Sunday, August 17, 2014

Legion of Doom: Primacy # 1!

Sometimes the best stories are those before the story even began. When Dreamwave Productions still had the Transformers license, they decided to start doing comic books about what happened before the Transformers arrived on Earth. Those comics, “Transformers: The War Within,” were some of the best comics that Dreamwave ever made, featuring familiar characters in unfamiliar settings, especially the Cybertronian alt modes and old allegiances.

IDW Publishing have done the same thing by introducing their own in-continuity pre-Earth stories beginning with the digital-first series “Transformers: Autocracy” in 2012, followed by “Transformers: Monstosity” the next year. In these tales set millions of years prior to the discovery of Transformers on Earth, Orion Pax (not yet Optimus Prime) and Megatron wage war in Cybetronian cities like Kaon—but the battle lines are not clearly drawn yet. At the end of “Monstrosity,” Pax and his Autobot regulars had barely succeeded in shutting down the walking Decepticon fortress Trypticon in the city of Harmonex.

The rest of Cybertron is still figuring out what to make of the violence in Harmonex. At Maccadams Oil House, Hot Rod is listening to a skeptical broadcast by Blaster when he is threatened by his old friend Slinger, now a Decepticon soldier.

Hot Rod arrives at Iacon, where he is met by an impatient Ultra Magnus and Kup. They’re waiting for the end of a procedure that fixes the corrupted Energon problem that beset the Dynobots (Yep that’s how they spelled it back then) back in Harmonex. Grimlock, who suffered heavily from the tainted Energon, has finally emerged, but is quick to tell the callow Hot Rod that wearing the same badge doesn’t mean Grimlock needs to respect him.

Back in Harmonex, Megatron is speaking seemingly to himself, but he is actually talking to the fallen Trypticon. Then, Trypticon stirs. The two have a very scary conversation. “And you are correct—we have a great work to do. To break a world…and forge a more perfect order from its husk is no small thing. Do you have the will to see such a thing to its conclusion, great Megatron,” booms the resurrected Trypticon. Megatron gets a glimpse of Trypticon’s past on an even older Cybertron, seeing the terrible work of those we now know as Quintessons and the Sharkticons they unleash. Plans are made.

Taking time off, Optimus Prime (yes, he has taken up this name by now) and Ironhide are climbing glaciers in Cybertron’s polar region when they sight something gigantic standing in the middle of nowhere. The two approach to find an Omega sentinel standing lonely vigil, still waiting for the long-lost Nova Prime to return. After proving that he is now the Matrix bearer, Prime tells the behemoth that it is time for him to end his watch. The sentinel agrees, transforms into his rocket mode and blasts off for Iacon. Prime asks what his name is. “Supreme,” the giant says. “I am… Omega Supreme.”

Aboard Sky Lynx. Grimlock and Hot Rod continue their loud argument as they are patrolling above Toraxxis. Sky Lynx interrupts them to point out the obvious: Trypticon is gone. The Decepticons gather and leave Harmonex for a starship in orbit above Cybertron. They are on a mission to find allies to bring back to the fold. They are headed to the stars for back-up. “The trackless void awaits,” Megatron says.

What a start. “Autocracy,” “Monstrosity” and “Primacy” are the work of the same creative team: writers Chris Metzen and Flint Dille, plus artist Livio Ramondelli. Metzen is better known as a content provider of game company Blizzard Entertainment while Dille is very familiar to TF fans for his work on the original “Transformers” TV show (Personally, I can’t help but hear the old TF opening theme whenever I read his name). Their take on old Cybertron is much darker and grimmer than that shown in “The War Within.” It’s a heavily politicized, divided world even before the Autobot/Decepticon civil war. It’s also a very dramatic setting, one that finally reaches a kind of crescendo with “Primacy.”

Ramondelli is a rather controversial TF artist because his heavily stylized take on the TFs is both distinctive and murky at the same time. There is a veritable darkness to his designs but it sometimes makes the TFs hard to distinguish from one another. Many TF fans probably remember him from his work on the “Chaos” story arc, but the truth is, his style suits the “Autocracy/Monstrosity/Primacy” stories better. Your mileage will still vary with the extent you enjoy his rather impressionistic vision.

All that being said, “Primacy” # 1 is the best first issue yet from the “Autocracy/Monstrosity/Primacy” stories. It sets up the next great conflict with the Decepticons getting back off the mat with the risen Trypticon and the goal of recruiting more soldiers to their cause. The rift between Grimlock and Hot Rod makes sense, but is also kind of annoying considering what they went through. The best part of “Primacy” # 1, however, is the revelation of Optimus Prime’s first meeting with Omega Supreme. In the future, every conversation between these two TF titans carried the weight of gospel being created. Here, it’s just two robots saying hi for the first time. It also fits, considering that Omega Supreme stands apart from his less proactive sentinel brothers, that Nova Prime would make him stand watch in such a bizarre location. Omega Supreme’s return to the Autobot fold feels just right—but also feels like heralds a difficult, dangerous time that will have the Autobots requiring his help.

“Transformers: Primacy” # 1 is fantastic. Bring on the big battle that seems imminent in the second issue.

Next time: Robots in Disguise # 32!

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