IDW Publishing: "More than Meets the Eye" #10 Comic Book Review
Title: "Shadowplay Part 2: Patternism"
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: October 31, 2012
Written by: James Roberts
Art by: Alex Milne
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor by: John Barber
Before the war, in the Translucentica Heights, Chromedome is on his hovercraft giving chase to a person of interest. The Transformer manages to evade him for a bit, but soon crashes against some glass and then a billboard that destroys him! Soon, Chromedome enters the Sherma's apartment and finds Prowl "reading the room", basically taking what he sees in front of him and reversing it to come up with a theory of the crime. Red Alert shows up too, and eventually the Autobots find a Decepticon shrine and a datapad. Suddenly, a second attacker appears and charges out the window, transforming into a jet and firing into the apartment!
In the present day, a shuttle docks in The Lost Light. Ultra Magnus has returned from a recon mission. Now the Autobots are investigating Red Alert's attack. He's alive, but his Spark is weak. Magnus blames Cyclonus, who sits in an interrogation room with Drift. Cyclonus denies attacking Red Alert, because if he had truly wanted the Autobot dead, he would be. First Aid's analysis agrees based on the evidence at hand.
Back in the past, Orion Pax arrives on the scene, landing on the flier and bringing him down. Unfortunately, the Transformer dies before they can question him - his Spark burning out! Orion suggests they look into a practice called "Bodygloving", where Sparks were forcibly inserted into bodies that weren't ready for them. The stress caused subject Sparks to overheat due to the physical or mental stress. Before Orion can do anything else, he is called away to Luna 2, Cybertron's second moon!
On Luna 2, Whirl is in prison, damaged and being beaten by the other prisoners. He warns that a Senator is going to be killed by a bomb that is hidden in "plain sight". Whirl isn't doing this for the greater good however, he wants revenge on the Senate and he wants Orion to crush them.
Back on Cybertron at the Academy of Advanced Technology, Skids and the Autobots try to get Orion's Senator friend to safety. Elsewhere, Prowl and Chromedome watch a Decepticon protest speaking out against the government. They speculate where all these protests are leading, but Prowl doubts there will be war, and even if there was he would leave.
Soon, the pair go to the clinic where they watch the news while waiting. They meet Trepan, a worker at the facility. Soon, they realize they're at "The Institute", where brain modules are stripped down and reprogrammed. This science is not formally acknowledged, but rather is referred to as "Shadowplay". The intention is to wipe out the Decepticon urge to rebel, and they would be targeted by the Decepticon "Registration Act". However, failing that, this bomb plot will make the Decepticons the "bad guys" forever! Orion realizes after thinking this over that the bomb itself is being housed in a "fake" Matrix in Nominus Prime's body at the "Primal Basilica". The destruction of his body at such a revered site would lead to war, and Orion knows what they have to do: steal the Matrix!
I'm a big fan of police style procedurals. Law & Order remains one of my favorite franchises in TV history and I also enjoy more "high octane" style shows like the current Hawaii Five 0. It seems to be in the spirit of such shows that this issue was put together. As a crime procedural with a big conspiracy angle, this story totally works. I like the pairing of Chromedome with Prowl and it's interesting to see comments from characters that differ from how we would know them later (Prowl's remark about what he would do if war broke out is one good example).
It's also cool to see this isn't a straight forward "One guy got killed, cops investigate, case solved". Instead, the conspiracy gets bigger and bigger as the issue goes along, with some horrifying implications such as the "Institute". This really shows how corrupt the Senate had become, where such machinations could occur. This bolsters the argument that the Decepticon cause began with some legitimate grievances (but then spun out of control). I can't speak for anyone else, but for me it's almost sad to watch, like a movie where you know the ending is bad. Everything shown in the past in this issue is a prelude to a horrible war that would decimate Cybertron, and there's an inherent tension from that. If this were a cartoon, I'd expect ominous music to be playing in the background constantly in this issue!
My only reservation about this flashback crime/conspiracy tale is that it takes us away from the story going on inside The Lost Light. I want to know the repurcussions of Red Alert's find, how the crew will deal with it in the "now" but it appears it will be serveral issues until that happens. It causes a bit of a disruptive flow in the narrative, mostly because the flashback story only has peripheral ties with the main story (thus far). If say, we were looking at flashbacks related to Overlord or even Megatron's "Phase" program it would make a lot more sense. However thus far I can't see any tie between the flashback story and the Overlord story outside of some characters appearing in both narratives. I like the idea of the Autobots trying to help Rung with their "talk therapy", but I do wish the "present day" story would move forward beyond dribs and drabs.
Alex Milne's artwork is a joy to behold. The artwork in the IDW books has become more...experimental in recent time. Tons of exaggerated character designs have popped up with Transformers that wind up largely out of proportion, rounded and less "industrial" than I prefer. The way Milne draws Transformers, they look like machines (albeit living ones). Lots of rectangular parts, hard angles and proportions that make sense for balance. At the same time his detail work is extremly robust. The panel showing Cybertron and Luna 2 is amazingly detailed with buildings and ships drawn in detail. The panel inside the Institute is choc full of detail (including Medical Drones based on Megatron's "Diagnostic Drone" from "Beast Machines").
I enjoyed this issue but I'm eager for the "present day" story to continue. A good "caper" issue, but if you're looking for progress on the Lost Light storyline this isn't the issue that does it.