Transformers #8: No title

Published: June 2010, by IDW
Covers: Two regulars, one incentive
Writer: Mike Costa
Artwork: Javier Saltares, covers by J. Brown and Don Figueroa
Rating:

Characters: [Decepticons] Scrapper, Devastator [Autobots] none [humans] Spike Witwicky, General Witwicky, General Allenby, Compolongo, Sandra


Synopsis:

Spike fights dirty during a spiring contest.

Major Spike Witwicky is working out in the gym and thinking back to his childhood. He learned to shoot with dad in the great outdoors, and to fight in the playground - all skills that are coming in handy in his current role as commander of Skywatch - but he never liked machines much.

Skywatch is, we learn, an organisation which plays to win and plays dirty. Spike exemplifies the culture by beating the crap out of one of his trusted lieutenants (Compolongo) in a Fight Club-style training sequence, and jokes that its good to 'knock down' his men to quash any thoughts of a mutiny. Such is the testosterone running rampant, that in the next scene two fighting troops destroy a window. One of the female officers (Sandra I think) looks less impressed.

Spike speaks to generals Allenby and Witwicky (his father) and the Joint Chiefs via a videolink and provides a less than truthful account of Optimus Prime's 'escape' from custody. He gets away with the explanation - just, but is put on notice not to screw up again or his position could be reviewed.

As the screens go black only General Witwicky remains, and speaking privately to his son, warns him to beware the other generals and alludes to some secretive business in which Decepticons were allowed to 'slip through the net'. Clearly something underhand is going on. Later bikes off under the cover of darkness to a building site. He has two hours out of the sight of the Skywatch satellites to exact his revenge on the Constructicon Scrapper, who as one sixth of Devastator laid waste to New York a couple of years back (in the All Hail Megatron saga).

Spike finds him sleeping in construction truck mode and attacks him with a spray of corrosive acid. Scrapper reverts to robot mode, vowing to crush the 'human germ', but Spike launches himself again and melts half of the Decepticon's face off. As Scrapper reels in agony, Spike hits a switch sending a pile of girders reigning down and spearing the giant robot. He offers to surrender but Spike declines and shoots him in the head module at close range using Scrappers own gun! Spike walks away leaving the Decepticon behind as a smouldering wreck! A little part of his humanity has died and he feels more like a machine himself.

******

Comments:

By Omega Steve

Critics of Mike Costa's stint as Transformers writer (and there are many) tend to point to this issue as the real nadir of his run, the low-point that eclipses all others. Some of those who took to the forums to vent their frustrations, did so to lambast the idea that a human could kill a Transformer with (almost) his bare hands, or in anger that two thirds of the issue was taken up by the 'detestable' Spike with not a Transformer in sight. Others were annoyed by the arbitary slaying of a Constructicon, thereby ruling out Devastator from future stories without the need for a retcon. Overall people wondered where Costa was going with this ongoing series.

So I was looking forward to revisiting this issue to see whether those initial sentiments still held true some 18 months later. I have to say that, contrary to my expectations, I didn't mind it nearly as much a second time around, but that is almost certainly because I have now read the 2011 four-parter 'Police Action' and the events start to make more sense. In the grand scheme of things #8 can now be seen as a pivotal issue in the story Mike Costa was telling.

Scrapper recoils in pain after Spike attacks him with acid!

The issue establishes (for better or worse) Spike's character in this Ongoing. In AHM he was a brave action hero - a soldier who single-handedly infiltrated Decepticon territory and took out Megatron, thereby saving humanity. Shane McCarthy's Spike was a likeable character you could root for, under Costa he's devolved into an arrogant arse (a douchebag as he's frequently labelled on the forums) and his successes now become just a little irritating. This issue's force-feeding of Spike to the readership won't have helped matters, any more than it did with Drift, who was similarly became a hate figure for the forum-posting fandom.

Costa has said that Spike wasn't supposed to be likeable, and it was always the intention to set him up as a betrayer/bad guy by the end of the run. At the end of Police Action some people thought Spike had turned on the Autobots as a reaction to the negative fan reaction, a case of tail wagging the dog, but I think the seeds of that story are all in issue #8. The secret conversation with Spike and his dad allude to having to let some Decepticons slip the net, which we can now see is the likely result of a weapons deal with Swindle.

The trouble is that this sub-plot once-seeded disappears afterwards until Police Action many months down the track, so there isn't a sense of building up to a great betrayal. A lot of potential for drama is missed. But nevertheless we now know that Spike and his dad are pursuing a different agenda to the rest of the military brass, but perhaps they are not the only ones (I'm thinking here of Allenby in the Bumblebee miniseries). You have to wonder why the White House wouldn't be keeping a tight reign on Skywatch, considering that the USA was very nearly destroyed by the Decepticons just a couple of years previously and defending the country against a future attack would surely be the number one priority. Quite why Spike is given license to do what he wants is a surprise to me, even though as 'the guy who took down Megatron' he will have unique prestige.

Skywatch itself seems to have changed, and not for the better in my view. What started out under Simon Furman's writership as a shadowy intelligence agency rounding-up Transformers to dissect them and steal the technology, has evolved into a bunch of morons who like to beat the crap out of each other. Perhaps the scientists are still there but very much in the background these days, more's the pity. I preferred the secret CIA style Skywatch of old.

Some bit part characters are introduced (just about). The oddly named sidekick Compolongo and conscientious Sandra, who seems disapproving of the behaviour of her male colleagues. These will have roles to play in the future as this whole decompressed story unwinds. Spike doesn't like machines according to his introduction and concluding remarks. This seems an odd statement to make for someone who cruises around in top performance cars and motorbikes. It might make sense in the context of him being haunted by his mission into Decepticon-occupied New York or the trauma of Devastator killing his buddy, but we're told its actually because Spike is an outdoor kind of guy. Hmm.

The main meat of the story starts on page 16 when Scrapper appears (at last a Transformer!!). Spike exploits his insider knowledge of a two hour satellite black-out to mount his attack. It's revenge on a transformer who he blames for the death of a friend, and possibly to cover his tracks over the Swindle arms deal? The fact that Spike uses acid to wound Scrapper makes sense, after all a robotic being would be vulnerable to corrosive substances assuming it was stronger than its armour. However Spike relies on extraordinarily good luck to prevail, by having the girders overhead just in the right place to be dropped on the wounded Scrapper. Is he dead at the end? A mix of acid and a bolt to the head should be enough to fry his brain module, but who knows for sure. Perhaps the door is left open slightly for a repair job?

The question is why Spike felt the need to battle Scrapper in secrecy? Even with the new truce between Skywatch and the Autobots, I'm not sure why Spike should have been prohibited from raiding the warehouse with a squadron of his finest and claiming Scrapper wouldn't go quietly. The Autobots have spent millions of years killing and maiming Decepticons, and surely wouldn't lose too much sleep over the demise of Scrapper? If the terms of Spike's truce are that humans are no longer permitted to execute an enemy Transformer even in a battle situation then fair enough, but I feel Costa should have been clearer on this. If he had been then the ramifications of Spike's actions this issue would carry far more weight. As it is, it's possible to read the comic as a 22-page glorification of Spike's awesomeness, which is a shame as ought to be a key chapter in the overall story.

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