Friday, March 27, 2015

Quick Switch: The Transformers # 38!

After spinning its wheels for so long, “The Transformers” # 38 amounts to an intense conclusion where all the loose ends writer John Barber has laid out need to be definitively tied up because the next issue, # 39, is the first chapter of the much anticipated Combiner Wars storyarc.

Thus everything that happens in “TF” # 38 has a purpose, and the issue marches along grimly going about its business. Over Bikini Atoll, Thundercracker sees that the humans’ secret weapon—an armada of automatons based on the corpses of Ramjet and Thurst—is heading towards civilian territory. Thundercracker wants to stop this at all costs, so he strikes a deal with Soundwave, who is busy setting up the Decepticon sanctuary in Tanzania. Soundwave can shut the clones down, but can’t find a reason to do so, considering the humans built the drones without informing the Decepticons, their so-called allies.

Whether he is convinced by Thundercracker’s plea or because he is just sick of listening, Soundwave effectively turns the clones off. “Please Thundercracker, I care not for screenplays or Earthlings. Do not contact me again. Our relationship ends here,” Soundwave warns.

Betraying Spike, Prowl combines with the Combaticons to attack the secret lab in China as Devastator. But the gestalt gets confused because of conflicting desires. Prowl wants to recover the legendary Enigma of Combination, but the Constructicons want to kill Spike in revenge for the human’s execution of their late leader Scrapper. Galvatron’s Decepticons arrive and get in the big fight against a now out-of-control Devastator.

Just in time, the Autobots arrive, with Sky Lynx battling Devastator. Sideswipe and Kup reconnect with Arcee. Arcee then talks Devastator down. The humans—Marissa Fairborne and G.B. Blackrock—are pretty much just window-dressing while Spike basically gets away with everything he’s done.

On board Sky Lynx back in lunar orbit, Prowl gets mad at Arcee. “You colluded with the enemy,” he yells. “At least I didn’t become him,” Arcee answers. Prowl will have to answer to Optimus Prime as he led this mission against Prime’s expressed wishes.

The last segment shows that the Decepticons know that someone has stolen the Enigma from right under their noses. But they know who did it: the long-standing and pretty obvious mole, the former Autobot Scoop, who is clearly bringing the Engima to Cybertron—to be handed over to his leader, the chosen one, Starscream. “There it shall—as I have always said—cause the utter destruction of Cybertronian society,” Galvatron predicts.

Despite the issue being essentially one long fight scene, “TF” # 38 finally puts to an end this rather extended and sometimes tiresome story which really had one goal: to bring back into Cybertronian hands the long-lost Enigma of Combination, for the sole purpose of setting off the next chapter. To be fair, Barber plotted this issue well, getting from point A to B effectively, and artist Andrew Griffith has always done heavy metal very well.

By the end of the issue, the Enigma is the only thing that has changed, moving from human hands potentially into a power-hungry Cybertronian’s hands. Everything else remains the same. Thundercracker is the pacifist ‘bot with a dog. Soundwave continues to carry out his new Decepticon agenda—and Galvatron is carrying out his. Prowl remains arrogant and now seemingly a bit unhinged—his agent Arcee turns out to be more sensible than him.

All this will be put aside for now, because, finally, Combiner Wars is about to begin, and it looks both really dark and really good.

Next: The Transformers # 39!

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