Monday, September 8, 2014

Present Tense: More Than Meets The Eye # 32!

Wow, it feels like forever since the last issue of IDW Publishing’s “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” (“TF: MTMTE”) How many mega-cycles has it been since “TF: MTMTE” # 31? The answer is 12.387 mega-cycles (that’s 48 days for us non-Cybertronians). That wait feels especially long considering that “TF: MTMTE” is the best of IDW’s TF comic series, and that writer James Roberts has the crew of the Lost Light is the middle of a major mystery.

Good thing “TF: MTMTE” # 32 is here or fans would start breaking the Tyrest Accords in frustration. “Slaughterhouse” is an apt title for this issue as the remaining crew of the Lost Light have just discovered that all those on the ship’s original crew have vanished, as has the ship itself.

But the accidental skeleton crew led by disliked captain Megatron and the detective Nightbeat are surprised to find an older, virtually destroyed version of the Lost Light has appeared covered in quantum foam, meaning –time travel!

As the survivors enter the dead hulk, they discover body after body of dead Autobots (including Ultra Magnus, Tailgate, Drift, Ratchet, among others) in various states of mutilation.

Meanwhile, the stowaway Ravage and Megatron have a spark-to-spark conversation and Ravage is disappointed to realize that this is no ruse—Megatron, the leader the Decepticons idolized, really has switched over to the Autobots.

The searchers find that the bodies are missing their transformation cogs, coming up with the conclusion that only one group could have done all this—the infamous and fanatical Decepticon Justice Division (DJD), the crack team of operatives who hunt down Decepticons who go off plot. “But, hey don’t worry. Because they just love killing Autobots, too,” Riptide explains.

Just then, the quantum foam starts to act up and Ravage smells something underneath Ultra Magnus’ corpse. It’s Rewind—who seems intact if unconscious. That’s kind of weird, because Rewind is supposed to have been dead for a bit. The issue concludes on that note. Argh! Another trademark Roberts cliffhanger!

Roberts keeps the cards all in play. The survivors have figured out what may have happened—and who did it—gut they still don’t know how it happened and how to stop it from happening. Hooked readers will have no choice but to keep reading— we just have to hope the issues aren’t as far apart as the last two were.

There are a lot of nice characters moments in “TF: MTMTE” # 32, in particular, the intimate discussions between Megs and Ravage, the one between Nightbeat and Nautica, and the fun one between Crosscut and Skids (particularly the part in the dark involving Brainstorm's abandoned suitcase. If you didn’t know what they were like before, you sure do now.

Kudos must go to Alex Milne for the living and dead Cybetronians in this issue. There’s also a “The Walking Dead” vibe derived from seeing all the dismantled Autobots (seeing Tailgate impaled the way

Milnes’ most difficult task must have been to portray so many dead TFs and then, in the short flashback sequence, show how they must have died (Perceptor, being eaten alive by the DJD's Helex, being the scariest) as well as their futile last stand. Just a note: what a great cover by Milne! It’s clearly set in the past, unlike most of the issue. In fact, the glorious image is a flashback scene almost at the end as Ultra Magnus, Ratchet, Perceptor, Whirl and a very gritty version of Action Master Mainframe furiously standing their ground. It’s such a doomed shot. Wow.

All this brings together elements that have Roberts has been planning to use all along, even before he introduced the DJD in a previous story arc. The DJD are so interesting because they are really monsters beyond Megatron's reckoning, Decepticoms who enjoy destroying other Decepticons (the DJD leader Tarn is my favorite, probably because he literally has a Decepticon faction symbol for his face). They’re kinda like the Wreckers for the Decepticons, but Wreckers who savor killing.

It is amazing and appalling what they leave behind in their wake.

These scenes all constitute a set of brilliant clues setting up what lies at the heart of this current story arc. There always comes a point in a James Roberts book when everything becomes so deeply connected that it makes it impossible for new readers to find a jumping-on issue. Now that Roberts is closing in on what lies behind the mystery of what the Lost Light really is, so will the readers. But Roberts is writing the book at a very high level. Despite the density of the plot, "TF: MTMTE" # 32 actually increases the level of tension with all the dead bodies and the discovery of the once-dead Rewind. Surely, no good things can come from this.

The mystery only deepens as the issues follow each other from the darkness. The ghost story currently running in "TF: MTMTE" is getting creepier and more gripping, a story arc that really is quite different from anything TF comic readers have seen before.

Next time: Transformers Primacy # 2!

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