Transformers Spotlight 3
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 though, even 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 transform, wrap your head around that.
Instead their guns transform.
Writer : Simon Furman
Artist : Nick Roche
Colors : Liam Shalloo
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Editor : Dan Taylor
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.