Transformers Ongoing #4

Released: February 2010
Publisher: IDW
Number of covers: Two regulars, one Ironhide incentive
Cover price: $3.99
Writer: Mike Costa
Artwork: Don Figueroa
Rating:

Characters: [Autobots] Hot Rod, Ultra Magnus, Prowl, Red Alert, Bluestreak/Silverstreak, Mirage [Decepticons] Thundercracker, Skywarp, Starscream, Scrapper, Tankor, Dragstrip, Swindle, Motormaster, Dead End, Hook, Megatron [humans] Spike Witwicky, Joe


Synopsis:


Thundercracker's near death experience in New York leads him on a journey of discovery.

Thundercracker was until recently a Seeker, a member of the Decepticon elite and part of Megatron's inner circle. But compassion got the better of him and he 'betrayed' his own kind by intervening to prevent a nuclear warhead from destroying New York. For his crimes he was shot down by Skywarp and left for dead. Somehow he survived and in the three years that have passed his journey of discovery has continued.

In flashbacks we see Thundercracker crashing among the debris of New York and his body being assaulted by 'disgusting' organic life-forms including bacteria and plants. To the other Decepticons these primitive forms would be weak and feeble, but Thundercracker begins to see them as amazingly resilient and adaptive. Ironically the opposite of his Transformer brothers who have stayed in the same rut for millions of years.

From his underground lair Thundercracker studied mankind through its TV broadcasts and began to understand basic concepts such as humour. Time passed and eventually he was found by Swindle's band of Decepticon waifs and strays and recruited. He resisted calls to lead them and the group turned to the great survivor among them, Swindle.

Fast forward to the present day, and Swindle is attempting to persuade Hot Rod that they should rescue the other Constructicons from human captivity so that they can help in the effort to build a vessel capable of getting off the Earth. Hot Rod won't sanction that, given their propensity to form Devastator, so Swindle suggests recovering the missing Stunticon Breakdown instead? He plants a thought in Hot Rod's mind that his troops have started to refer to him as Rodimus Prime and the flattery hits the spot.

Meanwhile Spike is still worried about what he will say to his dad, seeing as how he has had Optimus in custody for a week and still hasn't got him to talk.

Some time after, Ultra Magnus catches up with Hot Rod and his band of Autobots and Decepticons. He attempts to arrest the fugitive Swindle and to chastise Hot Rod (now openly calling himself Rodimus) about the unauthorised space ship he is building. Rodimus defends his corner and questions the very authority that Magnus is operating under, seeing as how the war is now effectively over. He hits a nerve and Magnus transforms and leaves, though he insists the matter is not over.

Thundercracker observes the unlikely alliance that has been created and figures that Swindle is bound to be planning something, but 'Rodimus' may be an even slicker talker. He reflects on his fellow Transformers: far from 'transforming' they have stood still in their thinking and attitudes for centuries, whereas mankind has bounced back from the Decepticon conquest in a matter of months. It has rebuilt and developed new defences, and now has the Autobots and Decepticons on the run. Transformerkind has so much to learn from these remarkable beings, thinks Thundercracker, and yet all they want to do is flee to the stars.

******

Review:

By Omega Steve

Mike Costa, speaking via the letters page, describes issue #4 as a "big statement of purpose" regarding his run as Transformers Ongoing writer. Readers have questioned why humans have figured so heavily in the stories so far and why the balance of power has shifted so decisively from the giant robots being the deadly threat to the other way around. This issue offers an explanation for those points and does so in a way which is both touching and thoughtful - and dare I say unique?

The idea of Autobots admiring facets of humanity or human potential is expected, after all Optimus Prime was forever talking up the virtues of humanity. But to see a Decepticon, in this case Thundercracker, become an admirer of the human spirit and life on Earth in general is something a bit different. Most Decepticons dismiss organics as contemptuous or beneath their notice, primitives etc, but Thundercracker could be the first of his kind to see them as an example of the change and evolution necessary for long-term survival. Transformers can replace their worn out parts and are by and large immortal. To some degree they may be slaves to their base programming. They have been stuck in the same rut - ie civil war - for millions of years.

I'm curious as to whether Thundercracker's near-religious conversion is the result of his being expelled from the Decepticons and being laid low by physical hardship for three years, or whether he was starting to think along these lines in the previous All Hail Megatron storyline anyway. As Costa says, Thundercracker has been treated with ambivalence in the past, and not too much is known of his character and thinking. He is usually just a lacky of Starscream but with a sonic boom gimmick. Shane McCarthy had used this 'blank slate' as an open invitation to imbue TC with doubts about the Decepticon cause and its brutality, and Costa is taking that to new levels here. TC is moving beyond the sceptic to becoming a potential prophet and catalyst for change. How far the writer is prepared to take this personal journey remains to be seen of course, but this issue does feel like the prelude to something big as far as Thundercracker is concerned.

On the other hand he also appears to be keeping his revelations to himself rather than trying to convince the other Autobots and Decepticons so perhaps he is biding his time; or he thinks it is pointless to try to change his fellow Transformers as they are too set in their ways.

In any event I'm pleased to see the comic directly spinning out of threads woven in AHM, from TC's betrayal and would-be murder, to the fact that mankind is back on its feet after being conquered by Megatron and the Decepticons. AHM felt like a jarring separation from earlier continuity whereas the Ongoing seems to flow a lot more naturally from what has come before.

Once again Don Figueroa is drawing to a high standard but his work is being seriously undermined by the new style of faces - which are ghastly. I do hope Don and the editors take note of the reactions from fans and switch back to the familiar designs or some other evolution. I can't say I'm all that keen on Hot Rod/Rodimus' new design either which is a big step from what we had before, which I and many other regular readers were pretty happy with.

Speaking of Hot Rod/Rodimus he really seems to have fallen for his own hype and swallowed delusions of grandeur. He's arguably doing a pretty good job of keeping his break-away faction united, and even spots the danger (both real and political) of allowing the Constructicons to be freed. But the speed with which he takes on board Swindle's guff about him being referred to as Rodimus Prime, and then calling himself it, should set off alarm bells around the camp. Optimus Prime was a Matrix bearer on the one hand, but also earned his status as a Prime by commanding over many millennia. By contrast Hot Rod has been in charge of a relatively small group for days or weeks, and yet to achieve anything of great note - it's a bit early to be setting himself up as a Prime! I'm surprised Magnus didn't laugh at him and Prowl hasn't given him a reality check yet.

I really liked Magnus in the stories Furman wrote for IDW. His character seemed to be part police officer and part secret agent, rounding up intergalactic criminals and megalomaniacs. But in the Ongoing he's a bit of dick! He seem dogmatic and inflexible and the scene with Hot Rod/Rodimus and Magnus feels like a motorist trying to convince an unsympathetic traffic warden to let him off a ticket. Still Roddy does well to come out on top.

After last issue's drop in pace this one has set the bar high again. Let's hope for some more action and a few more unexpected twists being thrown up by Thundercracker's journey of discovery.

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