Spotlight: Shockwave

Publisher: IDW
Released: September 2006
Number of covers: Two (plus three incentives)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Nick Roche (pencils) Josh Burcham (colours)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Shockwave, Slag, Snarl, Sludge, Grimlock, Swoop


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Shockwave's meticulous plans are almost wrecked by the Dinobots.

In the long distant past, millions of years ago, Shockwave was contemplating the future of the Transformer race. He knew the ancient conflict between Autobot and Decepticon would exact a terrible toll on their home planet of Cybertron, and in time all of its natural resources would be gone.

A servant of cold, dispassionate logic, he reasoned that his race would ultimately be forced to abandon Cybertron and take to the stars in search of new fuel sources. If not they would shutdown and become obsolete, so he devised a plan he called 'regenesis'. Shockwave stockpiled energon which he refined and distilled, then loaded into warheads to be blasted off to distant worlds. His idea was to seed other planets with potent fuel sources which would mature in the fullness of time. Whoever controlled these deposits would hold the balance of power.

One of the primeval worlds Shockwave selects is Earth. Over millions of years its volcanoes cool, lush forests spring up and disappear, and ice ages give way to deserts and then back again. Shockwave goes to Earth as the last ice age is coming to a close, to make final adjustments needed to prevent the energon reaction from spiraling out of control. He sees mammoths floundering because they cannot adapt to the changing climate, and wonders if their fate will be that of his fellow Transformers.

A ship arrives in orbit carrying his old enemies, the Dynobots, whose leader Grimlock is itching to avenge a shaming inflicted by Shockwave during one of his energon raids. Grimlock orders his warriors - Slag, Snarl, Sludge and Swoop -to come up with a way for them to go to the surface without succumbing to stasis lock (brought on by their close proximity to the raw energon - evidently Shockwave has had time to shield himself and is immune). Sludge devises a means of manufacturing synthetic flesh and coating their bodies in it, creating new beast modes in the process. The animals they model themselves on are long extinct dinosaurs, whose fossilised remains are detected by the ship's computer.

Moments later they teleport down and launch a ferocious attack. Shockwave is taken by surprise and is forced to create new subroutines, suspending his higher reasoning circuits for the moment, and taking on an equally savage persona. He overwhelms the Dynobots and transforming into his space gun mode to silence their opposition.

Grimlock recovers and runs (in robot mode) at Shockwave, but succumbs to stasis lock before he can get his hands on the Decepticon. The victory is Shockwave's, but before he can savour it, the Dynobot's ship (still in orbit) unleashes a powerful blast that triggers the nearby volcanoes and covers everyone in tonnes of rock and lava, burying them for an eternity.

On Cybertron, Megatron learns of Shockwave's disappearance, and instructs Bludgeon to conduct a thorough investigation of what he's been up to. Then we fast forward to the present day (2006) as an archaeological dig in Eureka, Nevada, uncovers a giant purple hand protruding from the ground - Shockwave has been unearthed!

******

Comments:

This is a solid piece of writing by Simon Furman, made all the better by artist Nick Roche tackling his first full issue. Nick's distinctive 'cartoony' style has already struck a chord with the fans in the covers he has produced for IDW's Generations series (reprinting classic stories from the Marvel days). Now we have a chance to see what he can do over a full 32 pages of strip and it's clear that a new talent has emerged - the story-telling is easy to follow and the battle sequences between Shockwave and the Dinobots are sublime. His drawing style reminds me a little of Wildman (and Andrew may be an influence) but I actually prefer Roche's work of the two of them.

If readers were to pick one Spotlight rather than all then this is probably the one to choose, for it fills in a lot of the pieces in the IDW jigsaw. The questions left in the air at the end of Infiltration, such as why Earth is an important staging ground, why it's resources are so strategic that Starscream saw fit to disobey and challenge Megatron, and why the Transformers are spread out across the galaxy are all answered here.

Shockwave's logical mind had predicted the fuel shortage on Cybertron many years ago and he set out to do something about it. Of course he could have involved Megatron in the plan and potentially won his blessing, but Shockwave chose not to, and has risked being branded a traitor and a dangerous rival. Despite him denouncing personal ambition early in the book, the evidence suggests his long-term plan is to control the fuel both factions are desperate for, and perhaps even replace Megatron at the top (though this latter intent is not stated). It's clear that by acting in stealth, Shockwave is not doing all this just for the good of his fellow Decepticons, it's primarily for him.

I enjoyed the scenes with him rubbing shoulders with mammoths in the Ice Age in scenes reminiscent of the Marvel days where Shockwave travelled to the Savage Land in search of the Ark. Likewise the subsequent battle with the Dinobots is also a modern rendition of those classic early stories (see the Last Stand).

In the Marvel universe the Ark's computer had reconstructed five fallen warriors and given them the ability to transform into dinosaurs, this was so they could blend in at the Savage Land (where prehistoric life still reigns) and battle Shockwave. In the IDW run we have a more sensible explanation: namely that Grimlock and company require synthetic beast modes and choose dinosaurs as they appear to be more savage and, I dare say, 'cooler' than the other options open to them. Admittedly I'm not so keen on their alt modes looking like flesh dinosaurs as I prefer their traditional mechanical appearances, but it's possible that when they eventually reappear in the present day their flesh will have worn and they will look more like their old selves.

In addition to the Marvel homage, we also have a few obvious nods to Furman's War Within series that he wrote for Dreamwave. Although not cannon in the IDW, it's clear that characters in this continuity (namely Prime and Grimlock) resemble the WW designs while on Cybertron. And Furman has decided to stick with the 'Dynobots' name he created in the War Within Dark Ages when the team had vehicle rather than beast modes. Another little Dreamwave nod I noticed was the 'hand of Shockwave' sticking out of the ground at the end, which reminded me of the discovery of Soundwave in the ice at the end of Dreamwave's preview issue.

Some other points to note are Bludgeon's assignment on the last page, and the very clear hint he intends to plunder Shockwave's research for his own ends rather than Megatron's. This might explain how he and his cult are busy experimenting with Pretender technology on Cybertron in Stormbringer. As we know, Shockwave was able to shield himself from the energon effects on Earth, and this might explain how Bludgeon and company are similarly unaffected on the poisoned Cybertron. And we've also got the age-old conflict between brains and brawn - logic and aggression, represented by Shockwave and Grimlock. Ironically it's only when Shockwave resorts to violence that he overwhelms the Dinobots (proving just how powerful he is - it would be interesting to see him battling Megatron in this universe) and despite his meticulous plans, the one thing he forgets to factor in is the irrational response from Grimlock, determined for revenge at any lengths.

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