Transformers #5: Enemies of the System

Published: March 2010, by IDW
Covers: Two regulars, one incentive (Bumblebee)
Writer: Mike Costa
Artwork: Don Figueroa, Andrew Wildman (cover B)
Rating:

Characters: [Autobots] Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Ultra Magnus, Blurr, Brawn, Rodimus, Ratchet, Jazz, Silverstreak [Decepticons] Breakdown, Wildrider, Dragstrip, Motormaster, Deadend, Swindle, Menasor [humans] Spike Witwicky


Synopsis:


Menasor's arrival marks the end of the ill-fated Autobot-Decepticon alliance.

Optimus Prime resigned as Autobot commander and surrendered himself to the human forces back in issue #1. Four issues on he remains a caged prisoner at Skywatch HQ and is attempting to win over his jailer-in-chief Spike Witwicky. Prime generously accepts responsibility for the war with the Decepticons and its terrible cost to Earth's cities. He also expresses admiration for mankind's ability to change and adapt in over the course of a lifetime - a process which takes countless generations for a Transformer. Prime voices his hope that his stepping down as Autobot leader will force his followers to change and will lead to a peaceful co-existence with the humans.

Meanwhile Hot Rod, now calling himself Rodimus, has taken some important first steps towards reconciliation with the Decepticons by joining forces with Swindle and his crew. They are engaged in a joint effort to construct a spacecraft capable of getting everyone as far away from Earth as possible. With just hours to go until completion, lawman Ultra Magnus is about to throw a major spanner in the works. He shows up at Autobase and deputises several of Bumblebee's warriors for the purpose of arresting Rodimus for treason.

Spike has some thinking to do and takes the Breakdown (trapped and deactivated in vehicle mode) for a joyride. While on the highway he is rammed by the other Stunticons and returns fire. Spike heads for Skywatch HQ hoping to lead his attackers into a trap but Motormaster blocks his path and he's forced to bail. The Stunticons recover Breakdown and take him back to the launch site for repairs and reactivation.

A couple of hours later Magnus and his 'deputies' show-up to make their arrest. Rodimus argues there can be no treason if the war is over. Magnus won't listen. Then Swindle steps forward to declare that the truce is over and the Decepticons are stealing the ship - after they kill all the Autobots that is!! On cue the Stunticons combine into Menasor, who is ordered to begin the slaughter with Magnus!

******

Review:

By Omega Steve

After last issue which raised the bar, this one feels disappointing. Things get off to a poor start with six pages of monotonous chit-chat between Optimus Prime and Spike, in which the noble leader Autobots is found guilty of sucking up to his new human pal, even crediting him with singlehandedly ending the millions of years old Transformer war. Sure, Spike fired the headshot which took down Megatron, and clearly this is going to exceed Prime's expectations of humanity, but anyone can pull a trigger and it doesn't automatically make Spike the greatest warrior the Cybertron has ever known. Put in context, how many times will Prime have witnessed great acts of courage over the years, or perpetrated them himself? It reads a tad too arse kissy for my liking.

On the plus side, the scene does offer a couple of significant moments. It continues the theme of last issue that TFs can learn from humanity's ability to adapt and change, which is important at the current post-war phase where nobody knows what will happen next. So there is a reason for Earth's otherwise inexplicable significance to Optimus. He also explains his decision to surrender, which is to broker a peace between the TFs and humans, fair enough. Trouble is that page after page of talking heads gets boring and this scene really should have been boiled down to the salient points and wrapped up in two pages. As it stands it feels like padding. I can't help thinking that the story is being unnecessarily dragged out over two issues when it should be one. Had #5 and #6 been combined it would have made for an action packed finale, so this is an opportunity missed.

Spike compares Optimus Prime to Abraham Lincoln, which I hadn't thought of before, but I can see what he is getting at. I'm sure that there are elements of honest Abe in the wise and articulate Optimus - at least when earlier writers like Bob Budiansky or Simon Furman have written Prime. I don't feel like Costa writes a very convincing Optimus, the dialogue feels a little flat for reasons I can't put my finger on.

I'm a fan of the Stunticons and think they are under-used, so Don's cover depicting all five team members in action poses initially got me excited about this issue, and to be fair there are some good Stunticon scenes - not least the fab double splash page with Menasor - but there's also a lot of time wasting as already discussed.

Better moments this issue are the scenes with the Stunticons ramming Spike in a bid to recover their captive comrade Breakdown, the striking Menasor debut, and Swindle finally making his play (just a shame that everyone could see that coming). At least we have some gestalt action next issue and a chance to end the first arc on a reasonable high.

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