Transformers Escalation 1
The Machination is running a VR simulation to incapacitate alien mechanoids, otherwise known as Tranformers.
While in the ark 19, the humans get to hear that they are evicted, after living in the ark for several weeks at least.
Where they gave the Autobots a crash course in Earth culture.
Sunstreaker and Ironhide are tasked with returning the humans.
Ratchet surmises this is Prowl's way of punishing him.
The order to evict the humans however, comes from Optimus Prime himself, for cold clinical and pragmatic reasons.
Megatron in the mean time, kickstarts phase two and wants the facsimiles to be activated.
The Machination makes their move engineering an ambush during a traffic jam and seemingly destroying Sunstreaker and killing Hunter.
Writer : Simon Furman
Artist: E J Su
Colors : John Rauch, Zac Atkinson and Aaron Myers
letters : Chris Mowry
Editor : Chris Ryall, Dan Taylor
Release date 29 November 2006.
Prime reviews several reports.
Ultra Magnus, bringing in Swindle as seen on the last page of Spotlight Ultra Magnus.
Jetfire reporting on a finding, most likely a call back to Stormbringer.
Springer reporting on a unknown battle, most likely a phase six battle.
And Blades reporting a Decepticon unit laying low.
The first two are fairly obvious, but the second two are never referred to again.
And we are back on Earth again !
After the disappointing conclusion of Stormbringer and the uneven spotlights, I'm glad to be on firmer ground again.
Even if its still a very slow burn.
But we open with a bang and see Wheeljack getting blown up.
Only to find out its a VR simulation of Mr Drake's team, running a simulation to see if they can take out an alien "mech" because even they are not so sure about that.
They seem to be training in a Winnebago of some kind.
But how big is that thing exactly ? It sure looks bigger on the inside, then it does on the outside.
Do they employ timelords ?
Escalation turns up the heat for the Autobots, because the humans are starting to push back.
Normally I rather dislike humans taking down Transformers because its usually depicted as way too easy.
( The Bay movies, where the Transformers in one scene appear to be indestructible and in the other made from tin foil. While in yet another they can take unimaginable amounts of damage and still survive.
The least said about Gi-joe \Transformers issues 6, where The Baroness takes Starscream out with a handgun, ( !!!) the better. )
Or the humans keep attacking the wrong mechanoids. ( RAAT, Circuitbreaker, where do you think you two are going ?! )
But its not nearly as annoying in Escalation as it is in other series.
There are two reasons for this.
Human against Transformers battles are still fairly scarce up to this point.
Escalation 1 has one of two skirmishes, where normal humans take up arms against Transformers.
The next one is in Escalation 2
And most importantly, and the second reason, the attack on Sustreaker here is executed in a well thought out, well choreographed manner.
Time, money, effort and tactics have been put in to this attack on Sunstreaker
and it turns everything up on it's ear.
Up until now, we thought the Transformers were relatively safe. Humans couldn't touch them, The Machination threat wasn't really serious.
Hunter, Verity and Jimmy were also save.
And then out of the blue, the story makes a 180 degree and its a whole new ball game.
The humans just struck back, Sunstreaker exploded and Hunter might be dead.
Escalation 1 opened in a slow easy going manner at best and suddenly two characters are dead including one of the three humans, who we thought would get away unscathed.
There are also a few nice character beats, during the attack between Ironhide and Verity and Jimmy. Despite being on roughly the same side, Jimmy and Verity are most concerned about Hunter, while Ironhide's concern is Sunstreaker.
It draws a clear line in the sand that both species are still most concerned with themselves.
Speaking of the humans, a non disclosed amount of time has passed, but the three humans have been at the ark 19 for several weeks at the very least. Been given living quarters, even a video game where Sunstreaker trashes the battlechargers, among other amenities.
So why exactly are they still wearing the same clothes from Infiltration ?
This isn't a cartoon and we aren't so incapacitated that we cant recognise Verity, Hunter and Jimmy, the ONLY humans fraternising with the Autobots.
As it turns out they have been teaching the Autobots to better acclimatise their avatars for better cover.
Jimmy and Hunter are ore argumentative of the decision to cut the humans loose, but Verity just reacts with a sneer, telling them that this is nothing new.
It also turns out that Ratchet, Jazz and Ironhide are the ones that made the humans feel the most welcome.
Ratchet and Jazz are understandable. Ratchet roped them in, while Jazz has always been the one most interested in different cultural influences.
The odd one out is Ironhide, who never seemed to be that much interested in humans. You'd expect the kid friendly yellow kid appeal character to be in his stead, but Furman thankfully buckles that trend and Bumblebee is nowhere to be seen.
Prowl in his infinite wisdom, has decided to let Sunstreaker, the character least affiliated with the humans and Ironhide to bring them home.
What home ? In regards to Jimmy and Verity.
Verity is basically homeless and Jimmy's garage is trashed. I'm sure insurance has a few questions for him.
Instead of Ratchet or Jazz. Ratchet surmises that this is Prowl's way of punishing Ratchet for his various transgressions.
Which seems rather petulant and petty for Prowl, but as we will later find out this is the least of Prowl's transgressions.
It sets him up as no score is too small not to settle, nothing should be overlooked, everything should be dealt with.
And finally, we find out that despite believing that Prowl was behind it, the order was given by Prime whose reasoning for it are cold, detached, clear and utterly pragmatic.
The Autobots should keep their distance from any indigent species, when they are not sure if they can save them or their world.
and this simple line has absolute chilling implications.
Normally when the Autobots, or the good guys appear, the reader knows things wil be alright, they in the end wil save the day.
But this simple line here, throws all of that in question. All of a sudden we aren't so sure anymore if earth will come out of this unscathed or, judging from how badly Cybertron was left behind in Stormbringer, at all.
Prime also gets parts of his early IDW characterisation, which is mostly divorced from his melodramatic G1 interpretation also pioneered by Furman.
Sadly this G1 interpretation would come back later again.
Here Prime is cold and detached, much more befitting a commanding officer overseeing a millions year old war and having seen countless billions of beings die and countless worlds burn.
Even as Prowl delivers his report that the humans have left Prime still oversees numerous operations and reports of the ongoing struggle against the Decepticons.
Once again making it clear that Earth is but one battleground of many, an very important battleground, but just one of many nontheless.
The rest of the issue concerns it self with touching on subplots, such as Shockwave and Soundwave being on earth prior, as seen in Spotlight Shockwave and Soundwave. But they have disappeared ever since, so where are they now ?
And Megatron putting his house in order, while ordering them to activate the facsimiles. What that exactly entails, we will find out soon enough for now it's just a new plot thread that's introduced.
The art is of Su's usual high standards, his humans still have great body languages from Verity's whatever attitude as she sneers at Ratchet. To Hunter, Verity and Jimmy sitting dejected in the Autobot's cockpits, to the shock and disbelief on Jimmy and Verity's faces at the end.
But the Transformers get a wide range of emotions as well, including Optimus Prime who is nothing more then a pair of eyes.
There isn't much left to be said about Su's art. It's one of the best aspects of this series
and sadly we would lose him after Revelations, but for now his art is of the highest calibre.
Escalation 1 is an excellent follow up for Infiltration and maintains the high quality that Infiltration had.
Where as Stormbringer had a weak start and a very poor ending and where the Spotlights can be wildly uneven, Escalation 1 is a strong opener for the second major arc.