IDW Publishing: "Robots in Disguise" #3 Comic Book Review
Title: "Stick Together"
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: March 21, 2012
Written by: John Barber
Art by: Andrew Griffith
Colors by: Josh Perez
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Edits by: Carlos Guzman
The body of Ratbat has been found, and the Decepticons are not happy about it. The Autobots have ruled the death a "suicide", but the Decepticons don't believe it. Starscream steps in however and vouches for the Autobot's theory of events. The Aerialbots swoop in to help with crowd control. As the crowd breaks up, Dirge stalks off and the Aerialbot known as Barrel-Roll goes after him. The two talk briefly until suddenly a huge explosion rocks the area! Dirge is heavily damaged and Barrel-Roll is destroyed!
Elsewhere, Wheeljack is listening to Non Aligned Transformers argue about what economic system to adopt on Cybertron, but he's not really interested. It's a relief when he's called by Bumblebee to the site of the explosion. When he arrives, he finds the Autobots and Decepticons working together to salvage what's left of the victims and put out fires. As Wheeljack performs his analysis, Metalhawk, Prowl and Bumblebee wind up arguing about what happened here, with Prowl suspicious of the Decepticons while Metalhawk thinks he's being too judgemental. Bumblebee tries to split them up while Starscream expresses his primary concern: the living conditions of the Decepticons. As the discussions continue, Wheeljack drives away to question the one surviving witness: Dirge.
As Wheeljack questions Dirge, Silverbolt gets more agitated and winds up trying to attack the Decepticon but winds up blasting one of the medics instead! Dirge quickly leaves before anything gets worse but Silverbolt still believes that Dirge and the Decepticons are responsible for the explosion that killed Barrel-Roll. Before the situation can escalate, another explosion occurs, destroying thirty five Transformers in the process!
At the second explosion site, Wheeljack is examining the site when Starscream walks onto the scene. He and Wheeljack begin to argue but in the midst of that argument the answer hits Wheeljack. With Vector Sigma reactivated and powering Cybertron, the remaining moon of Cybertron is getting energy from the planet, but in the past there were two moons. The excess energy has nowhere to go and is accumulating until it becomes an explosion. The next one is coming soon and will hit the center of the city! Wheeljack quickly formulates a plan to keep the next energy build up from causing another explosion. Firing a few missiles into the air, he manages to keep the energy from landing on the planet (until he can create a more permanent satellite).
As everyone arrives at the scene we learn Starscream spirited the Transformers to safety while Ironhide and Wheeljack enacted the plan with the missiles. Wheeljack argues that Starscream has earned his place in the new Cybertronian government. However, Silverbolt cannot accept this and thrashes Bumblebee and Prowl in the process. Soon he stalks off with the remaining four Aerialbots, deciding to go it alone.
Later, Starscream and Bumblebee talk. Bumblebee confirms that Starscream is now part of the government, even as Starscream laments the departure of the Aerialbots. Despite the cordial ending, an atmosphere of unease settles on the scene...
After three issues of this series, I've come to realize that part of the reason I really enjoy this title is that it keeps misleading me in ways that I enjoy. There are many "traps" that this series could fall into that would be typical of past Transformers series. One of these moments happens early on in the issue where the Decepticons don't believe the story of Ratbat's "suicide". The Decepticons look ready to fight and typically you'd expect this to turn into some gigantic shooting battle that reignites a new Great War. But nope, that's not at all what happens. Instead, a wildcard (aka Starscream) is thrown in and turns the whole program upside down. My first thought was that Starscream was acting very much out of character, trying to keep the peace. You would think he'd go with the old adage of "In chaos there is opportunity" and let everyone duke it out and then charging in to take the lead of the Decepticons. Then it occurred to me that's what the "old" Starscream probably would have done, but what we have here is a Starscream who has learned from his past mistakes and is trying to find a new way to accomplish his goals. I have no doubt Starscream is up to no good eventually, but for now he's playing the political game really nicely. I'm very interested to see where this goes in the future.
The other main character in this issue is one we haven't seen doing a whole lot until now: Wheeljack. I really enjoyed seeing the "mad scientist" of the Autobots doing his thing, and the way the answer came to him in a flash of inspiration was really fun. Often we were told Wheeljack was a scientist, but it's not something we've seen a whole lot of since the Generation One era. I also appreciated the even way in which he dealt with everyone from Dirge to Starscream. Those situations could have turned into violent confrontations, but each time he drove towards the answer to save lives, not cause old quarrels to rise up again.
My only beef with this story is Silverbolt. I understand he loses Barrel Roll in this issue and that is the catalyst for him losing his grip, however it's way too sudden. If this had been hinted at in previous issues, there would be a progression. Here, it's one moment Silverbolt is leading the Aerialbots, and the next he's losing his mind. Now, keep in mind my other exposure to Silverbolt right now is his younger self in "Autocracy" where he seems like an even headed, aerial back up guy. It's a weird transition and it doesn't really work for me.
Art wise, there was a lot to admire here. I won't go on and on about the designs since I'm very fond of them for the most part. I did find Prowl's design a bit odd in the shoulder launcher area. They seem to get bigger and bigger each issue and I'm not quite sure where that's coming from. Weird. What I will go on and on about are some of the fun cameos. Seeing the Aerialbots was cool, and I enjoyed how recognizable they were even though they were in different forms then we've seen them in before. I do find irony that Silverbolt's vehicle form in "Autocracy" resembles more of the G1 Silverbolt most fans might resemble than the form used in this issue (of course a lot of that is owed to it being based on his "Universe 2.0" figure).
Another fun cameo was poor Barrel Roll. For those curious, there is a toy of this character, though he wasn't exactly easy to find. In Europe there was an 8 pack of Mini-Cons released for the Universe toy line that included a redeco of Classics Thunderwing named Barrel Roll. Like the character in this issue, he was a green jet with a round head and extensions that flanked his head.
Another cameo I liked (but some fans may think "Meh" on) was Fixit. Why? Well, I've always had a fondness for Transformers who aren't just "warriors" or "leaders". If you think about it, there aren't a whole lot of medics in the Transformers toy line, and Fixit is one of them. Along with First Aid and Ratchet, he was one of my trio that formed my imaginary "medical bay" during my days of collecting Generation One. Here however, I found it interesting that Fixit isn't a Micromaster character but just another Autobot hanging out. Several Micromasters were previously seen as Zombie like Transformers leading up to the "Chaos" mini-series. It's interesting to see not all the Micromasters from G1 fell under this odd group. It's also cool from a story perspective to see who's handling medical duties since Ratchet is with Rodimus and his crew.
"Robots in Disguise" #3 teases your brain in one direction and then goes running off in another, which is something I really enjoy after spending over twenty years reading "Transformers" stories and watching TV fiction. The artwork is spot on as always, but the issue's only weakness is Silverbolt's sudden left turn in personality.