All Hail Megatron #8

Released: February 2009
Publisher: IDW
Number of covers: Two regulars and one incentive
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Shane McCarthy
Artwork: Guido Guidi
Rating:

Characters: (Autobots) Sunstreaker, Ratchet, Kup, Ironhide, Blaster, Perceptor, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Hot Rod, Blurr, Roadbuster, Jazz, Drift (Decepticons) Reflector, Starscream, Bombshell, Kickback, Shrapnel (Humans/aliens) The Swarm, Hunter O'Nion


Synopsis:


Sunstreaker gets ready to sacrifice himself to make amends for his treachery.

In a flashback Sunstreaker sits silently in a desolate waiting area with something on his mind. Ratchet approaches and informs him that the surgery to separate him from Hunter O'Nion was a success, and while Hunter may never be fully human again he is recovering well. Sunstreaker looks away, unable to discuss the youth and unwilling to visit him.

In the present the three Reflector Decepticons are having fun capturing and mutilating humans in New York. Starscream sees their sadism for what it is - boredom, and seeks an audience with the Insecticons in which he attempts to recruit them to a coup which is fermenting against Megatron.

On Cybertron Ironhide gets a dressing down from Kup after striking out at Mirage last issue. Suddenly the Autobots come under attack from the Swarm and decide on an immediate evacuation. As the convoy flees, Perceptor uses his new found sharpshooter abilities to detonate explosives at range, which takes out several of the enemy. But in the process Perceptor is hit by a Swarm dart and felled. Now there will be no-one to blow up the bridge behind the Autobots. Blurr volunteers for the risky undertaking but Sunstreaker goes in his place.

Ironhide tries to talk him out of it and Sunstreaker confesses that he is the infamous traitor who sold out the Autobot army. In flashbacks we find out he had made a secret deal with Starscream to trick the Autobots into ambushing and destroying Megatron, leaving Starscream to take over the Decepticon leadership. In return the Autobots would have been free to leave the Earth and humanity would have been wiped out. This would have satisfied Sunstreaker's lust for revenge after being violated by humans who turned him into a headmaster with Hunter as his head.

Drift shows up and whisks Ironhide to safety just as Sunstreaker detonates the explosives at close range, before plummeting with most of the Swarm. Is he dead? It looks that way. Ironhide meanwhile is delivered safely to Ratchet's care and still the other Autobots give no thanks to Drift, still mindful that he was once one of the Decepticons.

Drift warns Ironhide that Sunstreaker's treachery could only have got the Decepticons so far - to hack into the Autobots' many bases across the galaxy and defeat them needed extra help. The scene then cuts away to a tortured Hunter plugged into one of Bombshell's inventions.

******

Review:

By Omega Steve

So after eight issues the secret is out, we finally learn the identity of the traitor and in the end it wasn't the obvious choice (Mirage), or the former Decepticon Drift, or even Wheelie goddamit - it was Sunstreaker!

It turns out he had a motive for selling out his comrades and the Earth all along, and mercifully this (unlike a lot else in AHM) ties-in with past stories. The explanation is that the arch narcissist, and egotist, Sunstreaker, was defiled and humiliated by humanity in the person of the Machination. At least that's how he saw it, after his body was used as a template for the Headmaster clones, his brain used a relay station for this army, and finally and perhaps worst of all he was forced to become one with teenager Hunter O'Nion as his only means of escape.

Despite being surgically separated from Hunter, as we see at the start of the issue, the resentment and self pity runs deep in Sunstreaker and he's prepared deal with the devil himself, namely Starscream, to get revenge. Noble motives such as defeating Megatron aside, it feels like Streaker's real objective is the extinction of humanity - something which, as an Autobot, he would never be allowed to do, but which Starscream can deliver. But it's all rather unfair on mankind I feel, because after all the Machination was Scorponok's outfit and he directed the operation all along. So humanity is not directly culpable at all, another Transformer is.

I am shocked by Sunstreaker's total disregard for innocent life. As a character he has always been up his own exhaust, but asking Starscream to arrange the genocide of the human race is a scary new extreme. This steps over the slightly comedic line of vanity and selfishness, to something psychopathic and frightening. Maybe this is the true Sunstreaker coming out, and in which case should he be an Autobot at all? Or perhaps he is mentally ill as result of his recent trauma. Either way I get the impression his dealing with Starscream in order to decapitate the head of the Decepticon army is something the Autobots could forgive him for, but the genocide pact is a different kettle of fish. He'd certainly be shunned if the truth came out, or possibly put on trial and even put to death (assuming the Autobot army practices capital punishment) if his dark secret came out.

So it's no wonder Sunstreaker sacrifices himself to blow up the bridge. One supposes it is far better to choose the manner of your death and go out a hero in the eyes of some, than confess your sins and accept damnation. Is Sunstreaker a hero at the end, or a coward? Probably a bit of both.

Apart from the big reveal which marks this issue out from the rest of the series, there is also some much-needed action to get things moving again. The scenes with Sunstreaker/Ironhide/Drift and the Swarm on the bridge are dramatic and exciting, and the deadly precise Perceptor makes an explosive contribution too. Once again we have a character who has evolved considerably from what the audience knows of them. In his case, he's gone from wordy scientist to silent sharpshooter - how we won't find out here - and I don't suppose the 'transformation' if you'll pardon the pun, will be palatable for everyone. But it stands to reason, if you are a living robot capable of growth and learning, that change - even fundamental change - is possible, either through reprogramming or positive and negative life experiences.

Some other thoughts: when Megatron told Bombshell last issue that there was someone he 'needed to meet', there is a good chance judging by the cliffhanger that he was referring to Hunter. The Decepticons probably held him prisoner by then and required Bombshell's mind control to extract sensitive information about Autobot security. But how and why would Hunter have access codes anyway? The obvious explanation is that he got them while bonded to Sunstreaker, but why would the middle ranking SS be trusted with such vital information? This for me is a flaw in an otherwise pretty flawless issue.

It is good to see AHM embracing past continuity at long last, from the flashbacks of the Machination, to Kup acknowledging his mental breakdown. Drift justifies his reputation for awesomeness by sneak attacking the Swarm and stealing Ironhide from under their noses. I like him so far. He is a great warrior, fighting with swords and his own code of honour, and yet he is mistrusted and maligned by the other Autobots and doesn't fit in. That makes him all the more noble and heroic in my eyes.

Last of all I want to mention Starscream. The character we knew and loved from past comics and the Sunbow cartoons was a great comedy villain - forever trying to topple Megatron and speaking out of turn, then falling flat on his face and having to grovel for survival. In AHM though, Shane McCarthy has redefined him as a wily and masterful manipulator, who genuinely believes in the Decepticon cause - at least that's how it seems, Starscream could be playing the reader too. He admits to 'idolising' Megatron in the past, which makes sense otherwise why would he serve under him all these millennia? But now he says Megatron has lost his way, which is key because it allows Starscream to present himself as the defender of Decepticon ideals, rather than a second in command betraying a great leader. In fact he's the one prepared to put the cause first by toppling Megatron who has sold out their future, leaving them to torment humans when they should be conquering galaxies.

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