream sees his chance to launch himself into the spotlight again and offers to join Bumblebee and Metalhawk in their new, united Cybertron!
It's a funny thing how your perspective changes as you get older. I think not too long ago I wouldn't have minded if this issue had just turned into an all out brawl and became a "Okay, the war is back on - choose sides everybody!" story. However, as I read this issue I could not help but think that was exactly where I did not want the story to go. Ratbat's machinations sounded all well and good in theory, toss some chaos in hot oil and sprinkle in some battle and poof, Decepticon victory right? The thing is, had that been the case, Megatron would have won ages ago using similar strategies, and like the younger fan in me that only wanted to see spantacular battles, the era of nothing but one endless battle after another has passed for this telling of the Cybertronian tale. Instead, what we have is a more grounded story focusing on intrigue and sometimes showing tragedy doesn't require a battle royale between combiners and cityformers. Instead, there is true tragedy all around in this issue, all painted against a bright, daytime background which offered chilling contrast to what was happening in the story.
I mean, let's give this some thought. Ratbat, who was once a senator and not a Decepticon gets forced into this life (how I'd like to know), tries to get the Decepticons out of a bad situation and winds up paying for it with his life. The deeper tragedy? His life was ended as if the war was still going on and Arcee had faced him on the field of combat - which is not what happened here. Did Ratbat deserve his fate? Perhaps, but that doesn't make the circumstances around his death any less grim and sad for the Autobots. I could almost hear Prowl saying the words "The Autobot Way" in this issue in a mournful tone with a drop of sarcasm tossed in to mask his pain. Having Arcee go after Ratbat, having to take down a would be assassin in the form of Skywarp - these are not the things that Prowl wanted in the new utopian Cybertron, but it is exactly what he knew he's had to do since this whole affair began and I cannot help but feel sorry for him but fear him a bit all at the same time.
Starscream's tale was the other angle of this issue I found most rewarding. Instead of the backstabbing/dishonesty routine he's pulled in the past, he now realizes he needs a different approach, one that relies on another aspect of the character not often seen: his cunning. Starscream has all too often been portrayed as Megatron's punching bag or the butt of jokes when his plans fail. Here it is nice to see a Starscream that is trying to learn from his mistakes. He is blatantly honest with Prowl: he's on his own side and no one else's, but this time out his approach is more interesting to watch than the dance we've seen him undergo dozens of times in various iterations of Transformers fiction.
Behind all the fighting and scheming, this issue really shows that the current state of affairs on Cybertron makes it more of a Dystopia than Utopia. Sure things may seem peaceful and somewhat happy, but at what price? And will there be repurcussions if Metalhawk finds out the things the Autobots have had to do to keep the peace? The way I see it, a time will come when things will figuratively and literally explode. The build up to that time however promises to be most interesting if this issue is any indicator.
Whenever I talk about the art in an issue, my tendency is to slowly go through the issue once, then quickly flip through the pages to see what "grabs" me and then give it one more slow look. I have to say that some of my favorite panels in this issue are the ones with the Unaligned Transformers in them. I love the diversity of shapes and forms Griffith has given to the Cybertronians who have been off world for ages. After all, if the key to Cybertronians is their ability to adapt, it makes sense that they would change their forms to suit whatever environments they previously encountered. Among my favorites are the four legged Cybertronian seen on page seven and the "chicken walker" Cybertronian in panel one of page eleven.
This is not to say the art of our favorite G1 Transformers isn't impressive. I love the detail Griffith puts into parts like the end of Bumblebee's walking stick and Shockwave's neck area. I think it's a brilliant way of using the live action movie aesthetic while staying true to the G1 roots of the Transformers designs. I also have to confess to really enjoying the use of the "War for Cybertron" designs for key characters including Starscream and Bumblebee. They're brilliant designs that definitely deserve "air time" in these pages.
"Robots in Disguise" #2 moves the story set up in "More than Meets the Eye" #1 and keeps it moving along at a steady but entertaining pace. I'm really enjoying the intrigue and marveling at the tragedy. So far this title has me more intrigued than I had expected. I think it's a high compliment to say I can't wait for the next issue!