The Transformed Man, Act 21: Onyx Interface
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, everyone hates Prowl.
Transformers vol. 7 (#33 - 38)
Story: John Barber
Art: Andrew Griffith, Brendan Cahill, Josh Perez, Joana Lafuente, Thomas Deer
Letters: Tom B. Long
Editor: Carlos Guzman
With this week's story, we're mostly back on Earth with a whole lot of humans, and if you were here last time that was the case, then you can probably already guess that I was not looking forward to it. It's not the fault of the creators, really --- the first issue I read this week is set back on Cybertron and involves Wheeljack finally making his return after being shot in the head, and that stuff was great. The second we go back to Earth and have to deal with Galvatron trying to get the Zoning Board to let him build a space farm on Jupiter or whatever it is he's doing, though, my attention starts to wander.
I've been trying to figure out why that is for a couple of weeks, too. My first thought was that it just wasn't weird enough, but really, that doesn't seem right. I mean, yes, the Lost Light is bopping around space trying to find a version of King Arthur that can turn into a dumptruck and getting sidetracked into stuff like trying to prevent a time-traveling assassination plot and quantum mechanics that return dead lovers to life, but that's not really that much weirder than what we get here. I mean, this is literally a comic that suggests that human civilization formed because robot cars sent a glowing orb to Earth that taught us the concept of teamwork, and that's pretty weird.
But still, I couldn't shake that feeling. And then I think I figured it out. See, having never grown up with Transformers as a franchise and having only watched a couple episodes of the cartoon fairly recently, there's only one place where I've ever seen the Transformers interact with humans --- unless you count the time I had to go see Transformers 3, which I don't.
And that place is Tom Scioli and John Barber's Transformers vs. GI Joe, a book that, if we're measuring all-out weirdness on a scale of one to ten, started out somewhere around fifteen and is currently hovering in the high twenties. If that's your only frame of reference for what it looks like when Transformers fight army dudes, then literally anything else is going to seem tame by comparison. I mean, I've checked twice, and this book has zero Cthulhu monsters and very few Decepticon vikings.
It does, however, have one connection to the Joes.
As several readers wrote in to point out, Marissa Faireborn is meant to be the daughter of Dashiell R. Fareborn and Allison Hart-Burnett, better known as Flint and Lady Jaye. I figured there was a connection based on the name and the fact that, in the cartoons at least, GI Joe and Transformers (and Jem and Inhumanoids, for that matter) took place in the same universe, but I'd forgotten that Transformers was meant to be set 20 years in the future, in the far-off year of 2006. I will say, though, I do wish her name was Marissa Hart-Burnett-Faireborn.
Either way, it gives me a lot of hope that if we have to be on Earth for a while, there's at least a possibility that Old Snake might show up.
Getting back to the idea of wanting this book to be even weirder than it actually is, I think that's why I'm so drawn to Thundercracker, who has quickly become my favorite character in the book thanks to his genuinely terrible screenplay:
Unfortunately, he's only a bit player in this one. The main meat of the plot involves the Enigma of Combination, the aforementioned glowing teamwork orb, and how it was sent to Earth eight million years ago and later dug up in Mesopotamia. Now, Prowl and Galvatron both want it so they can try their hand at building Combiners, and with Optimus Prime heading back to Cybertron after making Prowl promise to be good, everybody's going to go looking for it at once.
Spoiler warning, but Prowl does not keep his promise.
Significantly complicating matters are a bunch of humans, including Faireborn, an evil Steve Jobs named Garrison Blackrock who's using reverse-engineered Cybertronian technology to launch a new mobile phone, and Spike Witwicky, who... oh brother.
Look. Before we move on, I need you all to know that I am putting a lot of effort into trying to care about this guy. It is a Herculean task, and honestly, I don't know why either. Leftover antipathy for Shia LaBeouf's similarly named character in the movie, maybe? I don't know. All I know is that his very image seems to slide off my eyeballs without ever quite reaching my brain.
So apparently --- and I'm sorry if I've got this wrong, I promise you I am trying - he's a renegade secret agent who's on the run because he killed a Decepticon. Except that Prowl's mad at him, and Prowl and literally all of Prowl's friends have been killing Decepticons for longer than human civilization has existed, and also Faireborn doesn't like him even though she's the commander of a government agency specifically designed to kill Transformers, so I have no idea what everyone's problem is.
Except Blackrock, I mean, since he's using Transformer technology and Spike interrupts his New Product Announcement by shooting a tiny little Transformer with a super annoying speech pattern right in the face on a hijacked video stream:
That guy has a pretty legitimate beef. Everyone else, no idea.
To be fair to Spike, he does have a lot of pretty cool moments in the book as he's trying to bring down Blackrock, the best of which involves a scene where he realizes he's being followed by some very particular green-and-purple construction equipment.
Oh hey. They're robots in disguise. I just got that.
Eventually, all the plot threads start coming together. Prowl shows up and claims that he's forgiving Spike for betraying the Transformers --- and killing Devastator's old head from back before he got the job --- and enlists him into his mission to go steal the Enigma of Combination from Blackrock. Galvatron wants it too, and so he convinces Arcee that Prowl is not to be trusted --- he's not, although Galvatron is lying in this very specific instance --- and meanwhile, Faireborn and her sidekick are hanging out with Blackrock in his Clearly Evil Trophy Room.
As much as I'm resisting finding out more about the backstory on Earth, I definitely want to know the story behind the giant Transformer corpse that Blackrock keeps in his basement, and why everyone is cool with both that and the giant but definitely humanoid severed head that he keeps next to his replica A-Bombs.
I suspect, however, that these are Ramjet and Thrust, two Decepticons that were killed on Earth during that section of the war, and the basis for Blackrock's army of knockoff Transformers. That was actually the plot element I was most excited about going into this, but to be honest, it doesn't really come to much. They activate and then Soundwave shuts them down almost immediately in the name of avoiding a further conflict.
Prowl, on the other hand, does a whole lot.
After Spike confirms the location of the Enigma, Prowl and the Constructicons form up into Devastator and then promptly and with great determination fail to do the one thing that brought them here. Thanks to being distracted from Prowl's desire to get the Enigma and the Constructicons' desire for revenge, Devastator ends up just smashing a bunch of stuff until it's finally talked down by Arcee. The Enigma gets boosted by Scoop, who takes it back to Cybertron, Galvatron goes back to planning the subdivision on Jupiter, and the Autobots have to settle with taking a non-working Space Bridge out of Blackrock's laboratory.
And that's where we end up at the lead in to Combiner Wars, with literally everyone just hating Prowl. Just hating him so much.
Act 21 Power Rankings:
- Thundercracker - Every time he says his screenplay is "about humans, but really it's about everyone," I love him more and more.
- Arcee - Holds onto a high spot by attempting to ditch this entire story and pretty much calling Prowl an idiot at every opportunity.
- Cosmos - Barely appears in this one, but I still love the way he's written as a very nice young person who talks too much because there's not usually anyone around to hear him.
- Optimus Prime - Left Prowl in charge, because something about Earth's atmosphere makes the part of his brain that realizes when things might be bad ideas stop working. He did, however, have the foresight to tell Arcee to keep an eye on him.
- Prowl - Just haaaating him.