IDW Publishing: Spotlight #4: Sixshot Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: December 20, 2006
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Nick Roche
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Sulaco Studios
Edits by: Dan Taylor
One Stellar Span ago, the Decepticon Sixshot single handedly destroyed the world of Ys'Devian. This Stellar Span the terrifying Decepticon is without purpose. He contemplates his utter lack of feeling. Rage, duty - none of it means a thing to him. He has however noticed the absence of the Terrorcons, a group of five Decepticons who have latched on to Sixshot as something of a mentor. Entering the command center, several Decepticons are hard at work including Ransack, Treadshot and Squalkbox. Squalkbox reports that the Terrorcons went to the world of Mumu-Obscura, but they never returned. Worse, rumor has it that the world has fallen to a group of creatures known as The Reapers!
As Sixshot flies to Mumu-Obscura, he contemplates meeting The Reapers. They are legendary for their destructive ways, and he wonders how much of it is truth and how much are tales used to scare people. When he arrives, he is immediately greeted with powerful attacks, but he endures them all, finally hovering above the surface of the planet, which has been utterly devastated. He realizes that the stories of The Reapers were true!
Once he nears the ground, Sixshot confronts The Reapers themselves, led by a mechanical being known as a Deathbringer - built to fight in the harshest conditions. While they are many, Sixshot relies on his many modes of transformation to hold his own in the battle. He wants the Terrorcons but realizes he is being toyed with first. Soon the battle ends and the Terrorcons are beamed to the site.
The Deathbringer explains that The Reapers want Sixshot, not the Terrorcons. The mission of The Reapers is to eradicate war in the universe by destroying the very things wars are fought over such as Mumu-Obscura with its once rich natural resources. Joining them would give him purpose that he has never had before. If he wants to accept the offer, all Sixshot has to do is destroy the Terrorcons. Sixshot considers the offer, but ultimately decides against it, showing an impressive display of firepower before transforming back into robot mode.
The Reapers leave and Deathbringer tells Sixshot that when he is ready to join them, they will find him again. On his part, Sixshot realizes that there is still some part of him that feels loyalty to the Decepticons, and that small part is enough for him to side with them...for now!
I've always found Sixshot an interesting character. He was barely ever used in the G1 series outside of the Japanese "Headmasters" series. Unlike other characters such as Bumblebee or Starscream, it's hard to think about Sixshot and come up with too many defining characteristics other than "He's big and transforms into six things." For that reason, I was really happy to see a Spotlight issue focusing on him. This Sixshot however differs a lot from previous incarnations. Unlike the version that appeared in "The Rebirth", he is not boistrous and enthusiastic about his destructive power nor is he like the almost samurai like character in "Headmasters". Instead, writer Simon Furman poses an interesting question: if you were born simply to destroy, and you were really good at it - what purpose do you really serve? Can you really be enthusiastic or happy when all you know is total decimation of everything around you? In the case of this Sixshot the answer appears to be a resounding no. I love starting Sixshot off as a character who is almost a blank slate. He's not depressed, he's not angry, he just...is and in a universe filled with colorful personalities, this is a rarity among the Transformers.
The introduction of The Reapers is an interesting element to add into the IDW Universe of Transformers comics. I actually like the idea of a wacked out bunch of robots going around destroying things not to revel in war but in a twisted attempt to stop it. I think the fact that they are legendary creatures themselves and that they themselves have heard about Sixshot really shows us the audience just how big Sixshot's own legend is in this universe, and that makes him quite a daunting opponent!
The action element is largely non-suspenseful since you know Sixshot is super powerful. The real drama comes from his interaction with The Reapers and whether or not he would turn his back on the Decepticons. I am fascinated by Sixshot's decision to save the Terrorcons. It's hard to tell if it's really loyalty or something else (pity perhaps?) that has him sparing the lives of the Terrorcons, but I really thought he was going to destroy them and go off with The Reapers for a moment. Part of me wonders if he needs the Terrorcons around. They're his personal cheerleading squad and when you feel empty inside, sometimes even a little bit of positive emotional reinforcement such as the loyalty of a small group of comrades is a fulfilling thing to have around.
When I read the advance previews and saw Rob Ruffolo was going to be taking on the art duties for this issue, I confess I was nervous. Ruffolo is one of the artists who used to work on Transformers comic books published by the now defunct Dreamwave Comics. Dreamwave was a company that pushed an "in house" style that largely consisted of over exaggerated poses and proportions. The end result is that Transformers often wound up looking "puffy" and sometimes the quality of the art suffered. In the case of Ruffolo, one of his last ventures into Dreamwave's illustrating pile was "Micromasters", a series so bad even I trashed it pretty mercilessly back in the day. Would Ruffolo's return signal the return of poofy art where body parts didn' actually connect together properly? Thank goodness the answer is no.
Don't get me wrong, Ruffolo's style is still very poofy, as illustrated by Cover B, which features Sixshot in all his forms. Without the mandates of Dreamwave hanging over his head, it is clear that this is his preferred style for all blocky Transformers such as Sixshot and the Terrorcons. However, when he is allowed to break free from that mold of robot design, his illustrations really pop off the page. My favorite designs in this issue are not in fact Transformers, but rather The Reapers. His Deathbringer design has a beautiful organic quality to it, and he looks very much like some type of devlish overlord of the mechanical underworld with his armor holding together bundles of tubes and wires. My second favorite Reaper is the large dragon (never identified) that has a really sleek quality to its design, almost the antithesis of how the Transformers look in this book.
I am a sucker for use of good detail work in either a toy or illustration, and Ruffolo brings it when it comes to detail work. He makes wonderful use of subtle bits of detail including wires and tubes on the necks of mechanical characters to great effect, giving them a more functional appearance. Add to that some very dramatic panel design including very smart ways of using angles to show off Sixshot's various modes, and the eye for detail that Ruffolo has comes shining through.
The color work on this issue is really well done. I appreciated the calm and somewhat ambivalent cool colors used at the Decepticon base. The use of blues and subtle neon colors for lighting effects was very well done, and kudos for using such an ecclectic group of Decepticons at the base as it allowed the color palette to really contrast well with the panels and alls of the base. Once Sixshot confronts The Reapers however, everything becomes fire and brimstone, an appropriate setting considering the rather "evil" look of The Reapers.
Spotlight Sixshot is another winner in this series of comics. I like this take on Sixshot's personality, and the story ends in an unexpected way since you'd think The Reapers offered what Sixshot wanted. The story does not really open up any new plot points in the larger IDW Universe story arc, but it doesn't need to. It features the titular character well and serves up some fantastic art in the process. Highly recommended.