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Transformers Devastation #6

Publisher: IDW
Released: February 2008
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) Sunstreaker, Hot Rod, Hardhead, Optimus Prime, Hound, Nightbeat, Leadfoot, Grimlock (Decepticons) Scorponok, Megatron, Astrotrain, Runabout, Runamuck, Starscream, Thundercracker (humans/others) Dante, Hunter O'Nion, The Reapers, Agent Red, Galvatron, Nemesis Prime, Jhiaxus


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


No surprises as the head of the evil Machination is finally revealed as the Decepticon scientist and outlaw, Scorponok!

The sixth and final instalment of Devastation opens in Tampa, Florida, at the headquarters of the mysterious group known as the Machination. The head of this shadowy and high tech outfit (the human head at least) - Mr Dante - is now encased in robotic armour and is speaking to the dismembered of a Transformer who we cannot quite see. Dante and this mystery TF are about to become one... courtesy of the Machination's headmaster process. The severed head is then revealed as Scorponok!

He is badly damaged and disfigured as a result of an encounter with Ultra Magnus some time ago (see Spotlight Ultra Magnus), but now, with Dante able to transform into a new head, Scorponok is whole again. His first act is to seek out Hunter O'Nion and prevent his escape from the Machination compound.

Over in Oregon, Megatron and his Ore 13-fuelled Decepticons are in the battle of their lives against The Reapers. This oddball bunch has come to eradicate all conflict on Earth... by eradicating all life on Earth, and they start by executing the Decepticons Runabout and Runamuck!

Nearby the ancient Transformer, Galvatron, now an agent of the Dark Universe and whose very touch now causes death, waits in the wings.

In a scrap yard in Warsaw, Indiana, the Autobot Hot Rod battles the Machination's Sunstreaker clones with a little assistance from Hardhead. His compatriot has arrived to recall Hot Rod, Wheeljack and - the recently saved from the scrapheap - Ironhide back to the Ark for an urgent mission on the other side of the galaxy. Hot Rod insists he's staying to rescue Sunstreaker from the Machination and Hardhead turns a blind eye while Hot Rod transforms and races away.

Back at the Ark, currently orbiting Earth, detective Nightbeat makes a grim discovery concerning the corpse of a Galvatron-victim called Leadfoot. It appears that every part of the dead Autobot had shutdown instantly, perhaps as a result of a necrotic virus. Nightbeat cannot shake the feeling he has seen this effect before and this leads to the realisation that somebody has tampered with his (Nightbeat's) memory (see Spotlight Nightbeat). It is a disturbing riddle and one he must get to the bottom of.

In Oregon Galvatron is ready to make his move. It suits his purpose to spare the Earth and so he infuses the Reaper's leader, Deathbringer, with his necrotic virus. Deathbringer then fulfils his billing all-to-well causing instant death as he touches the other Reapers and swiftly bringing about their destruction at the hands of the Decepticons. The victory allows Starscream to be reconciled to Megatron, his past treachery (see TF Infiltration) now forgiven. Meanwhile Galvatron is free to slip away, taking with him, the fallen Sixshot.

At Machination HQ, Hunter succeeds in transforming into a Sunstreaker head and merging with one of the SS clones. He evades Scorponok's deadly sting and escapes the Machination compound.

In an epilogue to the story, the secret intelligence group Skywatch initiates plans to reactivate Grimlock, one of the Transformers it recently recovered buried under ground, and in space the Ark blasts off on course for the prison planet Garrus 9, leaving the Earth to fend for itself.

While in the Dead Universe, Nemesis Prime and his creepy sidekick Jhiaxus welcome home Galvatron. The endgame has begun says Jhiaxus, and soon all will be revealed!

******

Comments:

TF Devastation started amazingly strong but seemed to drag a bit in the middle as it descended into a Terminator-style chase between Sixshot and his victims. However at the close of issue six I'm pleased to report that the series has recovered most of its standing and ended on a suitably dramatic note.

There was every reason at the point of publication (Feb 2008) to expect that the storyline would resume in the summer with six issues of 'phase four' in Transformers Revelation, followed in due course by the TF Expansion series that Simon Furman had planned for. But it was not to be (well sort of).

IDW apparently decided it was dissatisfied with the numbers for Furman's books and a change of direction (and writer) was needed. Thankfully Simon would be allowed to conclude his space epic but the series would have to be wrapped-up in FOUR comics not the expected 12 - and presented within the constraints of the Spotlights format to boot. This was a storyline which, by the end of TF Devastation, had all the pieces in place for an explosive finale - and the decision seemed kneejerk and unfortunate, and more than a little disrespectful to Simon Furman. It's of great credit to him that he's never once criticised the curtailing of his story publically, and the conclusion of the Dead Universe saga - through the pages of the Transformers Revelation Spotlights was an incredible ride and awesome writing under the circumstances. But TF Revelation will be discussed in detail another time so it's back to the comic at hand - Devastation 6.

Of the two covers the A cover by Nick Roche is the more striking, but I'm not so keen on the way Starscream is throwing his head back like it might break off with a little pressure. But the cover depicts the making-up of Megatron and Starscream (not for the first time) and the re-integration of Screamer back into the Decepticon fold. It's not a pathetic let off of the likes that we're used to in the Sunbow cartoons, but Starscream earning his second chance by fighting effectively against the Reapers and proving (after his deactivating of Sixshot last issue) that he has the right mix of guile and firepower as the situation demands. He wins a second chance simply because Megatron respects his abilities and finds him useful, and probably also because he knows he was remote last time and allowed Starscream to start plotting, but now that Megs is on Earth he can keep a close eye on his second-in-command.

One thing that wasn't a great surprise this issue was the 'big reveal' that the head of the Machination is in fact Scorponok. It'd be great if the surprise could have been maintained but in today's internet-connected world, the clues had been unravelled long ago and debated on fan forums. Still, I rather enjoyed seeing the deformed Scorponok head holding court as it reminded me a lot of Lord Straxus in the Transformers UK run from Marvel. Quite why Scorponok is unable to repair his battle damage and must instead go to the drastic lengths of becoming a headmaster is a mystery. It's a relief to finally have some movement on the Hunter/Sunstreaker plot though, with the pair of them escaping the Machination compound at long last. The conclusion of their story, and that of Scorponok, will be revealed in the Maximum Dinobots comic, which is again a matter for discussion elsewhere.

Another seemingly-incapable-of-ending plot is the one involving Hot Rod and Wheeljack. They set off to rescue Ironhide from the Machination six issues ago and still haven't accomplished the mission. And with the arrival of Hardhead (who makes a fantastic entrance by blowing up a Sunstreaker clone) it seems we won't see Ironhide rescued from the car crusher, although we're left to assume it's happening off camera.

I enjoyed the interplay with Hot Rod convincing Hardhead to turn a blind eye and let him go after Sunstreaker, even though HH could get into some serious trouble for disobeying an order.

One of the central plots this issue - in fact probably the big plot - is the battle royale between the Decepticons and the Reapers. As much as I enjoy Runabout and Runamuck as characters it was entertaining to see their demise, particularly Runamuck's, as his head lopped off and then he looks up to see a muscle-bound Reaper about to drop a rock on his bonce. If nothing else their 'deaths' - if indeed they are dead which I doubt - validates the Reapers as a threat. That said for an indestructible bunch they crumble pretty quickly after contracting the necrotic virus from Galvatron and the rapid way they are dispatched makes me wonder if it was worth introducing them in the first place. They weren't especially popular with the fandom so maybe this is Furman taking the feedback on board and ditching these characters.

Finally it's good to see Nemesis Prime at last and mad scientist Jhiaxus looks brilliant. He has a passing resemblance to his namesake from the Transformers G2 comics of the 1990s but is re-imagined for the new continuity. The pair of them look like a robotic Count Dracula and hunchbank sidekick, and I look forward to seeing more from them.

Lastly the series ends on the thought provoking premise that the galaxy-spanning conflict has drawn the Autobots away from Earth, leaving our world at the mercy of the Decepticons. It's an early precursor of what we can expect in the upcoming (at this point anyway) All Hail Megatron comic. So it's onwards to Revelation, Maximum Dinobots and AHM.

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