IDW Publishing "Stormbringer" #1
Cover Price: $2.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Don Figueroa
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Robbie Robbins
Edits by: Chris Ryall & Dan Taylor
Once a great catastrophe struck the Transformers home planet of Cybertron. Optimus Prime remembers this tragic event. In the fires of this cataclysm is the form of Thunderwing, screaming as explosions erupt around him.
Fast forward to the present day and the Autobot survey ship Calabi-Yau is found in orbit of Cybertron. The planet has been a dead, burnt out husk for ages, but Nosecone has detected energy of some sort. As the Technobots and Jetfire view the results of their ship's readings, they find the energy source is actually Energon combined with some other material. Nosecone speculates that with the degradation of Cybertron's atmosphere, some substance managed to get into this long undetected Energon deposit and cause some type of energy reaction. Jetfire believes this supports his theory that Cybertron is gradually healing itself after the Transformers wars nearly destroyed the planet completely.
Jetfire, Strafe, Lightspeed and Scattershot go to the surface of Cybertron to investigate. In its current state, storms are common and the Autobots need to use personal shields to protect themselves. As they walk they come across "Thunderhead Pass", the site of Cybertron's greatest catastrophe.
Elsewhere, Optimus Prime is recalling a joint struggle between the Autobots and Decepticons against "The Adversary". Something did not go right with this fight, and Prime still feels responsibility to this day. His rememberance is interrupted by Searchlight, who presents a pulsewave transmission from Earth referring to "Siege Mode". He tells Searchlight to keep him updated as he remains alone with his thoughts.
On Cybertron, Jetfire and the Autobots have set up some equipment to take readings. Scattershot is worried. Cybertron has been forbidden territory this long for good reasons and disturbing whatever precarious balance the world has gained is frightening. Jetfire insists on investigating as he recalls an important meeting that took place long before Cybertron was in its current state.
The meeting was called by Thunderwing, who saw Cybertron's coming doom. Appealing to scientific minds such as Jetfire and Perceptor, he had hoped to rally Transformers into preventing what was to come. Clearly this did not happen.
After having launched one probe, the Autobots pack their things up and prepare to leave when suddenly Lightspeed is attacked! Then Strafe goes down. Jetfire and Scattershot realize their assailants are wearing light bending armor that make them invisible. The two let out an intense barrage of firepower, but to no avail. Their invisible foes quickly take them down.
Above, the Calabi-Yau is also in trouble. Missiles have been fired at the ship forcing Nosecone and Afterburner to abandon ship. They launch a beacon right before the ship is destroyed!
More flashbacks as Optimus Prime remembers the sins of the Transformers race, and how they were responsible for Cybertron's current state regardless of their efforts to stop the approaching storm.
Underground on Cybertron, Jetfire wakes up and hears the chanting of voices. When he looks up, he sees who they are chanting to. It is the inert body of none other than Thunderwing!
You know you're reading a good story when every page turn makes you eager to know more and more until you get to the last page, and then feel terrible frustration knowing you'll have to wait another month for the next issue. This is exactly what I felt as I finished reading "Stormbringer" issue #1. Serving as an appropriate counterpoint to the "slow burn, human-fest" that is Infiltration, Stormbringer takes out of one planet in one solar system and instead shows us the more galactic nature of the Transformers conflict.
I think it is a bold move to make Cybertron a dead husk of a planet (or at least, not as active as it was before). While the Dreamwave series attempted this idea with the "Great Shutdown", here we see that not only was the planet drained of energy, but some great catastrophe struck the planet too - forcing most of its population to leave. That is an idea that has not been approached before. No matter how many groups of intrepid Transformers left Cybertron, there always seemed to be plenty left behind to fight on. Now we have a universe where most of Cybertron is not only abandoned - but it is against standard procedure to even set foot on it. This provides us with a scary, uneasy and dark setting for this tale.
I really enjoy the scope of this story. Whereas Earth confines us to one planet in the grand scheme of things, the Autobot space station shows that this is a galactic war being fought on several fronts, with Optimus and Megatron playing the roles of generals overseeing subordinates rather than always leading the charge themselves. In many ways, this reinforces why Prowl was so reluctant to contact Prime in "Infiltration", he doesn't just have a world or two to worry about, he has entire solar systems to keep track of.
While the series deals with grand events, we get some wonderful character moments. The "brooding Optimus Prime" is present (as expected), but my favorite scene with the Autobot leader is his brief interaction with Megatron in the flashback. Seeing the two fighting together is a reminder that while opposed in almost every way, as two warriors there is some level of respect there.
The interaction between Jetfire and the Technobots also offers nice character distinction in a fairly short period of time. I did find Furman's portrayal of the Technobots fascinating. Gone are the loudmouth, impulsive characters from the G1 cartoon. Instead, their very name "Technobots" infers the entire team has a scientific bent, making them natural crew members on Jetfire's ship. I found the use of a bit of a nervous stutter in Strafe's voice an interesting choice. Maybe his nervousness is why he is such a maniac in battle? It's an interesting character bit that I really appreciated.
One thing I have always loved about Simon Furman's writing is his way of pooling characters together you would not normally expect to see in the same room. In the past, Transformers generally appeared in a chronological order largely based on the release date of their respective figures. However, with this series using a huge pool of established characters, it is really neat to see the likes of say, Optimus Prime, Pincher, Downshift, Overdrive, Siren and Searchlight all in one room at one time. And then the use of several Pretenders (including Skullgrin, Bomb-Burst and more) at the end is most appropriate considering the object of their worship is a Pretender himself! I'm most curious to see if their "monster" outer shells play a role at all.
Artist Don Figueroa's style continues to evolutionize with every title he is given. While we fans were treated to his take on techno-organics in Beast Wars, "Stormbringer" brings him back to his more "mechanical" artistic roots. What I thoroughly enjoyed about the art in this issue was seeing Figueroa shed any sign of what I call "Dreamwave influence" in his art. The characters are drawn in a straightforward manner (such as the one we saw in "The War Within") with no extra puffiness or weird angles etc. that plagued the Dreamwave titles. The result are detailed, mechanical looking Transformers who still manage to look sleek thanks to details like the spoiler on Lightspeed's back or the drill on Nosecone.
We are treated to a specialty of Don's in this book: retrofitting character designs to a "pre-Earth" form. Among the more significant redesigns is Optimus Prime. Here the Autobot leader's lower body looks like a combination of Masterpiece Optimus Prime and the upcoming Classics Prime. The top is an amalgam of Armada, War Within and G1 Prime, resulting in a familiar, yet fresh look. Other redesigns include Searchlight, whose design is subtle, indicating he may be a hovercar instead of a wheeled vehicle. On another note, for those wanting a good look at what the upcoming "Classics" Jetfire looks like, the Jetfire drawn here is pretty much based on that figure.
Josh Burcham's coloring really helps set a dark, scary tone to this book. With Cybertron's dark surface and shadows the book really plays quite effectively on one's expectation of Cybertron being at least a bit brighter than the burned out husk shown here. The flashbacks are colored in a yellowish washed out style that evokes the feeling of an old war film reel, making them one of my favorite parts of the book.
The main fault of the book is in the word bubble control. I'm not sure if there was some disparity between the script and the letterer, but at least one glaring error is made and some of the speech balloon coloring is rather confused. In the first page we see Jetfire addressing Nosecone, the two are supposed to be having a back and forth conversation, but a bulk of Nosecone's dialogue winds up pointing to Afterburner instead (I did confirm with Simon that all that dialogue belonged to Nosecone). Also, the tought balloons surrounded by colored lines are supposed to remain color consistant from character to character (such as the red outlined balloons belonging to Prime's thoughts), but the colors swap and initially confused me. Prime's red outlined balloons change to blue later, and while the character does have both colors, it would have been best to assign one color per character (which I have been told the script does).
"Stormbringer" is off to a powerful start. In many ways, this book feels like Furman's reply to those who complained about the slow burn approach of "Infiltration" the the use of humans in that title. For those critics, I think this book will satisfy their desire for pure robotic action and adventure. Highly recommended!