Spotlight: Blaster

Publisher: IDW
Released: January 2008
Number of covers: Two (plus incentives)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Emilio Santalucia (pencils) Josh Burcham (colours)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Blaster, Silverbolt, Fortress Maximus, Beachcomber, Inferno, Bluestreak, Smokescreen, Getaway, Huffer, Trypticon, Bombshell


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Blaster is king of the airwaves and the Autobots' moral booster-in-chief, but a mystery assassin is trying to silence 'the voice'.

Blaster was once "the voice" of the Autobot counter-offensive, his rabble-rousing, hell-raising broadcasts, would lift spirits on the frontlines and spur the troops on to victory. That was until a mystery assassin blew a hole in Blaster's chest plate and left him drifting helpless in space for years, maybe longer.

Present day. Blaster is recovered by alien merchants who drop him off at the Autobot Command Hub space station, where he's welcomed back from the dead by the facility's commanding officer, Silverbolt. As Blaster undergoes repairs (courtesy of Perceptor), he has no recollection of who shot him and Silverbolt says a nano-virus conveniently wiped out the security footage of the incident. All the evidence suggests an inside job, meaning a fellow Autobot is responsible!

Word of Blaster's return spreads across the frontlines and fans and comrades come to see him 'in the alloy'. Blaster knows any one of them could have been the assassin. It plays on his mind to the extent that he no longer feels like the same robot who boldly broadcasted to the Autobot army, no matter how many times he reviews his past glories.

As he's lost in thought somebody opens fire and it's just by pure luck that Blaster escapes death yet again. Afterwards he learns the assailant has cover his tracks once more, this time using a white static cloud to disrupt the security cameras. Blaster asks Perceptor to work on clearing up a fuzzy image caught by the camera, while he lays a trap.

Blaster uses a neuro-simulator to recover hazy memories and recalls taking the shot to the chest that propelled him through a bulkhead and into space. The event was followed by a major Decepticon assault and it was obviously important to someone to ensure there was no morale-lifting broadcast that day.

Now Blaster broadcasts again and his assassin is on the move. He takes down Perceptor in the camera room, before going to the broadcasting suite and tosses in a grenade. There's a huge explosion, followed by the closing of the emergency doors. Blaster emerges from his hiding place to discover the traitor is none other than Beachcomber! The pair do battle in their vehicle modes, with Blaster unleashing a sonic boom to gain a momentary advantage. Beachcomber reveals he is not acting of freewill, and was once captured by Soundwave and injected with one of Bombshell's mind-controlling Cerebro Shells.

Blaster puts down his gun and uses his talent with words to reach Beachcomber and empower him to override the effects of the shell. He drops his weapon, wobbles, and then collapses. The shell burns itself out and takes a good portion of its victim's neo-cortex with it! Later, as Beachcomber is placed on life support, Blaster vows to hunt down Soundwave and make him pay for what he's done.

******

Comments:

Before now there have been two Blasters. The first - and far-and-away my favourite - was the one created by Budiansky for Marvel in the 1980s. He was a tough, all action hero, a loner who had little time for authority, but was fiercely loyal to his friends and a champion of the underdog. And then there was the slightly cringe-worthy clich´┐Ż figure of the cartoons, who talks 'street' and is into music (basically a talking stereo).

Now there is a third, with this redefining of the character by Simon Furman. Admittedly I was sceptical at first, because Budiansky really owned Blaster in the Marvel days and whenever Furman wrote the character the magic was never quite there (at least to me), but I was pleasantly surprised. All credit to Simon for coming up with something new rather than a rehash.

He's clearly put some thought into Blaster's function as a communicator, and how that would find its application within an intergalactic war footing. So we get a Blaster who is a cross between a DJ and a spin doctor, pep-talking the boys on the frontline and aggrandising the Autobots' war effort. Much is made of his legendary abilities to motivate others, but there's also something a bit sinister about the job he does, which after all is propaganda. One imagines his broadcasts are thoroughly biased accounts of Autobot past 'victories' or chances in upcoming battles. That is of course his job, but I can't help thinking of that spokesman for Saddam Hussein in the 2003 Iraq War (dubbed Comical Ali in the British media) who insisted until the end that the invaders were being slaughtered and Iraq was winning.

But I digress. Blaster's role is presented in the comic as highly valuable to troop morale, to the point where troops listen to his pep talks before going into a tough fight. So much so that Soundwave goes to considerable lengths to silence Blaster on the eve of a major Decepticon offensive (of course he may have got sick of the sound of Blaster's voice). The plot thread of Soundwave being responsible for Beachcomber's condition at the end was a nice parting shot, providing a valid reason for these two to be bitter enemies while setting up a sequel.

Of course there are no stereos on Cybertron (or cassette decks anywhere in the universe these days, almost!) so it makes sense for Blaster to get a new alt-mode. So he now becomes a hover car with sonar weapons, which I thought was a nice touch. Likewise Furman does a nice job of resolving the Beachcomber situation at the end through words (following a nicely paced slice of action) because if Blaster is the talker the comic says he is, then its only right his charisma should be enough to rescue him.

Apart from that, you can't beat a good old fashioned whodunit, and I'm kicking myself because I had a flick through before reading and spoiled the surprise. I doubt many people would have guessed Beachcomber is to blame (it's so unlike him!) but on the other hand what does anyone know about BC, he's had so little characterisation elsewhere. One thing I really enjoy about the spotlights (one of many things) are the opportunities to bring in guest stars, and I welcome Beachcomber and Silverbolt and all the other smaller cameos.

Does Blaster have cassettes in the IDW universe? That's not answered here, and neither do we know how long he's been drifting in space for at the beginning when he's rescued. I get the impression that it's a fair while, but obviously not long enough for his star to fade as people still watch when he's back on the air.

In summary we've got a nice compact story here with good characterisation, particularly the parts where Blaster is wracked with self-doubt and wondering if he should have come back or if can be the Autobot he once was. Plus there's an element of mystery and a satisfying pay off. It's also a none-too-shabby debut issue for ex-He Man artist Emilo Santalucia, and a good start to the 2008 spotlights.

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