War and Peace #4
Title: Passive Aggression
Release date: July 2003
Cover variants: Hot Rod & Kup, Arcee & Springer
Writer: Brad Mick
Artwork: Pat Lee (pencils) Rob Armstrong (inks)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Menasor, Whirl, Roadbuster, Gnaw, Wheelie, Blurr, Hot Rod, Arcee, Kup, Blaster, Springer
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Menasor is breaking out of jail and somehow Magnus has to stop him!
The unstoppable force that is Menasor has broken out of the detention banks - and Primus help anyone who gets in his way! Defensor and the Omnibots did just that and paid the price, and the Wreckers Whirl and Roadbuster are the next to take a pummelling. Watching all this carnage unfolding is Ultra Magnus, the former leader of the Autobots, and now a lieutenant in Shockwave's new Cybertronian order. He knows this creature is too powerful to be defeated by brawn, but perhaps by using brain power a solution can be found. Magnus goes into battle, dodging blows, and taunting the Stunticons individually. He hopes that by drawing out the component personalities, and exploiting team infighting, he can stop Menasor from being able to function effectively.
The ploy works. As Menasor puts hands to his head, to reign in the conflicting voices, he comes under attack. Twintwist drills the giant's feet and Topspin electrifies him. Menasor topples, and then gets rammed head on by Ultra Magnus, as he's trying to get up. The Stunticons are put out of action and the Autobots dust themselves down. Among the rubble they discover one of the distinctive cannons, which the Decepticons Rumble and Frenzy carry on their backs. Is it possible that one of these newcomers is responsible for letting the prisoner escape? Magnus heads to Iacon to get some answers.
Back at the capital (Iacon) Shockwave gets word that the Dinobots are coming for him and orders Astrotrain to activate 'the sentinels'. The minion scuttles off to do his master's bidding, and a jet of molten lava erupts around Shockwave. Slag's welcome gesture heralds the arrival of Grimlock, with energo sword raised. Before he can chop bits off Shockwave, Blitzwing jumps in with his own sword and a fierce battle ensues.
Elsewhere, the former Earthbound Autobots are aboard some kind of Cybertronian train being piloted by the triple changer Broadside. No one is sure they can trust him, but all questions (apparently) will be answered at the end of the journey. Moments later they disembark and are welcomed into the headquarters of the Autobot resistance by Smokescreen. He has his Autobot badge concealed so as to avoid suspicion but is pleased to reveal his allegiances to Prowl and company, to put them at ease. Prowl and Ironhide are told by Smokescreen that their eyes were opened to Shockwave and his secret agenda, by a separate, more militant, group of Autobots. What's more, a revolution is in the pipeline.
Speaking of the militant group, they are the ones who are currently holding Optimus Prime. The Autobot leader receives a recharge and wakes up to see the monstrous form of Gnaw, the Sharkticon, standing over him. Prime gives him a punch in his sizable gob, and tussles with Blurr and Wheelie as they try to break it up. Hot Rod points two blasters at Prime and explains that it is thanks to Gnaw that he was retrieved from the sewer system at all. Kup walks in and berates Hot Rod for "pointing his peashooters" at the greatest Autobot of all time.
Meanwhile the Dinobots are raising merry Hell in Iacon until they run into opposition from massive Sentinels. Grimlock gets a radio communication from his team, just seconds before he is dropped by one of Ultra Magnus' shoulder missiles. Grimlock calls Magnus a traitor just as Blitzwing puts him down for good and darkness falls.
Back at Hot Rod and Kup's resistance unit, the group has just locked up the Decepticon Runabout (who was found with Prime) and it is time for introductions. Optimus meets Arcee and discovers Hot Rod's jealousy over her, and is told that Gnaw's origins are unknown, save for the fact that he turned up in the wastelands and looked out for the orphaned Wheelie. He also meets Blaster, who has been monitoring Earthen culture and can't wait to visit the planet. Blaster has also discovered that Shockwave has been doing a little broadcasting of his own, and putting out subliminal code intended to make Transformers more aggressive. Everyone is being prepared for war, but against whom?
Next thing, Springer and Smokescreen arrive with Ironhide in tow. Kup and greets his fellow old timer, Ironhide, like a long lost friend and Springer informs Optimus that it is all kicking off in Iacon. Sure enough, a flick back to the capital sees an imposing Omega Supreme-look-alike ready for action.
Phew! There is so much going on this issue that I don't know where to start. It is like there is too much going on at once and the humble reader is going to struggle to remember who is doing what to whom and why. We have Magnus taking on Menasor, Prowl and company meeting a group of Autobots who are planning a revolution, Prime doing the same thing with another group, Grimlock battling Shockwave, the Dinobots rampaging in Iacon, and massive sentinels turning up at the end! See what I mean? Chris Sarracini's volume one often read like there wasn't enough going on and Brad Mick's is the opposite. I can't help feeling that somewhere in between the extremes there is a happy medium fighting to get out.
On a more positive note the story does make a lot more sense when read as a graphic novel. And a good thing about details going over your head the first time is that there are new things to spot on the second attempt. For example Blaster's revelation that Shockwave has been secretly broadcasting subliminal, aggressive, messages to the population. This little plot grenade was tossed into the mix by the writer but its explosion was barely audible above the din of everything else going on. My guess is that Shockwave knows Unicron is coming and wants to get everyone battle ready.
On the subject of Unicron, it is impossible ignore the Transformers the Movie tribute which is going on. First we had Megatron cast into space by Starscream (a prospect I wasn't overly keen on) and this chapter has all the prominent Movie characters like Kup, Blurr, Hot Rod, Arcee, Springer etc, playing a starring role. The two covers on which they appear are superb, and the best of all six instalments I reckon. A lot of fans are unhappy with Mick draw on elements from the Movie and will accuse him of trying to disguise a weak storyline with in-jokes. My view is that he has hit the nail on the head, that nostalgia is what fuels this Dreamwave comic and he wants to take you down memory lane, while also creating something new. It isn't just the Movie that gets included, but the little things too, such as the 'rub and reveal' insignias that used to be on the toys. This was done, I assume, solely for copy protection reasons, so it is a nice touch that Mick is able to weave this into the story without it looking odd.
The really redeeming factor about this issue though, is the battle between Magnus and Menasor. It would be in danger of looking like a copy of the Prime/Devastator showdown from Volume One, but for the intelligent way in which Magnus pinpoints his opponent's weakness and utilises it. He knows the Stunticons have individual egos and despise their leader, Motormaster, so he gets them fighting among themselves and as a result Menasor can't function properly.
The scene where Magnus puts down Grimlock is also significant once you read War Within volume three and see that they were staunch allies. It can't be easy for Magnus to do something like that to Grimlock, especially as it means saving Shockwave, whom he is starting to mistrust. All in all there is a lot going on here and questions to ensure that readers would pick up issue 5. The problem is whether two comics is going to be enough to wrap up so many dangling plot threads.