IDW Publishing: "Robots in Disguise" #4 Comic Book Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: April 25, 2012
Written by: John Barber
Art by: Andrew Griffith
Colors by: Josh Perez
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Edits by: Carlos Guzman
Underground on Cybertron, Swindle and Dirge are both working in a waste reclamation unit, but Swindle is more concerned with talk than hard work. In the background, the Constructicons help with the cleaning efforts. Nearby, Autobot guards including Blurr keep watch. When Dirge heads off to a different room, he finds the Decepticon Skydive dead on top of a pile of scrap! He turns to see a figure, but we don't get to see who it is...yet.
Elsewhere, Starscream is grandstanding at a speech announcing the coalition of the Autobots, Non Aligned Transformers and Decepticons. On stage with him is Bumblebee (who can't get a word in edge wise) and Metalhawk. Among Starscream's declarations are the desire for free elections so eventually Cybertronians can decide who it is that will rule over the planet.
Nearby, Prowl watches frustrated. Hanging overhead and hidden is Arcee. She verbally pokes at Prowl, who is growing increasingly agitated by the situation on Cybertron. She even accuses him of sabotaging The Lost Light, something he denies. Before their conversation can continue however, Wheeljack shows up to let Prowl know about the murder underground.
Soon, several Autobots are on the scene including Wheeljack, Sideswipe, Streetwise, Blurr and Prowl. Blurr explains the Decepticon was named Skydive, but he was not the Aerialbot, just another Transformer with the same name. Prowl orders the area locked down so they can investigate. In the next room he finds Dirge guarded by Warpath and Silverstreak. Dirge is just sitting there repeating "I did not see anything." over and over. Prowl looks closely and sees the trouble: one of Bombshell's cerebro shells, controlling Dirge!
In a nearby room, the Decepticon Sunstorm has been hit with one of Bombshell's mind control bugs. Just as Bombshell finishes hypnotizing him, Arcee cuts the Seeker down. Prowl enters with Dirge in tow and explains that he recognized Bombshell's technology and used a tracker (build by Wheeljack) to find him. Bombshell uses the Seekers to cause a distraction and quickly escapes. Prowl orders Blurr to chase after him while he and Arcee deal with the Seekers. Once they've disabled Dirge and destroyed Sunstorm, they go to help Blurr out.
Elsewhere, Blurr has picked up Bombshell's trail but when he catches up to the Decepticon, he finds all five Constructicons in robot mode, ready to confront him! By the time the others catch up, Blurr is unconscious with the Constructicons standing over him. Prowl tells Arcee to take them out while he pursues Bombshell. Arcee dives in, ready to take them all on while Prowl catches up with Bombshell. He asks Bombshell who he's working for, but the Insecticon refuses to tell him, so Prowl shoots him in the head! He tells Arcee to get Blurr out of there and he confronts the Constructicons, telling them to give up or he'll detonate their chips. They don't believe the chips work underground, but Prowl overrides the chip controls and detonates them all!
Later, Blurr is healing up (but in a wheelchair) as he argues with Prowl with Bumblebee watching. Prowl sees a conspiracy, but Blurr thinks Bombshell was just insane. Eventually Bumblebee separates the two but Prowl's anger only gets worse as he declares that the Autobots have to take control no matter who gets in their way!
This is a very powerful issue and while a lot of events occur, at the core of this story is an angry Autobot who is no good at dealing with his emotions. Prowl has often been portrayed as just a "regular" Autobot. In the original animated series, he never seemed particularly cold or calculating as his G1 toy tech spec indicated. Here however we see that Prowl is very much a cold, calculating creature but at the same time he's one that's hurt emotionally and he does not know how to deal with it other than to act out - with the Decepticons being the most obvious target of his aggressions. I find Prowl's anger towards Spike Witwicky back on Earth interesting since if he were truly a creature of pure logic, he would have let that go ages ago. Instead, what I think Prowl is most angry about is not Spike's betrayal in the series leading up to the "Chaos" mini-series, but rather he's angry that by using Arcee as his "invisible hand", by compromising with Starscream and serving as judge, jury and executioner he himself is now no "better" than Spike was. What's fascinating to me is that his own anger is now driving him towards the very same type of actions that some would ascribe to Decepticons.
The "B" story of Bombshell is an interesting one. I sort of hope there is a conspiracy going on, but something beyond Prowl's imaginings that involves more than just Decepticons. Bombshell's rantings sounded almost pseudo-religious, so it would be interesting if some type of cult was springing up or something. It was a shame to see him and the Constructicons get destroyed in this issue however. They are among my favorite characters among G1 Transformers but there are of course dozens of other characters that can be brought in and featured.
Finally, I do have wonder about Bumblebee. He's being portrayed as pretty ineffective in this issue, and given he is one of the "younger" Autobots (though by human standards he's ancient), I have to wonder if a lot of this is just his style. He stammers a bit, seems lost, but then later pops up with something awesome. I hope so. 'bee, despite his overexposure in the past few years remains one of my favorite characters and I want him to shine in this leadership role, even though it's not one of my favorite character turns for him. If he keeps just stumbling along however, the story risks just turning him into a joke, and I really hope that doesn't happen.
The artwork in this issue was stellar. Of the two sibling books right now ("More than Meets the Eye" and this one) I am enjoying the art style here more. This has nothing to do with the skills of the artists, they are both extremely talented. However it seems both books set out to deliberately have different visual styles. "More than Meets the Eye" is the "quirky" book while this book is the more serious one, and that is reflected in the much more straight-forward artwork seen here. The book does have a bit of fun however as one panel shows Blurr streaking past a group of Transformers all based on the old "Rock Lords" segment of the Go-Bots toy line!
This issue was fun in that we got to see Arcee get quite a bit of fighting in. I was surprised at how bulky she was drawn, but given her battle prowess, it makes sense for her to have bulk and power. I also love how she seems to have a never-ending supply of weaponry at her disposal. I actually found myself laughing at the panel where she's temporarily traded her two swords for two gigantic blasters.
Several of the threads introduced in earlier issues are starting to come together including the formation of the new government on Cybertron and Prowl's machinations. With the introduction of a potential new conspiracy a la Bombshell, I'm really curious to see where all this is going. I think a "new" war is the easy route and that the future is likely to bring more intrigue than action. I look forward to finding out for sure!