Such was the fate of the wartime leader of the Autobots upon his revelation that, with the civil war officially over and the Matrix of Leadership depleted, he was no longer necessary. Leaving the newly-reborn Cybertron for parts unknown, the ex-Prime left the responsibilities of leadership and governance in the hands of Bumblebee and Rodimus – literally – bestowing both with a half of the Matrix shell upon his departure. When last we left the Autobots, their force was split — with Bumblebee’s supporters wanting to stay on the planet and govern it’s growing populace accordingly, and Rodimus, Drift, and hundreds of of others leaving the planet to search for the fabled ‘Knights of Cybertron‘ – supposed powerful beings they believed could lead properly in Prime’s stead – using the “map” found inside the Matrix shell. Their ship “exploded” upon take-off, leaving a bereft Bumblebee alone to govern a planet and mourn the loss of friends all at once. In reality, the ship was teleported across space. But that’s a tale for another review…
It is a new age for Cybertron. As more and more of the newly-designated Non-Affiliated Indigenous Life-forms (NAILs) arrive on their home planet after peacetime declarations, Bumblebee – now leader of the Autobot peacekeepers and self-appointed protector of the entire planet – muses on how the war has placed him in his current role. He greets incoming NAIL “brothers” on behalf of Cybertron’s Provisional Government, flanked by Metalhawk, who again makes it a point to call out the Autobots’ hand in “ruining [their] world” after immediate attention is called to the planet’s newfound natural hostility to its former inhabitants. He also underhandedly, but ever so subtly, suggests foul play is afoot when Rodimus’ mission and the resulting starship disaster are brought up, then leaves on an opportunistic note.
In the midst of the new arrivals of the day, Tappet – continuing his dissidence from the previous issue – uses a laser to etch ‘CYBERTRON FOR CYBERTRONIANS‘ on a nearby structure, sparking the attention of passersby Needlenose and Horri-Bull, two (former) Decepticons now given Judicial Peacekeeping Authority. Just as the two are about beat Tappet after roughing him up for ‘disturbing the peace’, Prowl, Blurr, and Sideswipe step in to defuse the situation. A defusion which involves threatening to detonate Needlnose’s Inhibitor/Deterrence (I/D) Chip. Much to Blurr’s surprise Prowl orders him to take the injured Tappet into custody while he and Sideswipe take the two “home” as an excuse for an audience with Senator Ratbat. Their dialogue quickly suggests both he and Prowl are up to no good, at least as far as the current regime’s guidelines dictate.
Upon leaving Needlenose and Horri-Bull to be reprimanded for their outburst it becomes immediately apparent to both Prowl and the reader that Ratbat is planning something. Something the night of Bumblebee’s scheduled memorial service for Rodimus and his crew. It’s a memorial the legitimacy of which is debated by ‘Bee and Prowl, with the contrasts in personality and leadership/delegation style as glaring as ever, especially in regards to the NAILs and peacekeeping methodology. Elsewhere, stationed with Omega Supreme, Ironhide and Wheeljack ponder the changed, volatile nature of their home planet. Prowl’s allegiance to Bumblebee’s governance, meanwhile, reveals itself as flimsy at best while he begrudgingly convenes with an admittedly ruthless character who rather not reveal themselves just yet.
While finally releasing Tappet from custody, Bumblebee reconvenes with Metalhawk to discuss the necessity for a show of NAIL support during the memorial for Rodimus and his crew, only for Metalhawk to angrily deride the “insulting” designation and ‘reveal’ that many think it was Bumblebee and Prowl who had them destroyed. Before Bumblebee is able to finish deriding ‘Hawk for being the one insinuating this fantastical rumor, however, it’s discovered that Horri-Bull and Needlenose are back at it – beating and damaging two civilians. The situation escalates, and the disgruntled Horri-Bull goads Bumblebee into remote detonating his I/D chip – which ‘Bee does (much to the chagrin of both Metalhawk and Needlenose), blowing apart Horri-Bull’s head, killing him. Skywarp immediately reports on the incident in secret and obeys an order to “Return”, teleporting away while ‘Bee, ‘Hawk, Needlenose, and other civilians look upon the dead Decepticon frame.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially in a story like this. While the changes are significant (chief among them being the state of Cybertron), there are some rather oddly-comforting story elements (such as that time-honored Decepticon aggression). But the old adage applies to the artwork as well; the opening splash pages reveal a Cybertron that, visually, is not unlike Axiom Nexus from Fun Publications‘ TransTech stories, with such varied forms of Cybertronian life bustling in a crowded spaceport.
Easter eggs are plentiful here, for those who know what they’re looking at: there are small, feminine robots (behind a bot that calls to mind both Cohrada and Night Viper from the Beast Era) whose colors call to mind versions of Chromia, Arcee/Elita-1, and Roulette from ‘Transformers: Universe‘ *and* the three versions of Scrapmetal drones from ‘Transformers: Cybertron‘. Behind them are Tappet, Bluestreak and Mirage (again in his ‘Classics‘ toy body), with a structure that looks like the top of Cosmos‘ AltMode behind them. On the opposite page, we see the top of Omega Supreme‘s AltMode, with Sky Lynx flying by. Ground level, we see a green robot not unlike Gobot Cy-Kill behind Needlenose and Horri-Bull, with Zetca in their way (seemingly establishing a later confrontation in the issue). Jazz – in his ‘War for Cybertron‘ body – is immediately identifiable, as is a robot in the foreground that is drawn and colored to look like Boba Fett. A Purple Decepticon generic from ‘Transformers: The Movie‘ is also in the immediate foreground. Of note is that Horri-Bull’s yellow deco is based solely on this photograph of an aged toy.
Including Jazz, the use of designs from ‘War for/Fall of Cybertron‘ is prevalent, with Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Ironhide, Soundwave, Skywarp, Starscream, and Shockwave *all* sporting their video game bodies and AltModes. This was no doubt done by request of Hasbro to visually unify all media within the franchise, much like how ‘Fall of Cybertron’s Cliffjumper sports the head/facial design of the ‘Transformers: Prime‘ Cliffjumper. What’s telling is that some of the same bots had previous bodies reflecting a ‘Classics’ toy release when ‘All Hail Megatron‘ was happening (a move also requested by Hasbro). From my perspective, the idea is misplaced; why apply the forms in this tory, in this dimension, when you could just commission a tie-in comic for the video game(s) and use them there? But it is what it is, and the forms were designed well, and serve to make the book more visually interesting. Artist Andrew Griffith certainly has the talented hand to execute the differing features — just look at ‘Bee and Metalhawk standing next to each other; their physical differences almost echo their political and ideological differences.
The dialogue leaves much to be desired. Writer John Barber creates a fine set-up for events to unfold at a steady pace, but each observation and exchange felt… *soft*. As in, “These aren’t giant, sentient robots”. The use of nouns like ‘people’, ‘group’, and verbs like ‘died’, while always having been a standard contrivance in a medium swamped with – and built on – human characters, becomes irksome when reading a Transformers comic. It would benefit the writers to use a bible (or Dreamwave‘s ‘More Than Meets The Eye‘ Appendix) to get the terminology to a point that older fans can appreciate. That said, the franchise does walk the dual world of satisfying two demographics, and this set-up, as well as the stories before it, do that well. Perhaps I’m asking too much.
This is one of two separate stories that splintered off from Prime’s “death” and, just as with the Decepticons, the vacuum of true leadership is glaring. Bumblebee has to fein confidence in the wake of no Prime. With no Optimus to temper unrest, Metalhawk makes his grievances known in the most aggravating ways. The issue ends with a Decepticon death the night before Ratbat is set to execute a plan that will seemingly capitalize off of it, and we must wait and see what is to become of Bumblebee and Metalhawk’s uneasy Cybertronian alliance. Just who was Prowl talking to and Skwarp obeying? The same person? Ratbat in secret? If so, why would Prowl associate himself with him? If not, than what robot unknowing of Earth would willingly act as Prowl’s heavy hand? The plot thickens.
Just as the new year begins so too does a New Age of Cybertron. And it looks like we Transformers fans, for the foreseeable future, are completely Comic Booked!