Transformers Escalation #5

Publisher: IDW
Release date: March 2007
Number of covers: Two regulars, two incentives
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: EJ Su (pencils) John Rauch (colours) Chris Mowry (letters)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: 'Head' of the Machination


Synopsis:
By Jon Nickson


Prime's done well to hold on against an Ore 13-enhanced Megatron, but the outcome was never in doubt.

We start with a brief interlude in Tampa, Florida, where the machinations of... well, The Machination are in full swing, with the mysterious 'head' giving out orders to Mr Dante. Cut back to Brasnya, and the big throwdown is in full swing. Prime vs. Megatron, round one. Ding ding! Megs has a slight advantage this time, as he's pumped himself to the optics with Ore-13.

While the two leaders duke it out, their respective troops are involved in a good ol' fashioned scrap too - Jazz, Wheeljack and Hardhead are taking on Skywarp and Astrotrain, while Prowl and Hot Rod are on the trail of the Decepticon facsimile Georgi Koska. The clone has decided to wander towards enemy Russian troops in order to 'decommission' himself - or, to put it another way, get himself shot to pieces before the Autobots can lay a hand on him!

We take a brief respite from Brasnya and return to Indiana, where Ironhide and Ratchet have been waiting outside the Machination hideout for Jimmy and Verity. Ironhide decides it's been too long and takes it upon himself to ram-raid the place and finds the secret entrance at the back. Turning on his holomatter projection, he goes through the entrance (naturally setting off every alarm in the place at the same time) and finds Jimmy and Verity unconscious inside - with a timer currently at 3:19 and ticking down!

Back in Brasnya, Prime and Megatron are still beating seven shades out of each other - with the Decepticon having the upper hand! Prime fights on but eventually the power Megatron has gained from the Ore-13 proves too much for the Autobot leader. The Decepticon puts his fist through Prime's chest, wraps it around his spark... and squeezes...

Koska, meanwhile, has reached the Russian troops, and is doing his best to bait them into opening fire. Just as they do, Prowl manages to get between the guns and the facsimile and takes the shots. When Prowl and Hot Rod transform, the Russians get second thoughts about firing any more, looking more than slightly surprised at the 50-foot robots in front of them! The facsimile contained, Prowl radios Prime to inform him, but gets nothing back but static.

Being the typical villain, Megatron is monologuing over Prime's fallen body, not noticing Roller, who proceeds to blast him. The Decepticon laughs the shot off, before proceeding to cave a mountain in on top of the poor 'bot!

We then cut to Nevada, at the excavation site where Professor Goring and his university group have been unearthing Shockwave and the Dynobots. They've turned up on site to find that the archaeological dig has been taken over by Men in Black-alikes - which we of course know are the government-sponsored Skywatch agency.

******

Comments:

So, pretty much the one we've all been waiting for, right? Everyone's two favourite bots meet on Earth for the first time, and proceed to try to cave each others' heads in. You know, you can wax lyrical about characterisation and mysteries and plot and all sorts, but let's face it - all Transformers fans, at the most basic level, love it because they get to see giant robots kicking the bejeezus out of each other. And there's plenty of bejeezus being kicked in this issue!

Though let's start at the beginning of the issue. It's the mysterious 'head' of the Machination! Now, unless Simon Furman is an even craftier cat than most people thought, most people have pretty much got it figured out by now that it's Scorponok. Everything seems to tie in too well with the Ultra Magnus spotlight - the trading of Cybertronian technology for a start, fits Scorponok's modus operandum perfectly. Even seeing the head from the back, in shadow... it looks like Scorponok's head.

What I'm curious about is, once his means and ends are achieved, what is Scorponok going to do? In the Magnus spotlight, he was working with the Nebulans to create a 'transforming Nebulan'. And he was clearly upset when Mo Zarak was killed at the end of the issue. And everything thus far with the Machination is pointing towards Headmasters. So, is he using them to "resurrect" Zarak? Either way, since Scorpy tends to erase all evidence of his participation once he's done, it'll be interesting to see whether the Machination actually continues to exist, or whether he'll just wipe it off the face of the planet.

The other thread of the issue of course is a dual-header taking part in Brasnya. So what's going to happen now that Prowl and Hot Rod have exposed themselves (so to speak) to a contingent of Russian troops? There goes the 'robots in disguise' aspect! It was bound to happen at some point, but I was surprised to see it this soon. Although, having said that, it's not really like they've 'blown their cover' so to speak. I dare say if a load of Russian soldiers tried to tell CNN that they'd seen giant robots shooting each other out in Brasnya, CNN would write it off as a dodgy batch of vodka and nothing more would be said. However, it doesn't seem like the 'cons are quite as secretive as the Autobots, so I suspect come Devastation it's going to be common knowledge amongst the denizens of Earth that there's enormous alien robots around, especially if Sixshot has anything to do with it. Still, at least Hot Rod and Prowl got hold of the facsimile...

Oh, and I believe there was a minor issue involving a punchup somewhere in the issue as well. This fight is beautifully crafted by Su - it flows stunningly from frame to frame. You can see Prime getting progressively more tired throughout the encounter but, being the noble soul he is, he never lets it slow him down. Well, until Megatron smashes his fist through the robotic equivalent of Prime's ribcage and crushes his spark. That's gotta hurt.

Taking Prime out of commission early isn't a strange occurrence in TF comics - Dreamwave did it as well in the ongoing series, but we all know how that ended - and it was kind of expected that he'd get a beating given how powerful Megatron's become with the Ore-13. It still doesn't make it any less shocking though, seeing Prime effectively die. Not quite as impacting as when you're six years old and watching Prime die on Transformers The Movie, but still! With Roller's appearance though, you just know that something's a bit more than meets the eye (see what I did there? boom boom).

Two more issues that pop up - albeit briefly. Verity and Jimmy are clearly in big trouble, but can Ironhide and Ratchet get them out of harms' way before the Machination troops arrive? And Skywatch are upping their stakes a little as well, taking over Goring's archaeological dig. So what will they do now they've got their hands on Shockwave and the Dynobots? Not many hints given away sadly. I wonder if there will be a scenario like Dreamwave's G1 volume 1 where Transformers were re-programmed and sold to the highest bidder - although this time I suspect they would be re-programmed and used as Skywatch troops. However, only time will tell.

As I said at the start, everyone loves giant robots laying into each other. However, add into that characterisation and mysteries and plot - like you have in this issue - and by gum you've got a cracker. Mr Furman's own continuity keeps going from strength to strength.

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