All Hail Megatron #5
Released: November 2008
Number of covers: Two regulars and one incentive
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Shane McCarthy
Artwork: Guido Guidi
Rating: Art / Story
Characters: (Autobots) Hot Rod, Perceptor, Springer, Blaster, Jazz, Ratchet, Ironhide, Cliffjumper, Bumblebee, Prowl, Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, Wheeljack, Tracks, Kup, Blurr, Roadbuster, Drift (Decepticons) Megatron, Ratbat (Humans) Col. Witwicky, Cmdr. Spike Witwicky
Kup and the Wreckers (including an oversized Roadbuster) make their grand entrance.
A quick recap: The Autobots have been exiled to Cybertron and are reduced to scavenging for Energon just to keep themselves (and the stricken Optimus Prime) alive. On one such mission they encountered Hot Rod, and as this issue opens, he explains how he came to be on the homeworld.
It turns out Hot Rod had been aboard a ship called the Trion which pursued a Decepticon battlecruiser into an ambush and got shot down. It crash landed more or less in one piece on Cybertron but is too badly damaged to be space-worthy. The ship was commanded by Kup, a legendary figure among the Autobots, who as if on cue strides in flanked by Wreckers and other assorted 'bots.
Back on Earth, Colonel 'Sparkplug' Witwicky receives a guest - his son Spike, who is a commander of special forces in the US Army. After the pleasantries the older Witwicky gets down to business; mankind has an all-powerful weapon developed from Transformer technology and Spike is to use it to assassinate Megatron. The US believes that with the Decepticon leader dead, his followers will fall into disarray and may be vulnerable. But first Spike will need to get into New York, which is no small feat now that the connecting bridges and tunnels are destroyed and no planes can fly in undetected.
On Cybertron, Kup winds-up Jazz by questioning his capabilities, causing Jazz to throw Springer over his shoulder judo-style, and slap Blurr, before putting a gun to Kup's head. With all the posturing over Jazz and Kup retire to a back room where Prime's body is on life support, and they discuss how a traitor in their midst had allowed the Decepticons to score such a game changing, galaxy-wide victory. A cut-away to Megatron reveals that he has possession of the Matrix.
Elsewhere Spike and his forces are attacked by Ratbat while rowing to Manhattan. Sparkplug finds out contact has been lost and assumes all the special ops are dead, but somehow Spike has survived and comes ashore.
Review:By Omega Steve
Five months in and it's finally starting to feel like this 12 part series is heading somewhere - and hopefully good. Jazz's Autobots have met with Kup's group and we learn there of a traitor in the midst. Colonel Witwicky and his son Spike have taken the first steps in their counter attack against the all-conquering Megatron, and it feels like the chips are finally falling into place. If the tempo were sustained from here onwards I think this series would have answered more of its critics, but there's a lot of ups and downs, pacing and padding to come yet.
At least there's a bit more attempt here to glue the story onto the established continuity, with references to Cybertron being off-bounds, combiner technology being new, and Prowl referred to as Prime's number two - although apparently circumstances require Jazz to step-up and take charge. Quite why we're not told but it might be something to do with the fact that he's all of a sudden become the robot equivalent of Bruce Lee - able to fling Springer over his shoulder with ease and kill with two little fingers... actually I made that bit up, but you get the idea. I've no major problem with Jazz being a special operative, and in fact I'm pretty sure he's billed as such in his original tech specs, but this is a side to Jazz that has never even been hinted at before (neither in IDW or Marvel) so it feels a bit out of character.
Kup is making his first appearance since his 2007 spotlight in which he went mad and killed many of his would-be Autobot rescuers. But there is no mention of any of that here, nor the all-important question of how Kup made the transition from gibbering wreck at the end of that spotlight to the confident commander we see here. Maybe Shane is leaving it up to Nick Roche (who wrote the Kup spotlight) to tell the tale at a later date, and I can buy that but why not at least throw us a bone? I think a flashback sequence or some dialogue addressing the issue would be welcome, and perhaps even an explanation of why Kup is suddenly chomping on a robotic cigar. I don't know whether this is a bit of artistic licence from Guido (the artist) but Kup is coming across as the robotic equivalent of Col 'Sparkplug' Witwicky.
Speaking of whom, the exchanges between the elder Witwicky and his son are among the finest of the series and do credit to both characters. Spike may be regarded as an annoying douche by readers of the later Transformers Ongoing series, but here he is accepting a dangerous, possibly suicidal, mission without hesitation. He's a true hero and a lot more likeable than he would become under later writers.
The Ratbat scene was powerful, especially with the full page given over to his unexpected attack. This occurs just when it seems like the humans are getting somewhere, dumping further despair onto an already hopeless situation.
But following the deaths of his squadron, Spike shows his metal by surfacing at Manhattan - the only member of his team to make it. His mission is to assassinate Megatron - which is a wonderfully audacious proposition when you consider it - but I get the impression he might just succeed. Some other things we find out: in addition to the mysterious traitor, the Matrix exists in this continuity and Prime no longer has it. Only a few senior Autobots know about its existence and Jazz has been keeping the fact of it falling into Megatron's hands a secret, presumably for morale reasons. The ships used by Autobots and Decepticons in the original Transformers animated movie are in use here, and they are capable of jumps over vast distances (just like in Battlestar Galactica). They also have shields, which presumably is borrowed from Star Trek, but the Autobots are capable of Borg-like interfacing with their ships and steering them mentally. Why they still need to talk aloud to one another is not explained, and actually whatever advantages this interfacing gives are quite spectacularly reversed when the Decepticons virus the ship. I thought this was quite a clever means of disabling an enemy.
Last but not least, our introduction to Kup's crew reveals the presence of the much-hyped Drift -although we really see very little of him. Why not? It's a bit odd considering all the hyperbole from IDW and Shane. And Roadbuster has clearly been on the pies and is now a veritable giant, a good twice the size of a regular Autobot. He was normal-sized when he appeared in the Stormbringer miniseries the other year so it's all very odd. Nevertheless AHM #5 is a promising instalment all things considered.