IDW Publishing "Autocracy" #2 Comic Book Review
Cover Price: $.99 (Digital Exclusive)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: February 1, 2012
Story by: Chris Metzen & Flint Dille
Art by: Livio Ramondelli
Letters by: Robbie Robbins
Editor: John Barber & Carlos Guzman
In Iacon's Citadel Zeta Prime holds a meeting of a council of delegates to address the growing problem of Megatron and his Decepticon forces. The senators are not impressed even as Zeta tries to appeal to their fear, citing free recruiting by the Decepticons in Nyon. Zeta's intention is to win this war once and for all, starting with reviving one of Jhiaxus' projects: the Vamparc Ribbon cannon. Before he can demonstrate the cannon, Starscream appears in the chambers with a dramatic flourish. As he trades verbal jabs with Zeta Prime, he puts down a device unseen to the others in the room with a clear lense on top to record the proceedings. Zeta continues with his demonstration, using the captured Swindle as his subject!
Elsewhere, Orion is sparring with Ultra Magnus. He gets a bit wild and blames his frustration in not making more headway against the Decepticons. Even as Magnus tries to offer advice, Orion wonders sometimes if they are indeed on the right side.
In the Citadel, Zeta Prime addresses a senator's earlier question about where the weapon would draw power from by using the Vamparc Cannon to drain power from Swindle and then he fires it into the air, destroying part of the chamber. He explains that the energy cannot be stored long and must be released quickly. The senators are outraged, even more so when Zeta explains he has outfitted the "Omega Destructors" with a large scale version of the weapon! Those versions however require more power than one Transformer can provide, so Zeta explains he has already begun siphoning power from the less affluent areas of Cybertron without telling anyone, starting with Nyon!
As the Senators protest, Zeta suddenly spots the device Starscream put down. Before they realize it, the device has transformed into Soundwave! The Decepticon makes haste to retreat before the Autobots can stop him. Zeta Prime orders Orion to get the Decepticon and the information he carries back. Orion swears to bring him back - dead or alive!
I generally read a book a few times before composing my thoughts on it. I want my initial, visceral reaction and then more thoughtful contemplation. Then one read through is about the artwork and how it feeds the story. As I went through this process for "Autocracy" #2 I realized that my sense of dread grew and grew with each reading. Where does that come from? In a somewhat ironic twist, it comes from knowing exactly how the story shown here is going to ultimately end. It's no secret that in time Zeta Prime will be gone and Optimus Prime will take over. Nor is it a secret that Cybertron will be plunged into a great age of darkness and civil war. Thanks to previous IDW titles, we know that Cybertron will become nothing but an uninhabitable pit of despair once this war kicks into high gear, and the sense of dread comes from knowing that future is coming the way a freight train approaches you as your feet are stuck on the train tracks.
With almost every speech balloon from Zeta Prime, it's like watching pieces of Cybertronian society fall apart one by one. His fanatacism rivals Megatron's own and his methods are absolutely brutal - not something you'd expect to hear about an Autobot leader! His abuse of Swindle as a "test subject" is particularly gruesome to watch, and I found myself wincing a bit as he used the Vamparc weapon on the helpless Decepticon.
In this issue, Orion serves to echo the reader's thoughts: whose side is the "right" one here? Especially given the events in the Citadel chamber. it's hard to buy into the traditional line of Autobots being all about protecting others and being the pure "good guys". Instead, we get a brilliant look at just why the Decepticons finally lost their minds and became world conquering war mongers: because they never wanted to be under the oppression of figureheads like Zeta Prime ever again. The idea that they are freedom fighters and heroes has been floated around before in "Transformers" lore, but this is certainly one of the most brutal displays of how the Decepticons may have actually had a point. Mind you, Zeta's offenses don't stop at the Vamparc weapon. The fact that he is willing to drain power away from unsuspecting citizens and create a powerful military backing without the council's approval offers a frightening look at a megalomaniac in the making. It's a brilliantly scary story and I can't wait to see more of it.
Livio Ramondelli's art continues to impress. This issue has a lot of tight shots and speech based sections, so there's less action for him to draw but he still manages to frame the panels in a way that adds to the tension. Zeta Prime's relatively dispassionate looking face is positively creepy given the words that are ocming out of his vocal processor. Contrast that with the absolute look of pain and terror on Swindle's face and you really do feel for the character. The lighting is also great on the characters. For most of Zeta Prime's speech, he is practically bathed in a beautiful blue light, almost angelic (an image boosted by the wings on his back), but when he tests the Vamparc cannon, the entire color tone changes, making him seem more like an avenging angel instead! I also really dug Ramondelli's design of the Vamparc cannon, which looks like it has claws at the end that "grab" the power away from Swindle. Creepy and cool all at the same time!
"Autocracy" #2 continues the story of the early days of Orion Pax well. We get a good look at the political climate the future Optimus Prime had to work under and see how it may have influenced him. At the same time we see the very civility of the Cybertronian society crumbling right in front of us. "Autocracy" #2 is a striking book that offers a really nice bridge from the first action based issue to this more political story. Highly recommended!