IDW Publishing "Infiltration" #3

in 2005, Comic Book Review, Generation One

IDW Publishing

General Information:
Cover Price: $2.95 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: EJ Su
Colors by: John Rauch
Letters by: Tom B. Long
Edits by: Chris Ryall & Dan Taylor


Cover A Cover B Cover C Cover D
Incentive Cover A Incentive Cover B Incentive Cover C

Synopsis:
Inside the Ark-19, Verity, Hunter and Jimmy are being kept in confinement as the Autobots debate as to what to do with them. Ratchet and Prowl disagree severely over his actions leading up to their rescue. Ratchet is concerned, feeling that the time has come to alert Optimus Prime, especially if the Decepticons have entered "Siege Mode". Prowl disagrees, but the other Autobots have heard his arguments, including Ironhide whom he tries to pursuade one more time.

Arizona:
A police officer is investigation the death of the businessman from the bus. We learn his name is "Finklerock" and he had deliberately picked a very scluded trailer to live in. Just before the officer and the landlord are about to enter, Skywarp and Blitzwing appear in the sky and destroy the trailer completely! They quickly disappear, leaving nothing to investigate.

Ark-19:
Verity is no a happy camper. She continues yelling at the camera in her cell until Ratchet's hologram appears. He convinces her to let him look at the data on the SM-40 computer, explaining that Wheeljack has set up an interface to read the data. After some reluctance, Verity relents and hands Ratchet the computer.

Elsewhere in the Ark, Ironhide stands over a transmission panel, wrestling with the idea of what to do. Finally he settles on a decision - activating a signal to Optimus Prime!

Inside the cell, Ratchet looks over pictures of a scrapped Decepticon headquarters in Nebraska. While the one in Oregon seems to be functional, it is a mystery as to why this one was abandoned. He is also puzzled because it is to early for Siege Mode to go into effect. One thing is for sure - the Autobots have a mystery on their hands!

California:
Reporters are gathered at the site of Jimmy's garage (or what's left of it). Suddenly, Skywarp and Blitzwing appear! This time Blitzwing uses his tank form to tear through the streets and then obliterate the garage. Once again the pair leaves, this time with a reporter praying her cameramen got the shot!

Ark-19:
The humans offer to help Ratchet uncover the mystery of the Nebraska bunker. Ratchet wrestles with his conscience, not wanting to put the humans at risk again after everything they have already been through. Bumblebee decides to offer his own two cents. He thinks the risk is worth it, and not doing something now could lead to disastrous consequences later. He offers to go with Ratchet as well for backup and finally the Autobot medic relents.

Arizona:
The bus that Verity and Finklerock travelled on is in the maintenance bay back at the bus company's base. A worker is about to call someone about it when suddenly it is completely destroyed! Skywarp and Blitzwing are on the prowl again - and Starscream assigns them a new target: the Nebraska Bunker!

To Be Continued...

Story:
Throughout the history of Transformers fiction, a lot of themes have run through the various incarnations of the basic "Autobot versus Decepticon" story. One of the constants (especially with G1-era characters) is the duplicity and treachery of Starscream. In the original series, time and time again we saw Starscream hard at work to depose Megatron and take the leadership of the Decepticons from his commander. Time and time again we also saw him fail.

Thus far we have seen Starscream in charge of the Decepticon forces, knowing full well Megatron is waiting in the wings somewhere. The beginng of this issue bolsters the thinking that calling in the leaders of the respective factions is a last resort as they no doubt have tons of other matters to attend to. However, we now get the most blatant indicators that Starscream is not acting under Megatron's orders (or preferred tactics). Sending Skywarp and Blitzwing to destroy all the evidence of the events of the last few issues shows he is covering his tracks, and the abandoned base indicates that perhaps Starscream moved his operations so he could be out of the watchful eye of his leader.

I prefer this take on the classic "Starscream is up to something" storyline. It starts telling us the tale in the middle, and counter to the title's rather slow pacing thus far, this particular plotline hits the ground running. Clearly to have built a base, abandoned it and built another, all this planning must have been going on for quite some time now. This way, the story avoids the usual "Megatron beats up Starscream for saying something stupid, then Starscream gets mad and THEN plots something..." tale (granted, that could have happened previous to this series starting of course).

The interaction between Prowl and Ratchet is well played, and in many ways this is the Prowl we rarely get to see. Prowl is often said to be logical to a fault, but often he is portrayed as a fairly emotional character who uses logic just about as much as anyone else, not more. This Prowl is truly one who sees a logical path and is stuck on it, unable to be flexible in his thinking. Ratchet's argument works well for the reader because in this hypothetical tale, we readers are the ones potentially threatened here. In that respect, both characters play their roles very well.

Being a big Bumblebee fan, I love his portrayal in this issue. Some of his best attributes are touched on in the matter of a couple pages. He's brave, he's the risk taker and he manages to listen in on Ratchet's whole conversation skulking about in the dark. Most of all, he backs up his friend. Fantastic job.

Artwork:

Previous issues were sparse on robot mode appearances, but we get a ton of eye candy in this issue courtesy of the huge two page splash of the Ark-19 interior. I'm really digging EJ Su's redesigns of classic character forms. Every single one is recognizable as the character it is meant to represent, not just in color or head design, but in body as well. Bumblebee still has feet representing the front section of his vehicle mode, Jazz still has a stylish sports car front section as his chest and Ironhide and Ratchet share a similar van-based body form. While we only see him from the back, even Wheeljack is immediately identifiable by the car portion showing with its ridged window covering.

Some cool parallels exist between modern-day Transformers figures and EJ Su's designs. Sunstreaker (as mentioned in the review of last issue) has design aspects reminscent of the Alternators Sunstreaker figure with its windshield on the chest being the biggest one. Meanwhile, Ratchet and Ironhide share some design details with their equivalents from last year's Botcon exclusive toy set. Of course, this in turn is based on Energon Tow-Line's sculpt. The doors on the shoulders and of course the requisite "windshield on chest" designs are the most obvious, along with the head sculpts. These add to any credibility that these forms could transform rather than "cheating" many parts as many G1 comic book/animation models did.

Thanks to the appearance of the Autobots, the colors brighten up a notch in this issue. Whereas the aesthetic of this book has heavily leaned towards a moody, tannish tone, the Autobots are all brightly colored and eye catching. It is nice to see their color schemes were not altered to subdue them.

Final Thoughts:
While this issue is a good, the pacing of the series is beginning to concern me. I am okay with the slow burn approach - but the page where Ironhide makes the decision to contact Optimus Prime felt too drawn out. Three panels was just too much. I think I'd feel less about this if say, his eyes squinted or something in the middle panel - but nope, almost an entire page goes to just Ironhide deciding to contact Prime (using the exact same art). The preview pictures indicate the next issue will ramp things up and I hope so. Three issues and one preview issue later it is time to step things up.