Transformers Ongoing: Issue #1
Title: Night of the Combaticons
Release date: January 2004
Cover variants: Pat Lee, Don Figueroa, Dynamic Forces, TransformersCon exclusive, Silversnail
Writer: Brad Mick
Artwork: Don Figueroa (pencils) Elaine To (inks)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Starscream is lost in the moment as he imagines himself Decepticon leader.
A smug and triumphant Starscream stands at the banks of a river in Oregon, wearing a crown and gazing longingly at his reflection in the water. After so many failed plots and betrayals he has finally succeeded in becoming the new Decepticon leader. Now if only Megatron were here to see it but alas Starscream opened fire and cast him into space.
Surrounding the Decepticon and the deactivated bodies of the Autobots Wheeljack, Windcharger, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, but don't know yet what occurred to put them in this state. Then Jazz appears, hovering above ground and in considerable pain, yet still defiant. As the view pans out we learn that he has been grabbed by the Combaticon-combined giant, Bruticus, and gets squeezed into unconsciousness. Starscream is impressed by his new body guard, but not so happy when he realises that Brawn and Ratchet have escaped the slaughter. They must be found and destroyed!
The scene skips to those aforementioned escaping Autobots who are journeying back to the Ark and puzzling over their chances of getting inside in one piece. The automatic defences went 'haywire' during the battle with the Decepticons and now seem incapable of distinguishing an Autobot energy signature from that of the enemy. Brawn takes the lead skidding and dodging around the guns, with Ratchet matching his moves, and somehow they make it safety... well almost. Ratchet makes it by one huge cannon is still pointed at Brawn's head. He is going to need help and fast.
On Cybertron a Micromaster burns after being hit with a ball of flame from Runamuck's gun. His Battlecharger brother Runabout watches impressed. The duo has ventured into Shockwave's subterranean laboratory in the hopes of recharging themselves, but it looks like somebody already tore the place up. Runamuck goes exploring and thinks he sees Ultra Magnus in one of the status chambers, but its not Magnus, more like a clone of him. Blinding light starts to emit from another capsule and the Decepticon scrapes some condensation off it for a better look - only for a fist to punch out and seize him around the neck. Runamuck falls and his buddy, Runabout, also starts to feel inexplicably weak and collapses. The mysterious being who emerged from the stasis chamber resembles a seeker, and speaks in strange biblical tones. He begs a ball of light (most likely the Vector Sigma computer) for the power to vanquish his enemies... and it is granted. The jet explodes out of the surface of Cybertron and rockets away into the stars, heading goodness knows where.
Meanwhile Starscream and Bruticus have arrived at the Ark to find the defence grid out of power and the Autobots missing. No doubt the weapons packed up in the nick of time and they were able to get inside. Sure enough Ratchet and Brawn are surveying an Ark prison cell with the captured Soundwave and seekers laying within. Moments later a rampaging Bruticus flashes up on the monitor screens and rips a hole in the ship's roof, orders the Decepticon captives to get to their feet.
In space a shuttle craft containing mini-Autobot reinforcements, and commanded by Bumblebee, races to the rescue. Brawn's transmission appears on screen, revealing footage of how Soundwave and co had attacked the Ark and been defeated (explaining how they came to be in the cells). Then showing how the Combaticons had defeated Jazz and the others, but then the transmission abruptly ends. On Earth, Brawn and Ratchet have their hands full. Brawn throws a huge metal plate into Bruticus' face, and Ratchet sets the Ark to self destruct. They leg it outside and hit the deck as the ship goes up. But it is all for nothing as Bruticus staggers out undefeated, and Starscream blasts the two Autobots into unconsciousness. Thousands of miles above, Bumblebee and his crew are entering Earth's orbit, when a blinding ball of light overtakes them. At the heart of it is a seeker jet which transforms into the orange and yellow crusader, known as Sunstorm. Pity those who would stand against him.
Transformers are back in an ongoing monthly format for the first time in more than 10 years. With Brad Mick at the helm it was always likely that this would be packed with interesting, fan-favourite characters and brimming at the seams with sequences. Mick demonstrated in War & Peace that he likes to keep the reader baffled, and sometimes confused by throwing one seemingly disconnected scene after the other at them, and this issue is no different in that respect.
We begin with Starscream on Earth in a what-should-be a familiar pose for anyone who's seen Transformers the Movie. When we last saw the treacherous one he had taken command and was skipping Cybertron with Soundwave and a few followers, when they realised the ship they were in was actually Sky Lynx. How then did he come to be standing by this peaceful lake in Oregon? Mick is not saying for now, and neither is he letting on about how Runabout and Runamuck got away from the Sharkticon or what was going on at Shockwave's labs. Who are these mysterious 'clone' type characters and where does Sunstorm get his power from. Why does he talk the way he does and what is his mission. I don't have the foggiest, and you might say that a bit of mystery is a good thing, and I might agree. But I think we need a bit of explanation in places to ensure the reader can keep up.
Similarly, it is not until the end of the book when you find out how Wheeljack, Sideswipe and co came to be beaten up by Bruticus. And then it's a surprise to see the Decepticons as captives in the Ark. Maybe it would be more straightforward to show these events happening at the start so it all flows better. But I guess if he'd done it that way, then Mick couldn't have introduced Bruticus the way he did, by having Jazz mysteriously crushed and then panning out to see the culprit.
The writer's fondness for including references to The Movie (ie Starscream's crown and the line about disrupting his coronation) are legend, and now seem to be extending to the regular cartoons. Fans of the TV series will know that Starscream recruited the Combaticons to aid him in his leadership ambitions, and this story appears to be a homage to that pairing.
The part with the Ark defences actually reminds me of the Marvel story, Funeral for a Friend, where this happens, but I don't know if the writer was consciously aware of this. Talking about the Ark, I really hate the way that the ship is destroyed so flippantly. We are talking about the Autobots' permanent HQ, a staple part of the TV and old comic series for their entire runs, and it goes up in a few panels. That's lame and I really can't see how it adds anything to the plot.
I believe Sunstorm is a Japanese repaint (correct me if I'm wrong) so it's an interesting idea drafting him into the comic as a major new character. It shows that Mick is prepared to draw inspiration from all parts of the Transformer fandom, and by launching new characters (Sunstorm, Bumper and more) he is creating more than just a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Whether Sunstorm proves to be an asset or an unnecessary distraction from the main business of the Autobot-Decepticon war, remains to be seen.