The Transformed Man, Act 19: Earthfall
I've never liked the Transformers. The franchise didn't get its hooks into me as a kid, and while I've tried to give it a shot as an adult, it never really clicked. But now, with a recommendation from almost everyone I know and a well-timed Humble Bundle sale that left me with three years worth (and counting) of IDW's More Than Meets The Eye and Robots In Disguise comics, I'm going on a quest to see if these comics can turn me from someone who has never cared at all about Optimus Prime into someone who uses words like "Cybertron" and "alt-mode" with alarming regularity. And Primus help me, it's working.
This week, the Transformers return to Earth and Prowl just keeps heckin' up.
Transformers Vol. 6: Earthfall
Story: John Barber
Art: Andrew Griffith, Guido Guidi, Brendan Cahill and Casey W. Coller
Colors: Josh Perez and Joana LaFuente
Letters: Tom B. Long
Editor: Carlos Guzman
So here's the problem: I do not care about the Transformers going to Earth and interacting with humans. Like, at all.
I realize that this is my problem, and that the franchise is, in fact, built entirely around the idea of the Autobots and Decepticons coming to Earth and dealing with various scrappy kids or whatever, but all the stuff that I've enjoyed from reading these comics has been specifically about the Transformers themselves. The stuff that I'm really into is seeing them dealing with their own society, either rebuilding it in the aftermath of the war on Cybertron or exploring weird bits of it while nominally looking around for its mythology on board the Lost Light.
With the exception of the brief appearances of Verity Carlo in Last Stand of the Wreckers and the idea of the Transformers themselves having human forms with their holomatter avatars, throwing people into the mix is a pretty sure way to bore me to tears. And again, I get that this one is on me --- I was talking about it earlier and mentioned that it's like being really into pro wrestling except for the parts where they get in the ring and wrestle with each other --- but that's the way it is.
So you can imagine that for me as a reader, getting into this story that is entirely about the Transformers going back to Earth and dealing with humans was an uphill battle.
I think that part of what made it difficult was that everything that I've seen in the series up to this point has felt new. It might not actually be new --- the whole point of this column is that I haven't read or seen anything before More Than Meets The Eye volume 1 --- but it's something that diverges from the idea of the Transformers that I have in my head, which is totally informed by the theme song. Ending the war, going back to Cybertron, even the more recent developments like Megatron as an Autobot and the very existence of Windblade, that's all stuff that feels new.
And the flipside to that is that, as unfair as it might be, Optimus Prime following some Decepticons to Earth and getting into a big fight with them feels like it's a step backwards --- although that might just be because it's referencing a lot of stuff that happened before I jumped on.
That doesn't mean that there's nothing interesting here, though. The idea of Thundercracker staying on Earth and becoming the world's worst aspiring screenwriter is, in fact, pretty great.
Alas, Thundercracker and his puppy Buster are only in a relatively small part of the story, although kudos to Barber and Gtiffith for teasing, but not going through with, Dog Violence as a plot device.
As for the rest of the plot, the basic idea is that Metroplex, through Windblade, has told Optimus Prime that Alpha Trion, who you may remember as the only Transformer who can grow a beard, is stuck on Earth. Naturally, this means that the Autobots are going to go launch a rescue mission, but there's one big problem: The Decepticons got there first, and allied themselves with a bunch of humans who really, really hate the Transformers.
You might have already picked out the flaw in this plan.
The reason for their intense hatred seems to be a bunch of stuff that happened in comics I didn't read, but at one point their time on Earth is referred to as the single worst event in human history, and as someone who saw Transformers: Dark of the Moon in the theater, I can definitely see where they're coming from. The thing is, except for one guy that Jazz killed, it seems that most of the murdering was done by the Decepticons, particularly Megatron, and I don't want to speak for all humans, but I myself am pretty good at telling a red logo from purple one.
The workaround for that is that Soundwave just tells Earth that Megatron's an Autobot now, and despite the fact that Marissa Faireborn, commander of the Earth Defense Command, recognizes him as a member of Megatron's army, they're willing to just sign on for a team-up if it means that they can kick all the Transformers off the planet.
To that end, the EDC has been reverse-engineering Cybertronian technology to use as weapons against the Transformers, including semi-sentient missiles that they fire at the Ark as soon as it gets into orbit:
There's one other piece of weaponry that the humans have that's a little more concerning: A kind of robotelepathic device that can shut down the minds of any Transformers they have on file. At the moment, that means the Decepticons, but the longer the Transformers are on Earth, the more information the EDC is collecting, so they've got a pretty definite time limit on rescuing Alpha Trion --- who, it seems, is the source of the Cybertronian tech that the EDC is working on.
The lab, in a pretty great idea for a set piece, is on Bikini Atoll, and so Optimus leads a frontal assault with the goal of rescuing his mentor:
But there's a snag in that plan, and that snag is Prowl leaking the plan to the Decepticons.
The entire story is built around Prowl, teasing the idea of him turning on the Autobots, again, and the question of whether the real Prowl is any better than the Prowl that was secretly being mind-controlled for the bulk of the series. In the end, though, Prowl's not a traitor, he's just a huge jerk.
While Optimus is launching the rescue mission, Prowl is setting himself out as bait, waiting for the EDC to try to tap into his head so that he can follow that trail of neural breadcrumbs back to its source and learn everything there is to know about what the EDC has stocked up. And when he finds the missiles...
... he launches them all at the Decepticon ship, providing the distraction to the distraction that lets Prime and the others get Alpha Trion free.
The Decepticons do not take this defeat well.
But shockingly, they manage to cover up murder-via-gigantic-fusion-cannon, tying off this volume's plotline with the Witwicky family by framing Prowl for the murder instead, and ensuring that I have at least a couple of weeks before I have to face the struggle of keeping my eyes open when I see the word "Witwicky" again.
I kid, I kid. As much as I'm generally uninterested in the human side of things, the allusions to the stuff that went down earlier with General Witwicky's son, and how easy it was to convince Faireborn that Prowl would be out for revenge, actually does make me interested in finding out what went down --- and how it led to the EDC being in possession of a massive army of bootleg Transformers:
I'm guessing that they're finally getting around to that Go-Bots crossover.
Act 19 Power Rankings:
- Arcee - Retains the top spot by the best line in the story: "Now might not be a good time to mention this, and in retrospect I really should have said something before we attacked the humans, but I think Prowl maybe betrayed us to the Decepticons."
- Cosmos - Didn't mention him above, but it turns out that there's a Transformer who looks exactly like Fatman the Human Flying Saucer, and he just wants to be included. He's delightful.
- Soundwave - For being ostensibly the person behind the Decepticon reorganization under Galvatron, he's awfully quiet --- ha ha! --- in this issue, which does a good job of keeping the mystery around him.
- Optimus Prime - Maybe there's something in the water here on Earth that turns him from dynamic action hero to kind-of-boring red guy.
- Prowl - Don't think I've forgotten what he said to Chromedome. I'd frame him, too.