IDW Publishing: "More than Meets the Eye" #9 Comic Book Review
Title: Shadowplay Part 1: Post Hoc
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: September 26, 2012
Written by: James Roberts
Art by: Alex Milne
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor: John Barber
Long before the war on Cybertron, Nightbeat and Quark are having a drink discussing politics when they suddenly notice fuel dripping from above - all coming from a dead body!
Four million years later, Ratchet joins a party including Drift, Chromedome, Skids, Whirl and Rewind. They are there to help Rung recover from his near catatonic state. By telling a story, Rewind is hoping it can help jog Rung's cognitive functions (through an overly complex set of explanations regarding temporal connectivity).
Back in the past, Chromedome and Prowl are investigating the murder of Sherma, a senator and the body found by Nightbeat and Quark. Meanwhile, Drift recounts a story of being saved by Orion Pax around the same time frame by two Decepticons when he was overloading on circuit boosters. He was brought to Ratchet for repairs, and as part of the process Ratchet explains that "body tourism" was once rampant on Cybertron, with Transformers taking on different forms that they weren't born with. It sometimes caused physiological problems with Transformers.
Not too long after Ratchet repaired Drift in the past, it was announced that Nominus Prime had died from a "rust infection" in his fuel pump, but Ratchet finds this odd since he operated on him and saw the fuel pump in excellent working condition. The two suspect some type of conspiracy involving Orion Pax, but so far there is no proof.
Meanwhile, Prowl and Chromedome are looking over the parts that made up Sherma. They find glass unique to the Translucentica Heights section of Cybertron. With a search warrant in tow, the pair heads off.
Elsewhere, Orion Pax and Ratchet are meeting with one of Orion's Senate contacts. The contact expresses his distrust of Sentinel and that Nominus was murdered!
At the Translucentica Heights, Chromedome and Prowl use hovercraft to get to their destination. They land and are about to head up to see the Warden of the Institute in the area when suddenly a body crashes right in front of them with a large Decepticon symbol painted on it!
Back in the present day on The Lost Light, Grapple is helping to raise the body of Red Alert. Drift meets Rodimus, shocked at what's happened. Rodimus tells him that their next step is to question Cyclonus!
I've reread this issue many times since I originally picked it up, and no matter how hard I try, I can't bring myself to like it. Almost everything about it (aside from the art) bothers me. Its frenetic nature, the lack of cohesion between the stories and an awkward bookending device all just conspire to make a mess of an issue. The group gathering to get Rung back to working order is the bookend, but generally when you use this type of story device the bookend needs to be relatively neat so you can focus on the stories sandwiched in between the "present day" scenes. Instead, the "bookend" part of the story is all over the place. First we think we're helping Rung, but then it becomes Rewind's epic rant on history which then turns into everyone trying to talk over each other or make jokes. I think the idea here was to go for a "party" atmosphere, which kind of jives with G1 Ratchet's tech spec (he was said to enjoy a good party back then), but it's a terrible framing device because it then dives into three different sub-stories, namely: Sherma's murder, Drift being saved by Orion Pax and then the Senate intrigue. It feels like the issue is attempting to throw out as much exposition and story points as it can before it runs out of pages, but never gives anything satisfying other than some quips and snarky dialogue. Given the strength of previous issues, I was very disappointed in the turn this title has taken with this issue.
I'm also having trouble really caring about an adventure that happened millions of years ago unless it has a direct connection to what is going on now. It's one thing if this were a "filler issue" (something common in the world of comic book publishing) but the inclusion of the Red Alert and Rung's storylines shows this is not "filler" but a calculated part of the overall story arc. I think it's bizarre to introduce something as dramatic as Overlord into the mix and just leave it dangling out there while unrelated stories like Sherma's murder are given center stage. I'm really hoping coming issues will bring the story back into focus.
The one strength of this issue is Alex Milne's artwork. He always delivers and I really enjoy the way Milne is able to exaggerate these robotic characters just enough to make them look "animated" without overdoing it and making them look silly. As a scifi fan, I also dig the little touches here and there like Cybertronians having multiple forms that aren't necesarily humanoid. Also note cute cameos such as Beast Machines Rattrap and a Star Wars "Mouse" droid hanging out near Nightbeat in the beginning. The large "Cybertronian blimp" overhead is very reminscent of the blimp seen in the movie "Blade Runner" and so on. I'm also a big fan of the color tones changing from time period to time period. In the past things are bright and "golden". The present is a lot darker and moody etc. If this issue has any saving grace, it's the artwork.
I'm really sad and disappointed at this issue. Not just because it goes nowhere by itself, but also because all the previous issues have set up some really monumental stuff and all of a sudden we're dealing with a triple flashback? Why? I'm hoping down the road it connects to what is going on now (outside of "let's wake Rung up!") but so far there's little to no hint of it.