Spotlight: Nightbeat

Publisher: IDW
Released: October 2006
Number of covers: One (plus three incentives)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Marcel Matere (pencils) Josh Burcham (colours)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Nightbeat, Krakon, Detour, Hyperdrive, Roadhugger, Blackjack


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Nightbeat's search for a missing device uncovers a body and heap of trouble.

A planet, a tantalising offer, and rendezvous and a mystery... it could only be a day in the life of the Autobot super sleuth Nightbeat. On this occasion he has travelled across the galaxy to meet with Krakon, a mercenary from the planet Hyperion who had claimed to have a flight recorder from the First Ark - a legendary ship which disappeared millennia ago. He is prepared to part with it for the right price.

But as Nightbeat arrives in orbit of a techno-organic world Gorlam Prime he finds his contact in a state near death. The robot utters something about a 'hole in the world' before his life ebbs away, and Nightbeat is left to wonder who could have perpetrated this murder and why? He searches Krakon's vessel and discovers a veritable warehouse of treasurers, all still on the shelves, so whoever it was must have been very specific about what they were after.

Finding no trace of the flight recorder, Nightbeat transports to the planet surface and tries out his new vehicle mode. He is able to blend in effortlessly with the crowded highways, and notes the inhabitants of Gorlam are organics who are in the process of upgrading into biomechanical life. Nightbeat wonders if his own race may have evolved this way.

He journeys deep into excavation tunnels mentioned in Krakon's logs and finds fragments which date back to the time of the First Ark. These could be significant clues, or maybe even placed there by somebody as bait. He ventures on as four Decepticon Micromasters (the Race Track Patrol) transform high above and begin to observe him.

Nightbeat arrives at an underground sea which he surmises to be a dimensional gateway - perhaps it is the hole in the world the Krakon mentioned? Moments later, as he steps into the water, he is confronted by the four mini-Decepticons, their weapons drawn. A large shape manifests in the waters behind the Autobot and solidify into a robot we can't quite see, and Nightbeat makes a run for it. He speeds down tunnels, with the Race Track Patrol in hot persuit, but is forced down a dead end as he tries to avoid several mines in his path. Nightbeat is captured and strapped to an operating table where unknown Decepticons implant a cerebral device in his brain.

In the next scene he is back aboard his ship and blasting through deep space, unaware of everything that transpired. Optimus Prime appears on the view screen and orders him to Earth, where his 'special talents' will be needed. Nightbeat feels a strange, inexplicable pain, which passes just as suddenly as it came. He attributes it to a cerebral surge, but he can't help feeling he's missing something.

******

Comments:

A lot has been made of who the mysterious Decepticon might be over at the IDW message boards. Quite a few fans seem to think its Galvatron, and there is some justification for the claim because the editor in chief of IDW, Chris Ryall, has hinted at a possible Galvatron spotlight and said we'll see him do battle with Grimlock at some point in the near future. The intriguing premise here is that in this continuity Megatron and Galvatron may co-exist and are not necessarily the same being. It should be interesting finding out what's going on.

It is an interesting issue to be sure, but perhaps not the Nightbeat mystery I was expecting or hoping for. I couldn't help feeling by the end that I was left with a hell of a lot more questions that I started with. What became of the First Ark, who killed Krakon (was it for the flight recorder or some other purpose?), was there even a flight recorder in the first place, how did the hole in the world get there, and most of all - did we just see Galvatron or didn't we? I wouldn't expect Furman to give the whole game away but a few answers might have been nice.

What I did enjoy was seeing Nightbeat on the trail of a good mystery again, and the writer has shown that he's lost none of his ability to make the narration evoke the memory of Raymond Chandler and the other 1950s Chicago detective stories. The art was a little odd in places -I don't think the faces were right, particularly not Prime's at the end- and Nightbeat's vehicle mode looked like it could have cruised straight out of the 1970s. But the futuristic industrial society looked good and nicely detailed, and the artwork made the story easy to follow. I'm not sure Marcel Matere is in danger of becoming one of my favourite TF artists but his work could grow on me, and what's most important is that we get some variety of creative talents, and IDW is certainly doing that.

The Shockwave Spotlight had some very obvious tie-ins to the main G1 story in terms of explaining how Earth acquired its Transformer fuel sources, but its less clear how far reaching this issue will be. It's quite possible that the threads laid down here will be highly significant as the ongoing story unfolds. Nightbeat is on his way to Earth (to appear in Escalation I hope) and there's the matter of the implant in his head and how the Decepticons intend to use him.

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