All Hail Megatron #13
Released: July 2009
Number of covers: Four (A cover, B cover, RI cover, convention exclusive)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman and Mike Costa
Artwork: Don Figueroa and Chee Yang Ong
Characters: (Autobots) Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Kup, Hubcap, Tracks, Undertow, Brainstorm, Tempest, Motorhead, Crosshairs, Springer, Boxcar (Decepticons) Trypticon, Starscream, Shrapnel, Blitzwing, Reflector, Ratbat, Rumble, Megatron, Soundwave, Laserbeak
Ironhide has had enough and wants to quit the Autobots. Can Prime talk him out of it?
Aboard Astrotrain in deep space a wounded Megatron stubbornly clings to life.
The first story Old Ways opens with a tired and mentally exhausted Ironhide declaring that for him the war is over. After countless battles waged over millions of years, he feels he's lost sight of what it was all for - and worse - after falsely accusing Mirage of being the traitor, Ironhide no longer trusts his judgement. Optimus Prime says he has too much respect for his old friend to change his mind, before attempting to do just that.
Cue a flashback to the pair's first meeting on Cybertron, when Optimus Prime had not long taken over the mantle of Autobot leadership, and Ironhide feared the new commander's lack of military experience would get them all killed. Risking the scorn of Prime's lieutenant Kup he speaks his mind, and to his great surprise finds Optimus a willing listener. If Ironhide knows what it will take to fight and win, Prime will readily accept his teaching.
In the present, the two old friends share an Energon beverage and remark how Prime duly did listen and learn, and what's more, he proved Ironhide wrong on occasions... such as one time (now seen in flashback) where Optimus refused to take the logical battlefield exit and skilfully avoided a Decepticon trap involving Trypticon.
On another occasion Prime and Ironhide were dangling off a precipice but Optimus refused to let his friend drop, even at the risk of both falling to their doom. Stubbornness maybe, or loyalty. Back in the present Prime praises Ironhide's indomitability and spirit and says the Autobot army will be the worse without him. Ironhide reconsiders his decision and, recognising he has been outmanoeuvred, decides to stick around.
In the second strip Uneasy Lies the Head Astrotrain transports the defeated Decepticons towards a rendezvous point in deep space. Starscream is acting leader but with a comatose Megatron stubbornly refusing to die, he cannot officially claim the crown.
Shrapnel asks him to come immediately, a summons Starscream misinterprets as meaning Megatron is dead, but instead he gets the 'bad news' that the stricken Decepticon leader's brain activity has increased ever so slightly. At this rate he might even recover given time. Starscream attempts to direct Soundwave's energies away from nurturing Megatron, to propping up his would-be successor and getting back after the Autobots, but Soundwave will hear none of it.
After discussing with Shrapnel contemplates his next move; if he cannot cement the leadership he may well face a challenge when they meet Razorclaw, but perhaps the captured Autobot Matrix - a useless bauble as Starscream calls it - can provide the key. Resisting the urge to vent it into space (probably a psychic suggestion from the Matrix itself) Starscream addresses the other Decepticons with the Matrix around his neck on a chain.
He audaciously claims to have unlocked the sacred object's secrets and power - and amazingly the other Decepticons fool for it and install Starscream as Megatron's successor, expecting him to now lead them to victory. Starscream steps out of sight, and with the hails still ringing in his audio receptors, puts a hand of despair up to his face.
Review:By Omega Steve
IDW's All Hail Megatron series was a great divider for the Transformers fandom. Some enthused about the new direction, others were furious; but somebody obviously thought it a success as the decision was taken to continue it for another four issues. Originally planned as AHM Coda, the suffix was quietly dropped, and the numbering continued from the main series.
The four issues (each with two stories) are a bridge of sorts between AHM and the coming Transformers Ongoing series - and to an extent an attempt to paper over the continuity glitches with the previously established continuity. Simon Furman, who was dropped by IDW as the main Transformers writer (making way for AHM writer Shane McCarthy) returns here to pen Old Ways - the first of the two AHM#13 offerings, but it's hardly his best work.
He explores Ironhide's feelings in the wake of his ill-judged assault of Mirage - who he wrongly accused of being 'the traitor' when actually it was Sunstreaker. This lack of judgement, coupled with battle fatigue, makes Ironhide conclude that retirement is the best option. In some ways the tale reminds me of the 1987 Furman effort Kup's Story, but that is done with more verve.
If the story had been Ironhide and Mirage thrashing out their differences, assisted with the flashbacks, it would have been far more emotionally charged and a great deal more memorable. Instead it's Prime cheering up a depressed Ironhide over a 'beer' and memories, and falls a bit flat.
There are some good moments, particularly the pair's first meeting which shows good characterisation. Ironhide - tough and plain talking - has to get speak his mind even at the risk of alienating the Autobot's commander in chief. While Prime demonstrates enough grace and absence of ego to take the advice, and in doing so turn a critic into an ally, rather than kick up a fuss about insubordination. Kup is also very well done as the no-nonsense sergeant, keeping everyone in line, and this fits nicely with his previous characterisation in Spotlight Kup and AHM. The flashbacks are also a chance for some lesser seen characters like Hubcap, Crosshairs and Trypticon to cameo, which I enjoyed.
Probably the first thing a reader will notice about Old Ways though, is the change of style by artist Don Figueroa. His work has been trumpeted ever since he debuted for Dreamwave, but this new style may be a mistake. Don has abandoned the Sunbow-style plain faceplates in favour of a more detailed design with moving parts (presumably to allow for facial expressions and moving lips), but it is more akin to the live action films than G1 Transformers. It allows for a first in a TF comic though - Optimus Prime removing his faceplate to reveal a mouth! Then having a drink!
The problem is - and there's no nice way of saying it - is the new faces look a bit ugly; they are almost cadaverous and skeletal and it's not a great look. I can understand the marketing instinct to try and draw in fans of the live action films by making the bots look similar to their big screen counterparts, but it's not like there aren't numerous Movie comics already that people can buy. The selling point of the G1 comic is surely that it appeals primarily to those of us nostalgics who want a Transformers G1 comic. Going down this road of Movie inspired redesigns undermines that USP in my opinion.
Sure enough the backlash continued as the Ongoing got into its run and at the time of writing (January 2011) Don has modified the faces a bit, presumably in response to those criticisms. Other than the faces though, his work continues to be of a high standard.
This brings me to Uneasy Lies the Head, the second story, which is also marked out by unfamiliar artwork. Newcomer, Chee, brings a style resembling a painted canvass to the comic. It won't be to everyone's taste for sure, but I really like it, and while I wouldn't go as far to say every issue should be drawn like this it's fine every now and then. Actually one of the strengths of this two-story-per-issue format is that it can showcase the work of double the amount of creators. Chee will go on to illustrate the four-part TF: Bumblebee comic in 2010, but that's for another review.
The story marks the Transformers debut of writer Mike Costa, who will shortly take over the Ongoing series, and is not a bad start by any means. It follows on directly from AHM#12, with a badly damaged Megatron on life support following an assassination attempt.
There are echoes of the 1986 Transformers Movie, where a badly injured Megatron was cast into space by Starscream. Here, just like the movie, the Decepticons are all aboard Astrotrain - who is somehow as massive as a star cruiser. I know some Transformers can 'mass shift' (grow and shrink in their alt modes) but this is ridiculous. Were he to maintain this size in robot form he'd probably tower over Omega Supreme.
As in the Movie Starscream wants to dispose of Megatron and seize command, but of course he can't because loyalists like Soundwave are prepared to protect their standard bearer for as long as there is a flicker of life in his spark.
For some, Starscream's treachery flies in the face of his 'change of heart' in AHM#11 and #12, when he accepted Megatron's argument that Decepticon leadership must be earned by the challenger vanquishing his rivals. Some have questioned why Starscream would refuse to abandon Megatron on the battlefield one issue, then wish him dead in the next. I think the explanation is simply that Starscream is in an impossible position. With Megatron comatose, it is impossible to challenge him in battle, and to execute him would risk alienating the others - and not to mention look cowardly. Yet if Starscream doesn't do something soon, other high ranking 'cons could make a rival claim to the throne.
Luckily for Starscream they have the Matrix aboard. It might be a 'useless bauble' in this continuity, or possibly a source of great power. But what is evident looking back, is that we see the first signs here of the Matrix possessing Starscream - first by compelling him to (almost) throw it out the airlock, and in issues to come taking over his mind, Lord of the Rings style.
Quite why the Decepticons are so willing to accept Starscream's claims of harnessing the power of the Matrix without proof, I'm not sure; but either way he gets his wish and is made leader. The reader is left wanting to know what happens next, but sadly there will be a long wait until Transformers #7 in mid 2010 when we next check in with Starscream.