Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Transformers Spotlight 02 Nightbeat

Transformers Spotlight 2

Nightbeat is contacted by Krakon, a mercenary, offering him the flight recorder of the very first Ark, which  has  disappeared eons ago, all hands  lost. 
This is an offer and a mystery Nightbeat can't refuse.
But when he rendezvous with Krakon's ship he finds him very much dead  and the flight recorder gone.
Nightbeat's investigations point him to Gorlam Prime.  

After orbital jumping down to the planet, Nightbeat reconfigures himself to look more  like one of the local vehicles. 
Oddly enough, the people of Gorlam Prime  are  much more technologically advanced  then was originally believed with many of them upgrading their organic forms  with cybernetics.
Nightbeat can't help but wonder if this is how Cybertron once started too. 
Regardless, all this  and mysterious excavation sites to boot, point towards outside influence.  

Despite his better instincts about everything, being a set up, his curiosity gets the better of Nightbeat and he discovers a massive shimmering portal  looking like a lake of  quicksilver. 
Nightbeat is soon confronted by four smaller Transformers, the eventual fate of all inhabitants of Gorlam Prime perhaps and runs and fights for his freedom, but it proves to be useless. He is captured all the same.

Nightbeat  flashes in and out of consciousness, while unspeakable things are being done to his cranial structure. Installing cerebral  implants in his brain, turning him in to a sleeper agent and wiping his memory of the last  few cycles in the process. 

Later Nightbeat finds himself back on his ship, in his  normal body. Having no recollection of anything that has happened, while musing  over the  big three mysteries.  Which is when Optimus Prime contacts him. 
Nightbeat's services are needed on earth, however Nightbeat can't shake the feeling that he is missing something. 

Credits :
Writer : Simon furman
Artist : MD Bright
Colors : John Rauch
Letters: Sulaco Studios
Editor: Chris Ryall and Dan Taylor

Notes : This issue came with 4 different covers
Nightbeat considers the big three mysteries. 
We know the disappearance of the Ark is the  first one. Later down the line we found out that the Seething Moon is the second, but the third is as of yet unknown.
It might be the actual origin of Cybertron and the Transformers.   

Review :
And this brings us to the second spotlight.
And by the gods, the art by MD ( Mark  or doc ) Bright is atrocious !
It has to be said. 
I have no idea what happened here, because MD Bright was and still is capable of  fantastic art.
He was a penciller for Gi-joe,  The Amazing Spiderman vs Wolverine one shot,  ( yes that one where Ned Lees got  killed )  Quantum and Woody and a string of Iron Man  comics. 
He even did that  iconic cover of  Marvel G1 issue 5, that every body knows. 
So what the hell happened here  ?
Clearly Mr Bright had a bad day, was under time crunch or things just didn't gel.  Because the art is atrocious. 
Thankfully for all it's faults and murky colors, MD Bright's story telling skills are still as strong as ever. 
But what about the story it self  ?
Well if you judge a comic by story only, this is one of the best spotlights period. 
Nigthbeat was one of Furman's pet characters in his  G1 run, along with Grimlock and Thunderwing. And possibly Scorponok and Optimus Prime. Both of the latter have gotten seminal  portrayals by Furman in his late G1 run and his portrayal of Prime still resonates though various incarnations of the character, 25 years later. 
But this is about Nightbeat not Optimus Prime, not yet anyway.  

Spotlight Nightbeat  introduces several interesting plotpoints and conceits.
The first of which is that the first Ark disappeared millions of years ago, for reasons unknown. 
The second is Gorlam Prime, which is a planet that  is on the cusp between full organic and full robotic  bodies.
The inhabitants are  bionic and replacing parts of their body piecemeal, with cybernetic implants transitioning from organic to biomechanical. 
Nightbeat can't help but wonder if Cybertron, whose origins and with it the origins of  the Transformers, have been lost to the mists of time, have been similar like this. 
Which is a wonderfull idea, because Furman set out  to  start a Transformers mythology, with out  the matrix, Unicron or Primus. 
But sadly not much in terms of the Transformers origin is done with it. 
Gorlam Prime and the Ark 1 and where it went to, and what it found there will become recurring threads through out the IDW Transformers, though all the way to 2014.  Where it will all come to a head.  

Right now however, all we have  is tantalising mysteries and speculations, as well as what is happening with Gorlam Prime and who is messing with it.
We do get a  few glimpses as to what is happening to the inhabitants though, with the introduction of the Micromasters.
Or at least, the characters that once were the Micromasters. 
It's not said with as many words, but the comic  infers that they are the end station of the evolution of Gorlam Prime.
And unfortunately, they are under the thrall of whoever is pulling the strings. 
Whomever came out of the hole in the world, the portal,  that lobotomised  Nightbeat  and turned him in to a sleeper agent.

Well lobotomising him is a big word, whatever they did to turn him in to a sleeper agent, also removed several cycles of his internal memory.
So the issue ends with even more mysteries and no awnsers and it's in one word: brilliant.
Other then ramping up the tension with Nightbeat, it also  is permeated with an unsettling feeling, a dark foreboding, that things are all a set up. That it's one big trap, waiting to snap shut around Nightbeat. 
It's also a great character study for Nightbeat himself.
The meticulous loner who lives for  the mystery, who narrates the whole story and it reads like a piece of hardboiled detective fiction. 
Which is pretty accurate considering Nightbeat's personality and characterisation.
Right up till the end, where he can't  shake the nagging feeling he is missing something, before getting called to earth by Prime, where we will see him in Escalation. 


As usual with the spotlights, even though this is just the second one, it casts a wider net and shows us that there is more to the Transformers war then just earth. That there are countless worlds at stake and that other things outside of the Transformers scope, are lurking and plotting  carrying on with their own machinations. 
And even on earth things are brewing. 
But what it also does, beyond casting a wider scope to the stories, is making  this universe feel lived in. 
There are other worlds, other planets, other civilisations. Mysteries to be uncovered and unravelled, the  first Ark is gone and nobody knows what happened to it. 
It adds verisimilitude to the IDW Transformers universe. A sense of  things having happened here and will continue to happen and we don't get to know or hear all about them, but we will get to  hear the good ones and the important ones.
This universe is alive and vast. 

Unfortunately the art lets this comic down. 
Maybe it was a rush job, maybe Bright had a murderous deadline, but the art is poor  and the murky dark coloring doesn't help much either.
For some vauge reason, half way through the comic Nightbeat changes design.
This is explained away by altering his exostructure, to fit in to Gorlam Prime.
The problem however is that  we aren't shown this. 
From one panel to another  he has a slightly different  headlamp design  and when he transforms back to robot mode again, he has suddenly lost the  side guns on his head. Until he is returned to his ship, in his  original form to off course keep up the  ruse that nothing has happened.
But we saw him transform and they were present there.

Still artistic shortcomings  (  and in some places it's just plain ugly. that Optimus Prime on the vid screen is the stuff of nightmares and early 90's comics  ) notwithstanding. 
This is a great Transformers comic  and it even stands well on its own, despite offering no resolutions, but can be considered a strong character piece for Nightbeat.  



  1. Reading a lot of the old Marvel G1 stuff, you see that the older, more old-fashioned pencilers just couldn't pull off the Transformers very well. Don Perlin, Frank Springer, Herb Trimpe... they were all great superhero artists, but on TRANSFORMERS they only did okay, and you could tell they weren't comfortable with the character designs. I wonder if that's what tripped up Bright here, as well?

    1. It's certainly possible.
      But let's not forget that Bright is responsible for that cover of US 5.
      That painted cover with Shockwave and "Transformers are all dead."
      And he has done a stint on Iron Man, so I am certain Bright was used to drawing technology, at the very least.
      I think it was just a tight deadline that did him in.
      Of the original comic the best pencillers were William Johnson and Jose Delbo, untill the UK pencillers came in.
      Delbo had an organic fluidity, that helped the more horror slant of some stories.