Transformers Infiltration #3

Publisher: IDW
Release date: March 2006
Number of covers: Seven
Cover price: $2.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: EJ Su (pencils) John Rauch (colours) Tom B. Long (inks)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Bumblebee, Wheeljack, Jazz, Skywarp


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve



Ratchet is about to disobey orders and further endanger his human friends.

Teenagers Verity Carlo, Hunter O'Nion and Jimmy Pink are being held captive inside the Autobots' spacecraft, Ark 19, on the bottom of Lake Michigan. Verity looms large on a screen and threatens to wipe her computer of the valuable data her captors need unless she is freed. Sunstreaker switches off the audio, and Ratchet makes a plea for the trio to his commanding officer Prowl. The other Autobots - Ironhide, Bumblebee, Jazz and Wheeljack are all present as Ratchet gets a ticking off. He recaps the last few days; his decision to go looking for the travelling salesman who was carrying the all-important mini-computer, and finding him dead, went to the rescue of Verity and Hunter when the Decepticons targeted them. Prowl accuses him of involving the humans in the war and putting them at risk, but Ratchet argues they were already in the firing line. He tries (and fails) to persuade Prowl that Optimus Prime should be informed of the worsening situation on Earth but is overruled. Ironhide looks concerned.

In Tuscon, Arizona, a police officer makes inquiries at the trailer park where the deceased salesmen lived. A vest-wearing landlord points to a ramshackle mobile home where the man, who had called himself Finklerock, had lived and said he was something of a mystery. The cop wants to look inside, but then a bizarre distortion appears in the sky and two fighter jets (Skywarp and Blitzwing) roar into view, destroy the building, and disappear into another portal as suddenly as they arrived. Back at the Ark, Verity is still ranting and raving and giving her companions a headache. Hologram Ratchet appears out of thin air and obliges by expanding the size of the cell. He explains his not-quite-human projection is formed by holo-matter technology, and his actual robot mode is close by. Verity agrees, reluctantly, to hand over the computer she stole from the salesman and Ratchet interfaces with it and begins scanning the information it contains about the Decepticon presence on Earth.

He reveals the enemy are masters of Infiltration and specialise in digging in, destabilising the geopolitical infrastructure and fermenting global anarchy. 'Seige Mode' is an advanced phase of their operations, and if they are there already it means the situation is more of out control than the Decepticons realised. Ratchet wants to find more evidence of the threat to convince Prowl, and Verity has a question; if the Decepticons had a base underground and are not there now - why did they move.

Elsewhere a brooding Ironhide decides to transmit an email (or Transformer equivalent) to Prime, contrary to Prowl's earlier orders. And in Riverside, California, a TV news team broadcasts from outside a partially-destroyed corporate building. The ground shake as the hulking form of Blitzwing in tank mode rolls around the corner, flattening cars and reducing the building to rubble, before reverting to plane mode and soaring away with Skywarp. The cameraman and sound man stand with gaping mouths as the anchor screams: "Tell me you got that."

Meanwhile Verity, Hunter and Jimmy, try to persuade a sceptical Ratchet to let them explore the underground, abandoned Decepticon bunker in Nebraska. The hologram phases out, and Bumblebee steps out of the shadows, to convince Ratchet (robot mode this time) that the stakes are high and he should take the humans up on their offer. Besides he won't be alone, as Bumblebee will be going along two. They release the trio, transform and welcome them aboard.

In Phoenix the Greyhound bus which the salesmen was riding shortly before he met his end, is blown to bits as the Decepticon jets continue on their cleansing operation to remove all evidence of their presence. They radio HQ for the next target, and a wired-up Starscream tells them it's the Nebraska bunker and they are to bury it!

******

Comments:

After being drip-fed Autobots we are treated a bunch of them this time, as we look inside the new 'Ark'. Rather than crash landing on Earth millions of years ago, this one seems to have arrived quite recently and has a great hiding place; at the bottom of the lake. It should give diving enthusiasts a surprise. There's a chance to see how the characters have been redesigned by EJ, and while I'll admit to being resistant to change to some extent, I can appreciate that its 20 years on and a new series. For the most part I think they look good, although I'm not too keen on the chunky legs. We've had some insight into the personalities of Ironhide and Sunstreaker (the latter finding humans an irritation, and Verity in particular), but have yet to find out anything about Wheeljack and Jazz. This may come later.

Some more observations about the art; the internal workings and joints on Su's robots are wonderfully detailed, and although I'm a casual observer I can see a lot of effort has gone into it. The scenes with Blitzwing and Skywarp erasing the trail of evidence was also excellently drawn; and in particular where Blitzwing rolls over vehicles, blows the crap out of a building and fluidly shifts from tank to plane, before disappearing through a warp. Brilliant!

These scenes with the Decepticons are actually the only real action we get in the comic, as the rest is given over to discussions between the Autobots, and Ratchet/the humans. Ratchet described himself as a 'conscientious objector' before, and he continues to be characterised as someone who follows his conscience and breaks ranks with his superiors when he feels it's necessary. It's hard to blame him given Prowl's officiousness. However, he may have a point about not involving Prime at this stage, after all the Decepticons have done little except some small scale blowing-up of buildings and a spot of assassination. The planet doesn't appear to be at crisis point yet, unless the situation is worse than we think.

Bumblebee makes his debut right away, playing the role of counsel and co-conspirator for Ratchet. He too would prefer to be taking action to uncover what the Decepticons are doing, rather than sitting tight and watching with the rest of the unit. He's also got a trendy female hologram for a driver to modernise his otherwise retro-VW beetle mode, and I'm looking forward to seeing more from him next issue. Su has also done a good job with making Starscream look suitably villainous and menacing on the last page.

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