Transformers Escalation #2

Publisher: IDW
Released: December 2006
Number of covers: Two (plus two incentives)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: EJ Su (pencils) Zac Atkinson (colours) Neil Uyetake (letters)
Rating: Art / Story


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve



Prime puts his foot down to stop a fleeing Machination agent in his tracks, while Jazz and Wheeljack come under attack (top).

The discovery of Ore 13 super fuel on Earth has caused the Decepticons to escalate their plans for global domination. Their strategy is to replace leaders with android facsimiles and instigate all-out war, leaving the Decepticons free to harvest the remains of the planet. But as ever the Autobots stand ready to stop them, and Optimus Prime has arrived to take personal charge of the counter-infiltration unit.

Issue 2 opens with a flashback from nine months ago, where Senator Alexander Holt met with a leading general to obtain assurances that conflict would continue in the Gulf. The politician is in the pocket of oil companies who are relying on the price of fuel remaining high, and therefore talk of peace and troop withdrawal are not helpful. Watching from a side street in vehicle mode is Runabout and the senator has been marked as the Decepticon's primary target!

Still reeling from the events of last issue - where the secretive human organisation known as the Machination 'blew up' Sunstreaker and passenger Hunter O'Nion - Optimus Prime, Jazz and Wheeljack take to the highway in search of answers. Ironhide, speaking from a remote location, recaps the horrific attack and Prime is desperate to retrieve Sunstreaker's remains, not only to discover what happened, but to conceal the Autobot presence on Earth.

Elsewhere Skywarp and Thundercracker bomb a fuel refinery in the Middle East under orders from Megatron. Their leader intends for the Americans to be blamed for the attack, leading to increased tensions. The jets perform their task relative ease and speculate on whether they are still in Megatron's bad books after siding with Starscream's rebellion (see Infiltration 6).

As night falls Wheeljack and Jazz circle a police pound in search of Sunstreaker's remains. Wheeljack finds a sentry guard unconscious, suggesting company, and moments later he and Jazz spot Machination agents loading 'Sunstreaker' onto a truck and confront them. The agents fire magnetic darts at the Autobots, causing temporary paralysis, and bazooka them for good measure. By the time Jazz and Wheeljack recover the Machination are gone, and they too hit the road just seconds before a bomb destroys the pound.

The Machination truck-driver speeds away with an eye on the fireworks behind him, not seeing a massive obstacle in the road until a collision is inevitable. The vehicle mangles horrifically against Optimus Prime's rock-solid leg and leaves the driver injured and bleeding.

Back at the Ark, Ratchet inspects the remains and confirms they are not Sunstreaker but a chassis made to resemble him. It begins to look like his death was staged... but by whom, and why? Later as a stunned Verity learns that Hunter may still be alive, the TV news reports Senator Alexander Holt urging firm action in the Gulf and reveals he may be the next Republican candidate for president.

******

Comments:

It's another excellent issue which moves the plot onwards and cranks up the excitement several notches. As entertaining as the Wheeljack and Jazz run-in with the Machination is, one scene truly sticks in the mind above all others. It is where Prime stands in the road and totally mashes-up the escaping truck, showing no apparent regard for the driver - who may for all we know be fatally wounded. This is really quite significant because it is a major departure from the Prime of old, who would willingly sacrifice himself for any weaker creature - even computer generated creations on one absurd occasion.

But now the reader has visual evidence that the IDW Prime is a very different kind of soldier and leader. This Prime knows there are casualties in war and is prepared to accept collateral damage. Put simply he is tougher, more detached from his emotions, and probably a good deal more ruthless too. The impact of the truck and Prime's leg is drawn exceptionally well by Su, and you can almost feel it. It also demonstrates how formidable the Autobot leader is, that he can absorb a high speed impact with barely a scratch.

The revelation that the wrecked Lamborghini was not Sunstreaker and merely a decoy was not altogether unexpected, but I'm pleased because it makes little sense to kill off characters at this early stage. Certainly not Hunter as Sunstreaker can presumably be rebuilt, and now we've got a real mystery on our hands as to what the Machination wants from the pair of them.

However as more threads are woven at least some are sown-up, albeit partially. Thanks to the dialogue between Ironhide and the kids we learn that mysterious skeleton Verity uncovered at the Decepticon bunker in Nebraska (in Infiltration 4) was a person replaced with a facsimile. We also learn via Ironhide that it is standard procedure for the Decepticons to replace people in high places with facsimiles and then sit back and watch Armageddon unfold. A clever strategy - and probably a good deal less risky than battling Earth armies and the Autobots.

Other points of note: Megatron has converted to his classic form, one presumes with the ability to transform into a Walther P-38. I have to say its good to see him in his original form again, after so many incarnations where he's a tank - and personally I didn't like the big treads on his shoulders.

Also the dialogue between Skywarp and Thundercracker as they contemplate Megatron's opinions of them was enjoyable. As in any military dictatorship their survival depends on staying on the right side of the boss, and they've recently had a lucky escape after joining Starscream's coup.

I also really enjoyed the Machination versus Jazz and Wheeljack, conjuring up the memorable human villains of the Marvel era (Circuit Breaker, the Mechanic and the like) who were a considerable threat despite being human.

My only criticism is the issue reads too fast for my liking and suddenly a month seems a very long time for the next instalment. In the old Marvel days issues 1+2 would probably have been squeezed comfortably into one comic with smaller panels and more words. It's a reflection of the modern trends but I miss the old days where comics were a meaty read. Likewise 3+4 and 5+6 of Escalation could have been told in two old-style comics. Nevertheless the quality of writing is every bit as good as Furman in his hey day.

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