Transformers Spotlight #3: Hot Rod Review
- Published on Saturday, 03 April 2010 04:27
- Written by William
I'm back. Partly for some background material on - but mostly because I have very little else to review - Spotlight: Hot Rod is reviewed here to give some backstory into IDW's main story arc (from about 2 years before), Revelation. Click the "read more" button (please) for the full story.
On Hot Rod himself: "If there's a line, he'll cross it; if there's a knot, he'll cut it; if there's a risk, he'll take it ... smiling. In his solitary world, there's no room for second thoughts, no margin for error. "Out there" is a permanent state of mind, and the more impossible, downright insane the mission, the better this daredevil Autobot likes it. His name ... is Hot Rod."
WRITTEN BY Simon Furman
ART BY Nick Roche
COLORS BY Liam Shalloo
ART RATING: 9.5 Night Girls out of 10
STORY RATING: 8 Night Girls out of 10
OVERALL RATING: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
SYNOPSIS: In a planetary meteor shower, Hot Rod rides a flaming meteor down onto the planet, thinking of how insane his situation is, and how much he likes it. Jumping off the meteor, Hot Rod freefalls, grinning like a maniac. With no way to know when the right time is, he waits until the last minute to power up a null field. Even so, it's far from a gentle landing. He crashes, slipping in and out of consciousness. He tries focussing on the mission, but instead...
He flashes back to a mission on stormy Ki-Aleta - his one failure that he's relived thousands of times. Backbeat gives him a distance update. Instrumentation interference makes readouts fuzzy though. Hot Rod and the others switch to voice-com and set about their work; Gizmo sets up a holomatter projector, Backbeat places synced charges, and Dealer uplinks with their dropship.
Download enquires to Hot Rod as to the nature of the statue-like robots. Hot Rod replies that they're Omega Guardians - not much known about them except that they're very old and very powerful - so the mission is to get in and out without a firefight. He smiles.
Flashing back to the present, Hot Rod reflects on his old gung-ho nature, wondering if it was that that got his team killed. He remembers his current mission. He must get into Styx, the harshest and most impregnable of Decepticon penal colonies. "Impregnable", Hot Rod says, is not in his vocabulary. he fires a device onto the prison roof.
Inside, warden Gutcruncher is alerted to a series of radomly appearing and disappearing minor alerts. This confuses him.
As the "viral carrier" (a program creating a rigorously timed (though apparently random) sequence of ghost alerts and sensor blind spots) works its magic and the Decepticons are distracted, Hot Rod leaps into the prison, slipping through the gaps, moving towards cell bock Z-lateral. As he runs, he tries to place the moment, on his failed mission, where it all went wrong.
Flashing back again, we see Gizmo operating the holomatter generator, showing Hot Rod's team attacking the bunker. The Omega Guardians awake, and start attacking the holograms.
Inside the Omega Bunker, Download and Hot Rod reach the inner chamber. They look at the Magnificence - an oracle-like artifact that answers any question. Download's unsure of this, but Hot Rod reminds him that if the Magnificence does this then the Autobots must keep it out of Decepticon hands. Suddenly, the holomatter generator mysteriously blows up, alerting the Omega Guardians to Gizmo's presence. Download finishes disabling the Magnificence containment field, but some Omega Guardians emerge from the walls and blow him up.
Back in the present, Hot Rod's virus finishes by unlocking every cell door in Styx. Hot Rod knows that the brass will evacuate and wait for a clean up team. Disguising himself as a Con with a hologram generator, Hot Rod searches the cells, eventually coming upon a broken, crippled Dealer.
Back on Ki-Aleta, Hot Rod runs through the tunnels drilled by his bore-drones, radioing Dealer as he goes. Dealer says there's a Con attack squad on him, and calls out for help. Hot Rod wants to help, but can't; he has personal, optics-only orders.
Back in the present, Hot Rod helps Dealer up. It's revealed that Hot Rod's optic-only orders were to escape using a secret tunnel bored by another drone, and to secure the Magnificence in a location known only to him. Ultimately, the others were expendable. Hot Rod disguises Dealer and helps him into a shuttle. A Decepticon looking exactly like Hot Rod's disguise sees him, but Hot Rod just de-disguises and blasts the Con. As he and Dealer fly away, Hot Rod reflects on how, even though no-one said it, he was to blame for the Ki-Aleta disaster.
Dealer is out for most of the trip to Autobot HQ. When Hot Rod confronts him and tries to apologize for leaving him behind, Dealer smiles and says that he'd have done the same thing. He thanks Hot Rod for rescuing him, and wants them to continue being friends.
Later, Dealer secretly speaks to an unknown bot via transmission. He says that Hot Rod's guilty, and feels that Ki-Aleta was his fault. Dealer reveals that he sabotaged the ambush. The mission was compromised before it began. if not for Hot Rod's unexpected orders, the Magnificence would be in the hands of the Decepticon secret service. Dealer says he can make Hot Rod take him to the Magnificence. The bot on the other end - Decepticon Banzaitron - says he must watch Dealer carefully, calling him "Doubledealer" (Dealer's name in other continuity). Issue ends.
THE GOOD: I really, really enjoyed Spotlight: Hot Rod. In many ways it is even higher quality than the Shockwave Spotlight. Furman and Roche - a great creative team on any day - deliver a beautifully crafted standalone tale that at the same time foreshadows and hints at bigger ramifications - Dealer's betrayal, the uncertain prescence of the all-seeing, all-knowing ultimate Macguffin, the Magnificence. That thing is instant plot-destroyer, but you know that it'll pop up again sooner or later.
The origin of the Magnificence, too, is very intriguing. It's obviously very old, not Cybertronian - a relic from a lost culture. The culture that built it was clearly advanced - the prescence of the Omega Guardians and the Magnificence's containment field constitute a race with highly advanced tech. But at the same time, the architecture of the Bunker and statues inside the Magnificence room show that the culture is in some ways primitive, and obviously very old. The statues in the chamber look small and humanoid - possibly organic (In layman's terms, this situation is referred to as "Oooohh!"). Furman has definitely intrigued me with this, and I hope he develops it further.
The Omega Guardians look vaguely Cybertronian, but I have this enormous sense of ancient power when I think of them. They destroyed three Autobots in quick succession and are immensely powerful. Furman does a very good job, both in action and in dialogue, to play up the Guardians and give the reader a sense of sheer, brute force.
In short, while the story could easily stand alone, the enormity of the Magnificence (and associated articles) alone gives an sense that this issue will have far-reaching ramifications. Dealer's obvious betrayal, also, will have to be resolved eventually. Furman therefore delivers a perfectly good linear tales with far-reaching ramifications. What more could you want with a comic - totally accessible to new readers while enriching the experience for regular fans. Great job, Furman.
Once again, the characterization for this comic is top-notch. In the last review, I said that Furman's interior monologue for Shockwave was predictable and exactly the same as a lot of the other characters he's written for. Hot Rod, however - perhaps because of his "young", brash nature - is characterized uniquely and realistically.
The stark contrast between his cheerful, gung-ho demeanor on Ki-Aleta and the brooding, doubtful (though still brazenly optimistic about his chances) Hot Rod we see desperately trying to undo his mistakes and rescue a "friend" from an impregnable Decepticon prison.See what that is? That's character development! Something you don't see a lot, I know, but it's there. The fact that Furman develops Hot Rod's character this much in a single issue - without making it seem rushed - is a mark of his skill as a Transformers writer.
Spotlight: Hot Rod gives us both some breaks from the norm and some old faithfuls in terms of Furman's writing style. For pehaps the first time in a Furman story, there is no trace of a Furmanism (phrase used by Simon Furman throughout all the stories he's written)! This is unheard of!
But don't despair, those of you who like Furman; this story has the old Furman faithful of gratituous character death. Furman will usually develop a character and make them grow a lot - or occasionally just do nothing and drop them in a story - and then kill them off in some horrible way. Hot Rod's entire team (Gizmo, Backbeat, and Download), excepting Dealer, is killed. This helps the story along, though.
Though not cinematic like Spotlight: Shockwave, Hot Rod's SL nevertheless is paced and executed very well. The story has clear, linear flow and doesn't feel rushed - unusual for a one shot with so much happening. Furman and Roche collaborate seamlessly to make the story feel natural, and it works. The flashbacks are expertly timed and don't jar the story.
Roche delivers his usual awesome job for the issue's art duties; his characters seem to breathe with a life of their own - they're dynamic, realistic, and expressive, and convey Furman's script perfectly. Everything from the broken and crippled Dealer in the Con cell to the Omega Guardians blowing Download up is expertly rendered in the unmistakeable Roche style. His designs for the generics on Hot Rod's team are unique and interesting - this guy draws the best generics ever.
Rounding off the all-star creative team is colorist Liam Shalloo. Though his palette is fuzzier and more varied in vibrance than mainstay Burcham, his atmospheric, soft coloring breathes more life into Roche's lines. Emphasizing the mood with fuzzy browns (for Ki-Aleta) and deep blues (for Styx), Shalloo adds so much to the artwork. He gives the art atmosphere and uses lighting to great effect - even the flashbacks are a little fuzzy, like in anime. All round, I'm very happy with the job done on this issue.
THE BAD: only one thing; at the end, Dealer contacts Banzaitron to give us some exposition. However, this isn't very realistic, as Dealer could have easily been found out, and he had no real reason to call Banzaitron - he hadn't completed his mission, and so should have just got on with it. Nothing else. The job done on Spotlight: Hot Rod was astounding.
OVERALL: Spotlight: Hot Rod is another exquisite standalone tale from Furman and Roche. It gives you a clear, linear story while foreshadowing and setting up future plot points. Top-notch characterization, great art and beautiful colors. A comic masterpiece. Rated 8.5 out of 10. NEXT MONTH: Spotlight: Kup. Stranded on a energy-loaded planet and half-mad, Kup battles a horde of Zombots and his own, slowly-destabilizing spark. But is everything as it seems?