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Spotlight: Blurr

Released: November 2008
Publisher: IDW
Number of covers: Three (two regulars, one incentive)
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Shane McCarthy
Artwork: Casey Coller (pencils) Joanna Lafuente (colours)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Blurr, Fasttrack, Piston, Optimus


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Blurr is the greatest sportsman in all of Cybertron, the fastest alive - and boy does he know it!

Glorious, unbeaten, adored by millions - Blurr is a sporting superstar, he's the fastest Cybertronian alive and has a ego to match his fame. It is the golden era of Cybertron and for now peace reigns and the populace is preoccupied with trivia such as celebrity.

Blurr steps out of the shadows and takes his marks, while an enormous crowd watches. Then he's off, sprinting, hurdling, transforming, and finally zooming across the finish line leaving the competition to choke in his exhaust. 'Back stage' later on Blurr banters a bit with rival athlete, Fasttrack, and struggles to remember the name of a nobody assistant named Piston, a character who is destined to effect him more than he realises.

At the prestigious Circle nightclub there's more adulation as Blurr swans in, flippantly dismissing a newsbot who asks his views on Cybertron's worsening situation. Energon flows and Blurr is having a great time... until suddenly there is an explosion!

Some time after the attack, Zeta Prime shuts down the races due to the terrorist threat from a faction calling itself the Decepticons. It seems like Blurr's life and career are on hold for now, and he runs into Piston again who tells him he's off to join a counter-revolutionary faction called The Autobots. Piston warns Blurr that the time is coming when he may have to choose sides.

Blurr returns to The Circle club only to find the crowds gone and the bar practically deserted, save one, the Decepticon Starscream! He plays to Blurr's ego, offering him a chance to join the 'elite' Decepticons, with a chance to hold on to the power and status he enjoyed while the games were still in play.

Blurr leaves the encounter with some thinking to do. He transforms and races across the landscape only to cruise into the middle of a skirmish between the Autobots and Decepticons. Blurr is pulled out of the firing line by Ironhide and brought before a young Autobot commander named Optimus. The bodies of brave fighters are littered around him, including that his old acquaintance, and conscience, Piston.

Ignoring Kup's assessment of Blurr as a pampered ass, Optimus displays an extraordinary faith in Blurr's nature, suggesting that what had driven him to achieve great victories in the arena had been the chance to serve and inspire. With the battle for his soul won in the Autobots' favour, Blurr agrees to carry an urgent warning to Zeta Prime about an impending ambush, this saving the day. He is last seen blitzing through Decepticon lines at top speed, a smile on his face.

******

Comments:

Writer Shane McCarthy has had a lot of stick from Transformers fans who couldn't quite get on with his All Hail Megatron series. But response to SL Blurr, Shane's first foray into the spotlights genre, deserves to be much more favourably received. It's not perfect, the ending for example, took me by surprise; I was all set to see Blurr overcome Decepticons and other obstacles to reach Zeta Prime when the story seemed to stop rather abruptly. But on reflection, and to be fair to Shane, the story had already delivered on its themes by this point and whether Blurr completed his mission or not can be left to the reader's imagination, or taken up at another time and place.

To say this is Transformers, supposedly a tale of alien robots, it is a very human tale. It sounds odd, particularly as the action takes place exclusively on Cybertron where there's not a fleshling in sight, but Blurr (along with many of his co-actors) is a very human character, complete with astonishing selfishness and arrogance, but somewhere in that metal casing there lies a redeemable soul. Some readers will love Blurr for those imperfections while others will simply find him annoying, personally I'm in the first camp. He's certainly is a product of his times, living a totally hedonistic lifestyle fueled by the adulation of the masses, and completely taking for granted that this lifestyle will continue. His line about "wealth, fame and endless upgrades... racing forever!" being just one of McCarthy's memorable pieces of dialogue in this book. Nothing lasts forever of course, even for a near immortal Transformer.

It's pretty unusual to see Cybertron in its golden era and invariably on those rare occasions when we do see peace, it usually ends in war, and so it is in this spotlight. Ironically though its only when the distractions of fame and hero worship are stripped away that Blurr is able to see his true reflection. I rather like how there is a tussle for his soul during this period of transition, where he could succumb to either Autobot or Decepticon camp. Blurr, I suspect, is not a character of great inner conviction, especially when it comes to putting a wider interest before his own personal welfare. This is why he dismisses the newsbot as a crank early on (for daring to ask him a 'serious' question), but he does it with the wonderful line; "pal I don't watch the news. I am the news". This is one of the best lines I've read in a Transformers comic, it's witty, cool, and arrogant all in one and really sums this character up.

As I said Blurr appears to me to be passing through a transition phase and the other characters act as his conscience, pulling him in one direction or the other. Piston is the first, devoting himself to Blurr - who can't even get his name right, and later planting the seeds of the Autobots in his mind, and finally, in death offering Blurr an example of selflessness to follow. Starscream is the opposite, proving himself to be a charismatic and cunning master manipulator, by ruthlessly exploiting Blurr's sense of self importance and painting the Decepticons as his natural home. Why are the Decepticons so bothered about Blurr? I suspect they are only using him to lend star endorcement to the Decepticon cause, much in the way a celebrity association can propel a product or cause in our society. Finally there is the faceplate-less Prime (or Optimus as he's called here) who finally wins the tug of war for Blurr's soul, by convincing him to do a redeeming act.

If Blurr is a mirror of the best and worst human qualities, so Cybertron also mirrors elements of our society in this spotlight. The obsession with celebrity is something we all see in daily life, fueled by the media and consumed by the masses. People want to believe in something remarkable and in-so-doing escape the mundaneness of every day life, and perhaps that's what's going on when Cybertronians turn up to see Blurr compete, and they want to elevate him to a pedastool. The terrorist explosion which shatters the peace also has connatations of terrorist outrages of recent years, and how many times have ordinary innocent people been dragged into a war or civil war, not of their making? So too, the Cybertronians are faced with the choice of joining Autobot or Decepticon faction. It was always going to be too simple to say that everyone with a noble soul signed-up with the Autobots, while the corrupt, power-hungry and selfish gravitated to the Decepticons. In fact people are never black and white, but are shades of grey, and Blurr walks the line between the two more closely than most.

Overall a good thoughtful story with lots to offer on a re-reading, and art that is none-too-shabby either.

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