Friday, October 23, 2015

TRANSFORMERS: WAR AND PEACE #5

"COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION"
Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Pat Lee | Inks: Rob Armstrong
Backgrounds: Edwin Garcia | Layout Assists: Ferd Poblete | Letters: Ben Lee
Colors: Espen Grundetjern, Pat Lee, Alan Wang, Rob Ruffalo, Ramil Sunga & Gary Yeung

The Plot: Optimus Prime leads the Autobot resistance to retake Iacon, as Hot Rod recalls the chain of events which led to this moment, recapping Prime concocting a plan of attack and uniting all of Cybertron's disparate resistance cells under one banner. Meanwhile, Perceptor provides Ultra Magnus with a damage report on the Dinobots and Magnus orders them repaired. Elsewhere, Shockwave is fully repaired following his fight with Grimlock and emerges from regeneration to find Iacon under siege. As he orders a counterattack, Starscream infiltrates Iacon's "monitor womb", where he's joined by Soundwave.

Ultra Magnus confronts Shockwave about the Stunticons' escape and Shockwave blasts him. Starscream broadcasts the altercation to the rest of Cybertron and an enraged Optimus Prime storms Shockwave's citadel alone. There he finds Ultra Magnus mortally wounded. With his dying breath, Magnus directs Prime toward Shockwave's escape route. Prime follows a hidden tunnel underground to find Shockwave waiting in the Vector Sigma chamber. Shockwave defeats Prime and seizes the Matrix of Leadership, which he uses to unlock Vector Sigma, an ancient supercomputer, as the remaining Transformers look on via Starscream's spy footage.

The Matrix releases a burst of energy which leaves Cybertron and, unknown to the Transformers, makes contact with the all-powerful Unicron. While, closer to home, Ultra Magnus's corpse is bathed with Matrix energy and he reawakens.

Continuity Notes: Starscream reveals to Soundwave that he liberated Ratbat from the detention center two issues ago.

Body Count: When he breaks into the monitor womb, Starscream kills the three robots that make up Reflector, a Decepticon who transforms into a camera.

G1 References: First and foremost, the issue's title, "Countdown to Extinction", was also the name of a first season episode from the original cartoon series.

During the fight, Optimus is shot in his lower side, mirroring an injury from TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE. Not long after, Hot Rod notes that Optimus reminded the Autobots that "freedom is the right of all sentient beings." This was the character quote on Optimus Prime's "tech spec" bio on his original toy's box.

The relationship between Ultra Magnus and Perceptor is presented as mildly antagonistic, not unlike their interactions in TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE. Later, when he dies, Ultra Magnus turns gray in the same style as Optimus Prime in the movie.

The "sentinels" are referred to by their G1 cartoon nomenclature, "Guardian Robots" in this issue. Also from the cartoon series is Vector Sigma: The supercomputer was said to have given life to all Transformers in the episode "The Key to Vector Sigma", though this was later ret-conned in the third season. Also, Shockwave refers to the Matrix as the afore-mentioned "key". In the TV show, the key was an entirely different object.

And of course there's Unicron, alerted to the Matrix in the same way as in TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE, awakening when it is released from Optimus Prime's body.

My Thoughts: We've reached the story's climax, and things are coming together nicely. The plot holes from last issue are forgotten as we get some exciting action between the Autobots and Decepticons in the streets of Iacon, as well as Ultra Magnus piecing together Shockwave's treachery in the background.

I love Mick's depiction of Shockwave in this series. He's one of the few Transformers who has a vastly different personality in the original comics and cartoons, but who I love equally in both incarnations. This Shockwave owes most of his characterization to Marvel's G1 comics, where he was cold and calculating, but a Machiavellian schemer as well. We still don't quite know what his endgame is, but the pieces are beginning to add up. He was no doubt torturing Alpha Trion in order to locate Vector Sigma, and he brought Optimus Prime to Cybertron in order to get hold of the Matrix and subsequently unlock Vector Sigma. Now we just need to know why he's beaming radio waves across the planet to make his people more aggressive, and hopefully that will tie in with his endgame involving the ancient supercomputer.

There are tons of great homages in the issue as well, most of which I noted above under "G1 Continuity". It's weird -- in most things I consider this sort of thing to be terribly unprofessional and fan-fictiony. But for the Transformers -- for these Transformers -- it feels right. I cringe a bit when Michael Bay's Transformers spout lines from the original series, because they aren't the Transformers. But these are the characters I grew up with; the only versions of the Transformers that actually matter to me. So here, homages and tributes make perfect sense and I love them every time.


* Due to working in Dreamwave's editorial department, writer James McDonough scripted his first several TRANSFORMERS comics under the pseudonym "Brad Mick". My reviews will use the Brad Mick name until the point where McDonough is officially credited by his real name.

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