Transformers Ongoing: Issue #3

Title: Skyfire
Publisher: Dreamwave
Release date: March 2004
Cover variants: Regular (Don Figueroa)
Price: $2.95
Writer: McDonough & Patyk
Artwork: Don Figueroa, James Raiz (pencils) Elaine To (inks)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Bumper


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


After taking out Sunstorm, Jetfire removes his armour and orders Starscream to his feet.

A huge and imposing Jetfire grips Sunstorm in a headlock after launching a surprise assault inside the sunken Decepticon spacecraft Nemesis. Sunstorm (who believes he is some kind of god) fears no opponent but he does consider the attack a blasphemy and deserving a response. He flips Jetfire forward and on to his back, but the armoured Autobot has many defences and opens fire with the cannons mounted on his helmet. Sunstorm goes down but for how long?

The following Jetfire (with Starscream in tow) briefs the Mini Autobots and Ratchet aboard their downed space cruiser Orion. He warns them about the powerful, enhanced "creature" they encountered and the likelihood that it will regenerate and return. The Autobots are sceptical about a supernatural explanation for Sunstorm's powers, and Bumblebee is suspicious of Jetfire who has not been seen for four million years until he turned up with Megatron's lieutenant. Brawn and Starscream almost come to blows, but Jetfire steps in to calm things. They will have to focus on their mutual enemy now.

Back on Cybertron Prowl is lamenting the pressures of trying to govern a planet that was held in dictatorship by Shockwave for so long. He'd hoped the transition Autobot regime would be held in higher regard by the populace, but instead they are met with questions and suspicion. While taking five with Ironhide he wonders if they have been gone too long and would be better off returning to Earth.

Speaking of which, on Earth the Decepticons and Combaticons have been restored to health and energised to fifty percent by the Autobots. Bumblebee's decision to do so is based on the need for troops to tackle Sunstorm, but it is unpopular with his followers, as the mini-bot realises when he overhears Brawn, Cliffjumper and Bumper talking in the armoury.

Bumblebee hears a yelp from the infirmary and finds Ratchet surgically removing a component from Starscream's arm. By sticking it in a Petri-dish and bombarding it with ions it will become an enhanced version of Starscream's energy signature and should draw Sunstorm. Jetfire reckons the demi-god's fascination with Starscream is because they share identical genetic data, and he theorises that he could be a super-powered clone of some sort. Suddenly alarm ring out - Sunstorm is coming!

Moments later Bumblebee pilots a gold-coloured saucer containing the 'Starscream homing beacon'. He flips down his visor and activates a force-field repelling Sunstorm. It only invites a burst of energy that sends his plane spiralling to Earth, and him crawling out of the wreckage with a sore head. Sunstorm transforms and lands and comes under fire from Warpath. He is easily able to destroy the tank shells blasted in his direction, but moments later Jetfire rockets into view and dives on Sunstorm. There is a massive explosion but both survive and resume their battle. Bumblebee shoots Sunstorm with a mechanical device that wraps tentacles around him and pieces his metal hide. It patches in to his neural processors and starts inflicting pain. Sunstorm flees to Alaska where he seeks help from his "brother" Starscream... but then the ceiling is torn open and Starscream is horrified by a mystery arrival.

******

Comments:

Three issues in and I am still none-the-wiser who Sunstorm is or what he wants. McDonough throws us a morsel by revealing him to be a clone of Starscream, so that at least explains the "brother" references. But who's cloned him, Shockwave perhaps, and for what reason? In issue #1 he escaped from a lab beneath Cybertron's surface so its fare to say he was part of a secret experiment, but what's with all his cryptic biblical talk and are we going to get all this explained in the remaining instalments. I suspect not.

Part of the problem is McDonough won't even let on whether Sunstorm is a villain or not. Sure he looks like a Decepticon seeker but we have no coherent explanation from him of his motivations or his plans. If he hooks up with Starscream, what is supposed to happen? Every time he shows up another group of Transformers attack and we get no closer to unravelling the mystery. Seeing as we've yet to see Sunstorm attack without provocation, it's fair to conclude that he is not motivated by destroying Autobots or the Decepticon cause.

Bumper seems likable and should be a welcome addition to the family of mini-Autobots. With Bumblebee taking on a leadership role it leaves the way clear for someone else to play the part of the Autobots' little buddy, junior member. I also enjoyed Bumblebee's torment over his leadership credentials and the discontent among some of the troops, namely Brawn. It's clear he's trying to do his best, and is more experienced and capable than he realises but will need some successes to sure up his confidence. So far they've lost the Orion, thrown in their lot with Decepticons, and got their asses whipped by Sunstorm. However I'd much rather read the scenes of Bumblebee's self doubt, or comedy moments between Ratchet and Starscream, than the boring exchanges between the Autobots and Jetfire at the start. The book needs more lighter moments.

On the plus side, the comic has a decent word count (unlike previous Dreamwave books that are over as soon as they've begun) and doesn't have to sacrifice action to achieve this. I also love the way that McDonough has worked the quirks of the Transformers toy designs into his story. I'm talking about Jetfire's helmet (at last explaining how he can have a human-shaped face in the comics and robotic one as a toy) and removable armour. Likewise the discrepancy between Bumblebee's toy and comic faces are explained when he dips his visor - the first time anyone has married the toy and comics/cartoons designs in one - and it looks cool!

I'd have liked to have seen more made of the cliffhanger so we have more of a clue that Omega Supreme is arriving next issue. Granted the 'next month' blurb gives the game away but still.

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