Thursday, 21 January 2016

Transformers Spotlight 3 Hot Rod

Transformers Spotlight 3
Hot Rod 

Hot rod rides a meteorite down to travel to a moon, with the Decepticon  jail complex  Styx. 
His landing is rough  and  as he floats in and out of unconsciousness, he flashes back  again, to his very  first mission with  team Red Shirt ! ..ahem  To infiltrate the omega bunker and obtain the magnificence. 
The mission naturally goes awry  and team Red Shirt is killed. 
hot Rod manages to  grab the magnificence  and follow his orders, if  it all  went to hell 
get out and hide the  magnificence, leaving Dealer to the Decepticons tender mercies.
Which he did and  has regretted ever since.

Right now, Hot Rod has found that Dealer is still alive and found his location and he is here to get him out. 
He succeeds in that endeavour and later on Hot Rod tries to apologise  to Dealer, but Dealer states that he understands. 
However, later in a secret conversation with Banzaitron, we learn that  dealer double crossed  the  team  and was responsible for everybody's deaths. He is confident that Hot Rod eventually will trust him enough, to tell him where the magnificence has been hidden. 
Banzaitron dubs Dealer, Doubledealer because of his double crossing nature.  

Notes: Released in November  2006  along side Escalation 1.
And one month after Stormbringer  4,  leaving  no month to  go by with out at  least  one  Transformers comic. Even thougheven in this early stage  IDW's  transformers output was  quite prodigious.
All the  characters that are  not  name  characters, might as well be called ensigns, redshirt 1 2 and  3.
As a consequence we never see them again.
Banzaitron  was a  late  G1  Actionmaster.
Transformers that do NOT  transformwrap  your head around that. 
Instead their  guns  transform

Writer : Simon Furman
Artist : Nick Roche
Colors : Liam Shalloo
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Editor : Dan Taylor 

Review :
Well, it was inevitable wasn't it ?
For Hot Rod to get his own spotlight, what I didn't expect was for it to  come so soon as the third  spotlight. 
With Grimlock being Furman's pet character you'd expect him to be one of the  first to get a spotlight, but this is not so. 
In fact, Grimlock's spotlight is 11 issues away. 
And Grimlock  has a remarkably small role to play  in  the IDWverse so far.
What is also surprising is what  kind of a  grim and dark tale, Hot Rod's spotlight is. 
Hot Rod has always been characterised as being reckless and carefree. 
But there is a  dark undercurrent in this tale, that's not the usual for a Rodimus free Hot Rod. 
That's not to say that Hot Rod isn't reckless, far from it. 
The rescue mission on it's own is dangerous, but the way he infiltrates the  planet is  down right insane. 
What else would you call  surfing on a  meteorite and jumping off  just before impact pretending to be space debris  ?

Off course there is the prerequisite flashback, to tell us why Hot Rod  exactly is here  to  make a daring break in and then escape, in a Decepticon penal colony. 
And off course it  features a botched mission. 
And off course its his first.
Genre conventions demand it  ! 
It has to be his first  mission, it can't be any random one, but this is just nit picking.
Unfortunately the characters on display, other then Hot Rod and Dealer, might as well be painted red and called Red Shirt 1, 2 and 3. They don't have much personality  and even  less impact on the story other then to die. 
Which is a bit of a shame,  because Backbeat's robot design isn't half bad. 
But because there characters are virtual unknowns, their deaths have no meaning and do not resonate. We know they are going to die regardless, because Hot Rod tells us,  this mission was a failure. 
If they were  "name" characters and established characters we know from G1, their deaths would have more meaning. 
This is a whole new continuity and there is no need to  push  toys, characters can actually die as we have  seen before and will see again. 
Several Decepticons in Stormbringer 3  look like they have very much died. 
So why the coyness here  ?
Generation 1 and 2  have had  at  least  600  characters  and a lot of them haven't been seen in years. 
Even if they were culled  from any of the Japanese shows, there would stil be fans that recognize them, instead of these faceless nobodies. But that might be going in to  Dreamwave fanwank territory.
It doesn't help that the alt mode of one of them, most likely Download, looks like a  submarine on wheels. 

The botched mission that killed team Red Shirt,  is all about the Magnificence, which looks suspiciously like the pearl of Bahoudin from the  G1 cartoon. 
What it exactly does  or why they want it, is not made clear but the Magnificence will  play a  part of sorts later on .
As perfunctory as the story is so far, it does come with a surprise in that Hot Rod follows orders and abandons his team when it all inevitably  goes wrong and hides  the pearl ...the magnificence, in a location  known only to himself. 
Leaving the only other team member left alive to the Decepticons tender mercies. 
Which is why Hot Rod has been beating himself up over this mission all this time.

Which also brings us back  to the present and the more interesting  part of the spotlight, 
Hot Rod's infiltration missions which is a lot more  tense and interesting, then the demise of team Red Shirt. 
It may seem like I am coming down on this spotlight, but there is nothing inherently wrong with it.
It's just that stories  like this have been done before and there are very few revelations nor surprises
The fact that team Red Shirt are nobodies and that their  deaths  are telegraphed from the start  doesn't do them any favors either.
The fact that Dealer turns out to have double crossed the  team  and sold out to the Decepticons comes less then a revelation and more like the expected story beats. 
Especially if  you  know the character and his actual name.
DOUBLEdealer and then the surprise, what little there is, melts away. 
But all this, does open up an series of  potential storylines, in what exactly is Hot Rod  willing to do to assuage his guilt over Dealer's capture and presumed torment. 
Which is subverted in an interesting way later down the line.  

Speaking of the torment, Dealer doesn't look so hot when Hot Rod finds him in his cell. 
Which makes you wonder  how  deep of a double agent, dealer is anyway. 
Was all this a set up or has he actually been tortured for years  ?
If it's the latter he must be dedicated to whatever ideals or master, he serves other then profit.
The comic however doesn't make this very clear. 
Regardless the risks Hot Rod is willing to take, the length he is willing to go to, to fix his mistakes and the infiltration of the penal colony are at a whole much more interesting to read.
Then the umpteenth, for Hot Rod at least, retread of that fatefull first mission with team Red Shirt. 

Nick Roche is back on art duties, we will see him next for spotlight Kup and after that  as a fill in spot on Devastation 3 
His art  is still cartoony, but  more subdued  befitting the more downbeat storyline.
The way he depicted Dealer's battered and beaten body is particularly disturbing.
This issue also has a nifty piece of technology we never see again. 
Namely holographic camouflage insignia's  that make a Transformer look  like  a different transformer.
This is a nifty piece of technology and would really fit well in the cold war  atmosphere of  the current IDW verse and it's a shame it was never reused.
But it's one time appearance here makes good enough use of it.  

Spotlight Hot Rod is a perfectly fine example of a spotlight that aspires to do more, but  can't quite reach it.
It doesn't do anything new, but it doesn't need to do so either. Under the trappings of a well worn set of storybeats, it lays hot rods personality,  and  why he does certain things bare.
Why he is a loner and a reckless risk taker. 
And that on it's own is enough. 
It's enough to see that  under his bravado and recklessness, beats the fuel pump of  somebody who is insecure and doesn't trust himself  and wonders if those under his command trust him at all, because of his past mistakes.
And he prefers to take risks alone because when it comes down to it, if there is a price to be paid, he alone will pay that price. 
And this is a great subversion of Hot Rod's previous character take, as  well as an exploration  for his  personality as a whole. 
It's just a shame that Spotlight Hot Rod is less then the sum of it's parts.
The parts are perfectly fine on their own, but don't quite gel  together, mostly due to  team Red Shirt  being non entities.  


  1. When I was a kid, Doubledealer took over my Decepticons as their leader for a while (borrowing from the later G1 comics where the Decepticons' leadership was almost always in flux), so I appreciated seeing him here, as I couldn't recall him ever popping up in any comics or anything else before this point.

    I always used to wonder if he was intended as an enemy for Punch/Counterpunch. The size difference would seem to indicate not, as toys meant to fight each other were usually in the same scale -- but their professions were pretty similar and I think they only came out a year or so apart.

    1. Before betraying Hot Rod and team Red Shirt Doubledealer made one single appearance in fiction, in Transformers UK issue 228.!
      He also showed up twice in two text stories in the German Transformers comics, but those comics are a bit ...unsane.

      Well there is also this