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Transformers Devastation #1

Publisher: IDW
Released: September 2007
Number of covers: Three (two regulars, one incentive)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: EJ Su (pencils + cover), Nick Roche (cover), Zac Atkinson (colours)
Rating: Art / Story

Characters: (Autobots) Nightbeat, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Prowl, Hot Rod, Wheeljack, Jazz, Sideswipe, Hound, Hardhead (Decepticons) Megatron, Sixshot, Astrotrain, Runabout, Runamuck, Skywarp, Ravage, Blitzwing, Starscream, Ratbat (humans/others) Verity, Jimmy, Agent Joshua Red


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


A reprogrammed Ravage is turned loose by the US government's counter-alien division Skywatch.

Aboard Ark 19, currently hidden beneath Lake Michigan, the Autobot Nightbeat is investigating the disappearance of Sunstreaker and Hunter O'Nion. The pair were ambushed by persons unknown who went to great lengths to 'fake the evidence' to look like the missing duo had perished. But who did it and why?

Nightbeat examines the stolen Notebook computer procured by Verity Carlo (in Transformers Infiltration #0). At first glance it is unremarkable, but a level six scan reveals a sophisticated, virtually undetectable, homing device which Verity would have unknowingly brought aboard the Ark. Clearly this is how the kidnappers were able to find the Autobots and a further search of the banks of Lake Michigan by Bumblebee turns-up even more high-tech surveillance devices. Nightbeat recommends to Optimus Prime that they relocate the Ark, and second-in-commmand Prowl prepares for imminent take off.

Elsewhere, a badly damaged Ironhide (still in van mode) is due to be car crushed at dawn. Hot Rod and Wheeljack are on an Indiana highway on their way to rescue him but little do they realise but they are being tailed by Sunstreaker's kidnappers, the mysterious group called the Machination.

At the Decepticon base, Megatron is still smarting over his recent ignominious defeat by Optimus Prime. Throwing the rules of Infiltration out of the window, he has summoned Sixshot - the multi-transforming 'ultimate weapon', and tasked him with eliminating Prime's unit. But Megatron's other warriors - Runabout, Runamuck, Thundercracker, Skywarp and Astrotrain - fear he's losing his grip on sanity and hatch a plot to revive Starscream.

Meanwhile the Government's extra-terrestrial organisation 'Skywatch' lowers a huge crate into the desert surface and throws it open. Out comes a remote controlled Ravage - one of several Transformers recovered from beneath the Earth by Skywatch and 'reconditioned'. But will the reprogramming hold?

Back at the Ark, Jimmy and Verity are frustrated at being left out of the loop about what is being done to find Hunter and Sunstreaker. And behind closed doors Prime orders Hound and his unit (currently guarding Decepticon captives on Cybertron) to come to Earth.

Moments later the Ark rises from Lake Michigan, and under cover of darkness, begins its journey south. watched by the Decepticon spy Ratbat. Megatron dispatches Sixshot with instructions to destroy the Ark and leave no survivors. This he does. inflicting heavy damage on the ship and leaving it spiralling downwards in flames, right towards a residential suburb!

******

Comments:

This is a hugely promising first issue, and the first time in a while that I've put a Transformers comic down and gone "wow". It's a vintage Simon Furman read, and one of the best cliff hangers I've seen in a TF story since the heady days of Marvel UK (I'm thinking Prey Part 2 and Target 2006 here). The sight of the Ark plummeting towards a neighbourhood is drama at its most explosive, and full credit to artist EJ Su for capturing that drama so well.

Furman's technique of running multiple plots concurrently works nicely and creates a sense of a busy issue. It's almost like having several pots on the stove each approaching their boiling points. A lot of modern comics (Dreamwave and IDW) are criticised for being quick reads, but here we're getting back to one of the better traditions of the past: having lots going on. Is it really too much to ask? Let's see now, we've got a new and deadly threat making its presence felt (Sixshot); Megatron going off the deep end again; Prime in fighting mood; Nightbeat investigating; Skywatch unleashing their captured Transformer; and the Machination being a real and present (if not always visible) threat - all great stuff.

If Infiltration took a while to get going, there's a sense that the storyline has really built up a head of steam as we get into 'phase three: Devastation'. I'm still not sure of the wisdom of making Sixshot so 'kick ass' though. If he possesses enough firepower to level worlds, you have to wonder how the Autobots aren't blown to smithereens at the end of the issue. If Sixshot is as deadly as he's billed he could surely end the war single-handed. What's needed I think is a weakness to counter-balance that raw power. Perhaps an explanation like he burns up a massive amount of fuel when at full destructive capacity, so he isn't able to do this all that often.

Speaking of old comic traits that I'd like to see return, it was nice to see a good old fashioned story recap at the start. The flashbacks with the 'salesman' and Verity nicking his computer, reminded readers of what's gone before, but more importantly explained events that were long overdue an explanation. That scene with Verity stealing the computer occurred in the Infiltration preview issue and it's only now that its significance is revealed. So now we know the salesman/original owner of the notebook computer, had infiltrated the Decepticon base and downloaded photos onto the computer in a bid to lure a Transformer out. His employers, The Machination, originally intended to capture a Decepticon but later switched their attention to the Autobots once the computer (complete with homing device) was taken aboard Ark.

It's nice to see Ratbat too. Evidently he's had an EJ makeover and now transforms into a CD player of some sort. An explanation of how he came to be on Earth would be welcome at some point soon, and it's also good to see Ravage again; those scenes providing some tie-in with Spotlight Soundwave.

One last point (and I can't make up my mind whether this is good/bad, irritating or cool) but I keep detecting Star Trek references, particularly when it comes to Transformers piloting spaceships. Jazz uses the Trek jargon manoeuvring 'thrusters' as they're taking off, and the bridge of the ship is almost a homage to the Enterprise with the command chair in the centre and officers at various stations in front and to the sides. Like I said, I'm not sure it's a bad thing, it just feels 'borrowed' rather than uniquely Transformers. I did however enjoy seeing Prowl giving the orders to fly the ship, and Prime in the background, seemingly happy to leave the micromanagement to his commanders. Overall an outstanding first issue, and now onwards.

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