Transformers #5 review
- Published on Tuesday, 06 April 2010 23:56
- Written by William
As I said in my last review, IDW's ongoing Transformers series started off a tad rocky, but gradually developed into a good-quality title, with stunning art and mature writing. Costa's Simpsons-level plot intertwining and expert juggling of multiple plots and subplots has made for entertaining reading. A quick click from you can reveal whether or not his admirable trend continues for issue five. Go on, click that "read more..." button. You know you want to.
For those of you who've just joined us, a quick update on past events: Ultra Magnus has arrived on Earth (following his brief stint in Last Stand of the Wreckers) and is investigating Ironhide's death at the hands of the humans. Optimus Prime is in human captivity, being interrogated. Hot Rod and his ragtag Decepticon/Autobot team are building a ship to get off Earth. Magnus tried to get them to dismantle it, but was refused. Apparently it's illegal to build ships now...
WRITTEN BY Mike Costa
ART BY Don Figueroa
COLORS BY James Brown
ART RATING: 8.5 out of 10
STORY RATING: 8 out of 10
OVERALL RATING: 8 out of 10
SYNOPSIS: Skywatch HQ. Spike Witwicky and Optimus are having a talk. Optimus explains says he understands why Spike and Skywatch don't trust him. He says that the Cybertronians came to Earth and made it their battlefield. Spike thinks Prime turned himself in out of guilt, but Prime says that's not the case. Prime became a leader because he was a good soldier. But it took him countless human generations to learn how. All through the Great War, he thought he was leading. And he was – leading them further into war, that is.
And then, he says, the war ended (with Megatron's death at the end of AHM). He led his troops in evading the humans. He says that the humans were the Autobots' enemies, but they aren't the humans' enemies. Prime realized he could no longer lead his troops that way. His friend (Ironhide, killed in issue 1) died for nothing. So Prime turned himself in for what his "leadership" brought to Earth. Prime praises Spike as a soldier, remarking that humans can learn in less than a single lifetime what it took Prime countless generations to grasp. If Spike is not a great leader now, Prime says, he will be soon.
At Autobase, Bumblebee (in his new body following the events of Bumblebee #4) and Cliffjumper watch Ultra Magnus come back from trying to get Hot Rod's team to destroy their illegal ship. Magnus accuses Hot Rod of colluding with the enemy, and asks to assemble a team to take him in. He selects Bumblebee, Brawn, Jazz and Blurr. Bumblebee objects to this, wanting to keep Blurr safe after his trauma. Magnus refuses, saying that the situation dissolves any authority Bumblebee has, and walks off.
Spike, having left Prime, goes out for a drive in the suppressed Stunticon Breakdown, wondering if he took off Breakdown's suppressor, he too would "talk like Abraham Lincoln".
Suddenly something smashes Spike in the side. It's the other Stunticons, Drag Strip and Wildrider, trying to get their buddy Breakdown back. They're disgusted at how he's being operated by a human, and recklessly pound him. Wildrider is just about to broadside Spike again, when Spike whips out an enormous gun and blasts the two Cons.
He attempts to drive back to Skywatch, but Motormaster blocks his way. Skidding everywhere, Spike is thrown out of Breakdown and into a water-filled ditch. As he watches Wildrider and Drag Strip load Breakdown into the back of Motormaster, he asks Skywatch to come pick him up.
Back at Hot Rod's camp, he and Silverstreak talk while Swindle fixes up Breakdown. Silverstreak is a little suspicious of them, but Hot Rod says to lighten up, since they'll all be off Earth in six hours. Then Ultra Magnus and co. arrive. Magnus attempts to arrest Hot Rod for treason. Hot Rod says that he's not treacherous, because there are not sides anymore - just one group working together for common peace. Roddy asks Bumblebee how he can round Autobots up like this, after his experience with Colonel Horiuchi (in the Bumblebee miniseries).
Bumblebee is unsure of the situation, but Magnus presses on, ignoring his yellow deputy. Swindle walks up and tells Hot Rod he'll take it from here. Hot Rod balks, but Swindle insists, sneeringly calling him Rodimus. He says that he and the other Cons are going to take the ship and kill as many Autobots as they can. Magnus says that they outnumber Swindle.
"Right. About that..." Swindle says. He points up.
The Stunticons fly up ... and merge into their combiner form, Menasor. He towers over everyone, looking very pissed off. Magnus and Hot Rod gawp. Swindle introduces Menasor as his newest creation, and orders him to kill Magnus first. Issue ends.
THE GOOD: Though definitely not the best title being banged out by IDW's Transformers line, Transformers #05 was nevertheless an entertaining read.
The change of format for IDW's Transformers material, from miniseries to ongoing, puts a lot of pressure on writer Mike Costa in the way he writes. Miniseries limit the kind of stories you can tell, but undoubtedly give a more accessible and linear read - plotlines are usually resolved in a single series, with the occasional large storyline sending ripples through multiple ones. However, with an ongoing series, you can tell more length-varied stories, but accessiblility decreases. Seemingly trivial plot points can spring up as being very important, and storyline can go months without resolution. Now, I consider myself a pretty loyal reader of my titles, but others may find this too much waiting around and leave.
The ongoing style of writing comics usually achieves the outcome seen with many titles from Marvel and DC - if you don't read every issue and haven't read the last five years of material, then you probably won't know what the hell is going on with the story.
Costa, however, has managed to pull off this ongoing series gig pretty well now. His stories have the linear simplicity of a miniseries, while simultaneously adding multiple plots that have only just started to snowball together. I'm such a sucker for Transformers material that I bought pretty much all the G1 comics they put out, even when I questioned the creative quality of my purchases. There may have been the odd moment in Costa's book where I considered it waste of my money, but issue 4 and this one have definitely left me no doubt as to how well this guy can handle the bots.
For the good things about how Costa writes, let's use that simplest of writing tools, the list. He can write great one-shots, as seen last issue. He does the plot thing really well. Clear and linear while still retaining a slow pay-off, he brings in plots one at a time, builds them up simultaneously and now he's started intertwining them. The story isn't totally unpredictable, but unique enough that I can't predict events issue-to-issue. The way he intertwines and foreshadows plots is really addictive, and each new issue is something I look forward to each month.
Prime and Spike's talk together has dragged on for three issues now, but at last Costa makes it go somewhere - a good helping of philisophical challenges and rethinking of past ideals. Nothing moern comic readers ain't seen before, but the bit where Prime tells Spike of how it took him thousands of years to learn how to be a leader - and even then he wasn't doing it all right, just leading his men further into war. But humans have the capacity to learn good leadership in less than a hundred years. For this, Prime admires Spike and the humans. I dunno about you guys, but this seems pretty good to me.
The appearance of Menasor in IDW fiction is a bold move on Costa's part, since in IDW's continuity the combiners are a new and unstable technology. Exactly how Swindle managed to make the Stunticons do this a mystery, and is very intriguing. The way Costa handles this is gradual and very natural - the small bit in issue four about Thundercracker thinking Swindle was up to something, the Stunticons' rescue of captive Breakdown, even the little scene where Swindle makes the final combiner adjustments while appearing to nurse Breakdown.
All this makes the appearance of such a status quo changing and, well, big, character seem much more natural. Unlike the sudden appearance of fifty new Autobots and Decepticons that weren't on Earth before - still waiting on an explanation for that, Costa!
His characterization was, admittedly, a tad shaky and unjustified at the start of the series. However, Costa now has stabilized his characters and does this crafty little mix-up that (in my theory at least) should satisfy both new readers and regular fans like me. What Costa does is he writes the bots in such a way as makes them react differently to new and strange situations - yet if you peer a little closer, you'll see that they act and react in a way that's totally within the boundaries of their established personality. Crafty, and in my book a clever move. Very good, Mr Costa, very good indeed.
On the subject of art, Don Figueroa finally seems to have settled into a niche where he consistently pumps out high-standard, eye-poppingly-stunning artwork that makes my loss of 4 bucks really worthwhile. Bumblebee's new design - first seen in rather bland rendition from Chee in the Bumblebee miniseries - looks absolutely amazing in the inky care of Figueroa. The art's overall feel when I look at it just oozes class. I love it. I can't say much more. The intricate designs, the getting-better-though-still-a-bit-ugly faces, everything is done in splendid fashion by Don. Good job.
The art is rounded off very nicely by colorist James Brown. His coloring looked a bit simplistic and bland at the start of the series. But, like Figueroa, he has settled into a trend of giving us nice, meat-pie style coloring - simple, nice to look at and accentuating of Don's artwork perfectly. I couldn't be more happy with this guy's job on the issue.
THE BAD: Costa's portrayal of Magnus as a by the book cop is flat and boring. His "you can't build a ship here it's illegal" thing is illogical and unjustified - why would it be illegal to build a ship to get off a planet with dangerous hostiles like the humans walkin' around. It's just confusing if you ask me.
OVERALL: An astounding and groundbreaking issue with beautiful art and intense, immersive plot. Loving every minute of this series and rearing for more. Next month: It’s the AUTOBOTS versus the biggest foe they’ve faced since DEVASTATOR! But with OPTIMUS PRIME in captivity, do our heroes stand a chance? The action keeps coming courtesy of Mike Costa and Don Figueroa!