All Hail Megatron #9

Released: March 2009
Publisher: IDW
Number of covers: Two regulars and one incentive
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Shane McCarthy
Artwork: Emiliano Santalucia, Robert Deas
Rating:

Characters: (Autobots) Roadbuster, Perceptor, Trailbreaker, Prowl, Tracks, Blaster, Ironhide, Mirage, Kup, Ratchet, Cliffjumper, Bumblebee, Hot Rod, Hound, Drift, Sideswipe, Springer, Optimus Prime, Jazz (Decepticons) Soundwave, Rumble (Humans/aliens) Bridge, Sarah, Spike Witwicky, Charles


Synopsis:


Spike gets rid of his soggy clothes and gets set to take down Megatron.

Shocks abounded last issue when we learned Sunstreaker was the traitor, and his former Headmaster partner Hunter O'Nion had (involuntarily) supplied the Decepticons with the secret codes they needed to disable Autobot defences across the galaxy, thus explaining how Megatron 'won' and the Autobots came to be exiled on Cybertron.

Issue #9 flips back to a rain-swept New York City where the human survivors Bridge and Sarah are looting a department store for supplies. Bridge is wondering whether the Cons patrolling outside have ruined the weather, when the pair run into Spike Witwicky in a state of undress trying on some new threads. He explains he is on a mission to find a gun engineered using Transformer technology, and Megatron is his target. A guy called Charles, who we've never seen before, shows up and conveniently offers to take them to a stash of weapons they can use. He has a personal grudge to settle with Rumble.

Back on Cybertron the Autobots are preparing their defences in expectation of another assault by the Swarm, and Ironhide offers a grovelling apology to Mirage (whom he accused of being the traitor and assaulted in issue #7) only to have it thrown back in his face. Ratchet warns Kup that morale is dire and only Optimus Prime can turn things around, but he's not sure Prime can be rebuilt.

In New York Spike and Sarah access a concealed Skywatch lab where a weapon modelled on Shockwave's gun arm is stored. Shortly afterwards Rumble shows up and pursues Spike, before being a bazooka shell to the face courtesy of newcomer Charles. Soundwave turns up to recover his injured comrade while broadcasting high-pitched sound to ward off the humans. This creates a lull in the communications blackout allowing Spike to radio his father, Major Witwicky, and find out that New York is about to get nuked if he fails to take down Megatron!

Back in the Autobot camp, a grieving Sideswipe is extolling a fatalistic view that they have helped to spread war across the universe and probably deserve the death that is coming to them. Thankfully a reactivated Optimus Prime shows up in the nick of time to rally everyone for one last push.

******

Review:

By Omega Steve

The first thing you notice when opening this issue is that the art is just that bit different to normal. Regular artist Guido Guidi is absent for reasons unknown, but presumably to keep the production on schedule, and IDW has drafted in Emiliano Santalucia and Robert Deas to help out.

Of the two, Santalucia's work is the more palatable. He did a fine job on the excellent Masters of the Universe comic in the early 2000s, and wasn't too bad in Spotlight Blaster in early 2008 either. In my opinion his style is better suited to drawing humans rather than robots, but that's not a big problem here as the human characters are centre stage.

Deas takes on five pages including the key action scene where Rumble attacks the humans and is taken out by a bazooka shell to the face. The art leaves a bit to be desired and looks like something you'd expect to see in a comic for younger readers. Whether it was done in a hurry I don't know, but in event having two artists with different styles working on the one comic does make for a jarring experience and distracts from the story to some degree.

Way back in issue #5 Spike Witwicky was seen coming ashore in New York and set to enter the fray on a mission to take down Megatron. But any readers who expected to see that particular thread picked up from issue #6 would have been disappointed, as it's taken four months for us to check in with Spike. It's a shame because this could have been an interesting subplot alongside the main action, and cranking up the tension.

When Spike finally appears it's like a early scene from first Terminator film, where he breaks into a store to find clothing. Spike appears to leave main(ish) character Sarah momentarily speechless, perhaps in a forewarning of his later prowess with the ladies, and his later encounter on Rumble while riding a motorbike sets lays the seeds of his action man persona which will come to fruition in the Transformers Ongoing comic. That said the guy who actually takes Rumble down is a bloke called Charles, who appears out of nowhere to declare a grudge against the Decepticons, fires a rocket and then sods off. The fact we have never seen him before makes it feel a little contrived.

In a nice little nod to Simon Furman's previous stories, the weapon retrieved by Spike has been modelled on Shockewave's gun arm (Shockwave having been dug up by archaeologists and taken away by the US agency Skywatch for further study). If alien tech were falling into Government's hands its logical that they would find a military use for it. Quite why the gun was concealed in New York is another matter, and perhaps worthy of further stories. It says to me that Skywatch anticipated the Decepticon invasion and took steps to provide its agents with a means of fighting back.

Soundwave pops up again this issue and demonstrates his father-like affection for his cassettes - in this case recovering the injured Rumble and broadcasting high frequency waves to cover his escape. In an act of uncharacteristic incompetence this temporarily lifts the communications blackout Soundwave has imposed on New York, and allows Spike to contact his father and learn of the nuclear strike. Surely Soundwave is capable of broadcasting and blocking communications at the same time, so what is going on here? Perhaps his concern for Rumble causes him to forget or disregard the comms blackout, or maybe he thinks the threat is minimal. It is a bit odd to underestimate an enemy immediately after they have taken down one of your fellow Decepticons though. And another nitpick is how come Soundwave is not aware of Spike's call to his father and the impending threat.

Other observations: Sideswipe gives a good speech about the futility of the Autobot-Decepticon war and whether they all deserve damnation. It seems a bit at odds with the 'think with fists' all-action guy we've seen before, but maybe a reflection of a broken spirit as a result of months of languishing in defeat on Cybertron and now the 'death' of Sunstreaker. Thankfully Prime enters at just the right moment to lift everyone's spirits, but it's like 'whoa where did you come from?', as one minute Ratchet is saying he can't repair Prime (and indeed has been unable to do so for months) and the next thing he is back on his feet! It's good to see Prime back, but some hints and build-up would have worked better for me.

Some good things this issue were Bridge's paranoia about the Decepticons even being responsible for the bad weather - nice touch; Ironhide's attempt at apologising to Mirage and having it thrown back in his face with the line 'Don't ever talk to me again' - clearly a bot who can hold a grudge, and Bumblebee's little aside at Drift, proving that even Autobots are capable of the worst human failings of bullying and prejudice.

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