IDW Publishing: "More than Meets the Eye" #7 Comic Book Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: August 1, 2012
Written by: James Roberts
Art by: Alex Milne
Colors by: Josh Burcham & Joanna Lafuente
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Editor: John Barber
The Decepticons known as Tarn, Helex, Kaon and Tesarus have captured the "Phase Six" Decepticon known as Black Shadow. Tortured, dismembered and near death, Tarn finds himself wondering why it is that Megatron's greatest creations have a tendency to rebel. While Black Shadow was responsible for many Decepticon victories, he also was responsible for destroying a fleet of Decepticon War Worlds when the Auobots paid him off. Black Shadow tells the Decepticon group that the war is over, but Tarn refuses to accept the war is over until Megatron says so. Then, using his ability to tune his voice to a Spark, Tarn finishes the job and destroys Black Shadow once and for all!
Meanwhile, on the Lost Light, Autobots are visiting the damaged Rung, who is still alive despite having his head blown off by accident during Fortress Maximus' rampage. Red Alert visits him last, and believes Rung was attacked as a way to silence him about the "voice" Red Alert heard (which he later learned was the Decepticon Overlord!). He only trusts Rung and leaves a data slug in the hands of the Autobot before leaving the room.
On the world of Clemency, a small group of Decepticons are moving through a battlefield with corpses everywhere. The group is led by Krok and consists of Misfire, Spinister, Flywheels and Crankcase. They find the body of a Decepticon who survived the battle named Fulcrum and he joins their group. They explain that they are there to recover Energon from corpses, but the Decepticons have a hard time not sampling the goods while they're at it!
The Lost Light
Chromedome stops by Brainstorm's lab to check on the status of an examination he requested. Specifically, he handed over Skids' blaster weapon to Brainstorm to analyze. The Autobot explains that when he tried to look into it, the gun exploded! Still, he was able to figure out it can hold two cartridges and thus has named it the "Binary Gun". He also believes that it was created in an ominous place known only as The Institute.
The Decepticons led by Krok are gathered around a camp fire. Krok explains that he was separated from his crew and has been trying to catch up with them ever since. Along the way he's collected stragglers such as Flywheels and Misfire. The sector they are in is filled with Decepticon corpses from the days when thousands of Transformers battled across multiple worlds while Optimus Prime and Megatron both directed the war from the safety of "Omniglobes", rooms that allowed them to absorb the enormity of information from multiple battlefields all at once. Krok goes on to explain that it doesn't matter much now since the war is over. Fulcrum is shocked by this. Krok explains that all Transformers received the same message: the war is over and the Transformers could return home to Cybertron. All isn't peaceful however as we see the "fire" is really the burning body of an Autobot! Krok puts the robot out of its misery with some well placed shots to the head.
The Lost Light
In the medical bay, the body of Rung still lies dormant. Someone enters and takes the data slug from Rung's hand and leaves, with the Autobot still unaware of what is going on around him.
The Decepticons on the dead world have found something amazing: a Decepticon "Worldsweeper" ship, one of the most powerful craft in the Decepticon army, crashed onto the planet. As they explore, they find all sorts of strangeness including brains on the ceiling, partial Decepticon corpses and then a recording by Tarn himself! The recording explains one of the seven on the ship has "transgressed" and must be punished. The Decepticons are confused, realizing there are only seven of them - until they enter a chamber to find the body of the Dinobot Grimlock in stasis!
My head's kind of spinning as I think about this issue, and I've reread it several times since it came out. As much as I hate to say it, I'm not crazy about the pacing of this issue. There are some fantastic ideas here and most are pulled off really nicely but I found the constant cutting back and forth a bit too much this time. Normally this would work if we were to focus on characters we knew already, but if you're going to introduce several new characters (and dispose of one in the process) and then toss us to a dead world with a bunch of loonies and then go back to The Lost Light, the issue begins to feel like it lacks cohesiveness, especially when you ignore addressing some of the repurcussions of the last issue (Fortress Maximus doesn't even appear in flashback form here). It almost feels like some of this story could have been told better if it had been taken out, put into a different issue that takes place before this one and allowed this issue to focus on the "A" or "B" story instead of cramming three stories into one.
All that said, there are some interesting threads here. Tarn and his followers make for really formidable foes. if they were able to take down Black Shadow (a "Phase Sixer") by themselves, that means they're pretty darn ultra powerful. I also like the idea of Megatron having his own "Decepticon Justice" team that just goes around like fanatics doing his will. I also like the idea of naming all of them after Decepticon cities (Kaon etc.) as it adds to a level of grandeur for each. It's also an especially nasty touch to have each of them transform into torture machines of some sort or another. If these Transformers are indeed the embodiment of Megatron's will and vision of justice, then it shows just how twisted Megatron truly is. Kudos to Milne and the team for also designing some really creepy but cool looking designs. I love the "double Fusion Cannon" on Tarn and Kaon's wacky "torture chair" form. The robots are each relatively distinctive, with Tarn echoing design cues from Armada Megatron while Kaon looks almost like an 18th Century "Steampunk" style Transformer. I'm curious where this story will lead and if we'll ever see these guys in full combat. It'll be a heck of a visual that's for sure!
The story on The Lost Light feels like could have been pushed off into the next issue to allow focus on the Decepticon stories. Sure it's cool that Rung somehow survived his experience (though alive hardly means he's in good shape) and I enjoy seeing Red Alert's paranoia continue. I also think there's a wonderful bit of intrigue to be had in the form of the mystery 'bot who steals the data slug. It was also cool to see Ratchet, Ambulon and First Aid working together as a medical team. Seeing Chromedome and Brainstorm have a scene together is nice (and I enjoy Brainstorm's wackiness). Call me old fashioned, but I like it when Transformers of a particular "team" interact even if they aren't part of it in this continuity. In this case, the pair were "Headmasters" in G1 so seeing them as friends is fun. Still, these scenes don't add anything to the other stories and instead act more as a distraction and it feels like a disservice to the story happening onboard The Lost Light overall.
The third story is perhaps my favorite of the three, the tale of a bunch of lost warriors scavenging for fuel on a dead planet. First, they put together several characters from toys that I don't necesarily "lump" together into a group. There isn't any mention of special abilities here, but this unique team consists of characters I've long associated with "sub-groups" of Transformers, but to see them here with their personalities as their distinguishing feature, not abilities is fun. They're all quirky, and not necesarily in pleasant ways making for some fun interaction. I'm particularly amused by Flywheels' inability to tell a lie without transforming and Spinister's delusions. I also find it cool that Krok of all the warriors is in command since he played a similar "lieutenant" role in the Generation One Marvel comic book. Overall, I wish this portion of the story had gotten a few more pages for us to explore these wacky characters and perhaps learn more about the "Worldsweeper" ship they found.
The discovery at the end of the issue is really interesting and makes you wonder if it ties into the events of "Robots in Disguise" #8, which features the rest of the Dinobot team. Kudos to the writers however for going so many issues of both titles without bringing in Grimlock. However, I have been sort of wondering what happened to the big guy and I guess we'll soon have our answer!
I would be remiss if I didn't show some appreciation for some of the callbacks to previous Transformers generations. In the Medibay, it would appear that the Autobots employ "Beast Machines" style Drones (one of which Megatron was stuck in for a while in that series). In the scene with Brainstorm, the world Hydrus 4 is mentioned. In the G1 continuity, this was the planet where Grimlock took his warriors to infuse them with Nucleon (a story currently being dealt with in "Regeneration One").
It's no exaggeration for me to say that Alex Milne is one of my favorite Transformers artists. He has a fantastic ability to draw detailed scenes and characters while framing panels really nicely. On top of that he manages to make characters look cool even if they're not doing anything particularly dramatic. Take Brainstorm for instance. With his sleek design and outswept wings, he looks great just standing there. He also does a great job at physical expression. Fulcrum's reaction to the war having ended has its roots in anime inspired silliness, but it works for the scene. Swerve's "hand over mouth" expression as Skids looks on worried over Rung's body conveys emotion beautifully and the entire "Misfire introduction scene" made me laugh not just because of the script, but because of the way the characters were positioned and their facial expressions ("Bah!" indeed!).
The colors in this issue were really nicely done. Despite my reservations about the back and forth (and switch) the story kept taking, the color palette of each story was consistent, giving you a true sense of each story taking place in a different place with a group of Transformers that were visually distinct from the other. Tarn's group clearly favors the purple Decepticon colors (though Kaon's red adds a nice bit of brightness) while the scenes on The Lost Light vary nicely from the darkness of the Medibay to the brightness of Brainstorm's lab. The world of Clemency feels like desolate wasteland, and the dark, muted colors really convey an overall sense of hopelessness there. Brilliant job!
This is perhaps the most disappointing issue in terms of pacing and story so far. I think way too much is happening here at one time. One of the stories needed to go so the others could get more focus. My choice would have been The Lost Light story, which would have made for a very interesting "Decepticon-centric" issue. In a way, this is a backk handed compliment because I did find the Decepticon stories in this issue so compelling, I felt they deserved better. If you've read the title this far, you do need to read this to continue the threads from previous issues, butI just didn't find it as enjoyable as previous issues.