Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Transformers Escalation 1

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. 

Credits :
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.  

Review  :

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. 
Including  clothes.
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.    

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