Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Surprise Party: Robots in Disguise # 31!

It has taken a few issues, but “Transformers: Robots in Disguise” (“TF: RID”) finally put forward an issue that is equal to the quality being displayed by its acclaimed sister series, “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” (“TF: MTMTE”). “TF: RID” has much to live up to, as its premise—Autobots back on Earth led once again by Optimus Prime—is a classic one. Writer John Barber, who together with “TF: MTMTE” scribe James Roberts—has redefined the TF comics for a new generation of writers, and he finally hits it out of the ballpark for the first time since the “Dark Cybertron” arc.

Barber’s current arc, “Earthfall,” has suffered from the ridiculousness of the new alliance between Galvatron’s Decepticons and the Earth Defense Command led by Marissa Faireborn. It seemed like such a patently bad idea at the beginning, but as the issues went on, it became clear that the humans have some pretty big secrets that even their Decepticon allies know nothing about. All that expositional heavy-lifting comes together with this issue, “Earthfall Chapter 4: Full Fathom Five.”

“TF: RID” boasts of a great artist in Andrew Griffith but for this issue, he has reinforcements, with Guido Guidi providing the flashback art for Jazz and Brendan Cahill providing the flashback art for the Decepticons. That makes it clear that there are three narratives in this issue, all of which tie together in the end.

We begin with Jazz remembering all the slag he’s in through, in particular the human he killed very early on in the IDW continuity and the reason why he decided to side with Starscream—something he eventually regretted. Now Prime has asked for his help and Jazz winds up deep in the ocean as the Autobots prepare to assault the humans’ secret base, where Prime suspects Autobot sage Alpha Trion is being kept.

The other flashback sequence explains why the Decepticons left Cybertron for Earth—and it seems that Soundwave is pretty much leading the Decepticons even if Galvatron is blustering his way through things. By the way, I don’t know if it’s an oversight or a plot twist, but in the Decepticon lineup in the flashback, that really looks like Autobot Targetmaster Scoop standing with them. Hmm.

As Prime and Prowl debate furiously about the attack, the humans reveal they’ve been tinkering with some out-there tech including what appears to be some kind of satellite weapon in orbit around Jupiter. We already know that humans have a signal that can disrupt Decepticon synapses so the weapon poses a big threat to the ‘Cons and this fragile alliance.

That comes to a head now that the Decepticons (thanks for nothing, Constructicon spy Scavenger!) know about the covet human base. The Autobots literally storm the beach but the Decepticons drop from the sky and another throwdown appears imminent. A big question: What will the humans do?

With the surface attack causing quite the distraction, Jazz infiltrates the complex (that’s what he does) and finds Alpha Trion—but there is a huge surprise at the end of the issue that so big it makes you want the next issue of “TF: RID” in your hands right now. Well played, Barber.

here are a lot of nice character moments in the issue, particular that shot of Jazz playing his Aghartan Electro-Base in a bar with Riptide “spittin’ some verses.” Though he appears mostly through dialogue, an insulted Cosmos provides the best comedy in the book and the tension between Prime and Prowl belie the strange double-team thing Galvatron and Soundwave have going. Even that little bit with Arcee telling Prowl she knows who the spy is, and we are left to wonder why Prowl doesn’t want to tell Prime. The humans have become a suddenly suspect element. That last page reveal, however, really kills. What is going on? We’ll have to find out next issue.

“TF: RID” # 31 gets it on some many things that it’s won me back after a little shaky initial run in the “Dawn of the Autobots” arc. Considered me sold.

Next: “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” # 32!

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