Spotlight: Sixshot

Publisher: IDW
Released: December 2006
Number of covers: Four (including two incentives)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Rob Ruffalo (pencils + colours), James Raiz (cover)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Sixshot, Hun-Grrr, Cutthroat, Blot, Rippersnapper, Sinnertwin, The Reapers


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Sixshot (pictured laying waste to the planet Ys'Devian) is feared by friend and foe alike.

Possessed of six transformations and enough firepower to annihilate all in his path, Sixshot has earned his reputation as a living weapon. In the last stellar-cycle he destroyed a whole world but recently things have been quiet - and Sixshot really hates the quiet. When there is no-one to fight he is redundant and is haunted by the enormity of his deeds.

He is feared by his 'friends' as well as his foes, but in truth Sixshot has no real friends, except perhaps the Terrocons. These five, Hun-grrr, Rippersnapper, Cutthroat, Sinnertwin and Blott, modelled themselves on their idol and sought to emulate his unique brand of devastation. But now they are missing and Sixshot decides to find them (perhaps this will end the emptiness he feels?).

He orders the Decepticons piloting the ship he is travelling on to plot a course for Mumu-Oscura, the planet where the Terrorcons were last seen, which is feared to have fallen to a mysterious group known as The Reapers. And once the ship is close enough, Sixshot flies down in plane mode, only to be met with dozens of seeker missiles. He goes through them and makes light work of the next wave of defences.

Sixshot finds a ruined world still burning from its conquest by The Reapers, and then the creatures show themselves. They appear to be several species all vastly different in appearance but united by a common purpose - to ravage and destroy. Their leader Deathbringer says he has waited a long time to meet Sixshot, and offers him the Terrorcons if he can best the Reapers in battle. The gauntlet is thrown down and the Decepticon accepts.

He discovers the invertebrate Reaper is capable of generating force fields strong enough to withstand weapons, but by blasting the ground under him, Sixshot makes some headway. He concludes that Deathbringer presents the biggest threat so he takes him out first, but then the others unleash an attack so furious that even Sixshot has not seen the likes of it. Finally, with the planet in an even worse state than before, the battle is over.

Deathbringer summons the Terrorcons by teleportation. They have been used as bait to lure Sixshot to Mumu-Obscura so that he could be tested and judged worthy of becoming a Reaper. They like him, had been locked in a cycle of destruction and now seek to end war forever, and to join them he must prove his loyalty by destroying the Terrorcons. Sixshot mulls over the offer and, ignoring the pleas of Hun-grrr and his men, takes to the air firing... but when the smoke clears the Terrorcons are still standing. The Reapers leave promising that, when the ties that bind finally snap, they will seek Sixshot again.

******

Comments:

The consensus of those who post on IDW's boards and other online communities is that Spotlight Sixshot is the weakest of the one-shots. I can't say I entirely agree with the critics, as the premise of a living weapon questioning his life's purpose sounds good on paper, but it did fall short of my expectations in that it left you feeling nothing much was resolved at the end.

In some ways criticisms of the issue are to be expected. As a character Sixshot is considerably less well-known than the likes of Shockwave, Nightbeat, Hot Rod or Ultra Magnus, and some may feel that a more popular character like Grimlock or Starscream would have been a better choice. I think it is to Furman's credit that he avoids the safe option and takes a chance on a new character, offering us something we haven't seen before.

I absolutely love the intro: "Last stellar-span I destroyed an entire world." That simple eight-word sentence tells you everything you need to know about Sixshot and promises a compelling first person narrative, It's a chance to get into the mind of a unique engine of destruction and, given the power at his disposal, you might expect Sixshot to be a mindless brute devoid of humanising characteristics. But no, he's in fact a complex machine capable of unimaginable destruction on the one hand but remourse and hope on the other. Destruction is a function he was built to perform and sometimes he wonders if he is capable of being something better. That coupled with the fact he is shunned and feared by his fellow Decepticons, he emerges as a tragic figure who can never know friendship or kindness. His world is the misery of death and destruction, and as the old saying goes: when you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back.

Some have wondered why he gives a rat's ass about the Terrorcons, but it seems to me his association with them has stirred feelings akin to friendship. They are the closest thing he has to friends and Sixshot needs them on some level, even though he may tell himself he is motivated to discover why they have "deserted him" or just to pass the time between missions. I think the first person narrative is well suited to Spotlights generally, and especially so to allow the reader into the mind of this character.

On the downside the Terrorcons don't get as much airtime as I would have liked, and certainly a reader who hasn't encountered them before wouldn't feel like they learned anything much about them. They are purely a plot device to draw Sixshot to The Reapers it seems. Likewise, I would have liked to have seen more dialogue from each Reaper so we could get a feel for their characters too. Instead it all degenerates into a series of explosions and means the story whizzes by much quicker than it ought to. I could have imagined it comfortably fitting into the 11 pages of a Marvel UK comic.

Speaking of Marvel, I was very pleased to see the Deathbringer character reinvented for IDW after his brief appearance in 1990. A nice little tribute to the series that started it all, I thought. Of course the original 'Deathbringer' story led on to the galaxy-spanning Matrix Quest stories - one of Furman's finest works - and the Spotlights remind me of this in a way, as each takes place on a myriad of worlds. It really opens up the TF Universe and makes a refreshing change from the action simply taking place on Earth or Cybertron.

It remains to be seen whether we'll see Sixshot or The Reapers again soon, but I hope so. Perhaps Sixshot will feature in the upcoming TF Devastation, although given his ability to level whole worlds, its hard to imagine anything being left of Earth if he arrives - and that might be a problem for future stories. One last point to mention: the art. Rob Ruffalo is much derided after his previous work on Micromasters. It's only fair to say that Rob is much improved here, with clear easy to follow sequences. IDW obviously knows how to get the best out of him.

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