Spotlight: Soundwave

Publisher: IDW
Released: March 2007
Number of covers: Two (plus sketch versions)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Marcel Matere (pencils) Rob Ruffalo (colours)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Ravage, Laserbeak


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Soundwave spies on an Ore 13 mining operation, but will he expose the plot or profit from it?

The setting: a land based drilling platform in Eden, Texas. The year: 1984. Perched high-up in the scaffolds, disguised as one of the era's radio cassette players, is the Decepticon spymaster Soundwave. For five days he has been here, watching, listening, and recording the activities of the human workers. These "sweating, grasping creatures" have been busy erecting a drilling platform under the auspices of two managers, Fleming and Markham. But there is more to this pair than meets the eye.

Soundwave (through his narrations) reveals the duo are not humans at all, they are facsimiles created by the Decepticon renegade Bludgeon. The replicas replaced the real Fleming and Markham six days ago and are now busy orchestrating the mining of an Ore 13 pocket, while reporting their progress to their masters at every step.

Years earlier on Cybertron, Bludgeon had been summoned before the Decepticon leader Megatron and ordered to carry out a thorough investigation of Shockwave's scientific projects. Shockwave had mysteriously vanished (see his spotlight) and Megatron wanted answers. At the same time he did not trust Bludgeon and had tasked Soundwave with keeping a close optic on him. Over time Soundwave observed Bludgeon's fascination with a project Shockwave had called Regenesis, and he also noted that Bludgeon had never once mentioned it in his reports to Megatron.

Later, when the mass evacuation of Cybertron began (in the aftermath of the Thunderwing war which rendered the planet inhabitable), Bludgeon and his band of followers made preparations to go to Earth. They had also retrieved an object from Cybertron's depths and keep it hidden. None of this was reported to Megatron, even by Soundwave, who is choosing his moment and first weighing up what is in his own best interests.

As Fleming and Markham leave for their rendezvous with Bludgeon, Ravage pursues on foot. He observes the duo boarding a Cybertronic plane (Bomb-Burst) and Laserbeak takes over, following from the air and witnessing Bomb-Burst entering a secret lair within Mount St Helens, near Oregon.

Once there the facsimiles are given explosives by their Decepticon masters and told to ignite pockets of gas at the dig site. Once the area is declared off limits, Bludgeon and his warriors will move in and extract as much Ore 13 as they need. And after the mission is a success the facsimiles are to self destruct to cover up the Decepticon presence.

The time has come for Soundwave to make his move. In the early hours, as his human 'owner' carries the stereo to the showers, Laserbeak swoops down and snatches it. Moments later the explosive charges go off and the Decepticons arrive. After they have harvested the Ore they orbital jump back to Mt St Helens where Soundwave is waiting.

He gleefully informs Bludgeon he has enough dirt on him to incriminate the traitorous wretch in Megatron's eyes. To save himself he'll have to make Soundwave a good offer. Instead Bludgeon reveals the true purpose of his mission - the Ore 13 is to be used to revive Thunderwing - the crazed being who almost destroyed all Transformer kind!

Now Soundwave is forced to act, and for once he decides to abandon selfishness and fight for the good of his race. He orders Laserbeak and Ravage to attack - and personally repels an assault from Bomb-Burst. But Bludgeon is a far tougher adversary, who slays the spy cassettes with his sword, and finally Iguanus blasts Soundwave with one of Shockwave's experimental weapons. The discharge causes him to shrink and revert to his cassette deck mode, where he becomes locked - perhaps for good.

The Cult of Thunderwing lays explosives and transports to its orbiting ship leaving the volcano to explode and rain fire onto the land below. Sometime later, once the area has cooled, a fledgling organisation known as Skywatch retrieves the unconscious Laserbeak and Ravage.

And some 23 years later, in 2007, two kids peer through the window of a retro store selling antique classics from the 1980s. One of them is rather taken with a 1984 issue cassette deck with a purple badge on it...

******

Comments:

It's another first class piece of writing from Simon Furman which utterly nails the Soundwave character. From the outset the writer is on the money, telling us this is a Decepticon who "trusts no-one and no-one trusts him". Soundwave serves the Decepticon cause but always puts his own interests first, rather like Starscream except in a cunning and less obvious way. He is a master manipulator blessed with the ability to read minds, and knows the thoughts and motivations of everyone, with one notable exception: himself.

The irony at the heart of this Spotlight is that Soundwave has spent so long embroiled in the thoughts of others and thinking how best to outmanoeuvre them, that he has never paused to consider his own mind; what are his values and where his loyalties lie... does he even have values or loyalties?

When he discovers Bludgeon's insane plan he's forced to make a split second decision and chooses to do the right thing, even at the risk of his own demise. He'd assumed this rogue band of cons were motivated by greed or power, never suspecting they wanted to revive Thunderwing. And to be honest it's not hard to see why Soundwave was caught out, because why would anyone want to restore a creature that very nearly destroyed Cybertron and the Transformers. Bludgeon and his cult appear to have gone insane and actually started worshipping this mad scientist as some sort of god.

The idea to set the story in 1984 was inspired; allowing us to see Soundwave in his traditional cassette deck form, rather than having to update him for the 2000s. Whilst it might have been fun to see him as a CD deck, minidisk player or an Ipod, nothing quite beats the old Soundwave and cassettes, and setting the story 23 years ago removes any obvious barriers. It's also highly significant in that this is the year when the Transformers franchise launched, and I was delighted to see an erupting Mount St Helens in there too. Of course it was renamed Mt St Hillary in the original comics, but as we know, its coming to life was a key moment in the original stories, as the eruption unearthed the Ark and reactivated the Transformers. This time all it does it buries Soundwave and his cassettes - although Laserbeak and Ravage soon fall into the clutches of Skywatch (Men in Black types who we've seen in the main book). Soundwave's ending up in the retro store at the end is amusing, fitting and ironic, all in one. It explains why he's not been heard from despite arriving on Earth years before the Starscream's infiltration unit, but how did he come to be in the shop? It appears we'll have to wait for the answers.

What was the music playing on Soundwave at the start? I don't know if this was a real song or some made up lyrics but I couldn't work it out.

The guy who is carrying Soundwave around as his personal stereo harks back to an old tradition of people finding a cassette deck, thinking their luck's in, and then unwittingly smuggling the Decepticons into their power plant. I liked how Laserbeak picked his moment to retrieve Soundwave, swooping down in the pitch black to avoid being seen by witnesses. They reason nobody is likely to believe this guy has seen a giant metal bird, and they are probably right.

This story ties in with others, most notably Spotlight Shockwave, but also the Stormbringer miniseries (the Ore 13 is used to fuel Thunderwing). It feels like we're given additional pieces of a large jigsaw and an overall picture is starting to take shape. There's further continuity in Bludgeon's use of facsimiles, again tying into established methods we've seen at work in Escalation.

My only niggling issue is the timeframe. You see, Shockwave seeded the galaxy with Ore 13 many thousands of years ago, and it was at the end of Earth's Ice Age (so around 40,000 years ago) that he came to inspect the fruits of his labours and got attacked by the Dynobots and buried. Presumably Megatron assigned Bludgeon to examine all of Shockwave's work shortly after his disappearance, so are we to believe he's spent 40 centuries rooting around? It doesn't sound right.

In addition, I thought Cybertron was rendered inhabitable immediately following Thunderwing, due to the planet having to be nuked to stop his rampage. This being the case how was Bludgeon able to retrieve the body from Thunderhead pass and implement his plot. Surely the evacuation of Cybertron would have been immediate?

These couple of holes could have easy explanations that currently allude me. But on balance its only a couple of niggles in what is otherwise a very fine addition to the spotlight canon.

Next issue
Previous
Back to index