Spotlight: Ramjet

Publisher: IDW
Released: November 2007
Number of covers: Two regulars, one sketch incentive cover
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Stuart Moore
Artwork: Robby Musso (pencils) Josh Burcham (colours)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Ramjet, Mini Constructicons


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Lone wolf Decepticon Ramjet dreams of overthrowing Megatron - but is he just another Pretender to the throne?

Ramjet soars supremely above cities, landscapes and oceans, utterly confident in his abilities and his destiny. Skywarp teleports alongside and listens to his brags about how he's going to overthrow Megatron and conquer the universe. Skywarp laughs and suggests Ramjet has lost it if he thinks he can go up against Megatron. However he'll catch up with him again in 24 hours and if the plan looks like it might succeed then Skywarp may come aboard.

Ramjet enters his secret lair within a mountain on a remote island. Inside his trio of Mini-Constructicons are building a 'universal Cybertronic tracker' and, much to their master's iritation, they have started talking 'street' after monitoring Earth radio a little too closely.

Elsewhere Megatron is satisfied that his own plans for conquering the Earth are proceeding on schedule. Rather than install a unit commander and withdraw he decides to stick around. When next we see him he's in Brasnya issuing orders to his facsimile, Georgi Koska, on stoking up a border conflict. Then Megatron (super-charged with Ore 13) engages Optimus Prime direct in battle for the first time in millennia.

While all this was going on Ramjet was in the air and communicating with another of his minions, a fake human called Harrison who is working at the Pentagon. Harrison is to deliver the remote missile launcher codes he stole to his master and soon, the USA will be reduced to a shattered radioactive husk.

Ramjet dumps a pile of leaflets over a European power station and people take them inside. The embelum on the letters transform into sophisticated listening devices while workers aren't looking and start transmitting. Pretty soon Ramjet will know all the goings on at the plant, including when they develop a means of converting energon. He returns to base and collects his universal Cybertronic tracker. However his irritation with the Mini-Constructicons reaches boiling point and Ramjet - in true bully fashion - reduces two of them to spare parts. The third is left looking forlorn and Ramjet goes to confront his destiny.

He collects the codes from the Harrison facsimile (which is by now in an advanced state of decomposition) and dreams of a future of total domination. With the tracker he'll be aware of the location of every Transformer in the galaxy, and once in possession of Earth's fuel resources the Decepticons will desert Megatron's side and flock to him. They'll unleash a nuclear holocaust and siphon the energy for cubes, and any remaining humans will be injected with Micro-Constructicons rendering them slaves.

Sadly for Ramjet there is a major flaw in his design. Megatron has got wind of a plot and strikes first, punching Ramjet in the back and blasting him with his fusion cannon. The pair scrap - Ramjet still thinking he can best Megatron - but he gets ripped apart and has his spark torn out. His grand scheme ends in abject failure with his body parts dumped at various locations around the world. His leg winds up in Europe, his arm elsewhere, and tje remaining parts are at his island HQ with his Mini Construction.

As for his head - that belongs to a gloating Megatron. Skywarp tried to warn him - it's like the old Cybertron saying goes 'always bet on the leader'.

******

Comments:

Given that Stuart Moore's last Transformers offering (the four issue New Avengers crossover) was somewhat uninspiring I wasn't expecting much from this spotlight. However, having read it I find myself pleasantly surprised. It's actually none too shabby - and what do you know? Maybe Moore can tell a half decent story after all.

Of course it could be that my expectations were artificially low coming to this book, but I really enjoyed it more than I thought. The fantastic artwork of Robby Musso couldn't help but lift it too another level too. He's fast becoming a favourite of mine. There were still a few gripes (stuff I'll come on to in a bit) but plenty to recommend too. Overall this is a comic which does not disgrace itself among the distinguished company that is the preceding nine spotlights.

The opening scene with Ramjet and Skywarp flying in formation shows off the artist's talent for drawing jets. But above that, its the dialogue that shines, offering us an insight into the characters' personalities and their attitudes towards Megatron. Ramjet reckons Megatron is past his sell by date and thinks he's got the smarts to replace him. He may be woefully deluded or perhaps dangerously over confident, but there's no denying his conviction and Skywarp doesn't completely close the door on joining him. Considering that betraying Megatron is a tantamount to a death sentence, this is indeed a vote of confidence in Ramjet.

On the other hand it's clear that Skywarp regards Ramjet as foolish (if a brave fool) and he prefers to live in the real world - which means following Megatron's orders (as long as he doesn't get caught) and towing the line. The suggestion here is that none of the Decepticons like Megatron, in fact they probably loathe him, but all respect his power. Except that is Ramjet and the more astute reader will detect that he's heading for a fall.

I loved the Mini-Constructicons. They were an unexpected bonus and created some of the comic's lighter moments. Like any good villain Ramjet needs henchmen and he's got these little guys carrying out his every wish and not getting an ounce of thanks. In fact RJ blasts the crap out of two of them later on, from the looks of it, just because they've fulfilled their task and are no longer needed. The reaction of the remaining MC when Ramjet returns in bits, "harsh" was simple and effective. I get the idea he'd probably have a go at rebuilding Ramjet and get blasted for his trouble.

Also unexpected, but welcome, were the tie-ins to the wider G1 story. I refer of course to the inclusion of Escalation scenes and also the use of the facsimile technology by Ramjet. His guy starts melting a little earlier than most, because RJ has built him on a budget (after all he doesn't have the mighty resources that Megatron has).

The fight at the end, orchestrated with as little speech possible, was powerful. For reasons I didn't expect I found myself rooting for Ramjet and actually a little sad when he got comprehensively pummelled. He wanted so hard to beat Megatron, and was convinced he could. He was the underdog and a part of me wanted him to succeed. In this I'd say Moore has succeeded in making the reader care about this character, Ramjet, even if he's a villain.

There are lows too. Ramjet's master plan holes in it big enough to put a robot's fist through. He wants to enslave the human race by injecting Micro-Constructicons into people's bodies, but is that before or after he's nuked the planet? Why go to all the trouble? Second: firing missiles at nuclear-armed countries and getting the USA obliterated in response might sound like a clever plan, but it's hardly original (T2 anyone?). And I can't decide if the transforming Euro signs are quirky or downright cringe worthy, but in any case why would nuclear plant staff not be suspicious about a plane that flew over their (presumably security obsessed) facility and dropped leaflets offering money?

Ramjet's claim that these employees will find a way to convert human fuels to Energon (overtones of an early Marvel US story by the way) and that he'll find out about it first is daft. What makes him think power station workers are going to waste time devising a Transformer fuel? Unless the Euro signs are brainwashing everyone there's no way this is going to happen. Ramjet would be better off getting his Mini-Constructicons get to work on it as at least something might get done.

Finally, the Universal Cybertronic Tracker? In the history of Transformers has there ever been such a pointless device? If you're going into business offering a mission persons service it could be a real money spinner (the Autobots might have found Kup and Outback quicker). But as a tool for ensuring world domination forget it.

Overall it's an enjoyable read and I could see it working well as an episode of the cartoon. It'd probably work better as a Starscream spotlight seeing as plotting is his trademark more than Ramjet's. But as Starscream is off the scene nursing a gaping hole in his chest and there's a vacancy for a schemer. Arguably though Ramjet's a bit more upfront about his intentions and lacks Starscream's guile and total lack of honour. It's a new direction for Ramjet's character anyway and brings him on more than previous comics or cartoons have tried to do. I read somewhere (possibly in a Simon Furman Q&A) that he'll be back. I'd like that.

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