IDW Publishing Spotlight #11 Blaster Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: January 23, 2008
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Emiliano Santalucia
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Color assist by: Andrew Elder, Liam Shalloo, Espen Grundetjern
Letters by: Neil Uyetake
Edits by: Chris Ryall and Andrew Steven Harris
Once upon a time, the Autobot known as Blaster was "The Voice", a rallying cry of inspiration for Autobots stuck on the front lines fighting insurmountable odds. But now, he is damaged and floating in space, wrecked until one day he is delivered to the autobot Command Hub by an Ilxian freighter.
Onboard the Autobot space station, Blaster is patched up as Silverbolt and Perceptor explain that they do not know who attempted to destroy him. Silverbolt explains all the security footage was scrubbed, meaning this had to have been an inside job! This stunning revelation takes a piece out of Blaster's very core, making him question the very torops he is meant to inspire. As he watches video of his old broadcsts, he is suddenly attacked again! He survives and his assailant disappears, but once again the footage is unclear, showing only a faint shadow of his attacker. Blaster is not deterred however, he is going to find out who has done this - one way or another!
Once again, Blaster takes to the airwaves, inspiring Autobots again with his tough and inspirational talk. Then - he waits for his attacker to come again. As he does so, he remembers the time he was betrayed. Reporting to his usual post, he thought he was going to amp up the Autobots shortly after the assault by Thunderwing. The Decepticons used the chaos following that event to push into Autobot territory, and Blaster saw his role as inspiring them to fight back. However, before he could do so he was betrayed! Shortly thereafter the big push happened, and he wasn't there for those he valued the most: his comrades.
Sadly, Blaster's expectation of betrayal is justified as a grenade is tossed into the section his broadcast is coming from. However, this was all part of the plan! Blaster reveals himself to the Autobot who has betrayed him: Beachcomber! The two fight as Beachcomber explains he has no control over his own actions thanks to a cerebro-shell implanted into his mind by Bombshell, courtesy of Soundwave! Blaster eventually overpowers Beachcomber, but he talks him into defeating the cerebro-shell himself through sheer willpower. Unfortunately, the effort damages part of his neo-cortex, rendering him non-functional. Blaster is more than upset. He knows he has work to do at the Hub, but once he is done he intends to find Soundwave and stop him for good!
I've always been a fan of a good "whodunit" and Spotlight Blaster definitely delivers the goods! This issue introduces some fantastic concepts while also giving us a fun mystery. I love the idea that Blaster's role in the Autobot army was not just a communications officer, but also one who used his inspirational skills to keep the troops going. I think that despite the Transformers being sentient characters, sometimes it is easy to forget that they too need things like inspiration since they are machines. It's easy to think "They're programmed to do XYZ so that's what they do." when in fact like humans, they all have motivations, fears and desires. By having Blaster serve as an "inspirational speaker" it really emphasizes the emotional side of the conflict between Autobots and Decepticons. The various images of Autobots huddled on the battlefield waiting to hear Blaster's voice are heart wrenching when you learn he never got back on air to inspire them in battle that day.
The mystery aspect is great because it uses a previously established conceit, yet it never occurred to me. I think if this story had taken place in the G1 continuity on Earth, I would have thought "Oh, it must be that dastardly Bombshell and his cerebro-shells!", but with the IDW Universe turning things upside down and around, we can no longer assume everything that applied in G1 applies here, and this is one of those cases where something from G1 is used as a plot device, but you don't see it coming because you don't expect it. Using Beachcomber was a perfect choice. After all, who would suspect the little guy with pacifist tendencies to be an assassin? I'm reminded of G1 Bumblebee's motto "The least likely can be the most dangerous" and that definitely applies here!
On another level, it is cool to see Blaster go through a crisis of his own faith. Going back to my earlier point that the Transformers are sentient, emotional beings, I think it's more than appropriate that he would be shaken after suffering such a trauma. I would have thought it inauthentic if he had simply hopped back onto his role as "inspirational speaker" without a hitch. This story makes perfect sense, taking us through a character arc from a confident speaker to wounded warrior to someone who has to find their faith again. It is a great touch that despite his attacker being a fellow Autobot, he understands the greater circumstances at work and that he has a greater responsibility to the Autobot army.
The pencils in this book are courtesy of Emiliano Santalucia, whose name is new to me. Santalucia proves himself a deft artist as he manages to adapt several Transformers into Cybertronain-esque designs while keeping them very recognizable. Blaster himself has the same basic form one would expct, including the chest panel that looks like it can open up and a head design with two antennae and helmet pieces that cover his nose and forehead. I love the touch of having his knee armor look like speakers (and serve a functional role in his vehicle mode). It strikes me that the shape and proportions of some of his upper body actually resemble the G1 Action Master Blaster figure, which I've always liked despite the stigma surrounding that toy line.
Speaking of Action Masters, we get one of those and other cameos galore. Seeing Perceptor with Blaster is a perfect fit as the two were part of the same group of Autobots surviving underground on Cybertron in the G1 comic book series. It's also great to see the likes of the Omnibot Downshift, the Throttlebot Searchlight and the Action Master Kick-Off all appearing in the background. Santalucia manages to draw each of these characters with clearly identifiable features, some borrowing from the cartoon and others from their respective action figures. He also has a good eye for detail, with critical bits like tubes on necks and joints being drawn intricately instead of just formless parts.
Josh Burcham and the coloring crew did fantastic work on this issue. With a lot of the action taking place in space and on a space station, there are a lot of glowing parts here from the Autobots' eyes to the control stations that the Autobots use. Most of the Autobots shown match their G1 colors very well with the odd exception of Broadside whois colored beige for some reason. This book manages to give us bright, bold colors when necessary and muted colors to match the mood of certain panels. It's a great combination that is not always easy to achieve.
Spotlight Blaster is a real fun romp in the Transformers universe. It makes for a cool mystery and the artwork is pure eye candy, especially with the cameos galore. I also enjoy seeing how Blaster's role weaved into the events of Thunderwing's past apocalyptic assault that serves as the backstory to the "Stormbringer" mini-series. Highly recommended!