Friday, 4 March 2016

Transformers spotlight 5 Ultra Magnus

Transformers spotlight  5
Ultra Magnus

Summary :

On Zull Ultra Magnus, apprehends  the  war criminal Swindle for selling Cybertronian technology to alien races.
Swindle however  dangles  the location  of an  even bigger war criminal  in front of  Magnus` nose in  exchange  for his freedom. 
Despite going in against all of his principles and wondering if he breaks his principles, where exactly it will end, Magnus agrees and cuts Swindle  free.  

The information leads Magnus to Nebulos, where he find that Scorponok is  using the Zarak consortium as a front. 
Magnus infiltrates the consortium and finds among other things, a Nebulan who appears to be  able to transform. 
Shortly after that Magnus, his holomatter avatar is revealed and destroyed. 
Nagnus  forces  his way  in to the facility in his robot form, where he  encounters Scorponok. 

Though Scorponok normally flees when found out. This time around he  is on the breakthrough of something enormous in scope and  is willing to take Magnus on. 
In the  ensuing battle Scorponok's business partner, Mo Zarak is damaged and seemingly  killed.
Magnus  makes use of the  distraction to  shoot  Scorponok in the face. 
Damaged  and stymied in his  endeavour,  Scorponok  flees  via an  randomised artificial wormhole  generator.  

29  cycles later  Magnus finds  swindle on Burgas and  takes him in once more.
Swindle  once again tries to bargain and Magnus wonders once again how many compromises he is willing to make.  

Writer : Simon Furman
Artist : Robby Musso
Colorist : Kieran Oats
Letters : Neil Uyetake
Editor : Chris Ryall, Dan Taylor.

Notes  :
Released 17 Jan  2007, the first Transformers comic of  2007 along with Escalation 1.
The report Magnus gives at the end, is received by Prime during Escalation 1
This issue takes place  in 1988, except the last two panels which take place in  2006.

Review  :
Despite being an Autobot that has always been in the spotlight to a degree: 
From being  the temporary new leader in the 1986 animated movie. 
Rodimus' second in command in the cartoon. 
The pivot of Operation Volcano and a powerhouse in  TF UK.  ( That often got his tailpipe handed to him by Galvatron  ) 
And the leader of the Wreckers in Dreamwave. 
Ultra Magnus actually never had much of a personality, in  any of  the G1 incarnations beyond generic brave  noble Autobot. 
The only  personality he had, came from his bio where  it was said that he would rather be lead, then lead,  but was a born leader  and it was a shame that he didn't realise his himself.  

As such, Ultra Magnus is one of the first characters in the spotlight issues, that  actually gets completely reinvented. 
Future spotlights such as Kup, Wheelie, Blur and others  will do this as  well. 
While others are  all to happy to riff off the spotlighted characters original personality,  such  as Shockwave, Hot Rod, Grimlock etc.
And that is fine, because  their original characterisations were rock solid to begin with. 
Shockwave after all, has always been portrayed  as a being of utter logic.
While I am  all for moving on and reinvention in Transformers, some characters are iconic in their own right. 

So Magnus his complete reinvention then 
He is a complete and utter bureaucrat, who does everything by the  book and follows the rules to the letter. 
Straight laced and unwilling to bend him or his principles for anybody 
He works for the Tyrest Accord, a shadowy nebulous ill defined  greater burocracy, that  gives Magnus the authority  to  go as he pleases  and  take out  rouge Cybertronians.  

Magnus himself is  portrayed as  unflinching, incorruptible, willing and able to do anything and waltzes through  the defences of  several  alien species, as  per the opening pages of the comic  when he  takes Swindle in. 
Being a straight-laced  less fascist, certainly not as violent, version of  a robotic Judge Dredd. Magnus is unfortunately a bit bland and boring. 

While the idea of a lone  cop, making sure that an accord between Cybertron and the rest of the universe is  duly followed and enforced if necessary. So that  the  conflict doesn't spill over too much  is a very interesting idea  and  plays handily  in to the cloak and dagger cold war  backdrop, Furman has been setting up these past  20  issues  or so. 
Magnus himself however, is far too straight-laced to be interesting. 
He is borderline boring.  (  Revelations later on, in More Then Meets The Eye, that turn him in to a bit of a joke not withstanding.  ) 

Furman wisely and immediately breaks  Magnus straight-laced persona and  has him  question his  own principles, when Swindle tempts him with Scorponok.  A rouge Decepticon, which happily and all too willingly flaunts the codes of an interplanetary accord on sharing Cybertronian science.
And flaunts it quite happily and brazenly.  

Which brings us to  the most interesting  part of the  story. 
The infiltration of Scoponok's deep cover, the Zarak consortium. 
Which lies on Nebulos. 
And we get a second and so far, last glimpse  in on Nebulos. Where the Nebulans are once again  the bald aliens of the cartoon. 
Though thankfully they aren't  all green.  

We are also  introduced to Zarak here, better known as Mo Zarak, don't laugh.
Mo Zarak himself, is a direct copy of  the Rebirth 3 parter, Zarak.
And his apparent demise is more then enough to cause Scorponok to tuck tail and run. 
Swindle  here is also a  perfectly serviceable character, who is in his G1 old self and again that's fine. It's not just his most memorable characterisation, with a name like Swindle he can't be much else.  ( Oh, but later down the line he tried.  ) 
As a character  Ultra Magnus is rather cut and dry. 
Too simple and too focused to be  interesting, but when he is forced to break his principles, it gets more interesting. Because sooner or later he will break them again and again.  
Until he crosses the lines he is supposed to uphold. 
Where does it stop ?
This is a  problem Magnus himself  ponders and wisely, Furman doesn't offer any awnsers.
With the book ending  on a loop. 
Magnus has arrested Swindle again and Swindle wants to deal again.  

Spotlight Ultra Magnus is an  intriguing look in to  how  the  rest of the universe, deals with these  sentient robots and their cold war. 
With perfectly serviceable art, but  it still suffers from Dreamwave disease with  dubious anatomy, ballooning Transfromers and  dull surprises expressions.
Musso's art would improve later on, when he tackles Spotlight Cliffjumper. 
Other then  this interesting look at how other species deal with Transformers and how  rouge transformers wheel and deal  their way across the cosmos.  
Spotlight Ultra Magnus doesn't really  do much with the  reinvention of Magnus himself. 
He is too  dour and  dry to be a main character.
And Furman never does much with him and why is he  the only enforcer of the Tyrest accord  ?
Wouldn't it make sense to have more then one enforcer  ?
Spotlight Ultra Magnus is propped up by  interesting ideas and notions.
The reintroduction of  Scorponok  and the reinvention of Ultra Magnus as an enforcer, rather then by the actual execution. 
An interesting experiment that just  is a bit  lacking.
It's a light meditation on compromises, to  get  at a goal,  and how far one is willing to  go to achieve it. 
Spotlight Ultra Magnus is a solid entry  in  the Spotlight series and its not  a huge misfire, such as Sixshot.
But you wont miss much  by skipping it  all together either.  

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