Transformers Armada #6
Release date: December 2002
Number of covers: One
Cover price: $2.95
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Pat Lee (pencils) Rob Armstrong (inks) Espen Grundetjern (colours)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Sonar, Jetstorm, Runway
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Megatron is boosted to the max by Leader-1 but is hungry for more power.
A compound in Silver Ridge, Nebraska, now provides home-from-home for Megatron's Decepticons. The big boss himself is in a typically unpleasant mood and punches a table in a bit to intimidate his Mini-con, Leader-1. Megs is convinced the small Transformer is withholding power from him, and he needs more if he is to defeat Optimus Prime, now that the Autobots have also acquired Mini-cons. Leader-1 drops off Megatron's arm, reverting to robot mode as he does so, and looks particularly worn-out. Clearly the solution is not to squeeze more out of their Mini-cons, but to find more of them. The question is where are they?
In South Dakota, the Autobots' human friends are hanging out in the woods. Rad has a close shave when an unfeasibly large jump goes awry and his skateboard ends up in the river. Luckily he grabs a branch to stop himself falling in (or unluckily for those readers who'd have liked nothing better than to see him come-a-cropper). Engine noises herald the arrival of Prime and Hotshot, who apparently have come to say goodbye.
In the outskirts of Rapid City, also in South Dakota, the Minicon team consisting of Sonar, Jetstorm and Runway are holed up in an abandoned factory playing a form of chess. They are also debating how to get the Autobot-Decepticon war away from Earth whilst maintaining their neutrality. But it ends-up being a moot point because the roof is suddenly ripped away and the trio is seized by Megatron!
Back at the forest, Prime explains that the Autobots cannot continue their friendship with Rad, Carlos and Alexis, because a robot war is no place for children. The kids disagree and Prime's Mini-con, Sparkplug, is in two-minds. Suddenly he gets a pain in the head as an emergency transmission comes through from one of the newly-kidnapped Mini-cons. The small robot has transformed into plane mode and fled, only to be hunted down and fired-upon by the Decepticon Starscream. Leader-1 was supposed to block the distress call but failed to do so, most likely on purpose. So the Autobots return to base and plan their rescue mission. The Decepticon HQ is heavily fortified but maybe a covert operation by Sparkplug and a few Mini-cons could succeed. Prime thinks the risk of capture is too great - and elsewhere we see the three ensnared Mini-cons undergoing some kind of Decepticon modification.
Sparkplug, Jolt and Longarm, decide to disobey Prime's orders and take along the human kids to keep a watchful distance and activate an alarm if they are not back in 30 minutes. The Mini-cons transform and infiltrate the base via a waste pipe - and they only have three minutes to get clear before the next burst of flame is piped through the tube. They make it, but it's a case of out of the pan and into the fire as they run into Starscream. The winged schemer sees them as his ticket to replacing Megatron as leader, but first he'll have to catch them. Suddenly the roof caves in around them, possibly caused by Starscream's indiscriminate blasting, and elsewhere Megatron unveils his latest dastardly scheme. He has transformed the three new Minicons and combined them into a sword of unimaginable power - the Star Sabre.
It's all change for the comic with Sarracini being shown the door in favour of the veteran Transformers writer Simon Furman. I'm not sure what Sarracini did to get the push, or even whether he left of his own accord, but all I know is he started 2002 as Dreamwave's only TF writer and has by this point been replaced by Furman on Armada, and by 'Brad Mick' on the G1 book. In terms of the difference it's made to this title, its no bad thing as Furman does a typically competent job. At least he knows how to whip-up some drama and personal conflict and (thank god) makes sure that characters' names are mentioned in speech. All too often in Dreamwave comics you'll have someone talking and haven't a clue who they are - see the Micromasters series for example.
The other big change is the artist. Raiz is out and Dreamwave president Pat Lee is in. Presumably this is somebody's idea of a dream ticket (probably Pat's) but I preferred Raiz's art. Lee's robots all have the same faces and the double page spread in the Autobot base is downright confusing. The panels start off reading horizontally and then switch to the standard vertical format. I thought Lee's art was stunningly different when I first saw it in 2002, and his style has been aped (notably by Don Figueroa and Joe Ng). Trouble is they do it better.
In terms of plot, it's straightforward enough. Three new Mini-cons have been captured by Megatron and the existing ones disobey orders to mount a rescue. The fact they are disobeying Prime and going it alone, thereby increasing the danger, ramps up the tension in a good way. I'm interested to see how this one pans out. I also like the dynamic between Megatron and Leader-1 as characterised by Furman. It's a total one-sided relationship and really shows the greed and lack of compassion of the Decepticon leader. You have to feel sorry for Leader-1 because nobody would want a boss like that.
The Star Sabre superweapon is an interesting idea - but it looks too chunky and heavy to be a blade though. Maybe its how Pat has drawn it.