IDW Publishing: Spotlight Shockwave Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Nick Roche
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Sulaco Studios
Edits by: Dan Taylor
Six hundred thousand meta-cycles ago the Decepticon Shockwave contemplates the future of Cybertron. He sees a world rapidly running out of resources, and realizes that in the ongoing civil war, the one who holds the most Energon will be powerful indeed. He begins a program called "Regenesis", sending out missiles with converted Energon to worlds fitting a certain profile. One such planet is ours: Earth. Ages past, and as ancient Earth develops, Shockwave visits the world to inject a dampening material into Earth's crust. Without this material, the Energon developing would run rampant and out of control.
High above the planet, the Autobot team known as the Dynobots watch Shockwave's every move, wondering what he is up to. Squad commander Grimlock is less concerned with why he's there, but only that he is alone. The team wants revenge on Shockwave for a humiliation he served them on Cybertron, and they see their opportunity below. Unfortunately, the high Energon levels would put the Dynobots into Stasis Lock very quickly, and they don't have time to develop a shield against it like Shockwave has. Instead, they opt to scan local life forms and take on techno-organic forms to survive the treacherous environment.
Shockwave is about to finish up but his ship fails to respond to his commands. Suddenly, the Dynobots arrive and attack! Each with a fierce new beast mode, the five Autobots strike with all their fury, confusing the logical Shockwave who is trying to find the rationale behind their attack. When he realizes it is all about revenge, he switches his mental mode to one of pure survival and strikes back, taking out all the Dynobots one by one. With one blast of his gigantic space gun form, he strips them of their organic shells, sending them into Stasis Lock. Grimlock had one trick up his sleeve however.
Anticipating possible defeat, he preprogrammed the Dynobot ship to fire a blast at a nearby volcano, and the blast goes off, covering everything in the area, including the Transformers in molten lava!
Back on Cybertron, Megatron has noticed Shockwave's absence and orders his laboratory sealed off. He orders Bludgeon to research everything in the lab and report back to him. Bludgeon gleefully accepts the task.
Thousands of years later, the site of the battle between the Dynobots and Shockwave is an archeological dig site. Now known as Eureka, Nevada, the workers at the site become excited when a large, purple mechanical hand is revealed!
"Spotlight Shockwave" was the first of the Spotlight series of comics. It felt appropriate then that this would be an issue full of homages. This was a smart choice as it gave fans a chance to ease into this format as it lays out seeds for stories that will take place down the line in both the Spotlight series and others.
The homage that reaches over the entire issue is the main theme of the story: the duality between the rational, logical Shockwave and the savage, emotions of the Dynobots. From the first page forward we see Shockwave trying to think everything through in a logical series of steps, each meant to result in something else. On the other hand, the Dynobots' plans amount to "We are strong - we destroy." for the most part. This is a wonderful play on these two opposing ideals, and both get their moments to shine in the battle between Shockwave and the Dynobots. The irony of course is that in order to win the fight, Shockwave has to give up his emotionless, rational self for a while
Older fans may recall that Shockwave and the Dinobots (note the spelling) did battle on another ancient Earth once upon a time. In the original G1 Marvel comic book series, the Dinobots were dispatched by the Ark to protect itself when it found Shockwave roaming ancient Earth. The battle ended with the Dinobots buried in a tar pit, so the parallels to that story are obvious. This was a great touch and one of those things that fans have been wanting out of the IDW Comics since they began. While the "slow burn" take in stories such as "Infiltration" are refreshing and different, a touch of the familiar never hurts.
As a big "Beast Wars" fan, I appreciated the way Furman works in homages aplenty to that series as well. The entire sub-plot of Energon overload, needing organic outer shells and on ancient Earth to boot are all homages to that classic 90's Transformers series.
This issue sets up a couple of sub-plots that will develop in other series. Megatron assigning Bludgeon's task of looking into Shockwave's work will become a factor in the "Stormbringer" storyline. Having Shockwave and the Dynobots revealed on modern day Earth will no doubt have consequences for the current stories involving groups like the Machination (and offers another way of having Transformers arrive on Earth in ancient times without the Ark). The story also hints at Cybertron's eventual desolation. Despite being a "stand alone" comic about one character, a lot of set up is happening here, making this story even more interesting!
When I first flipped through this issue, I was very impressed with the art. It was different in style to the main books wonderfully illustrated by E.J. Su. However, the artwork felt a bit more stylized and less "mechanically real" than Su's work, something I often enjoyed in the old Marvel series and some of the Dreamwave books. Since this story plays out as much of a homage, it was great to see that reflected in the art style and some of the character design choices.
For the most part, many of the characters followed their designs from Dreamwave's "The War Within" series, including Grimlock with his tank treads and wings, Optimus Prime as a truck with large wheels on his shoulders and the Dynobots having vehicular forms hinted at in robot mode that draw vague visual analogies to their future beast modes. Shockwave on the other hand is pretty much a stylized version of his G1 self. There is a bit of exaggeration in his design including his shoulder armor flaring out to the sides a bit and his form being a bit more sleek and thin than he has been traditionally portrayed.
Roche does fantastic pencil work. All his mechanical details are consistant and give a sense of where armor plates meet others. When he draws organics (including the humans at the end) he manages to give each character personality while giving us wrinkles and lines that enhance the organic appearance of these creatures. I'm also a huge fan of the way he gave the Dynobots weaponry in their beast modes, including the integration of Grimlock's dual barreled gun inside his beast mode mouth. Other fun tiny details include hypothetical beast/robot modes on the screens of the Dynobot ship and the use of panel designs that resemble those from the G1 comic (such as Shockwave's side view stalking through ancient Earth).
The inks and colors in this issue are bold and strong. You don't need ultra thick lines over pencils to give a strong impression, they just need to be consistant and make the maximum impression wherever they're used. In sequences such as Shockwave's final transformation in the issue, the angle of the panel and the way his gun form is drawn is super strong and jumps right off the page. The vibrant colors which range from mechanical to Earthy and organic in this issue contrast wonderfully and fit in with the various sequences in the book. I'm also fond of little details such as the use of electricity sparks around the Dynobots as they go into Stasis Lock (harkening back to a similar effect in Beast Wars) and the way the Dynobots lose their color once in Stasis Lock (something seen in "Transformers: The Movie" when Optimus Prime dies and turns grey).
"Spotlight: Shockwave" is a fantastic introduction to the Spotlight series. It is accessible even to those who have not followed every Transformer comic up until this point, and it sets up several plot points that will pay off later. The artwork is excellent and the characterizations are wonderful. The theme of duality between logic and passion is a classic one and it is wonderful to see it applied to the Transformers. Throw a boatload of references to previous books and series and it's easy to call this book highly recommended!