Transformers: RID #2: Starscream Makes His Move

Who's gonna shine in a post-war world of complex socio-political maneuvering?  The most ambitious Decepticon of the bunch.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Transformers: Robots in Disguise #2

This is the best we've ever had it as Transformers fans.

We've got the digital-only Transformers: Autocracy series, which is three short issues in and telling us the story of the pre-war days when the Decepticons were an insurgency against a truly corrupt government the Autobots were reluctantly in service of.  Then there's Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye, where James Roberts is working wonders with a dense cast of castaways, and we've got its companion title Transformers: Robots in Disguise, where John Barber gives us skullduggerous tales of post-war life on Cybertron, showing us it's not as easy as yelling "Til all are one!" and fading to black.  Three seperate titles all full of really cool stuff.

Here There Be Spoylers!  Just so you know.

Last issue, Prowl's grand experiment with using the remaining Decepticons as peacekeepers failed when Bumblebee had to resort to detonating a control chip in one of their heads when the jerk was about to use unprovoked lethal force.  In TF: RID #2, we find out that the ridiculously-named victim Horri-Bull was a pawn in a larger Decepticon gambit to seize power again – one devised by Ratbat. Why is a purple robot bat who turns into a cassette calling the shots?  Starscream is wondering that, too, especially considering the fact that Ratbat was one of those corrupt senators the Decepticons insurged against in the first place before the war, and he was apparently forced into Megatron's service as a debasing humiliation.  The notion that being one of Soundwave's tapes is a form of punishment is an interesting one that could use some delving into at some point – especially considering how awesome they are in Autocracy #3 (which is all about Soundwave and his crew being badass). 

Anyway, it's no surprise Starscream disagrees with the Decepticon leader, but since there's no longer any Megatron around to keep him in line – and not even any war on anymore to scheme his way through – he does what would have been unthinkable before peacetime.  He joins the Autobots.

So to speak.  After a fashion.

First, he completely sells out Ratbat's plan to assassinate provisional leader Bumblebee because he thinks it's a dumb idea.  Then he convinces Ratbat's spy Long Haul to betray the flappy fool instead of report back to him on his movements.  Then, while the Autobots ruthlessly strike back against the plot, he makes a grandiose gesture in the midst of a memorial for the Lost Light crew (believed dead but actually alive and messed up over in TF:MTMTE) about putting the past in the past and working together with Bumblebee and the rest of the non-affiliated Cybertronians to help build the future.  Which you know is all a part of a larger scheme – that's what he does.

If any one character was going to shine in this post-war world of political intrigue and social unrest, it was going to be Starscream, the smooth-operating and charismatic deceiver who always believed that guile was a superior tactic to Megatron's brute force methods.  With Megatron gone, the war over and nothing but finagling left to finagle, this is the perfect setting for this guy, the most enduring love-to-hate-him character in the canon.  He's going to be great in this book.  We can see that already.

Barber is also working to even the morality playing field between the Autobots and the Evil Forces Of The Decepticons, as Prowl's 'secret service' agent, the violent and ruthless Arcee, retailiates for the attempted assassination by outright murdering Ratbat, with only lip service paid to any attempt to actually arrest him.  It's possible Prowl is slightly morally conflicted about that, but he's always been the harshly pragmatic one, and it may turn out that he's just as deceptive as any Decepticon.

The art from Andrew Griffith is really solid, too, although there are times when he gets a bit too elaborate with the foldy-flappy kibblish protrusions from various Cybertronian bodies, but never really to the point of anything beyond a momentary distraction.  Colorist Josh Perez also has an important job (one that was often failed during the original animated series as well as the original Marvel comic run) in making sure guys who look the same in shape and design (like Starscream and Skywarp) nonetheless are recognizably different.  Being able to tell all the characters apart and keep them straight is absolutely crucial for any Transformers series to perhaps attract new fans, and so far, both series are doing a great job of it.

Best time to be a Transformers fan.  Provided you only read comics and buy toys and don't bother with those loud movies.