Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Big In Japan Episode #18: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind



Justin and Derek are joined by Stella of Batgirl To Oracle and Required Reading to discuss the feature film from Hayao Miyasaki, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind!


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Justice Not Entirely Dissimilar To Lightning # 6: Thunderbolts #5, Star Trek/X-Men: Second Contact and Iron Man Annual #7


Mike and Derek discuss the fifth issue of Thunderbolts where the team faces off against The Growing Man and the Thunderbolts single page cameo inside the pages of the Star Trek/X-Men: Second Contact special! Then in the second half of the show Derek is joined by special guest Luke Jaconetti of Earth Destruction Directive, Vault Of Startling Monster Horror Tales Of Terror and Get Back To The Wrestling to discuss not only Star Trek/X-Men: Second Contact, but Iron Man Annual #7 "When Giants Walk the Earth!" featuring the first appearance of Erik Josten as Goliath!

Podcast Promos:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Fanholes Episode # 181: Heroes Con 2019


Justin, Tony and Derek went to Heroes Con 2019! They give Mike the downlow on Commissions, Comic Books, Creator Panels, Art Auctions, Cosplay and More!!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Fanholes Episode # 179: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier 30th Anniversary Special


The celebration continues! The Fanholes discuss Star Trek V: The Final Frontier on its 30th Anniversary! Cosmic Questions will be answered! Or at least discussed, at any rate....

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Fanholes Comic Books Mutha@#$%! Do You Read 'Em?!? # 42: X-Men - Stories From The Spinner Rack!



Comic Books Mutha@#$%! Do You Read 'Em?!? is celebrating the feature film release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix with an all-new Stories From The Spinner Rack!

Comics Discussed:
Derek: X-Factor #32
Justin: Uncanny X-Men #281
Mike: X-Men #23



Podcast Promos:
Batgirl To Oracle A Barbara Gordon Podcast 
Marvel Super-Heroes Podcast

Mike's Favorite IDW Transformers "Phase 2" Moments: Part 3, Mairghread Scott and Nick Roche

In the final part of this list, I will run down my top five favorite Mairghread Scott moments and my top three Nick Roche moments, as well as dishonorable mentions for both.  These two may not have been as prolific in terms of writing as James Roberts and John Barber were in "Phase 2", but they both still certainly contributed some very noteworthy stories and moments!

First up, the third "main" writer for Phase 2, Mairghread Scott!

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5. LIEGE MAXIMO STEPS OUT FOR A SPELL
(Till All Are One # 8, 2017 )

With a horde of undead Titans descending upon Cybertron, Windblade has no time for Elita One’s refusal to have her own Titan Carcer transform to robot mode and lend a hand. Windblade leads a strike team into Carcer to force Elita’s hand and gain an edge against the attacking enemy city-formers. Elita has constantly said that Carcer must never transform and that her people are dedicated to never allowing their Titan to do so, but hasn’t provided a reason why.

As Elita’s generals Obsidian and Strika try and repel Windblade’s infiltration team, Windblade manages to get into Carcer’s brain chamber and activate the slumbering Titan with her telepathic Cityspeaker abilities. However, she discovers a terrible truth when she does; that Carcer is actually the Titan Vigilem in disguise… loyal guardian of the dreaded Prime of Lies- Liege Maximo!

While Windblade manages to get Vigilem to fight and destroy his undead brothers, the malevolent Titan takes the opportunity to free the captive Liege Maximo from a chamber within himself. Elita One tries to prevent Vigilem’s master from escaping by destroying the Titan’s massive brain module. However since Windblade was still connected to Vigilem’s brain, Elita’s act nearly fries Windblade’s own mind. And it’s all for naught… because Liege Maximo has already been released!



4. ASTRAL PLANE(S)
(TAAO # 12, 2017)

Just before Elita One destroyed Vigilem’s brain module, the malevolent Titan managed to download his brain patterns into Windblade’s mind. Now in a coma, Windblade is constantly engaged in a mental struggle with Vigilem as he tries to overtake her on the astral plane. While she is managing to hold him at bay, it’s only a matter of time before the Titan finds a weakness to exploit.

Enter Starscream, who has decided against his better judgment to interface with Windblade’s mind and give her a helping mental hand against Vigilem. However, Starscream isn’t as well-versed in psychic combat as Windblade is, and Vigilem quickly shifts focus to attacking him, exposing his greatest fears and insecurities and stripping him down to an image of his virtual spark.  Windblade grabs Starscream’s “spark” and learns of his artificial “cold construction”, realizing that the Seeker has never felt comfortable in his own metal skin.


She mentally forges a true spark and body for Starscream- the idealized image of what he felt he should have been all along. Strengthened by Windblade’s psychic “rebuilding” of him, Starscream repels Vigilem from his mind and Windblade seals the screaming Titan within a mental prison in her own mind.

The two awaken in the physical world with a new understanding of each other, although Starscream is distinctly uncomfortable with what he witnessed in his own psyche. Windblade thanks him for coming to help and tells him that from now on, she won’t be participating in any political subterfuge or compromise, desiring only to speak her truth. Her resolve and Starscream’s own new understanding of himself will inform both of their decisions for the rest of the IDW universe and was truly a turning point for both characters.


3. CYBERTRON, ATTACK!
(TAAO # 5, 2016)

Starscream’s not the most popular leader around, or the most honest, but when the stakes are no less than the survival of the planet itself, there’s no time to be picky. A horde of undead city-sized Titans unleashed by Sentinel Prime looms over Cybertron, and everyone must put aside their differences and rally behind Starscream. Every spaceship is conscripted to either attack or ferry civilians away from danger, Windblade boards Metroplex to optimize his combat abilities, and all colonist representatives pledge their support to the planet's adamant leader.


Starscream gives a pretty epic speech before things kick off and it galvanizes the population. Politics are cast aside and for the first time, Starscream directs the entire population towards a singular goal; DEFEND CYBERTRON. Even in this post-war landscape, it was exceedingly rare to see everyone working together and even moreso following Starscream’s orders. While the battle against the undead Titans would have a lot of complications tossed in along the way, it at least began with a finally-united Cybertron speaking in one voice… Starscream’s voice.



2. THE REVENGE OF BRUTICUS
(TAAO # 3-# 4, 2016)

Onslaught and the Combaticons aren’t happy with Starscream’s leadership of Cybertron nor his apparent killing of Swindle. In order to get revenge, the Combaticons kidnap Wheeljack and Rattrap after learning that they spirited Swindle’s body away after his apparent death. Swindle had dirt on Starscream’s illegitimate dealings while in office, and if it could somehow be retrieved, the Combaticons could topple Starscream's entire regime. They discover that Swindle is still alive, but brain-dead and kept on life support. Onslaught forces Rattrap to retrieve the one object that could let them access Swindle’s dormant memory banks… the mythical Enigma of Combination.

Using the Enigma, Onslaught and the other Combaticons merge with the brain-dead Swindle into the gestalt Bruticus, who immediately lashes out in fury. We see events from the perspective of Bruticus’ shared mindscape, as each Combaticon reacts to being part of the entity differently. While Onslaught single-mindedly rifles through Swindle’s memories, Vortex revels in the power that Bruticus provides.


Brawl is dragged into Swindle’s void of a mind and forced to relive his “death” at the hands of Starscream. Blast Off desperately tries to keep his comrades coherent as in the physical world, Bruticus rampages and clashes with Ironhide’s security forces. Onslaught finally obtains the proof he needs to take Starscream down, and Vortex and Brawl manage to latch onto Onslaught’s resolve as well. Only Blast Off’s reluctance to continue fighting prevents a tragedy, as his doubt gives Bruticus pause long enough for Ironhide to take the combiner out.

While a suitably-dramatic action sequence on its own, what really makes this scene special are the renderings of Bruticus’ mind and how each Combaticon reacts to being linked to each other. The two-page spread you see above is one of my absolute favorite images in any Transformers comic EVER- there’s just so much going on in there! Their time as Bruticus will also affect Brawl and Blast Off’s character development later on in this series and lead to some surprising choices from them down the line.


1. THE CHOSEN ONE UNITES CYBERTRON
(TAAO Annual 2017)

Ever since Starscream and Windblade shared mind-space and Starscream got a glimpse of his “idealized” self, the former Decepticon has had a confidence in himself and his leadership that is at an all-time high. He’s even allowing and fast-tracking free elections on Cybertron, assured that he can win the hearts and minds of the people. What’s more, Starscream’s plans to improve Cybertron’s infrastructure, energy production, and alliances with the other colonies are borne of a place of a legitimate desire to serve his people. With this new confident, borderline-altruistic air about Starscream, some of his biggest doubters are starting to question if they should even stand in his way.

One such doubter is Rattrap, who despite being Starscream’s one-time adviser, has quietly gathered evidence on all the various criminal activities perpetrated during the former Decepticon’s leadership of Cybertron. However, since he’s unsure if he’d be doing more damage than good to Cybertron by releasing it, Rattrap hands over all the evidence to Windblade, who is currently running against Starscream in the upcoming election.

Just before a public debate, Windblade furiously confronts Starscream after examining the evidence, leaving it all with him and telling him that he’d better have a good defense for it as she plans on telling the truth no matter what.


Starscream panics and prepares to throw up his usual smokescreen of misdirection, denials and lies, distraught that all his good intentions will mean nothing if the truth of his previous crimes come out. He believes that the warlike Elita One, who is the third candidate in this election, will spell ruin for Cybertron and desperately tries to think up a way to prevail against both her and Windblade.

At the debate, Windblade gives an impassioned, yet humble speech that simply asks for everyone to vote their conscience and that she’ll do the best she can if elected. Starscream is up next, and when the spotlight shines on him, he pauses… and…


Starscream confesses to all his crimes since taking office. He throws the election to give Windblade the votes she needs to win over Elita One. In a way, Starscream effectively fulfills the (later revealed as false) prophecy that was told to him by the overzealous Scoop and misguided Metrotitan- the “Chosen One” unites Cybertron… against him.

Later, having been locked away in his cell and given life imprisonment for his crimes, Windblade visits Starscream and gives him a holo-image of the “true self” he saw in their shared minds. She completely understands the choice Starscream made and who he decided to be. Even though Starscream’s motivations and ideals would zig and zag a few times more after this point in IDW continuity, this was probably his most defining moment. It turns out, the most unexpected and powerful thing Starscream could do was tell the truth.

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Dishonorable Mention- YOU’RE MY COMBATICON FANTASY
(TAAO # 9, 2017)

We all know why THIS is dumb…


-Onslaught doesn’t even have a mouth!

No, but seriously, this is more jarring than truly offensive to me. The scene in question is actually a mental projection in Blast Off’s mind, so it is literal Tumblr-shipping fan fiction on his part. And it makes perfect sense for Blast Off as a character to have a crush on Onslaught (read his original tech specs, he’s so lonely!)

I think this is just weird because I’ve never conceived of the words “Combaticons” and “romantic relationship” being in the same sentence. Furthermore, while the concept of Transformers having romantic relationships is one I’m down with, I always thought it was weird that they’d be physical in the same way humans would. Going all the way back to Blackarachnia and Silverbolt smooching in Beast Wars or (shudder) Rattrap and Botanica swapping sap in Beast Machines, it just seems… a little MUCH to me, I guess.

Hey, so this relationship's shipping name would be "OnOff", right?

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Now, we conclude this list with my top three favorite Nick Roche moments/scenes/things.  Roche actually contributed a chunk of material for "Phase 1" of IDW Transformers, most notably the universally-acclaimed "Last Stand of the Wreckers."  "Last Stand" would be on my list of favorite Transformers stories ever PERIOD, but this list is limited to offerings from Phase 2, so here we go!

3. DECEPTICONS REASSEMBLED 
(Spotlight: Megatron, 2014)

After Megatron is left near death after a battle with Optimus Prime during the Decepticons’ first attempted conquest of Earth, Starscream seizes command. His tenure as leader is an embarrassing farce that leads to the Decepticon army fracturing across the galaxy and over a hundred of them taking refuge on a barren asteroid for nearly two years. With no resources to pilfer and Starscream unable to organize them in any meaningful fashion, the Decepticons fall to disrepair and cannibalism. Fortunately, Soundwave and Shockwave have been secretly toiling day and night to revive the comatose Megatron in a new, more powerful body.

Upon awakening and finding his empire in utter disarray, Megatron wastes no time in seeking out the despondent Starscream for some “course-correction” (and to work some resentment off.) Delivering a vicious physical and verbal beatdown to Starscream, Megatron ultimately spares him (as always), explaining why he never kills his treacherous subordinate. Starscream’s presence always reminds Megatron of the need to keep on his toes, to never stop watching his own back, and to maintain his edge.

He then addresses his haggard troops, and with customary sound, fury and ironclad conviction, does in less than a minute what Starscream could not do in two years. Megatron reforges the Decepticons into an army, an empire, an IDEAL again with mere words.


That second-to-last panel is a perfect encapsulation of the “classic” G1 Decepticon command structure and everyone’s place in it- “Soundwave lurks, Shockwave plots, and Starscream lives to scheme again.” Along with Megatron, these characters are the four main pillars of the organization in just about every G1-themed Transformers continuity, and Roche brilliantly captures that at the end of this excellent issue.


2. SPRINGER: ENDGAME
(Requiem of the Wreckers, 2018)

Springer’s one of the most heroic and decent Autobots there is; an impressive distinction considering he’s the leader of the Wreckers, the legendary squad of down-and-dirty commandos called in when the situation has reached beyond “FUBAR.” Springer spent nearly five years in a coma thanks to hideous injuries suffered at the hands of Overlord, reawakened to discover that he is an artificial Cybertronian created by the mad scientist Tarantulas, and then shortly thereafter had to cope with the death of his beloved mentor-figure Kup. Time and task have certainly worn on Springer and he retires to Earth to reevaluate his life alongside the Autobots’ human ally Verity Carlo.

Springer and Verity are abruptly and violently dragged into another tangled plot involving infiltration, assassination, and time travel thanks to the former leader of the Wreckers and his OTHER mentor-figure Impactor. Stumbling upon an alliance between Overlord and his progenitor Tarantulas, Springer and Impactor saddle up one last time to take the villains down.


In the end, Tarantulas dies trying to protect his “son” and Impactor sacrifices his life to give Springer a shot at beating Overlord. Springer and Verity manage to send Overlord’s two components to separate ends of history via a time-window, ending the Decepticon Phase-Sixer’s threat for good.
  
Afterwards, Springer decides to use the time-window and return to a point before the Autobot/Decepticon war. He’s not intending on trying to change the events of history at large; that’s simply too big in scope for him to consider. Instead, Springer decides to focus on changing a person at a time, and hopes that he can make enough of a positive difference to alter the fates of those he cares about and perhaps avert the war. After a heartfelt goodbye to Verity, he sets off on his next and final quest, but leaves a message for those he has left behind.


In addition to the surviving Wreckers, it’s nice to see that Springer cared enough to send the message to Prowl (who could be considered something of a godfather to him, despite their fractious relationship), Carnivac (a former rival), and even some rookie Wreckers (“Wrookies”) he had been remotely training. Springer’s message to erase the current, oil-stained legacy of the Wreckers and start a new one is a lovely cap on the entire mini-saga of the team that Nick Roche started back in 2010.


1. SPIDER/COP
(Sins of the Wreckers, 2015-2016)

In the earliest days of the Decepticon uprising, Prowl secretly worked with an extraordinarily-gifted neutral scientist by the name of Mesothulas to produce weapons and technology for the Autobots. Something of a socially-stunted eccentric, Mesothulas thrilled at providing whatever Prowl’s cunning, logical mind could concoct. Moreover, he started to see the whole of Cybertronian society as a Petri dish, and considered the Autobot/Decepticon conflict itself a living organism that he and Prowl were experimenting on. Prowl knew that Mesothulas had these unhealthy appetites, but the results of their collaborations were simply too valuable and groundbreaking for him to walk away from.


Finally, Prowl’s conscience caught up with him, and determined Mesothulas was simply too dangerous to keep around. He had Impactor toss Mesothulas into the Noisemaze- an extra-dimensional prison of the scientist’s own creation. The Noisemaze’s mind-bending atmosphere drove Mesothulas insane and kept him stranded there for centuries. When he finally managed to free himself, he found that the war was still in full swing and he had been forgotten by Prowl… and history.

Mesothulas set to work planning his reunion with/revenge on Prowl. He examined and improved on technology and scientific advancements that had been developed in his absence, notably those by the amoral logician Shockwave. Mesothulas adapted mass-shifting technology to work in concert with bestial transformations, and chose the form of an Earthen spider as his new size-changing alternate mode. Mesothulas had become… Tarantulas.


Tarantulas went on to kidnap and blackmail Prowl, setting up the events of “Sins of the Wreckers”. Leaving aside how that story played out, I really just loved the concept of Prowl and Tarantulas being linked in this way. My favorite G1 character and my favorite Beast Wars character sharing a rivalry/friendship/whatever weird thing they had seemed tailor-made for me, and it was nice to see Nick Roche and I were on the same wavelength in this regard. The fact that Tarantulas was also linked in the story to Shockwave and Roadbuster, two of my other favorite G1 characters, was something I also appreciated.

The tangled sort-of “family tree” of Tarantulas, Prowl, Springer, Impactor, Verity, and Kup that was revealed added extra layers to each character involved and enriched them all in the final analysis. Tarantulas’ being Springer’s creator also added an element of tragedy and depth to the creepy spider-bot that you would never expect from him in previous incarnations. Nick Roche made me feel terribly sad for Tarantulas, despite all he had done, and exposing a new, interesting facet to one of my favorite characters will always be something I take notice of.


Of course, Prowl’s end of the relationship would also expose something I didn’t so much appreciate, as we move on to...

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Dishonorable Mention- MORALLY-BLACK PROWL
(Sins of the Wreckers # 3, 2015-2016)

I’ve always enjoyed the shadier, devious Prowl that began to develop in the latter stages of IDW continuity’s “Phase 1.” Nick Roche pioneered this approach to the character, starting back in “All Hail Megatron” # 15 with his story “Everything In Its Right Place.” Casting Prowl as someone unafraid to “cross the line” to get things done and win the war for the Autobots, it was a portrayal that struck a chord with me and added a nice edge to a character who is usually thought of as “straight-laced” to a fault. I always enjoy when this sort of thing is applied to this particular character archetype in fiction, whether it is Cyclops of the X-Men or Wesley Wyndam-Pryce in the Buffyverse.

The thing with skirting the line and being all morally-gray is; you’ve got to maintain a fine balance with the character or you risk them going to a place where your audience suddenly can’t follow them. Prowl had done some truly questionable and terrible things in IDW continuity, but for the most part, you could see the logic behind them and still understand he was making a hard choice for the greater good.

I had always felt Nick Roche handled Prowl in this manner with the most care out of all the IDW writers. John Barber’s Prowl was a bit too angry and volatile, and James Roberts’ Prowl seemed a bit too spiteful and bitter. However, Roche virtually leaped off the moral tightrope that Prowl had been maneuvering on in the third issue of Sins of the Wreckers, where he revealed that Prowl and Mesothulas had perpetrated a “false-flag” operation in the early stages of the war.


Forget “morally-gray” or “for the greater good”, something like this just makes Prowl a complete monster. Killing thousands of innocents just to pin the blame on the Decepticons and score a propaganda victory is just not something I want my favorite character to be involved with. In fact, I basically have to head-canon this scene just to make it slightly more palatable to my sensibilities.

Perhaps Mesothulas went ahead with this operation anonymously and behind Prowl’s back after the two had brainstormed it, and after Prowl had rejected the notion. It’s still a horrible thing for Prowl to concoct, but I really don’t want to believe he actually signed off on executing it. The way he flatly reports on it to Mesothulas and the fact that he very shortly thereafter has the scientist disposed of makes me think the situation simply spiraled out of his control.

In whatever case, this is a moment I cringe at re-reading, and I think Roche should have pulled back a tic before deciding to include it in the story. Prowl’s still a “good guy”, despite it all, and something like this makes it impossible for you to relate to him anymore.

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And that's that! Maybe one day I'll go back and do a list for "Phase 1" of IDW Transformers 1.0, but for now, thanks for reading!

-Mike

























 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Fanholes Toku Thursdays Episode #49: Jirass/Gomess Double Dare!



Justin and Derek get together to celebrate the feature film release of Godzilla King of Monsters, by discussing various episodes from the Ultra Franchise that feature the use of Godzilla Suits!

Episodes Discussed:
Ultraman, Episode 10 "The Mysterious Dinosaur Base"
Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle: Never Ending Odyssey Episodes 1-2 "Reionics Hunter" and "Reionics Battle" 


Podcast Promos:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Mike's Favorite IDW Transformers "Phase 2" Moments: Part 2, John Barber

Last time, we looked at my favorite moments from James Roberts' run. On to my top ten favorite moments/scenes from John Barber's run, plus honorable and dishonorable mentions!

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Honorable Mention- PROWL, PREPAREDNESS AND PARALLELS
(Optimus Prime # 13, 2017)

Prowl’s had a lot of different depictions in IDW history, and in “Phase 2” his mind’s been messed with and altered against his will a number of times too. The basics remain the same though; Prowl does what he believes is best for the greater good, even if he has to go over or against Optimus Prime and the Autobot cause to do it. His renegade nature left him ideally-placed to start an early counterattack against the final and ultimate enemy the Transformers of this universe ever faced.

Cast out from the Autobots, Prowl formed his own little mismatched little crew of Wheelie, the Throttlebots, the alien Garnak, and the Cybertronian/Spaceknight/Dire Wraith hybrid known as Stardrive. He began waging a secret war against the minions of Unicron before the planet-eater was even on anyone else’s radar. The only other Cybertronian who knew Unicron was on the way was the history-manipulating Shockwave, and let’s face it… that guy’s got an unfair advantage when it comes to preparedness.


Decked out in secretly-confiscated experimental weaponry that he had stashed away millions of years ago for just such a “rainy day”, Prowl certainly made a statement with his new cannon-arm and refusal to repair his shattered optic (that Optimus Prime himself had punched out.) In fact… let’s run down a little checklist…

1. Gun-arm
2. Dedicated to logic
3. Schemer
4. One eye.
5. Old friend of Optimus Prime’s who fell out with him due to ideological differences.

Prowl…? Or Shockwave? Or both?


10. THE BLACK ROOM
(RID # 13, 2013)

Bumblebee’s tried his best to make things work on post-war Cybertron, but things always seem just a step away from completely falling apart. The situation has become a pressure cooker- especially when a heavily-damaged Megatron returns to Iacon and the public eye after having helped saved Cybertron from the monstrous D-Void. Prowl’s been hatching his own schemes behind Bumblebee’s back and with Megatron’s return, he makes his move. Having either rounded-up or quietly executed several key Decepticons, Prowl asks for Wheeljack’s trust and brings him to his “Black Room”, an area he’s kept completely off-the-grid.

The situation in Iacon completely deteriorates, with the Decepticons revolting, marching through the streets and freeing Megatron from imprisonment. Starscream, who had tried to seize political power in this post-war world, is forcibly taken along as Megatron declares that they shall go to Prowl’s Black Room as well. When they arrive and the Black Room is revealed, Starscream discovers to his horror that Megatron and Prowl are in league with each other and that many of the Decepticons Prowl had “executed” are still alive. As the issue ends, the readers were left wondering what would make Prowl work with Megatron and what the endgame is.


Of course, it would be revealed that Prowl was under Bombshell’s mind control and had been for much of the series up to this point. However, Prowl’s always been such a morally-ambiguous schemer that it was nearly impossible to tell that he wasn’t acting of his own accord, even to his closest friends. They (and the readers) all totally believed he was capable of doing the shady things he did, and because of that… never suspected he was not in his right mind.


9. OPTIMUS PRIME KILLS GALVATRON
(RID # 55, 2016)

There was one major obstacle to Optimus Prime’s plans to forge a more permanent alliance with Earth, and the barbaric Decepticon leader Galvatron was it. Outfighting and overpowering Galvatron over Jupiter with the help of Soundwave and Arcee, Optimus Prime held the wounded, but defiant warmonger at gunpoint. Assuming he was to be taken into custody, Galvatron arrogantly tells Optimus that the Autobot leader will eventually be needing his help against the incoming threat of Onyx Prime in the near future.

However, Optimus isn't interested in an alliance with Galvatron, nor letting such a dangerous Cybertronian escape yet again to do harm another day. Realizing Optimus Prime’s intent too late, the disbelieving Galvatron barely had time to try and beg for his life before the Autobot leader put him down for good.


Many people may find this scene a little distasteful, but I wouldn’t quibble in regards to Optimus Prime’s choice here. While many versions of Optimus Prime tend to err on the side of mercy, IDW Optimus has always been much more pragmatic in nature. He also brings up a very logical and mature point… that it would be SELFISH of him to let Galvatron live just to assuage his own conscience.

Optimus saw Galvatron as unable to evolve or change with the times as Soundwave and Megatron had. In a more Machiavellian sense, he also knew that Galvatron would never fit into his plans for Earth and a more stable alliance between the Cybertronians and humans. IDW Optimus Prime’s world is too complex- he simply doesn’t have room to operate by the “superhero ethics” that previous versions of the character had.

The only thing that’s a shame about this scene is how pathetically the prideful Galvatron meets his end. Fans of that character would surely not find much to be happy about here… but as an Optimus Prime character moment, it’s quite excellent.


8. STARSCREAM WINS
(RID # 16, 2013)

The latest Decepticon revolt is in full swing as Megatron makes his bid to conquer Iacon. Ostracized from the Decepticons thanks to his attempts to ingratiate himself with both the neutral population and the Autobots, Starscream is a target of opportunity for diehard Megatron loyalists. Confronted by Decepticon warlord Turmoil, Starscream is shocked when his friend and political rival Metalhawk steps in to defend him. Humbled by Metalhawk’s gesture of friendship, Starscream steps up and dispatches Turmoil, showcasing his improvisational skills in combat (as well as delivering a killer line- “That’s the thing about opportunists- don’t show them opportunities!”)

Metalhawk hopes that Starscream will take this moment to shed the Decepticon dogma and become a true force for positive change in Iacon, but unfortunately… Starscream has other plans. He kills Metalhawk with Turmoil’s discarded weapon, then uses his former friend’s concealed death to seize control of the shell-shocked populace.


With a call to discard factions and loyalties, Starscream presents himself as the new face of Cybertronian leadership, forcing the remaining Autobots and Decepticons to exile themselves from Iacon in the aftermath of the battle. In murdering his only friend, Starscream has indeed remained true to himself, seizing upon an opportune moment to take the power he always believed he deserved. This was him at truly his most Starscream-iest, and the fallout from his actions here would last the entire remainder of IDW continuity.


7. INTRODUMP
(RID Annual 2012)

In the distant past, Nova Prime and his jolly band of explorers ventured deep into the heart of Cybertron. Their intent noble and their sparks bright, they located the legendary Crystal City, guarded by the ancient Omega Supreme. Nova Prime wants Omega’s help to usher in a bold new era of peace and prosperity to Cybertron, and the grateful Guardian agrees to aid him.

Of course, the readers knew that nothing was as innocent as it appeared in this flashback tale… Nova and most of his cadre will turn out to be racist, power-hungry warmongers. However, the gleam in which their younger days are presented here is undeniably charming, especially the old-school style art and the way everyone absurdly introduces themselves at length like the classic Marvel comics of years past.



6. ARCEE GROWS
(Optimus Prime # 21, 2018)


The kiss you see above isn’t that important insofar as who Arcee is kissing… it’s more what this action represents to Arcee as a character. Arcee began her journey in the IDW comic universe as an utter sociopath, a roving killer who was altered by a mad scientist and left on her own to sort out the emotional and physical stresses of what he had done to her. Detached from her morality and left with nothing but a need to exact revenge, Arcee was feared and ostracized by both Autobots and Decepticons for millions of years.

However, slowly but surely, Arcee began finding her way back to herself, through friendships with Hardhead and Sideswipe, through working with the morally-gray Prowl, and finally serving as Optimus Prime’s right hand ‘bot. Through her experiences, Arcee pieced her sanity and emotional stability back together until she became who she was always meant to be.

Arcee’s character arc under John Barber was a slow, subtle burn… and her kiss with Aileron was the sudden ignition of a spark that Barber had kept flickering for a very long time. You really have to think about how far Arcee has come since her first appearance in IDW, and what it meant for her to express herself in such a bold manner. That isn’t just a kiss; that’s the culmination of IDW Arcee’s nearly ten-year character evolution. Arcee went from killing everyone in her path to teaching children, and if you were paying attention… it made perfect sense.



5. OPERATION: ABSOLUTION
(Unicron # 6, 2018)

Soundwave’s always believed in the core goals and ideals of the Decepticons, but like many… he’s had to do terrible things in the war to see these goals and ideals through. With the war over and the lines between Autobot and Decepticon virtually erased, Soundwave and Optimus Prime have formed a tentative friendship, united in their desire for a peaceful future. When Unicron looms over Earth, threatening to destroy it, Soundwave and Optimus hatch a desperate plan to stop the planet-eater.

Optimus confronts Unicron’s essence in infraspace, an astral plane where thoughts, concepts, and information are as potent a weapon as any gun or sword. In the physical world, Soundwave couples the mythical Enigma of Combination artifact with Superion’s ability to generate his own Enigma source code. Empowered by the energy of TWO Enigma of Combinations, Soundwave uses his mental abilities to channel the combined essences of all sentient creatures, Cybertronian or otherwise, including those who have died during the war or fighting Unicron. He funnels this metaphysical energy directly to Optimus Prime in infraspace, allowing him to overwhelm Unicron.

This amalgamation of faith, hope, love, and loss is so potent that even the amoral Shockwave, who is mentally linked into Soundwave, is shaken by its power. However, the effort is too much for Soundwave’s body to bear, and he disintegrates under its strain.

Just before Soundwave dies, he’s granted a vision of many of those who have died up until this point. Among them are his old friends Ravage and Laserbeak, his new human friend Mainframe, and even Horri-Bull, whose death Soundwave was responsible for. All of these spirits welcome Soundwave as he enters the Great Beyond… hopeful that he’s made up in some small way for the sins of his past.



4. LAST STAND OF SANCTUARY STATION
(Unicron # 4, 2018)

Sanctuary Station was established near Jupiter by Soundwave and meant to be a place where Transformers could live in peace, but war comes their way in the shape of Unicron’s acolyte Bludgeon and his Maximal beast army. Cosmos calls for an evacuation of Sanctuary as Unicron’s hordes approach, and Laserbeak is only too happy to comply. However, Cosmos knows that the station’s escape pods will be easy prey for the Maximals if someone doesn’t run interference. Having felt alone in his deep space role for years, Cosmos intends to defend the one place he’s felt he truly belonged to his dying breath. Sky-Byte, Buzzsaw, and even the cynical Laserbeak ultimately agree to help Cosmos defend their home.

As the evacuees of Sanctuary Station depart, Cosmos, Sky-Byte, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw fly out to meet an endless Maximal horde head-on. Their stand doesn’t last long; Laserbeak is immediately destroyed by oncoming fire and Sky-Byte is quickly surrounded and stabbed to death- a characteristic haiku as his dying utterance. As the Maximals swarm Sanctuary Station, we see Cosmos’ butchered corpse floating in space, having given his all to defend the place he called home.


Their heroic last stand barely slowed Bludgeon and his army down at all. However, as Buzzsaw stated before heading out, their faith that Optimus Prime and Soundwave would stop Unicron would eventually prove to be rewarded. Those who died here did so with some meaning in their sparks, especially Cosmos- who finally conquered his abiding loneliness by making Sanctuary Station his permanent home.

Oh and proving once again that he is the ultimate badass cassette, Buzzsaw ends up surviving the massacre and eventually makes his way to Earth from Jupiter UNDER HIS OWN POWER just in time to witness Unicron’s defeat. While the others didn’t make it, Buzzsaw managed to see their collective faith rewarded with his own optics.


3. THUNDERCRACKER GOES NATIVE
(RID # 28, Transformers: Revolution one-shot, The Transformers Holiday Special, Transformers Annual 2018, Optimus Prime # 25, 2014-2018)

Let’s face it; for nearly thirty years, G1 Thundercracker was a nothing character. He was only popular because he was in the first wave of G1 characters and he was part of a popular sub-group in the Seekers. Of course, his original bio write-up hinted at some depth in his personality- that he might have doubts in the Decepticon cause, but no fiction really explored that to any serious extent for a long time.

Thankfully, IDW continuity began to rectify that when writer Shane McCarthy actually had Thundercracker act on his doubts and foil the Decepticons' plot in the  "All Hail Megatron" series. Mike Costa picked up that ball in his own ongoing series and established Thundercracker as having “gone native” on Earth, having no more interest in the war. Finally, John Barber brought it home with the ultimate evolution of IDW Thundercracker’s character- that of… a struggling screenwriter with a dog?


Yes, IDW Thundercracker is the most well-developed version of the character ever, as well as the most entertaining and relatable. It’s impossible not to connect with this guy, whether through his love for his dog Buster, his aspirations to be a writer, or even his relationship with human liaison Marissa Faireborn. Even though his time on Earth has honestly made him sort of a goofball, Thundercracker still maintains his elite Seeker combat skills. He’s a bad enough dude to fight Dire Wraiths and save the President, fight off a Seeker clone army, and foil an assassination attempt on himself. He eventually even finds success as a writer despite… well, his writing.



Thundercracker was eventually tapped to write and produce a biopic about Starscream, which he also starred in as the title character. While it wasn’t very successful, it did open the door for him to collaborate with human director J.J. Hackensack (IDW's version of George Lucas.)  His script for a movie based on the life of G.I.Joe deep-cover agent Chuckles may have even earned him an award for “Best Original Screenplay”, although we don’t see if he actually won or not. Either way, just look at this guy… post-war Thundercracker is clearly leading his best life and I’m glad I was along for the ride.



2. THE LIFE OF SIDESWIPE
(Optimus Prime # 9, 2017)

Sideswipe was gravely wounded in the opening stages of Galvatron’s uprising and has been on life support for months. Watching over him constantly is Arcee, who he formed a bond with during their last campaign on Earth. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for Sideswipe’s recovery until the eccentric Junkion Wreck-Gar miraculously repairs a positron core that can be used to fully restore him.

Sideswipe comes back online and is unsure exactly how to thank Arcee for looking out for him. The two head to Cybertron after Sideswipe is told his brother Sunstreaker is missing. Tracking Sunstreaker to a location teeming with Decepticons, Sideswipe naturally assumes shenanigans are afoot, and begins beating the ever-loving slag out of them. It’s only after Sunstreaker appears and explains that the Decepticons are actually engaged in a relief effort for the populace and he’s helping them that Sideswipe realizes how much Cybertron has evolved in his absence.

Spending the day among Cybertronians of all stripes, Sideswipe learns how his post-war homeworld is changing for the better. He finally accepts that the fighting is over and feels content that he contributed to this peaceful outcome. Sideswipe also comes to a larger realization, and whole-heartedly thanks Arcee and Sunstreaker for caring about him. At peace with his circumstances and knowing that it’s time, Sideswipe… lets go.


Wreck-Gar never fixed the positron core and Sideswipe never really woke up. The events of this issue were simply a simulation projected into Sideswipe’s mind, allowing him to die peacefully and without regrets. Sunstreaker offers his gratitude to Wreck-Gar for providing the means to do this last thing for his brother and Arcee quietly leaves to mourn on her own. What a kick to the heart.


1. SHOCKWAVE DID IT 2.0
(Optimus Prime # 17- # 18, 2018)

Shockwave had a pretty healthy presence and influence on IDW continuity even before “Phase 2” began. Writers Roberts and Barber built on what Simon Furman had done, crafted a fleshed-out backstory for Shockwave, and positioned him as the “big bad” of their "Dark Cybertron" crossover event. The seeding of the various Regenesis Ores, the manipulation of the Ammonites into serving him, and the alliance with Nova Prime and Jhiaxus all coalesced into Shockwave’s master scheme.  He planned to collapse all of existence into a singularity that would preserve and power an eternal Cybertron at its center. Optimus Prime and Megatron (and everyone) managed to foil Shockwave’s plan at the last moment, and the cyclopean Decepticon was sucked into the black hole he created.

Afterward in “Season 2”, the looming threat of Onyx Prime was one that John Barber built up for years before the guy actually showed up. The ancient king of the beast-type Transformers who even Galvatron was wary of… who had existed since the earliest days of Cybertron’s history and was intent on returning to Cybertron to one day conquer it. Barber told several flashback tales set in this time period, telling of Onyx’s position of power among the Thirteen original Primes, his alliances with Megatronus, Liege Maximo, and Nexus Prime, and painted him as the next “big bad” to menace Cybertron in the present day.


When Onyx Prime finally returned, it wasn’t to make war, but to create chaos on Cybertron. To cause divides amongst the already-fractured populace and doubt in the established alliances that Optimus Prime and others had created. Optimus confronts Onyx high above Iacon, and the ancient Prime reveals a startling secret…


Onyx Prime is Shockwave. More than that… he has ALWAYS BEEN Shockwave, from the beginning of Cybertronian history! When Shockwave fell into the singularity at the end of “Dark Cybertron”, he was transported back in time, where he slew the original Onyx Prime (a simple and kind-hearted shepherd of similar beast-type Cybertronians) and assumed his identity.

Using his knowledge of Cybertronian history, Shockwave-as-Onyx proceeded to create various ontological paradoxes, ensuring history unfolded as he knew it to in the future. In doing so, Shockwave actively deconstructed and rebuilt Cybertronian myths and religious beliefs, basically INVENTING FAITH for the sheer purpose of proving that it is an artificial construct.


This was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of Shockwave’s plans, which are too complex to unravel here, but man, just… the friggin’ BALLS on Barber for putting this in motion. While I was curious about Onyx Prime, I was never too keen on the “Thirteen Primes” mythology that Hasbro had been pushing into most of their Transformers fictional properties at the time, and those various flashback issues about it that Barber wrote often just felt like distractions to me.

All of a sudden, with the revelation that Onyx Prime has always been Shockwave in disguise, I had to go back and re-read ALL of that stuff with this new knowledge in mind. So many things suddenly clicked into place that I had missed the first time around, all linked to previous things Shockwave had done in this continuity. This was a herculean effort of continuity and mythology weaving on Barber’s part, and the work he put into making this all sync up should never be understated.

Some people might be tired of Shockwave being the be-all and end-all mastermind responsible for every-freakin’ thing, but as he’s one of my favorite Transformers characters of all time, I’m certainly not. IDW Shockwave is like Spock, David Xanatos, and Ozymandias rolled into one, and his vision is pretty impressive for a guy with only one eye.


I haven’t even talked about the initial shock (ha!) of what I like to call the “Scooby Doo” reveal in Optimus Prime # 17. I don’t think I’ve experienced a more jaw-dropping moment in Transformers comics… ever! The only other one that comes close is the reveal of Rung’s true identity over in the Lost Light book, and while that’s almost as shocking, I guess I just preferred the “reverse” reveal of Shockwave-as-Onyx. We always knew there was something special about Rung… but we never suspected there was something under Onyx Prime’s horns and fangs.

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And now once again, for the ranting.

Dishonorable Mention- SOME SLIPS AND A SLIDE

When the idea of undiscovered Cybertronian colonies spread across the galaxy was introduced into IDW continuity, I thought it was a great idea to expand the mythology with more varied characters from across the franchise’s history. The colonist recruits debuted in Optimus Prime # 1, a group of diverse characters that exemplified this concept. All hailing from various other "lost" colonies, the recruits basically worshiped Optimus Prime and tried to live up to his example.

Now, the concept of a team of characters from different iterations of Transformers sounds pretty cool, but John Barber’s actual choice of members was… a little random and uninspired, I guess? Gimlet and Bump from the Japanese Beast Wars cartoons, Midnight Express from Car Robots/Robots in Disguise (2001), Roulette- a Botcon convention-exclusive character, and the Micromaster Combiners Oiler and Slide (who weren’t actually smaller-scale Micromasters here.) Still, Barber could have made something interesting of these mostly-no-name characters. However, when all was said and done, the only one any reader will probably remember from this run is Slide, and not for a good reason.


Slide, frankly, is a **** (insert whatever expletive you deem appropriate, I won’t judge.) Her character arc mostly began when her brother Oiler was killed by Junkions. Said-Junkions shortly thereafter entered into an alliance with Optimus Prime, and Slide felt her brother was basically left un-avenged (even though she killed the Junkion that killed him.)

Now, it was a complicated situation and it’s fairly understandable that Slide would feel the way she did, but here’s the thing… SHE WOULD NOT LET IT GO. Like, every appearance by Slide after that would have her unleash a relentless string of criticisms and complaints about Optimus Prime, about how he let her down, and why he sucked so hard. Again, understandable… but not at all fun to read about or endearing towards the character and her situation.


In addition to Slide, there were several other characters who were harshly critical of Optimus Prime, and at some points in the book it felt like he had a host of contrarians surrounding him in every setting. Pyra Magna, leader of the Torchbearers, seemed initially set up to fulfill this role, but soon everyone was doubting in Optimus- even those who had served with him for millions of years like Jazz and Jetfire. It eventually became a chorus of voices relentlessly questioning Prime’s every move and decision. While some of his decisions should have absolutely been questioned, I think Barber went completely overboard with it and it was a bit exhausting to read at times.

Back to Slide and the colonist recruits… Barber also spent an inordinate amount of time on them, dedicating whole issues to their adventures and you’d think we’d get a better feel for some of them. However, Slide’s CONSTANT bitching seemingly overpowered anyone else’s chance to shine and I can’t tell you a thing about any of the others because I was so annoyed with her.

Slide and Pyra Magna’s continued criticisms of Optimus Prime hit their critical point during the Unicron mini-series that largely concluded IDW continuity. Optimus Prime personally leaped into Unicron’s maw to find a weakness in it and hopefully save Pyra Magna’s home colony of Caminus. Think about that… Optimus Prime, hero that he is, jumped into certain doom to save a planet that wasn’t his home. That’s just what you’d expect Optimus to do, right? Pyra Magna’s response? To complain that Optimus was showing off and somehow blaming him for Unicron being there in the first place! WHAT???


At some point, your criticisms stop making you look like you have a valid counterpoint and more like you’re just a terrible, petty person (not like me, writing this list, right?) When an unfathomably powerful, planet-sized doomsday engine is destroying your home, that is not the time to moan about the guy who is trying to prevent that from happening! Similarly, when Unicron attacks Earth, Slide just kind of hangs around in space and complains about Optimus Prime “seizing power”. HELLO! He’s “seizing power” to friggin’ prevent the last planet you guys can live on from being eaten!!

AND OH MY GOD, DO YOU REALLY NOT SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND YOU???


Yeah, that image is a good sum-up of Slide’s character. The colonist recruits were a good idea in concept, but an utter misfire in execution and certainly dragged the story down in places. I also understand that Barber was trying to set up some valid countering viewpoints and cast Optimus in a light other than “flawless hero”… he just wasn’t very subtle about it when it came to characters like Slide and Pyra Magna. I think Barber did a fine job on Optimus Prime’s side of things and how he reacted to these situations, but the situations themselves came off a bit artificially-overblown thanks to Slide and Pyra’s ridiculous and non-stop haranguing.

I guess it’s only fitting that Slide became a Torchbearer serving under Pyra Magna by the end of the series. Now they can be miserable together.

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NEXT TIME- I finish it off with my favorite Mairghread Scott and Nick Roche Phase 2 moments!



 










 




Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Mike's Favorite IDW Transformers "Phase 2" Moments: Part 1, James Roberts

IDW’s long-running original Transformers continuity has just recently come to an end after nearly thirteen years. It is the longest-running uninterrupted G1-based continuity in Transformers history, and its influence on the brand and the fandom will not soon be forgotten.

IDW is currently barreling forward with a reboot continuity, so I'd like to take the opportunity to share with you my favorite moments/scenes/ideas from what is known as “Phase 2” of IDW continuity 1.0- the James Roberts/John Barber/Mairghread Scott era.

In this first installment, my top ten moments from James Roberts' run on Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and Transformers: Lost Light!  Oh, and an honorable and dishonorable mention as well!

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Honorable Mention- FIELD OF FLOWERS
(MTMTE # 44, 2015) 

The crew of the Lost Light locate the planet that Censere, the mythical “Necrobot”, dwells upon. Censere is a mechanoid who catalogs how every Cybertronian in the universe dies, and maintains a huge “cemetery” containing holo-statues of every Transformer that has ever existed. When you die, your holo-statue is switched off, and when you kill, a blue flower is added to the base of the statue. Each flower represents a life that individual has taken.

Virtually every holo-statue on Censere’s plot has blue flowers clustered around their bases- Cybertron’s bloody history has ensured that almost every single Transformer is a killer. But when the repentant Megatron goes looking for his holo-statue, he’s greeted with a sight that will weigh upon him for the remainder of his life.


No matter how much good Megatron tries to do, no matter how he tries to make amends, those flowers will remind him that some sins are simply too vast to ever forgive.


10. RETURN OF THE KING
 (Lost Light # 22-23, 2018)

As the only entry from the Lost Light book on this list, this is a double-whammy of a moment. Team Rodimus has been actively trying to foil the mad ancient Adaptus’ plot to open a portal into another dimension in order to banish a perceived threat he had been warning of. Adaptus foresaw a danger that would threaten the entire universe and sought to rip open a hole in time and space to make that danger someone else’s problem. However, what Adaptus didn’t realize is that the prophesied threat was actually arriving FROM another dimension and thus accidentally provided the means for its entry into “our” universe.

The first thing that comes from the portal is a duplicate of the spaceship Lost Light, and at its helm… is Megatron, previously having been left in the alternate timeline known as the Functionist Universe at the beginning of t! As issue # 22 closes, we’re left wondering- is Megatron this ultimate threat that Adaptus foresaw? Has he gone back to his tyrannical ways? However, the beginning of the next issue would quickly quell these doubts, as the REAL ultimate threat follows Megatron’s ship close behind. The despotic Functionist regime has transformed their Cybertron into a robot in the shape of the creator, Primus, and now Team Rodimus have a much larger problem to deal with!



9. MESSAGE FROM THE FUTURE?
(MTMTE # 1, 2012)

The first issue of More Than Meets The Eye ended with this sinister scene- a message from somewhere far off in the future and someone unknown, warning of the perils that the Lost Light would face on its journey. There were some very specific instructions too- don’t look in the basement, don’t go to Delphi, and don’t let “them” take Skids. As the series would progress, the readers would be on the outlook for signs of these perils, and they wouldn’t always be obvious. This was a fantastic scene to end the first issue on and added an ever-present layer of tension over the proceedings. Was the Lost Light’s journey doomed to failure from its start? Who sent that warning?



Eventually, the mysteries of the message would be sussed out, including the fact that it was actually sent from the PAST, not the future (time-travel’s funny like that). While these forewarned events would have varying levels of import to the overall plot, the initial dramatic power of the message itself and the sense of looming dread it installed in the reader was unforgettable.


8. BRAINSTORM'S SECRET
(MTMTE # 33, 2014)

The “newbie” members of the Lost Light crew led by Megatron come across a horrific scene aboard a quantum duplication of their spaceship. This version of the Lost Light ran into the Decepticon Justice Division and were murdered to nearly the last ‘bot, rendering the ship a veritable slaughterhouse. The only way to restore their living versions of the crew is to make the duplicated Lost Light literally cease to exist, and that requires some items in the duplicate Brainstorm’s lab. Rummaging through the ransacked room, Nightbeat and Nautica make the macabre discovery of Brainstorm’s corpse. What’s even more horrifying is what Nightbeat finds on the hidden side of the deceased Brainstorm’s mouthplate.


It doesn’t take too far of a leap to realize that if this dead duplicate of Brainstorm was secretly a Decepticon agent, then our cast’s Brainstorm is one as well! There was a snake hidden in plain sight among our cast, and the consequences of this would be felt very shortly thereafter. However, not even taking what followed into account, this is a legit shocker of a moment and one that caused me to gasp out loud the first time I read it.


7. I LOVE YOU
(MTMTE # 16, 2013)

Rewind is dead and it’s all Chromedome’s fault. He inadvertently released the brutal killer Overlord from his cage in the Lost Light’s basement, and the Decepticon Phase-Sixer went on a rampage across the ship, killing dozens. Rewind’s sacrifice to help eject Overlord from the Lost Light saved countless lives, but shattered Chromedome’s heart.

In the aftermath, Chromedome keeps his emotions under tight reign because he plans to use his memory-altering talents to erase Rewind from his heart and mind as soon as the funeral is over. A surprisingly-sensitive Brainstorm tries to talk Chromedome out of it, knowing that his friend has done this sort of thing before after having lost previous loved ones. However, Chromedome is clearly going to go through with the proceedure no matter what Brainstorm says. Brainstorm gives Chromedome a data slug that Rewind managed to record a message on just before he was killed by Overlord, hoping it will make a difference.

What follows is a beautiful farewell from Rewind stitched together from various video and audio segments in his database that encourages Chromedome to live on and be a better person. It’s capped off by a phrase very rarely heard in a Transformers story… and the grieving Chromedome ultimately decides to keep his memories of his beloved spouse.



6. SHADOWPLAYED SENATOR
(MTMTE # 11, 2012)

In the distant past, the up-and-comer Orion Pax (the future Optimus Prime) was mentored by one of the few non-corrupt senators in the Cybertronian government. The readers were not initially made privy to this senator’s name- only that he was a moral, overly-expressive guy with an optic on a positive and forward-looking future for the planet. However, the Senate was so deeply-corrupt that they couldn’t abide such a free thinker wandering around and expressing ideas like justice and equality for all. Despite Orion Pax and his like-minded supporters’ best efforts, his senator friend is captured and subjected to the state-sanctioned twin punishments known as Empurata and Shadowplay.

The senator’s head and hands are replaced to mark him as a political dissident and his mind rewritten to suppress his emotions and supposedly neuter his will to speak out against the state. Little did the Senate know that in the process, they were enabling a being that would become one of the greatest threats to the entire universe and time and space itself. And what was the name of this senator, this former friend of Orion Pax, you ask?

The answer would "shock" the readers.



5. CHAT WITH A CAT
(MTMTE # 32, 2014)

Megatron’s defection to the Autobots came as a surprise to everyone, but perhaps no one moreso than his most loyal followers. Ravage is sent by Soundwave to stow aboard the Lost Light and spy on Megatron, to determine if their former leader’s change of heart is indeed genuine. Through some unavoidable circumstances, Ravage made his presence known to Megatron, and the two eventually get a moment to clear the air.

Megatron explains and unburdens himself to Ravage, telling one of his closest friends that he truly believes the only way he can move forward with his life is as an Autobot. Ravage is doubtful that Megatron is as certain about this decision as he should be to see it through and pay for his sins. For the rest of the series, Ravage will provide a window into Megatron’s psyche that no other crew member of the Lost Light can be. Their shared Decepticon heritage and long friendship laid the groundwork for both Megatron and Ravage's ultimate fates and it started with this quiet conversation in a dark room.
 


4. PIPES DIES
(MTMTE # 15, 2013)

Pipes hasn’t had an easy time of it since boarding the Lost Light. He’s been sucked out into space, gone through atmospheric reentry, crash-landed on a planet, infected with the Red Rust virus, shot by a deranged Fortress Maximus, beaten up by Decepticons, and nearly shrugged himself to death (long short story). Despite all this, he maintained a positive attitude and is generally having a good time on the epic quest the crew has undertaken. Unfortunately, his conga line of bad luck reaches its end when Pipes is the first one to encounter the escaped Overlord in an empty corridor of the ship.

Overlord stomps Pipes to near-death, then continues on his merry way as if nothing had happened. Broken and bleeding, Pipes has enough sense of self to drag his mutilated form to the nearest security panel on the wall. With his last ounce of strength, Pipes sets off the Lost Light’s alarm and gives his oblivious shipmates some advance warning of the horror that has been unleashed in their home. His final task complete, Pipes’ spark extinguishes and he dies alone in an Energon-smeared hallway.


While Overlord’s rampage was just beginning here, nothing matched the casual brutality or crushing loneliness of Pipes’ death. Most of Overlord’s other victims were either inconsequential redshirts or ended up surviving somehow. Beyond that, as I detailed above, Pipes was pretty much the “Waspinator” of the crew, with misfortune regularly befalling him up until this point. You would think that maybe he’d eventually be rewarded with some kind of cosmic karma for his suffering, but instead Pipes’ death and last heroic act would go largely unremarked upon for the rest of the series. For me, however, it was easily the most affecting scene in that issue, even beating out Rewind's demise.


3. SPACE MUTINY
(MTMTE # 50, 2016)

Ever since Megatron came aboard the Lost Light, most have been on edge around him. And why wouldn’t they be? Everyone only has Optimus Prime’s word that Megatron has truly reformed and will behave himself. However, slowly but surely, Rodimus and his inner circle start to accept that Megatron’s change of heart is genuine and even become comfortable in his presence. Megatron himself admits that he’s never been happier being free of his previous responsibilities and feels more like his real self than he’s ever felt in four million years.

It’s just too bad that there happens to be 200-plus other Autobots aboard the Lost Light that aren’t in Rodimus’ little “clique” and are still more than happy to see Megatron under lock and key or worse. Team Rodimus, including Megatron, is diverted off the ship under false pretenses and end up on Necroworld. When they try to contact the Lost Light, they find the rest of the crew has been coerced by professional scumbag Getaway into a mutiny that has removed Megatron and his “fan club” from the ship and into the waiting hands of the Galactic Council (although events don’t shake out that way.)


The thing of it is, even taking Getaway’s manipulations into account, he has a legitimate point about Megatron. It IS insulting, not to mention DANGEROUS that Autobot High Command has agreed to let Megatron roam more-or-less free. And being that most of the Lost Light crew outside of Team Rodimus have largely been out-of-focus for much of MTMTE “Season 2”, it seems totally believable that so many would feel this way. While Getaway’s intent and methods would prove to be highly-suspect later, this reveal of the mutiny on its own is a key shocking and dramatic moment in the series and alters its course going forward for the rest of the run.


2. MEGATRON CONQUERS HIS DEMONS
(MTMTE # 54 - 55, 2016)

Megatron becoming an Autobot didn’t sit well with his most fanatical Decepticon followers. The Decepticon Justice Division has enforced Megatron’s will for millions of years and their leader Tarn is his most devoted acolyte. When he learns that Megatron has not only become an Autobot, but a pacifist as well, Tarn is hellbent on killing his former idol. Forming an alliance with Deathsaurus and Overlord, the D.J.D. are poised to wipe Megatron and the Autobots he’s allied himself with out of existence on Necroworld. While Team Rodimus stages a desperate counterattack, their temporary makeshift power-boost eventually burns out, and they are soon left at the mercy of Deathsaurus’ army.

Where is Megatron during this epic battle? He’s hiding away, afraid that if he joins in, he’ll go back to his mass-murdering ways. It’s only after a pep talk from Ratchet and seeing Ravage torn in twain by Tarn (alotta alliteration, eh?) that Megatron finally takes the new fusion cannon Brainstorm built for him and steps outside.


Megatron single-handledly turns the tide and decimates Deathsaurus’ soldiers, but after his new fusion cannon is destroyed he crumples to his knees, apparently at his limit. Tarn and Overlord move in to finish Megatron off, but he surprises them with a force-field “panic bubble” borrowed from the deceased Trailcutter. Megatron huddles within the force-field as the D.J.D. attempt to breach it. Deathsaurus and Overlord, the former disillusioned by Tarn’s use of his troops as cannon fodder and the latter disgusted by Megatron’s apparent cowardice both depart. However, Tarn and his followers will not let Megatron go.

Finally, the bubble is breached and Tarn advances on the seemingly bowed Megatron. That’s when Megatron rises to his full height and informs Tarn that the bubble wasn’t to protect him… it was to seal Tarn and the others inside! Infuriated by the monsters he helped create, Megatron reveals his new ability to channel antimatter from inter-dimensional portals buried within his body.


Megatron tears Vos, Tesarus, and Helex apart with lashing tendrils of pure antimatter that spill from his optics. He then tears the now-cowering Tarn’s mask off and addresses him by his previous name, revealing Tarn to be Glitch- a former Autobot and one of Optimus Prime’s first followers. Megatron coldly tells Glitch that “everything he did was for nothing” before exploding the D.J.D. leader’s head from within.

A truly epic climax to Megatron’s character arc for the entire “season”, and a great callback to the Marvel UK comics as well with Megatron’s “antimatter eyes” visual. While the reveal of Tarn’s identity is something of an afterthought, it still makes perfect sense and even the understated manner of the reveal is thematically-appropriate.


1. HOSTAGE SITUATION
(MTMTE # 6, 2012)

Fortress Maximus, suffering from PTSD and unable to cope, has barricaded himself in Rung’s office, holding the psychiatrist and his current appointment Whirl hostage. Max’s demands are simple; he wants the Lost Light to immediately return to Cybertron so he can get an explanation from Prowl about why it took so long to rescue him from his years-long torture in Garrus-9 at Overlord’s hands. And by “explanation”, Max probably just means an excuse to take Prowl’s head off.

The situation grows ever more tense as Whirl, not in possession of all his own marbles, continues to goad Fortress Maximus into killing him while the compassionate Rung desperately tries to defuse the situation. When Max threatens Rung’s life, Whirl responds by expositing on his own stew of personal demons and borderline psychosis. Whirl also reveals his tragic backstory, as well as his history with the Wreckers and why he was booted out of the Autobot commando unit.


Outside, on the Lost Light’s hull, Rewind and Swerve happen to be on “rivet duty” when Rodimus calls and tells them to position themselves outside Rung’s office window. He’s hoping they can surprise Maximus and stop the hostage situation before it gets worse. Inside, Maximus grows more agitated when he notices the ship hasn’t changed course and prepares to execute Whirl. Before he can, Rewind projects footage of Max’s torture by Overlord into the office, forcing Maximus to relive the ordeal and collapse. Rung hugs his traumatized patient and tells him that it’ll be okay.

The situation appears to have been dealt with, but Rodimus isn’t so sure. He orders Swerve to fire through the window and disable Fortress Maximus. Despite Swerve’s hesitation and doubt that he can hit Max, he gives into Rodimus’ urging and shoots… and misses…



This may seem like an odd choice for my favorite moment from James Roberts’ run, but it’s here because it’s a quintessential demonstration of a “Roberts moment”. All the ingredients are here- the steady escalation of tension, the character development in the midst of a dangerous situation, the seemingly “happy” conclusion, and then Roberts takes a sharp left and turns it into a sobering tragedy.

The only way this scene could have had more impact would be if Rung were truly dead for real, and make no mistake; when everyone first read this issue, we all thought he was. Roberts had defined his original (or some might say “self-insert”) character so well in only six issues, and the last thing anyone expected would be to lose Rung so quickly. Not taking anything that follows into account, this was a pretty shocking and powerful moment on its own and a key dramatic scene of the first “season”. Even if fake-out deaths like this would become common in his run, this was the first time Roberts pulled this trick, and we all totally fell for it.

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And now... to rant.

Dishonorable Mention- CYGATE


I liked Cyclonus and Tailgate’s character arcs in “Season 1” of MTMTE. Cyclonus’ arc was about defrosting his icy persona and becoming part of the crew, and Tailgate’s arc was about being the naive new guy who tried to talk himself up and impress his new shipmates. The two made for odd companions with similar, yet different circumstances. Tailgate basically became Cyclonus’ first friend on the Lost Light and Cyclonus helped him accept himself as he was.

If Tailgate had died of his cybercrosis at the end of Season 1, it would have been sad, but a complete cap-off to his character journey. His death would have also inspired Cyclonus to open up more to the rest of the crew. However, Roberts felt he had more to say with Tailgate and kept him around. And that’s when the problems began.

In “Season 2”, Tailgate became this annoying little idiot for me. His naivety had gone past its expiration date and was no longer charming. Roberts also introduced the subplot of Getaway creeping on Tailgate, which I assumed at the time was some kind of metaphor or parallel to pedophilia or child abuse. Cyclonus caught wind of it and helped extricate Tailgate late in Season 2, and I was willing to rationalize he was just looking out for his younger little buddy. And then it became clear at the very end of Season 2 and especially in Lost Light that Roberts was pushing a romantic relationship between Cyclonus and Tailgate.

Let me draw your attention to a certain panel. Rodimus is explaining each character's auto-generated human holo-avatar.


With that in mind…do these two characters look like they should be in a romantic relationship?


That implies Tailgate’s got the mental capacity and general maturity of a human toddler! What exactly was Roberts thinking here? Why was this a good idea? You can rationalize that “Oh, Cybertronians are different than humans in terms of mental and physical growth”, but here’s the thing… Roberts’ run is lauded for “humanizing” Transformers more than any other, especially when it comes to emotional bonds between characters. So for this one thing between Cyclonus and Tailgate, it’s different? Sorry, I don’t think you can have it both ways. This was Roberts getting overzealous and trying to appeal to the “shipping” Tumblr crowd and it just came off as creepy to me.

What’s more, it kind of tainted Cyclonus as a character for me for the rest of the run. His entire arc basically became focused around Tailgate for Season 2 and Lost Light. Even his other major relationship in the cast- Whirl, was usually revolving around Whirl playing some kind of wacky matchmaker between Cyclonus and Tailgate. The only thing I was looking forward to in regards to Cyclonus after Season 1 was his inevitable grudge match with Star Saber, and that turned out to be a total wash too. (Side note… you don’t make one of the most heroic Autobots EVER into a fanatical zealot and then proceed to do virtually NOTHING with that! Hashtag NotMyStarSaber)

The third point in this lopsided triangle is Getaway, and he’s another character I feel that Roberts completely derailed after MTMTE ended. That mutiny reveal moment is so effective and powerful because, as I mentioned… Getaway was partway in the right. He had a legitimate point and one that felt believable for the other crew members to rally behind. He was a creep with Tailgate, but he wanted justice in regards to Megatron. What a great setup! What a moral quandary for the readers to chew over!

And then… Roberts completely pissed it away in Lost Light’s “The Mutineers Trilogy”. He proceeded to beat a dead horse into the pavement by stripping any semblance of ambiguity in regards to Getaway’s motives, methods, and intentions. People were already predisposed to hate Getaway if they felt for Tailgate, but Roberts made sure to virtually lecture his readers that Getaway was a terrible person and if YOU agreed in any way with him, you’re terrible too. It went so far as Roberts putting the words “Fake News” into Getaway’s mouth in a scene where it barely made any sense in context, just to remove any doubt about how one should feel about the character.


Reeeal subtle.

That’s why I barely felt any catharsis when Rodimus eventually confronted and defeated Getaway. Instead of the canny smooth-talking rival who stole the Lost Light and its crew out from under Rodimus, Getaway had become some desperate poser with a personality disorder who had effectively destroyed himself long before Whirl’s Scraplets finished the job. I can’t help but feel this was another “appease the Tumblr fanbase” thing for Roberts, because HOW DARE GETAWAY HURT PRECIOUS BLUEBERRY MUFFIN TAILGATE!

So yeah… Roberts effectively killed my enjoyment of three characters here by being overindulgent, pandering and preachy.

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NEXT TIME- My top ten John Barber moments!