Transformers Ongoing: Issue #7

Title: Infestation
Publisher: Dreamwave
Release date: August 2004
Covers: Regular
Price: $2.95
Writer: James McDonough & Adam Patyk
Artwork: Don Figueroa (pencils + cover) Elaine To (inks)
Rating: Art / Story


Synopsis:

By Ian Arrowsmith

Jazz and Marissa uncover a plague of Insecticons in a deserted town!

Heads fly and bodies explode as a mechanical ninja tears an enemy platoon to bits on the cinema screen. It is an unfamiliar movie but clearly a favourite of the excited marine seated in the deserted theatre. This trooper and his unit are in the small California town of San Desto, to investigate why the population suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. When a set of tentacles passes in front of the projector it scares ten bells out of the solider. But it turns out to be one of his buddies waving a strange robotic object he's found.

The second guy makes his way downstairs and finds his pal stood motionless in a trance. Panicked, he starts to radio for assistance just as a giant robotic insect appears from the shadows and the theatre echoes with screams that having nothing to do with the film.

Two days later at the Earth Defence Command headquarters, Area 51, Marissa Faireborn briefs the Autobots Jazz, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker about the strange goings on. She tells them an alien energy signature, believed to be Cybertronian in origin, had been detected in San Destro. Jazz is unsure humans can be trusted, as the track record isn't excellent to date, but agrees to help. Moments later the trio are walking through a decontamination beam with Marissa to a workshop where EDC technicians are repairing Wheeljack and Windcharger (two casualties of an earlier battle with Bruticus). Here they are reunited with Bumper and Warpath who are supervising the repairs.

A brief interlude sees Rumble and Frenzy un-gamely shooting fish in a barrel in the Decepticon base and generally slacking off. They spot an inbound Starscream and Frenzy scurries to warn Soundwave, who is seated at his computer probably up to no good.

Back at Area 51, Sideswipe's casts an eye over the CCTV and catches a glimpse of unfamiliar Decepticon (Scourge) under examination in another part of the complex. He's about to ask what's going on, when Marissa reminds him that he's supposed to be paying attention to the mission briefing she's delivering.

Minutes later they're aboard an EDC airship above San Destro and parachute down with Marissa and her soldiers. They touch down in the centre of town and there's no sign of the 1,000 inhabitants. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker break off from the group and get the jitters, as though someone or something is watching them, while Bumper leads the humans into the theatre. Suddenly there are screams and an EDC trooper emerges covered in an odd green slime, babbling something about an ambush. The ground cracks, as if like an earthquake, and hundreds of Insecticon clones emerge to surround the Autobots and humans!

******

Comments:

After the long-winded and somewhat convoluted Sunstorm saga, this well-paced and straightforward two parter is just what Doc Ratchet ordered. It is also what the series has been crying out for at this point into Dreamwave's two and a half year run, and is good sign that eight months into McDonough and Patyk's tenure, they are settling into a rhythm and can let the saga unfold in a more rhythmic, less rapid-fire way.

The premise, thankfully, is clear cut this time; the Insecticons have taken over a small American town and abducted the population, and it's up to the Autobots to discover what is going on and put a stop to it. There's a gradual build up of tension, from the obligatory demise of the idiot soldiers in the theatre, to revelations that the townsfolk are missing, to the eerie scenes in the centre of San Destro where the lights are on but no-one's home. The fact it's at night and only evidence of sinister forces are the unsettling noises, only adds to the suspense. At times it is genuinely creepy, and it doesn't matter that we're watching giant warrior robots who can look after themselves in battle. The impression is that they are in real danger.

Jazz works well as a unit commander, mixing an easy going style with a natural authority born of years of experience. Then there are the double-act of Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, who come over as squabbling brothers, but at each other's side when the battle is joined. I also found myself warming to Marissa Fairbourne who strikes me as an interesting character. She mentions how her grandfather knew the difference between the Autobots and Decepticons, and set up the EDC some twenty years previously. What was his story and what happened to him? How did this make Marissa the person she is today. One hopes all of these questions would be answered in time.

It's also pleasing that the writers should refer to the Transformers presence on Earth two decades ago, as this provides continuity with the Marvel series. One strength of Dreamwave is that it strives to bridge the two fandoms of past comic and cartoons, and be inclusive of each. The concept of Insecticons being able to clone themselves is a good example; this was a cartoon idea and has been incorporated into the story as the last few panels show.

A genuinely dramatic cliff-hanger too! It reminded me a lot of City of Fear part 1 (the 1988 Marvel UK) story, where zombies emerge to surround the heroes. Of course this type of scene is nothing new in cinema fiction, but again the issue opens with a cinema scene so in a way the ending is rather apt.

My only gripe is the movie with the robotic ninjas on the opening page. I'm not sure whether this is a homage to some external series, but as this is a book about robots it makes you think you're seeing a new character, rather than a movie. Most likely that was the intention, but I'd rather they'd used a scene from something totally unrelated so the reader thinks 'hang on'. Those of us who've read Marvel UK #22 or US#5 will recall Shockwave watching TV on the first page. I remember being surprised to turn the page and see a scene from the 80s show 'V' and Shockwave watching it.

One last point: Scourge. He took a blast at the start of War and Peace, and was last seen in human hands for purposes unknown. We learned a little about his background in the Issue #0 of this ongoing series - he was a scout for Unicron and had located Cybertron during the period known as the Great Shutdown, where all Bots and Cons were offline. How did he end up on Earth and what secrets does he hold? It's nice to see him pop-up again this issue, albeit for the briefest of seconds, so the readers know he's not been forgotten about an explanations are forthcoming at a future date.

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