Transformers Spotlight: Prowl Review
- Published on Saturday, 15 May 2010 19:44
- Written by William
While I enjoyed the IDW Spotlight series at the start, the series devolved into some decidely mediocre pieces that show little or no character development and overall little substance. Very few broke the mold on this issue,and when I heard that Transformers mainstay E J Su was back on the bandwagon for this 25th Spotlight issue. Su carried the main Transformers through it first twenty issues or so, and has delivered consistently good artwork. Put him with writer Mike Costa - the promising though somewhat inexperienced writer for IDW's ongoing series - and you've got yourself a recipe for potential awesomeness. Read on for more.
"As a soldier, he is able to analyze complex combat situations almost instantaneously. As a leader, he strives to find reason and logic in everything. But something strange is happening. Will he be ready to challenge logic in the face of a greater cause? Determined and focussed, he is ... Prowl."
WRITTEN BY Mike Costa
ART BY E. J. Su
COLORS BY Andrew Dalhouse
ART RATING: 8.5 Pricks out of 10
STORY RATING: 7.5 Pricks out of 10
OVERALL RATING: 8 Pricks out of 10
SYNOPSIS: Three LAPD Police cruisers are parked outside a liquor store that has just been robbed. Two cops are inside talking to the store clerk who apparently knows little English...minus the curse words, of which, according to Prowl, the clerk is well-versed in. The cops leave, failing to get any viable information about the robbery suspect from the store clerk.
Prowl's driver gets a call about a Gray Celica that was involved in a hit-and-run accident with a man riding his bicycle. The driver flips the switch and turns on Prowl's lights and sirens and peals down the suburban road.
Two years earlier, Optimus Prime and Prowl are walking through the city, surveying the aftermath that was caused by their clash with Megatron and his Decepticons. Prime wonders how they could have let such wanton destruction to happen, to which Prowl responds that it may have happened for a lot of reasons, none of them being their fault, but that the important thing is that they won in the end.
Prime doesn't believe that, and is adamant in helping the humans rebuild. Prowl advises against this, saying that the humans have been attacked and subjugated by the Decepticons for over a year; and that they won't have a lot of trust for the Autobots because of that.
Prime agrees, and says that Prowl must do his best to watch over and protect the humans in disguise. During Prowl's eight-month period of undercover work, he observes the virtual lack of infrastructure since the occupation, and dubs it humanity at its lowest point. But during this eight-month period, he learned that their war with the Decepticons made sure that the humans were left with very little, if anything at all. He also learned that the less that people have, the more afraid they are to lose it.
Prowl's driver rendezvous with a few other cops, who say that there is a Decepticon still inside the abandoned building. They describe it as having red and black colors and looking like a jet. Prowl's driver tells the cops that the cleaning crew are sweeping grid 48 and that they are at least an hour away. One of the cops replies that they don't need the army, and orders the other two to start a structure fire in the hopes of collapsing the building on top of the Decepticon, while Prowl just sits and watches.
Back at headquarters, Prowl notices that a few new Autobots have made their way to Earth. Prime stresses that Earth is a centrally located world and that it happens to be a good place to reinforce. Prowl fails to see the logic in Prime's words. Prowl says that the repopulation of the city is in full swing and reclamation is near, meaning that the Autobots will most likely have to move again. Prime and Prowl argue back and forth about where they will be safe from the human forces. Prowl then says that the chain of command has been steadily falling apart ever since the war ended. Prime, on the other hand, says that a chain of command is for a military unit, and that they need to become more democratic in nature.
Prowl continues his undercover reconnaissance work by patrolling the city. Prowl's driver stops to do guard detail at another building that is being cleared of some wreckage from the occupation. The two construction workers wheel out a severed hand still clutching a large blaster. One of the workers asks his partner just how many pounds of pressure he thinks the gun will put out. His partner advises against it, but the foolish construction worker squeezes the trigger anyway, blowing the top off of a recently rebuilt office complex, sending some rubble falling toward a little girl in the street.
Prowl, reacting out of instinct, breaks cover and pushes the girl out of the way of the falling debris, getting himself trapped underneath it instead. Prowl's cop driver is frightened, but tells the other people to stay back. Prowl asks his driver if the girl is okay, the drive says yes, which pleases Prowl. The driver is amazed that Prowl broke cover to save the girl, after spending eight months incognito. The Driver tells Prowl that the other people are ready to kill him. Prowl tells his cop driver that he just grew tired of worrying about what might happen, and that you sometimes have to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.
The cop understands, but tells Prowl that he still needs to report him to Skywatch. Prowl makes it out of the rubble in time before Skywatch arrived. Prowl spends another year in hiding, breaking cover once again, but this time paying the consequences for his action. Prowl states that breaking cover was worth it, because things changed.
He understands that sometimes it's necessary to act out of instinct, rather than formulate a logical strategy. Prowl states that there are 5 billion humans and only 10,000 Cybertronians, and that he would gladly risk his own life for any one of them.
THE GOOD: While definitely not the best Spotlight to come out of IDW, this issue is definitely a nice way to return to the series. We get a return to the constant interior monologue and narration that epitmomizes the Spotlights.
The art - by the viscerally talented E J Su - is a stark departure from his usual style of copious hatching, intricate mechanical detail and overall realistic portrayal of our favorite Cybertronians. Instead, Su gives his artwork a simplified feel - and while the inks still retain their beautiful clean feel, the simplified forms and large use of blacks gives the whole issue a police-slash-noir-slash-Mignola air about it. This fits Prowls's personality very well and is great to see. I've always been a fan of Mignola and E J Su, so seeing these two come together (in a way) is a dream come true.
Mixing styles further, the art also has a slight manga feel to it. Sparing panels, only about five or six per page, with lots of establishing shots and intense dialog sequences. Loveitloveitloveitloveit!
Dalhouse's simple, desaturated, blue-dominant colors make the art look like something out of a Joss Whedon TV show or CSI and are great to look at. It's people like Dalhouse that add so much to the art without actually using rendering. Cell-shading for the win!
In the case of the story, it's overall a pretty good offering from ongoing series writer Mike Costa. As I said before, it was nice to see the return of the interior monologs that us Transfans have come to love with this series. Not having them is kinda like a Superman story without Luthor - you can get along fine without, but it's just so much better with 'em.
The characterization is so much closer to Prowl's accepted personality - and the totally awesome portrayal in All Hail Megatron #15 - than Costa's previous shot of Prowl breaking cover to help some Cons. While Costa still changes Prowl's character, we see a lot more of Prowl as the cold, calculating, math-spewing prick we know him to be (with a nice "whiny officer" subtext).
The scene where Prime and Prowl walk through the obliterated streets and talk is a great example of Costa fixing Prowl back to his above personality. Costa writes Prime splendidly as he suggests helping the humans rebuild, feeling their pain. Prowl, being the prat he is, arrogantly brushes Prime's self-blame off, saying it wasn't their fault Earth became like this.
The walking scene is a great character contrast that accentuates Prowl's personality even more - Prime, the morose and tender leader, and Prowl, his arrogant, ignorant subordinate. E J Su contrasts them further in the art. Even the way they walk is different - Prime lowers his head constantly and tenderly touches the ruins, his eyes drooped in sorrow. Prowl is the complete opposite - he stands rigid, grimacing in apparent disgust at the ruins around him.
Prowl is portrayed as cold and calculating at the start, with his constant observation of the humans and the saving of a little girl eventually turning him a bit more instinctive and feeling. He realizes his usual brand of binary tactics and copious forward planning won't work in the new situation on Earth. The last lines on p22 (left) sums up all of how Prowl changed in a few choice words; "Five billion human lives. Ten thousand Cybertronian lives. I'd risk my own for any one of them." Great work.
The plot is simple and effective - A simple event with some good substance, references and ramifications that extend to the main continuity, and some good ol' fashioned character development. Spotlight: Prowl ticks all the boxes for Spotlight issues and does it very well to boot.
The references to main continuity - All Hail Megatron, the ongoing series and whatnot - give us an idea as to the full extent of the Decepticons trashing Earth. Apparently, it's a tad worse that supposed - poverty abundant, three years of cleaning up Con remains, crime and looting everywhere - and virtually no structures standing. Woo. I've seen this kind of thing a hundred times in all different media, but Costa and Su somehow make it a bit eerie - scary, I dare say.
We're also given a little insight as to why there's so many unexplained Autobots arriving on Earth - they're seeking refuge. The Con victory was galaxy-wide, and with little to no Decepticon presence on Earth, it's a pretty good place to seek asylum. Definitely not the explanation I expected, but an understandable and suitable one nonetheless.
THE BAD: The existence of this publication alone feels hurried and uprofessional. This Spotlight was originally going to come out a couple months from now, but after the outrage at Costa's out-of-sorts portrayal of Prowl in the ongoing series made IDW quickly bring the publication date forward. The whole issue feels sort of like a hurried apology and attempt to make amends for a botch-up. If Costa actually got Prowl right the first time, he wouldn't be in this mess and this Spotlight wouldn't have needed to be written - not that that's necessarily a good thing...
I don't know. On one hand, I really like the story and the art - they're the best Spotlight I've seen in a while. But on the other, this shouldn't be needed - and it looks a bit unprofessional from my view. Comment please if you agree, disagree or have no idea of the situation.
OVERALL: A bit un-needed, but still a great issue. Costa and Su have revitalized my confidence in the Spotlight series, and pretty much everything about this issue, I loved. Thanks, guys.