Friday, November 27, 2015


Writer: Brad Mick* | Pencils: Don Figueroa | Inks: Elaine To
Colors: Espen Grundetjern & Rob Ruffalo | Letters: Ben Lee

The Plot: In a brief flashback, within Decepticon headquarters, Jetfire and Sunstorm skirmish, with Jetfire victorious. Then, aboard the Orion in the present, Jetfire and Starscream explain Sunstorm's capabilities to Bumblebee, Ratchet, and Brawn. Meanwhile, on Cybertron, Prowl and Ultra Magnus deal with civil unrest over the Autobots' return, and Kup prompts Prowl to consider moving the Autobots to another planet.

Back on Earth, the Autobots recharge Starscream's men to fifty percent power and let them go, in exchange for Starscream revealing the location of Jazz and the others. But first, Ratchet and Jetfire extract a genetic sample from Starscream, which they use to create a decoy to lure Sunstorm out. Bumblebee leads an Autobot team to fight the approaching Sunstorm, leaving Jetfire behind to guard Starscream. But Sunstorm proves too powerful, forcing Jetfire to abandon his post. With his help, using the decoy -- which doubles as an energy siphon -- the Autobots defeat Sunstorm, but he flies away.

Later, the weakened Sunstorm finds Starscream hiding out in Alaska, but he's followed by another unknown Transformer who ambushes the duo.

Continuity Notes: Bumblebee notes that no Autobot has heard from Jetfire in millions of years. Jetfire had previously featured into Dreamwave's TRANSFORMERS: WAR WITHIN series of miniseries, but this is his first appearance in the modern day continuity.

Jetfire deduces that Sunstorm is a clone of Starscream and has a connection to him on a genetic level, which allows him to trace Starscream's energy signature wherever he goes.

Brawn is uncomfortable with Bumblebee in a leadership role, a sentiment shared by Cliffjumper. Bumper, meanwhile, defends Bumblebee to both of them.

G1 References: Jetfire's jet mode is based upon his cartoon animation model, which was completely different from the Jetfire toy due to convoluted licensing issues involving the competing ROBOTECH TV show and toys. However his robot form borrows several cues from the Jetfire toy, including an armored helmet based on that model.

The story's title, "Skyfire", is a nod to the cartoon's name for the Jetfire character. Why the TV show renamed him is something I don't believe has ever been explained. It seems unlikely this would also be a result of licensing, as "Jetfire" is not a thing in ROBOTECH.

On Cybertron, Ironhide offers Prowl a beverage in a can bearing the image of Kremzeek, a bizarre energy creature from the G1 episode, "Kremzeek!"

Jetfire notes that a golden substance left behind as a byproduct of Sunstorm's attacks bears a molecular resemblance to Electrum, an element from the original series episode "The Golden Lagoon".

Bumblebee flies out to battle Sunstorm in a fighter that resembles his Cybertronian vehicle mode from the cartoon's pilot episode, "More Than Meets the Eye". He also dons a battle mask, a la Brawn in issue 1, which looks like the face of his original toy.

BEAST WARS References: Early in the issue, Starscream declares the Autobots to be "followers of the Covenant of Primus", a tome introduced in the BEAST WARS series as something akin to the Transformers' bible.

My Thoughts: Holy cow, is this issue a mess. I've had a lot of praise for Brad Mick and Don Figueroa up to this point, but this issue is filled with bizarre plot holes. First up is a pretty simple one, which feels like a miscommunication between writer and artist, though that doesn't really forgive the fact that there's absolutely no dialogue to cover it up: Jetfire subdues Sunstorm aboard the Nemesis. He's clearly shown defeated and unconscious. But in the very next scene on the Orion, Jetfire and Starscream are talking about tracking him down, with no explanation for his escape.

Look at it this way: If Chris Claremont wanted Arcade to get away, but John Byrne drew the X-Men capturing him, Claremont would've scripted a line into the next scene, something like Cyclops saying, "And then, when we turned our backs, he got away." There is nothing like that here. One moment Sunstorm is pretty clearly beaten, and the next he's nowhere to be found.

Also, what's Jetfire's deal? When we saw him last issue, he was being regenerated aboard the Nemesis and it seemed he was in league with Starscream. Here it's revealed that was a deliberate tease to the audience; he's actually still an Autobot. Which is fine. But why was he aboard the Decepticon ship? I don't need the whole story, but is this supposed to be a mystery? A little clarification would be helpful; again, even a small aside from Starscream to Jetfire: "When I found you, you were near deactivation..."

Beyond that, during the briefing scene aboard the Orion, Jetfire drops two bizarre references to what seems to be an untold story. First, when Bumblebee describes Sunstorm as "supernatural," Jetfire says, "I never said 'supernatural.' And didn't all of you just emerge from a similar situation recently?" Bumblebee agrees with him and then, a panel later, he continues: "...there is an element of the unknown involved here. You said so yourself, during your initial encounter with--" (At this point he's cut off by Starscream.)

I have absolutely no idea what these comments are in reference to, but it sounds like Jetfire is implying Bumblebee's crew -- or perhaps the Autobot forces as a whole -- met some pseudo-supernatural foe in between the two G1 miniseries or perhaps between "War and Peace" and this ongoing series.

Look, I'm all in favor of cryptic comments from comic book characters. Stuff like that is what made Mister Sinister my favorite X-Men villain in the nineties. But this is just so obliquely scripted that, rather than leaving a reader intrigued, it leaves them completely befuddled as to whether or not they're supposed to know what's being discussed. Add to that the Jetfire stuff above, and one begins to think that Mick has an excellent idea of what's happening in his head, but for whatever reason he's just not translating it well into his script.

So: Plot holes and poor writing. I don't know what happened, but Mick has definitely lost a step with this issue. Hopefully he'll return to form with the next installment. But in the meantime, his dialogue is still great (except for the annoying tic of all the Autobots referrering to Bumblebee as "B", which just doesn't fit the G1 cartoon style Mick has presented otherwise) -- and Figueroa's artwork continues to improve with each and every page of every issue.

* 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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