IDW Publishing Spotlight #2 "Nightbeat"
Title: Transformers Spotlight: Nightbeat
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: Simon Furman
Pencils and inks by: MD Bright
Colors by: John Rauch
Letters by: Sulaco Studios
Edits by: Chris Ryall and Dan Taylor
Ages ago, the starship Ark was launched from Cybertron on a mission of exploration, plotting out a path between Cybertronian space and the Benzuli Expanse. The ship was lost, its passengers never heard from again. The ship's stature grew to legend over the course of Cybetronian history, and many have felt its ultimate fate was best left alone. One Transformer disagrees with this view. His name is Nightbeat and he has made an arrangement with Krakon, a dealer in hard-to-find items. Claiming to have found a piece of the missing ship on the world Gorlan Prime, the two meet but Nightbeat finds the trader dead upon arrival. Investigating he decides to head to Gorlan Prime to find clues as to what happened to Krakon and where the Ark artifact has gone.
On Gorlan Prime Nightbeat adapts his vehicle mode to resemble the local vehicles. Blending in with traffic he notes that the world's biological inhabitants have begun shifting to a biomechanical stage of evolution. Krakon's findings however reveal that this world began technological evolution long before that, and Nightbeat goes underground to see if there were any Cybertronians involved with that evolution. He sends a burst of information to his ship just in case anything happens and then continues on. What he finds is a strange set of tunnels that lead him to a room with an enrmous sea of silver liquid. When he investigates he is filled with an overpowering emotion and before he knows it, the Decepticon Sports Car Patrol has him in their sights!
Transforming and rolling for his life, Nightbeat leads the Micromasters on a chase through the tunnels. They soon overwhelm him and someone unseen knocks him unconscious. He wakes up to find himself locked down and his mind being manipulated. Mysterious figures tell him that they have been expecting him and that when the time comes, they would call upon him.
Next we see Nightbeat is back on his ship as if nothing happened. Optimus Prime radios him and calls him to rendevous with the Ark-32 and come to Earth. He acknowledges this but feels a brief head surge even as a nearby monitor alerts him to the data he had transmitted earlier...
I've read this story a few times since its release and I have to say that every time I'm done with it I feel uneasy, and that's a great thing. When you hear of a comic book one shot, there is often the expectation that this is going to be a neat and tidy story that wraps up by the end. However, with "Nightbeat" we have been presented with the most ireonic of tales. Nightbeat goes to solve a mystery and instead od becomes part of it without even knowing it! This wonderful irony and the sense of dread that comes from a group of ancient Transformers (working with Decepticons no less) abducting Transformers and operating on their brains is wonderfully creepy.
This also definitively answers a question some fans wondered during "Infiltration", namely if there is an Ark in this Transformers universe. While there certainly is, clearly it is not the ship we always knew from other continuities, which is cool. The Ark has long been one of those totems that seemed unmovable whenever a new Transformers legend was written. Even Beast Wars respected the story of the Ark (which worked out for the best). I like this new take of the Ark being almost like a Cybertronian Flying Dutchman of sorts.
The words uttered by the Cybertronians who capture Nightbeatare interesting. "Dead Universe" and "Emissary" are not exactly words you generally want to see together. It would seem Furman is giving Unicron a rest for now, so I am very excited to see just what the real big bad here is.
I've never seen artist MD Bright's work before (outside of the Marvel G1 #5 title cover with Shockwave), but I have to say it is really refreshing in an interesting way. When I first opened up the issues of "Nightbeat", I half expected to see the name of some classic Marvel artist such as Geoff Senior as the artist. Mo's style is subdued. He does not exaggerate proportions to some crazy degree, nor is he trying to imitate any anime-esque form of art. Instead he delivers straight forward artwork with proper proportions and an almost scratchy line style that harkens back to another era of Transformers comics. It's one that I really enjoyed a lot.
The colors used in this issue really help set the mood. Almost throughout the entire issue there is nary a bright panel. Even in the daytime on Gorlan Prime things are muted and it suits the air of mystery that surrounds Nightbeat's quest. When he is captured, the lighting is done perfectly, with him looking like he is in a torture chamber with medical lights shining a harsh light on his metallic skin.
"Nightbeat" is a creepy mystery that delivers a Transformers tale quite different than what we're used to. The artwork is superb and perfectly matched to the tale. I'm very impressed and recommend this issue highly.