Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On: Transformers # 37!

AFTER the freakish weather in the real-life United States caused a delay in the delivery of IDW Publishing’s Transformers titles, the Cybertronian comic books are back, and we begin with “Transformers” # 37.
            Once the series received its new streamlined title, writer John Barber ironically has packed so much material into “Transformers” that entire splashes are left to exposition. This is because Barber has decided to go whole hog into the mythology of this continuity. Thundercracker has been circling Bikini Atoll and its secret armada of Earth-made Conehead (Ramjet and Thrust) clones. In Tokyo, Arcee and the human Jimmy Pink face off against a determined Galvatron and the Decepticons. Galvatron seems to be playing some mind tricks on Arcee, trying to convince the Autobot assassin to change her mind about her loyalty to Prowl.
            Speaking of Prowl, he and Spike have a long discussion. Spike is taken aback when Prowl reveals it was Galvatron who killed Spike’s father Gen. Witwicky (we know this to be true; Galvatron is peddling the convenient lie that it was Prowl’s doing instead). In Shanghai, we get the big one: G.B. Blackrock (that’s who he is and I’m sticking with that) explains the entire story behind how humans found the elusive Enigma of Combination and built civilization around it. Blackrock now has the Enigma, and has profited handsomely from it. Now, of course, the Cybertronians on both sides want it back.
            There’s a lot of double talk going on here. “No one should have the Enigma,” Galvatron says (don’t quite believe him) but returns to the Decepticons at Mount Fuji (who are playing a stupid game with Pink to kill time) with a surprisingly quiet Arcee in tow.

            Meanwhile, Prowl and Spike have agreed to work together. Spike breaks into the Blackrock facility. Prowl gives the word and he merges with the Constructicons to form Devastator. “Constructicons, remember the mission, secure the Enigma, Spike is just a target of opportunity,” Prowl says as they attack the complex.
            Yes, Prowl has just betrayed Spike. “Prowl, you bastard, we had a deal,” Spike yells (Gotta agree with Spike on this one; Prowl’s being a douche). Blackrock isn’t worried though, the man has a plan. He punches some buttons and—voila—the secret Seeker armada in Bikini Atoll isn’t so secret anymore. All the Conehead clones are heading for China.
            That’s a lot of action in one issue. “Transformers” # 37 just goes past you with Barber and artist Andrew Griffith just pushing everything through the panels. There’s a weird, cramped vibe to the storytelling, as if the two are being hurried to get through this issue. It’s certainly an eventful, action-packed issue. But the whole Prowl-will-betray-you-again thing as well as the Galvatron-is-turning-Arcee gambit is giving me a bit of a headache. That’s nothing, of course, compared to the nosebleed you’ll get from the Blackrock lecture on the Engima of Combination.
            Even if the whole thing feels just a little bit jerry-rigged together, that is a lot of story in one issue, and the overall plot of “Transformers” feels like it moved forward a lot with # 37. Think about this: we know now where the Enigma is, and the secret human-built robot army has been launched, narrative genies you cannot out back in a chrome bottle. It ultimately succeeds in making you want to find out what happens next, and that is all you can ask for.

Next time: Transformers Punishment one-shot!

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