Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Transformers Stormbringer 1

Stormbringer  issue  1

Summary :
We open  to a flashback with ominous narration, narrating ominously. 
In orbit around Cybertron the crew of the Calabi Yau  pick up a  energy signal. The problem is, that the planet is dead and has been dead for years.
The captain, Jetfire  drops down with  three of the  technobot crew to the surface of  Cybertron, to conduct more conclusive  investigations. 
They find out that they have landed near Thunderhead  pass, where it all came apart.  

On Cybertron in the past Megatron shakes Optimus Prime awake.  The adversary has breached  the siege wall.  Megatron commands Prime to get up and fight, because he isn't getting off that easily. 

On the Autobot command hub, Optimus Prime receives a message from Prowls unit  on earth, informing him that the Decepticon  infiltration unit has broken protocol. 
Prime orders Searchlight to keep him informed, while his thoughts linger back to what happened on Cybertron.

The Technobots, Nosecone and Afterburner are the ones left behind on the Calabi Yau,  as Jetfire and the others traverse the incredibly unstable surface of the planet. 
Discussing the disaster that befell the planet, Jetfire thinks back to how he and the others ignored all the warnings. In particular the warnings from Decepticon scientist Thunderwing. Who tried to convince fellow scientists, regardless of allegiance, of Cybertrons impending doom and the toll  the war has taken on the planet.
Cybertron is decaying in response to the stress placed upon it.    

Suddenly the Calabi Yau  is attacked and destroyed by a missile volley, as the  groundbound Autobots are attacked by invisible assailants. 
During the Cybertronian apocalypse, a winged  figured clad in flame, continues to march  forward.  Unstoppable, untill the  planet itself swallowed the figure. 
The combined might of the Transformers in the end proving  unable to  stop the avatar of the apocalypse. 
Jetfire wakes up  below in the catacombs of Cybertron  to the rhythm chanting  of a group of  Cybertronians  worshipping a massive figure. 

Notes  : This was released  in july 2006 after Infiltration ended the month before.
Originally this was supposed to be issue 7  in the sub numbering, but this idea was  quickly dropped. As it proved to be too distracting  and confusing with all the spotlights,  which do not make it  each to keep  track off. 

Writer : Simon Furman
Artist : Don Figuroa
Colorist : Josh Burcham
Editor : Chris Ryall and Dan Taylor

Review :

Back in  2006  this  was a highly anticipated  four part series. 
The return of Don Figuroa, released of the constraints of  the Dreamwave house style, back to team up with Simon Furman, hot on the heels of  his groundwork in Infiltration. 
No earth. 
No humans.
We get to see what Cybertron is like, in this newfangled universe.
What's not to like.  

Issue 1 opens with  heavy handed portentous, purple prose, which isn't exactly a  good sign. 
The story it self is rather simple  and divided in  2 contemporary strands. One with  the  Technobots and Jetfire and the other with Optimus Prime narrating and brooding  on board the Autobot command hub. 
We also see  that he receives the message Ironhide send in Infiltration 3. Which makes  this one of the best scenes in the entire comic, because it just shows the breadth and scope of the entire conflict. 
Prime  even needs to be reminded of  the detachment and the planet there. 
Thunderwing in  yet another call back to  G1, was another heavy  and whatever he did  it turned him in to a mindless monster  and the cataclysm that followed in the effort to stop him made Cybertron uninhabitable. 
And that is pretty much the whole storyline so far. 
The narration is at times  heavy and ponderous, but it gets the point across  and the flash backs  convey the  feelings of dread and doom  quite well.
Reusing Thunderwing  as a harbinger of doom, is a bit  been there done that, but it works well because he has been unstoppable before.   

The art is perfectly fine, if a bit squat.
Figuroa  has been relieved of the constraints of the Dreamwave house style and refined his art.   
The biggest  difference is  the  story telling, which is a lot  cleaner and easier to follow  then his Dreamwave efforts. 
And his figures are less balloony and bloated, then they were in Dreamwave. 

Stormbringer 1 also bring the Technobots to the table, who are a virtual blank slate. 
Other then  a single cartoon episode and their toy bios they never had much  characterisation, and usually showed up as cannon fodder or in their combined form.
Their character beats here are pretty much their toy bios.
Nosecone is dedicated and thorough. Scattershot trigger happy, strafe antsy and so on.  But it's still more characterisation they have had for years. 
And they do get to shine briefly, before taken down  hard. 
Jetfire is ...Jetfire.  He takes a leaf  from his Dreamwave self, complete with  removable armor  and detachable helmet.
This is the Jetfire that walked out of the pages of The War Within, The Dark Ages. 
And thats perfectly fine, because the character was perfectly fine there. 
And he is once again an agnostic, thrown in to more spiritual themes. 
Apocalypse this time, instead of a overpowered zealot.
And there is a  flash back  to Megatron digging Prime out of the rubble and  forcing him  to fight. 
It's a small character moment  and  loses a bit of its  power because we have seen  Megatron and Optimus Prime fight side by side before. 
But it does sell  how much of a  threat Thunderwing must have been, for these two  adversaries to put aside their differences, even if temporary. 
Especially, considering what we know so far of Megatron and the situation of the war. 
Cybertron looks a lot like Coruscant from Star Wars. 
First seen in episode 3, which  at the time of this issue's release date was about a year
But, it also looks a lot like the Cybertron from Beast Machines. 
While the conceit that the Transformers unite together against an unstoppable foe is not new.
What is new, is that they weren't able to stop him. That the planet made a final sacrifice for theTransformers and has since then become an uninhabitable shell of it's former self.
Cybertron is dead and the Cybertronians are scattered to the  four corners of the universe.
And this is a huge, huge shake up of the status quo, especially this early in the run. 
Previously Cybertron has been  in bad shape or over run  by the Decepticons, but until now it has never ever been uninhabitable. Which is a huge paradigm shift and the  Cybertronian cold war has been cast in a new light. 

Prime still has his War Within design, which is a design he will keep in the Cybetron stories set in the past and in fact he won't change his body untill  his appearance in Infiltration 6. 
And again in Spotlight Orion Pax later down the line.
Prime is also portrayed  more as his G1 self.  A brooding loner, carrying the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders and he may blame himself for the state of Cybertron.
Though this might just  be  another attempt by IDW to show the  fans that this will not be  like Dreamwave  and that  this is more akin to The Transformers, they  knew  even with a new status quo.
Stormbringer purportedly has been  called to life, because the fans objected to the icky humans and the slow burn of  Infiltration.
Whether that's true or not I cant say, but  I cant shake the feeling that  Stormbringer 1  was a single issue story, divided over  2  issues.
The plot is a bit threadbare and slow moving, but that's  unfortunately par de course for modern comics  and Stormbringer 1 can't be faulted for it.  


  1. I wish they'd kept the sub-numbering idea. Arranging all these issues into a chronological reading order was a pain when I had to do it myself. But at least with one writer, the continuity is fairly easy to follow. Within a few years, when more writers join the mix and editorship goes to the notoriously continuity-lax Andy Schmidt, things will get pretty bad.

    (As I think about it, though I mainly dropped this stuff because of Shane McCarthy, I think Schmidt's laziness as a continuity cop had something to do with it too.)

    Thunderwing was one of my favorite characters in the G1 comics, partly because he had a clearly defined character arc and once it was over, he was (pretty much) never seen again. I recall I was less enamored with him in his IDW incarnation, but I don't remember why.

    I always enjoy Furman's Jetfire, though -- but I've long preferred his cartoon name, Skyfire. It sounds cooler to me.

    1. Even with just one writer, it's hard to keep a bead on things.
      I just review the issues as they were released, otherwise it will be a hellish confusing nightmare.
      And I'm not even talking about the New Avengers crossover.

      I sat through All Fail...err Al Hail Megatron, mostly because of Last Stand Of The Wreckers and Maximum Dinobots.
      But I threw in the towel with the first 6 issues of the 2009 ongoing and didn't return untill 2012.

      I think it might be, because in Marvel G1 Thunderwing had a pretty well defined personality.
      Outside of the flashbacks Stormbringer Thunderwing is an mindless drone.
      A plotdevice and one that pretty much disappears after stormbringer. He doesn't have any personality or gravitas or pathos, he is just there as a deus ex machina.

      I personally like the name Jetfire more but that's because I'm used to it more

    2. It sounds like you and I had a similar path with the earlier IDW stuff. I read all of ALL HAIL MEGATRON because, even though I couldn't stand McCarthy's writing, I adored Guido Guidi's art. He's probably my favorite TRANSFORMERS artist of the 21st century.

      I planned to give the ongoing a try as well, since McCarthy wasn't writing it. I was excited Don Figueroa was returning as artist. Then I picked up the first issue and saw his horrendous Michael Bay inspired designs, and I was done. That series could've been the best-written Transformers ever, but I would've dropped it anyway over that artwork. It was terrible.

      I haven't picked up an IDW TRANSFORMERS comic since. Nowadays it just seems too ridiculous to me. Megatron as an Autobot, Prowl as the head of Devastator, Bumblebee as the Autobot leader at one point... it sounds like bad fan fiction.

    3. More or less, it was Maximum Dinobots and Last Stand of the Wreckers, that got me through 16 months of unfettered misery.
      I still think AHM is one of the lowest of the low points.
      Even Budiansky's wackier stories weren't as bad as this and if they were, they were just 1 issue not 16 months of it.

      The 2009 series isn't as bad, but it's not great either.
      It just drags and drags and drags and everything must be a multi part story and it has an excruciatingly slow burn and the Autobots themselves barely know why they are still on earth.
      The art however does improve a lot after those initial 6 issues, but those first 6 issues were pretty much urgh.
      I don't have many nice things to say about those 26 comics.

      The current Transformers comics are actually pretty good, but I have the feeling things are starting to come off the rails.
      I don't buy Megatron as an Autobot and i'm just waiting for it to be undone, because it wil be undone, that's how comics work.
      It's totally at odds with his portrayal as we see him right now, at the start of it all.

      The biggest problems I have however is the ridiculously slow burn of RID ( I just keep calling it RID, even though it had its name changed to Transformers last year. )
      While MTME is great in its portrayal of characters but it's too light and inconsequential, it does it's best to be fluff.
      Everything is played as a joke, not even the characters themselves take things seriously.
      So if they don't how can we the readers take it seriously ?
      Occasionally this is fine, but the whole damn series is like that now.
      There are amazing ideas and concepts on display, but it's all played for laughs with a smile and a wink.
      And sooner or later Roberts pulls the rug out from under us, as he is wont to do and this is no doubt all deliberate to make it that much more brutal when the hammer finally falls, but it's starting to become grating.
      But the first 21 issues of MTME were a much, much better coherent whole. With the right amount of action, humor and seriousness then the current issues, which are all over the damn place in tone.

      I think it's great that IDw and Hasbro are willing to push Transformers in to a new direction.
      After all how much longer can that war last ?
      And the idea of having the war end, the Decepticons lose and slowly rebuilding cybertron is a great idea.
      But it all goes so slow, the series are effectively in a holding pattern.
      RID has been on going for 4 years now and Cybertron is still a slag heap.
      And the tone of MTME is getting sillier and sillier. There is occasional brilliance in there and high concept subjects, but they are off set by out of place humor.
      I hope issue 50 can change the tone again.
      But I will grouse about all that in detail, when I get there.
      And that wont be for a while, I'm still at Stormbringer, Escalation and the first volume of spotlights.