Spotlight: Optimus Prime
Released: August 2007
Number of covers: Two (plus sketch versions)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Don Figueroa (pencils) Rob Ruffalo (colours)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Omega Supreme, Bristleback, Icepick, Wildfly, Scowl, Birdbrain, Slog, Monstructor, Prime Nova
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Optimus hopes to solve an ancient riddle with the help of Omega Supreme, but first Monstructor has a score to settle...
Earth orbit: Optimus Prime orchestrates the galactic war against the Decepticons from his console aboard Ark 19. Holographic images from the multiple battlefronts appear to him - Ultra Magnus reporting in a new lead on the fugitive Scorponok, Hound reporting concerns about Sideswipe, Springer with an update on Kup's rehabilitation, and a Autobot distress call.
As Prowl attempts to brief him on the war on Earth, Prime's thoughts are elsewhere. He reflects on how close he came to death in his recent battle with Megatron (see Escalation 5+6) and even more ominous were the moments between consciousness where he detected a malevolent yet familiar presence. Against Prowl's protests, Optimus takes immediate leave and pilots Ark 32 to the Muta-Gaath Nebula in search of answers.
The vast gaseous cloud conceals an asteroid fortress - home to the ancient and wise Omega Supreme. Prime asks what happened to his predecessor Nova Prime and the crew of the legendary First Ark. Omega confesses in somewhat understated fashion that he and Nova "disagreed". Apparently Nova regarded Transformers as superior to other life forms and felt it his duty to shape the universe in the Cybertronian image. Perhaps the first Ark was not the ship of exploration but a vehicle of expansion?
Suddenly the room shakes as a powerful fists batters down the door. Monstructor - a gestalt robot comprising of the Pretender Monsters - Bristleback, Icepick, Wildfly, Scowl, Birdbrain and Slog - has come to settle a score and starts beating the crap out of Omega. Prime's weapons prove ineffective against the giant's natural shielding so Optimus blasts a hole in the side of fortress - sucking everyone into space.
Omega and Optimus jet towards a comet and crash onto its icy surface. Prime demands answers and learns Monstructor is a creation of Nova Prime's theoretical strategist Jhiaxus who gave them the ability to combine. But instead of becoming an intelligent fusion of minds, they de-evolved into a monster. Omega Supreme stepped in and had Monstructor imprisioned.
Moments later Monstructor arrives. It makes light work of the already wounded Omega Supreme and clamps its huge hands around Optimus. It rejects Prime's offer of help, leaving the Autobot leader with no option but to punch a weak spot beneath the mid-torso, sending Monstructor into spasm and breaking into his component parts.
In the aftermath, the Pretender Monsters are taken into Jetfire's custody to have their condition reversed if possible. Omega Supreme warns the gestalt technology must not fall into Decepticon hands or it will be Armageddon. Prime sets course for Earth, thinking of Nova, and knowing some wounds may never heal.
Admit it. If you had to choose just one character to sum up the whole Transformers franchise - a poster boy if you will - then that robot would be certainly be Optimus Prime. He's easily the most famous and recognisable of the Autobots and Decepticons, and when you consider that Spotlight characters are generally chosen for mass appeal, it was inevitable that Prime would star in his own comic at some point.
That's not to say, however, that the decision was entirely welcomed. I recall some arguing on message boards that the leaders get enough airtime and Spotlights should be reserved for lesser known characters. It's a fair point but there was the Megatron Origin series coming up and this would even the balance, and besides if IDW wants to release a comic about Optimus Prime, written by Simon Furman and drawn by Don Figueroa, who am I to complain?
So is the comic any good? Yes and no. The story is not too shabby and it's got Omega Supreme and a gestalt robot in it (a first for IDW) but it's not like it really gets to grips with Prime's personality or teaches you anything new about him. I'd argue that Escalation #2 achieved more insight into the IDW Optimus in just a few panels (where he allows the Machination truck to crash into him and calmly walks off). This is a Prime who's compassion is tempered by his keeping an optic firmly on the bigger picture, the overall war. That's how Prime has no hesitation in abandoning Earth in TF Devastation when a more serious emergency erupts elsewhere.
Marvel stories like Bob Budiansky's Prime Time, or Furman's Crisis of Command, and The Harder They Die/Under Fire, really speak to the compassionate core of Optimus Prime, as well as his nobility and determination to end the evil of the Decepticons, not for reasons of glory, but for the safety and protection of others. Arguably there's not a lot of that in this spotlight, other than perhaps where Prime offers to help Monstructor to be cured of his raging madness (quite why the Pretender Monsters would want to give up their newfound power I don't know).
It could be Furman takes the view that people already know enough about Prime so he doesn't need to concentrate on 'introducing' readers to the character's abilities, goals, motivations, emotions. Instead the spotlight feels very much like a vehicle to further certain subplots that have been brewing. I speak of course of the Nova Prime plot, suggested subtly in TF Escalation 6, and returned to in Spotlight Galvatron. This time we learn he is a former Prime who had questionable views about Transformers and their place in the cosmos. Does he carry the Matrix (if it even exists in the IDW context) and is he Galvatron's master residing in the Dead Universe? What seems certain is that the spotlight has placed on the radar a new and potentially significant villain, and its adding yet another layer of plot, which is good.
I have to admit I do like the spotlights, sometimes even more than the ongoing books. It's because they are a self-contained story and paced just right, unlike the ongoing arcs which sometimes feel they've been stretched out (or squeezed) to fit a four or six part trade paperback. Another trait of the spotlights which I enjoy are the guest stars. It's great to see Omega Supreme making his debut, and in the enigmatic role, as the old and wise Autobot who resides within a hidden fortress. It's very warrior and mentor-like, although it's a bit harsh of Prime to condemn Omega for locking up the Pretender Monsters.
Speaking of which, it's nice to see a gestalt Transformer at last, after more than a year and a half of the IDW comics. The strategy of slowly introducing the various subsets (pretenders, headmasters, combiners etc), rather than unleashing the lot in quick succession, is a good plan. It builds anticipation so that we can appreciate these treats when we get them, but it also means the introduction of new characters/abilities is plot driven. My only regret is that it's Monstructor who is the first combined robot in an IDW comic, and not one of the favourites like Devastator or Bruticus.
One last point - Jhiaxus. It seems Furman must have a soft spot for this character whom he invented for the 1990s Generation 2 comic as he's brought him back. This time it seems, he's a mad scientist genetically modifying Transformers for his own, or Nova Prime's dubious ends. Sounds brilliant and I can't wait to see what happens next.
So in summary, not much in the way of a Spotlight about Optimus Prime, but nevertheless a significant comic in terms of the upcoming story.