Transformers Stormbringer #1

Publisher: IDW
Release date: July 2006
Number of covers: Three (including incentive)
Cover price: $2.99
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Don Figueroa (pencils) Josh Burcham (colours) Rob Ruffolo (cover)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Jetfire, Scattershot, Afterburner, Lightspeed, Strafe, Nosecone, Searchlight, Omega Supreme, Thunderwing, Soundwave, Perceptor, Bomburst


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Scattershot and Jetfire are ambushed by an unseen enemy.

Seven hundred stellar cycles ago a terrible appocalypse occured on the Transformers' homeworld. The Decepticon Thunderwing had warned of an impending ecological disaster on Cybertron caused by centuries of civil war. No-one listened and he had taken matters into his own hands, merging his robotic body with a frighteningly-powerful outer shell, and instead of achieving good he had gone insane. It took the combined might of the Autobots and Decepticons, and nuclear armageddon, to stop him and Cybertron has been uninhabitable ever since.

Fast forward to the present day, and the Autobot science vessel Calabi-Yau arrives in orbit of the desolate homeworld. Jetfire and the his colleagues, the Technobots, have come to investigate an energy trace beneath the planet's surface. It is a mystery because the planet was thought to be a lifeless and inhospitable husk, but the readings could suggest that Cybertron is starting to heal itself. They decide break to protocol and travel to the surface, leaving Afterburner and Nosecone on the ship.

Jetfire, Scattershot, Lightspeed and Strafe beef-up their force-fields and exit the shuttle at Thunderhead Pass - the infamous final resting place of Thunderwing. Jetfire recalls how, before he had gone mad, Thunderwing had tried to warn the scientific community that the unending civil war was exacting a terrible toll on Cybertron, but nobody (not even Jetfire) had listened.

A flashback sees Prime coaxed back from near death by his nemesis Megatron. They are comrades against Thunderwing and Megatron needs Prime to revive before the battle is lost. Then it's back to the present once again, but this time to a command satellite where Prime is informed by Searchlight of a transmission from Earth. Evidently Prowl's counter-infiltration team is in trouble.

Back on Cybertron, Jetfire and the three Technobots prepares to leave when they are suddenly attacked by a group of Decepticons equipped with cloaking technology. Lightspeed, then Stafe fall, and Jetfire and Scattershot open fire - only for the radiation particles around them to conduct and fry them. The last thing they see before blacking out are the outlines of a group of Decepticons circling them. Their comrades on the Calabi-Yau are worried something has happened, and then realise they've got heat seeking missiles closing in on the ship. A huge explosion follows.

We see another flashback, this time of Prime and Megatron side by side and Thunderwing emerging from the storm. And in the next scene, Jetfire regains consciousness on present-day Cybertron to see the as-yet unmoving body of Thunderwing and the chanting group who are trying to resurrect him.

******

Comments:

So begins the second chapter in IDW's story of the Transformers. The opening arc 'Infiltration' had attracted criticism from some quarters for its slow pace and gradual roll-out of characters. It's a view I can sympathise with, even though I actually enjoyed Infiltration. But with Stormbringer #1 it's immediately evident that the creative teams have listened and responded. The robot count has been upped dramatically and the backdrop is no longer Earth, but Cybertron and the wider universe. Most importantly we're offered a major piece in the jigsaw, explaining why the Decepticons seek to infiltrate other worlds in the first place - it's because Cybertron is uninhabitable and they've been forced to spread-out across the galaxy.

The flashbacks, complete with trademark Furmanese are a little baffling, but we learn as the issue goes on that they are being narrated by Optimus Prime. Some of the scenes are given an old photograph feel which works well, and we find out Prime and Megatron were allied against a common threat. Jetfire's reveal that Thunderwing had predicted environmental disaster on Cybertron, raises questions about what happened next. It's not clear, at least to this reviewer, how how the global threat lead Thunderwing to become a Pretender or how it went so disastrously wrong. How would a robot wrapping himself in a near-indestructible shell be a way to repair the environment? Or could it be that he deliberately set out to wipe out the Transformer for the good of Cybertron? All of these questions remain unanswered but perhaps they'll become clearer later on. At any rate the story brings to mind the issue of global warming and its threat to Earth and it's nice to see how such a threat is dealt with in a Transformers/Cybertron context.

Interestingly Jetfire and company take a shuttle down to the surface, contrary to other IDW books where characters have (for want of a better word) 'beamed down' or at least been physically carried by a beam. Perhaps the radiation makes this impossible in Cybertron's case. However, other Star Trek techno-babble abound, with talk of rotating shield frequencies and 'level six diagnostics'. Even the concept of TFs travelling the universe on large ships will seem familiar to anyone who watches Star Trek TNG and spin-offs.

I never thought I'd be pleased to see the Pretenders in any comic, but in this context they are a welcome contribution. They make an excellent choice for a cult of villains worshipping the ultimate Pretender - Thunderwing. And I really like how (not yet equipped with shells), Don has revised their designs so that their robots resemble their eventual Pretender shells. In fact Don's art is solid all issue, particularly on the cliffhanger shot of Thunderwing, and its great to see him back drawing Transformers. His Prime is similar to the War Within design, and perhaps explains why the series has a WW feel to it. A promising start, now on to issue #2.

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