Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers #5 review
- Published on Tuesday, 01 June 2010 16:41
- Written by William
I'm back, and I'm very sorry that I've been away for so long. Educational commitments have prevented me from reviewing my beloved comics last month, so I'm determined to get my opinion on these out there as fast as possible. And here's my first review - the fifth and final issue of the acclaimed Transformers series, Last Stand of the Wreckers. Writers Nick Roche and James Roberts have so far delivered us a dark, gritty and violent rollercoaster in perfect keeping with the story's characters. I have absolutely no doubt that this final issue will deliver the same high quality material as the last four. The fact that artist Nick Roche is handling art duties alone only heightens that expectation. Let's see what lies beneath, shall we?
Story so far: The Autobot high-security prison has fallen to the rogue Decepticon maniac Overlord, who has turned the prison into a death camp crossed with a theme park. The Autobot suicide squad - the Wreckers - were sent to clean up the mess. En route, they came across their ex-leader, Impactor - a former G-9 inmate who escaped after the takeover. Separated upon arrival and vastly outnumbered, the Wreckers now find themselves in real trouble; Springer's team must confront Overlord while Perceptor's team - having recovered the hard drive for the enormous supercomputer-judge, Aequitas - must make an unthinkable decision if they are to make it out alive.
COLORS BY Josh Burcham
ART RATING: 9.5 Last Stands out of 10
STORY RATING: 9 Last Stands out of 10
OVERALL RATING: 9.5 Last Stands out of 10
Down in the Aequitas chamber, Verity Carlo continues to argue against detonating the deterrence chips: it won't just kill Impactor, it'll kill the Wreckers as a concept. She puts her case to Ironfist, arguing that he's made the Wreckers stand for something, turned a bunch of thugs with a death wish into a symbol of hope and heroism for the other robots, and his Wreckers would never kill one of their own. Perceptor decides she's right, while Pyro decides to abandon his egotistical visions of a glorious death and tells the others to run, that he'll cover them: dying for people he cares about, he tells Ironfist, is the most he can do, and he tells Verity that the Autobots need the humans to look after them. The Wreckers withdraw, Ironfist working out a plan to deal with Overlord, while Pyro is ingloriously torn to pieces behind them. As they withdraw, at Verity's urging, Ironfist reveals the truth he's learnt about Impactor and Pova...
Twenty years ago, in battle, Impactor decided the best way to get a shot at Squadron X would be to fire through Springer's midsection. Despite Springer's protest that he didn't have the circuit dampeners, Impactor wanted him to engage and despite his pleas, Impactor fired. After the battle, he reported in to Prowl to reveal all of the enemy had been caught. Prowl reported back that under the Neutrality Agreement with the Povians, the Autobots aren't allowed to be there: to prevent the Decepticons using this to turn Pova against them, the Wreckers had to release Squadron X immediately. Instead, Impactor took his gun and locked himself in the room with the prisoners. Springer attempted to stop him but he murdered every single Decepticon as they lay in chains on their knees, while the other Wreckers simply stood in silence...
Back outside, Overlord has won and Springer is about to be killed. He tells Overlord that his men will have freed every Autobot prisoner by now and will be leading them this way... except Overlord, the instant he learnt the Wreckers had arrived, ordered every single prisoner to be murdered in their cells.
But luckily, the other Wreckers have arrived. Perceptor blasts Overlord's hand off, letting Springer get free. Ironfist chucks a massive chaingun at Springer. Springer catches it, and immediately rips into Overlord, blasting him with the gun, full bore.
Shrugging off the fire, Overlord rips off Springer's face and blasts Perceptor offline. Overlord prepares to kill Ironfist, angry at him for chucking Springer the chaingun. Ironfist quivers, telling Overlord to come no closer. Ironfist then reveals that Springer hadn't been shooting him, but rather injecting him - even now, Overlord's endoskeleton is being rooted with thousands of deterrence chips. Overlord laughs, saying Ironfist has no way of detonating them, but he's wrong. Ironfist has Aequitas in his head now, and can detonate specific chips now (saving Impactor from death). He points to his head, and says, "Bang". Overlord explodes, his body wracked by thousands of mini-explosions.
Ironfist falls down inactive, his head wracked by pain. Verity is left alone as Overlord rises as a fire-consumed, skeletal horror, intent on ripping her to pieces, snarling in hate that the Wreckers have left him unable to best Megatron when he arrives. Verity, however, notes a weak spot, and informs him Megatron is long dead; she begins to laugh at him, pointing out he's spent all this time believing Megatron is coming after him and the tyrant died not remembering Overlord at all.
Overlord falls to his knees, his world shattered, and then Impactor rises from the mat to finish him off. Overlord won't fight back against the beating, but Impactor refuses to kill him: he's doing this for Springer, the one who told him he didn't have the right to murder Squadron X, and that Springer would want the Decepticon to stand trial for what he did. Overlord is beaten, the Decepticons have all fled now Overlord can't hold them. Help is coming, and as Ironfist wakes, Fisitron's voiceover says that this story was of the Wreckers, and of survivors.
Rotorstorm, Pyro, Twin Twist and Topsin are dead. Springer and Fortress Maximus are on emergency life support, their chances of recovery unclear; Impactor and a repaired Guzzle abruptly leave once Overlord is arrested by Ultra Magnus; and Ironfist dies en route to Earth from an aneurysm, caused by a lab accident with his cerebro-centric bullets eighteen months ago that had one inching towards his brain all along.
On Earth, Prowl takes this report and the single data slug Ironfist was able to make of the Aequitas data. He admits to Ultra Magnus that he knew about Ironfist's approaching death and had arranged for him to be placed on the Wreckers, his dream job, in exchange for bypassing the suicide lock on Aequitas. Prowl reveals the reason behind this whole mission: they couldn't allow the Decepticons to get their hands on Aequitas' transcripts of the Autobot trials, as it would be too great a propaganda weapon.
Magnus notes those transcripts are the only evidence left for most of the accused, while Prowl remembers the utter horror of the trials, of hearing all the atrocities that Autobots had undertaken. Magnus believes a public trial is the only way, as Chief Justice Tyrest intends; Prowl agrees justice must be publicly done but not now, believing the Autobots will be shattered if they learn about the monsters in their midst now. He says he'll make sure the slug gets to Bumblebee, while Magnus remarks he knows Prowl hopes the data is corrupted so everyone can move on, and that he likes to think better of the 'bot than to believe he'll destroy the evidence. On his own, contemplating the slug, Prowl starts to apply some pressure to it...
On Earth, Verity writes under the guise of "Fisitron", musing whether this is the end of the road for the Wreckers or just a stop-off to reflect. "Because that's how we honor those we've lost: by looking forward, not back. "As the issue ends, her final words on the datalog sound out; "... this is one of those stories with a moral. And the moral is simply this: life persists."
THE GOOD: Wow. I'm amazed. As I've said so many times before, the creative team for this series is a match made in Transfandom nirvana. Writers Nick Roche (also artist and fan-favorite) and James Roberts (author of the gargantuan Transformers fanfic novel Eugenesis) work absolutely perfectly together. Roche covers art duties as well, and the insanely talented, "super awesome" colorist Josh Burcham - perhaps one of the best TF colorists in the business - rounds off this legendary team of creators.
First off writing. R & R have finished off this series very well. The whole story is rich and intense, never slowing up or petering out - something that seems to be happening a lot with more successful titles from the Big Two. After the superb job on the previous issues, R & R wrap up the storyline with a finality I've never seen before. Every little detail is resolved while intriguing little tidbits are left at the end to prepare for upcoming storylines. It all wraps up very well and I'm extremely happy at the job the two did in this area.
The pacing is well-rounded and swift, without becoming jarring at all. R & R have no holds barred as the Wreckers desperately make an attempt to defeat the enormous, maniacal, sadistic ex-phase sixer Overlord. The presence alone of this obscure Decepticon from the Japanese Masterforce cartoon is cool enough, but he's written so well that his offhand sadism is actually very scary to me. Seriously! I'm sitting here reading the comic, and I'm thinking, "oh my god, this guy is sick!"
The characterization on Overlord is absolutely superb. In a comic world populated by boring, typical evil cutouts, Overlord's like a punch in the goolies. His demented sadism, the barely contained glee on his face and in his actions as he pummels Wrecker after Wrecker, are awesome to read and slightly scary. In issue 2, he says, "A good strategist is half psychologist and half sadist. I was the best." This bot is every serial killer mashed together into one horrific whole. In the course of the issue, he rips Guzzle in half, bashes Kup unconscious with Guzzle's body, steps on Impactor and rips Springer's face off with one hand. That's some serious carnage right there. (And then Ironfist blows him up. Hee hee.)
All this carnage and violence, the whole conquering of G-9, was simply an attempt to grab Megatron's attention. What Overlord wanted most was a fight with Megs, on his own terms. A simple motivation, sure, and one that shows Overlord had an extremely high opinion of himself. The page (shown left) where Verity reveals that Megs is dead and died forgetting about Overlord is absolutely priceless. Reduced to a flaming skeletl ghoul, Overlord falls to his knees at the news. "But ... but he owes me! He owes me." His whole world, shattered and without meaning. Astoundingly-done characterization for Overlord, in short. Bravo.
The true story of Impactor's crime revealed - the heroic, rose-tinted legend of Springer suggesting getting shot through the chest, the capture of Squadron X and their deaths from the heroic Wreckers, lead by Impactor - all lies. Going completely against orders, he shoots the chained Squadron X in cold blood. I totally never saw this coming. It's an old and yet very well-done plot device - the glorified ruffian leader turns out to be a scoundrel and a criminal, his legend a sham. Wow. For the whole series, we've seen Impactor portrayed as a blunt, rough old soldier and legendary leader. Now that he's revealed to be a psychologically skewed criminal, with a skewed moral compass and a ruthless obsession with Squadron X that eventually was his undoing.
A sombre and moving moment at the start of the issue, Pyro - sufferer of primus apotheosis, a mental condition that makes him worship Optimus Prime - has stated last issue that he wanted to go out with a bang, a death truly worthy of a Prime. And yet, in the face of certain death, he abandons his dreams and does what must be done - he fends off the swarm of Cons while Perceptor, Ironfist and Verity escape. As with a fair chunk of R & R's writing, there's old faithful plot points that we've seen a hundred times - and yet, the way these guys write the story makes me care about the characters, makes me feel sad at their ordeals (remember, these guys are giant alien robots that turn into vehicles, people). And of course, those two British twats have to make Pyro die horribly. Just look to your left - ripped apart by Decepticons' bare hands.
Finally, Verity. As the human "companion" character, she's taken a lot of flak from the fandom - most find her kind pointless and annoying. But R & R have written her very well. Once so afraid of abandonment, she risked her life to avoid it by joining the Wreckers.
Her affection and sadness for the Wreckers she works with is evident despite her outward blasé demeanor, and she's a very interesting character to read. It's a very moving moment at the end of the issue, when she's revealed to be carrying on Ironfist's "Wreckers: Declassified" datalogs under his old "Fisitron" alias. "As the issue ends, her final words on the datalog sound out; "... this is one of those stories with a moral. And the moral is simply this: life persists." Very moving to me. Well done, Rocheberts.
Returning to the astounding quality of art we saw in the first issue, Roche and Josh Burcham collaborate seamlessly to give us a beautifully drawn, exquisite-looking 22 pages of robot-on-robot action. I can't really explain it, but absolutely everything about the art is just astounding. Intricate, expert inks, masterful designs and unflinching rendering of violence and gore. In short, he's one of the best artists I've ever seen in the business. I love you, Nick Roche. And I want to have your babies.
Lastly, some plot lines left hanging, possibly to lead into the inevitable sequel series, or to give future material to other writers. Impactor and Guzzle running off together, Springer and Fort Max's fate, Verity's future and what Prowl decides to do with the contents of Aequitas' hard drive. It's all very exciting and I can't wait to see how it plays out. Stay tuned!
THE BAD: Virtually nothing is wrong with this beloved issue. However, the story seemed a little condensed at times - though there's nothing wrong with it, I can't help but think that it could have benefited from another issue. That is all.
OVERALL: A fantastic end to a fantastic series. I strongly recommend you guys try and find the first issue, or preorder the trade paperback on Amazon. While the creative team slipped a tad, the story has remained consistently high quality - intense action, unflinching injuries, string theorist-dimensional characters and awesome art.
The writing also has elements of the richness Roberts instilled in Eugenesis. The writing style just oozes class. On the whole, I've been largely disappointed with the quality of other TF titles IDW is churning out at the moment (the Ironhide miniseries aside), but this series steps above the rest. I dare say that this is one of the best Transformers series since Generation 2.