Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Alternate Reality: More Than Meets The Eye # 35!

This is a very, very complex issue from the fantastic “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” (“TF: MTMTE”) team of writer James Roberts and penciller Alex Milne. Perhaps a bit too complex. But then Roberts has made himself the best TF writer right now by taking chances—this is a big chance taken here—and Milne has shown he can draw anything that Roberts asks him to.

“TF: MTMTE” # 35 starts of on a completely unusual scene. It is set on Cybertron, but not one we are familiar with. Rewind is accompanying Minimus (we know him as the guy inside the Ultra Magnus armor) who has just come back from serving in the now-obsolete Primal Vanguard. It’s a peaceful Cybertron but one oppressed by the functionalist faction, which values Cybertronians based on the usefulness of their alt modes.

The functionists control the population by cutting down dissenting ‘bots immediately through the detonation of their obsolescence (Obs) chips. Rewind and Minimus are witness to one of the obsolete Lunabots—rendered insane by a malfunctioning Obs chip—being executed by the functionary security officer. Is it a flashback?

Then we jump to the Lost Light, and then we realize it is a flashback, but one from the alternate reality that the new Rewind—rescued after the whole time-lost Lost Light occurrence—remembers. Rewind and Chromedome try to figure out what’s going on. “What’s happening to me,” Rewind asks.

In the morgue, we see Megatron examining the remains of Trailcutter while discussing how Brainstrom, revealed as a Decepticon double agent—escaped. It turns out that Brainstorm had been building a time machine on the ship by smuggling components on board using his ever-present suitcase.

Back to alt Cybertron, Minimus discovers to his horror that his spark-brother Dominus had been disfigured by the functionists. Dominus has been turned into a flathead—his face turned into a screen—the new version of the dreaded Empurata method of control (Shockwave and Whirl went through that). “They’re co-opting every aspect of our lives,” Dominus states. We cut to the meeting of the functionist council and their declaration that data-slugs will now be classified as obsolete—meaning Rewind’s life is in danger.

Back on the Lost Light, Perceptor and the others have figured out that Brainstorm tried to kill all the Autobots in Swerve’s by poisoning their drinks, but the Autobots were saved because Swerve actually watered down their drinks. As expected non-drinkers Rung and Ultra Magnus weren’t affected but a prepared Brainstorm used a disaggregator gun to slow him down. Brainstorm has traveled back in time to try and change the course of the Autobot-Decepticon war by changing just one event. The Autobots will have to travel back and prevent that, because Megatron knows exactly what Brainstorm will do: “It’s obvious. He’s going to kill Orion Pax.”

It is obvious how terrifying this alt Cybertron is. After the functionist council’s decision, the Cybertronians who become data-slugs are dying. Dominus now has his vocabulary taken away from him and Minimus realizes that the council had been watching and listening to everything he and Rewind have been talking about, because the council had switched out Minimus’ eyes for surveillance cameras. Rewind believes he is safe, because he has been secreted into a safe place and Dominus deactivated his Obs chip. Rewind now intends to fight back against the functionists. But there’s something he doesn’t know. “What about the backup,” the functionists ask through Dominus. The issue ends with Rewind apparently dying and the functionists reminding us: “We are your eyes.”

That is just a whopping take on a possible Cybertron timeline, the one where this version of Rewind may have come from. It is dystopian and dark, and it’s a shame that it might be just a single-issue wonder. The scene depicting the functionist council and the constant reminders of the bit-bot-brother presence make for a frightening future indeed. The functionists are what Megatron has been railing against from the beginning, and this is most likely a vision of what Cybertron was like without the violent Autobot-Decepticon conflict.

There are a lot of nice little nods to continuity, such as Rewind’s little dig at the Pretenders on page two, Mags’ teetotaler nature saving him from Brainstorm’s poison, and Megatron having a momentary tantrum. “On this ship, a minor breakdown is practically a rite of passage,” says Magnus.

That being said, it might be an overly complicated distraction from the main action of the issue, which is the leaders of the Lost Light crew realizing the full extent of Brainstorm’s betrayal, what with the time-travel plot to kill the ‘bot who would be Optimus Prime. All that hints at the events of the coming issue. Nevertheless, “MTMTE” # 35 is the kind of take-a-risk narrative that no one would have thought possible before Roberts came along. Now, it feels like greatness is routine, but he can still surprise. Will we see more of the functionist regime that Rewind has seen?

The real trick of this issue is that Rewind is in both the alternate reality and the present one, something that also mirrors the fact that one Rewind (the original) is clearly dead and this Rewind is someone else no matter what Chromedome would like to think.

Next time: The Transformers # 36!

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