All Hail Megatron #1

Released: July 2008
Publisher: IDW
Number of covers: Two regulars and one incentive
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Shane McCarthy
Artwork: Guido Guidi
Rating: Art / Story

Characters: (Decepticons) Scrapper, Mixmaster, Longhaul, Hook, Scavenger, Bonecrusher, Megatron, Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp, Soundwave, Astrotrain, Bombshell, Shrapnel, Laserbeak. (Autobots) Prowl, Wheeljack, Mirage, Trailbreaker, Tracks, Bumblebee, Ironhide, Cliffjumper, Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, Jazz, Ratchet, Optimus Prime. (Humans) DJ, Andy.


Synopsis:

Things are getting back to normal on Earth following the defeat of Scorponok and the Dead Universers a year earlier. In New York people are going about their business seemingly ignorant that there ever was a Transformers threat.

But then the Constructicons roll into Times Square, transform, and start laying waste to the terrified population. Their attack is followed by the Decepticon seeker jets who swoop down and open fire, and the most menacing of all - Megatron rises among the skyscrapers and fells one of the mighty buildings with a single blast from his fusion canon!

The US Air Force scrambles to meet the threat and we meet two pilots named DJ and Andy who exchange some mutual admiration and climb into their cockpits. Andy gazes lovingly at a photo of his sweetheart, unsure if he'll ever see her again, and minutes later they are airborne and bearing down on the Decepticons.

A specatacular dogfight ensues but mankind comes off worse. Their missiles are directed off course by Soundwave's interference and Skywarp inflicts heavy damage to DJ's plane. The brave pilot puts his jet on collision course with Megatron and explodes in a ball of flame. But as the fire dissipates we see the Decepticon leader still standing!

On Cybertron the Autobots live among the ruins in exile. Prowl delivers a report to acting leader Jazz, who throws it in frustration. Prowl turns to see the badly damaged lifeless body of Optimus Prime on the operating table.

******

Review:

By Omega Steve

IDW's decision to drop the respected and experienced Simon Furman as the main writer on Transformers and replace him with little known Australian, Shane McCarthy, was always going to be controversial. Readers were divided in summer 2008 and still are two years later. The editors probably felt Shane's 12-part All Hail Megatron story would deliver a shot in the arm to Transformers and create an eye-catching 'event' to would pull in new readers and create a perfect jumping on point.

But for long-term readers who had stuck with the series since 2005 it felt like a slap in the face. Just when plots about the Dead Universe/Nightbeat/Galvatron and Scorponok's Machination were approaching a pay-off, along comes a decision to truncate the story and wrap-up most of it over the space of four Transformers spotlight comics. That Furman churned out a competent ending despite the constraints is all the more credit to the man. That said, he did also get five issues of Maximum Dinobots to conclude the Earth-based plots so IDW weren't entirely ungenerous.

Had AHM been a better paced read, and without the character and plot inconsistencies (between it and the established Furman continuity) that might well have been the end of the matter. But IDW's forums have been full of posts from people complaining about all of the above and criticising the decision to swap Simon for Shane, and the 'ations' for AHM. To be fair to Shane he was a guy doing his job and fulfilling a brief as best he could. It wasn't his decision to 'snub' Simon Furman but I feel he took the flak for it all the same. He may have brought some of it on himself by not making it clearer from the outset how AHM flowed out what had come before. Instead we were told that AHM occurred a year later (later than what we don't know but presumably Revelations) and events in those missing months have brought about a situation where a war which raged for countless millennia and spread the galaxy, is now decided in the Decepticons favour.

If we forget about the previous three years of stories for a moment and judge AHM #1 on its own merits it is not actually a bad opening instalment. Certainly it works better if you are coming to the franchise afresh and that is probably the point. Artist Guido Guidi seems to have retro-engineered the Transformers back to their 1980s robot and vehicle modes, no doubt to make them more familiar to fans of the original Transformers Movie. So we have the unedifying sight of the seeker jets sweeping into New York as outdated F15 planes rather than the modern revamp they had received under EJ Su in previous comics? Why would these characters revert back to old forms? It doesn't make sense, but as I say this is a series which reads better if you blot out everything previous.

However Guido's art combined with McCarthy's direction creates a Hollywood-blockbuster feel to the events, kicking off with the Constructicon attack in Times Square to Megatron rising among the skyscrapers and felling one with a single fusion canon blast. This latter sequence is a great scene and speaks volumes about Megatron without the character needing to say a word. It does beggar belief somewhat that the American public has forgotten all about the Transformers given that they were all over the news a year or so earlier, so we'll have to assume the public have been thrown off the scent most likely by a government cover-up.

Some reviewers/posters criticised Shane for including the two cannon fodder pilots Andy and DJ, and trying to make us care about them (DJ glances longingly at a photograph of his lady before flying kamikaze into Megatron. But their inclusion emphasises the point that this isn't just the Decepticons kicking the crap out of New York - real human lives are being lost in the carnage, and this in some ways is a new thing for Transformers. Up until now casualties have been largely assumed, but here we are confronted with the reality. We've had the Autobots' darkest hour and this is humanity's.

So what of the Autobots? We see nothing of them until the final two pages where it is established they are on Cybertron and Jazz is in charge, while Optimus is a non-functioning wreck on the operating table. It is a shocking scene to be sure, and mysterious too. What happened to Prime in the year between Revelation and AHM that has put him in this state, why is Jazz in charge instead of Prime's deputy Prowl, and how can the Autobots be living on Cybertron when the planet's atmosphere is toxic? Is it even toxic any more or is this a Furman plot thread that has been conveniently forgotten? Yet more ammunition for the AHM sceptics.

So all in all its a great concept exploring what would happen if the Decepticons won and were free to conquer Earth and maim and kill with impunity, and issue #1 certainly leaves you needing to know what happens next. A recap telling the story so far and connecting it with AHM would have been better than what we got, and some narrative explaining the toxic Cybertron situation would have pacified some long-time readers a bit more I think. But in terms of bringing in new readers this is not a bad start.

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