With Caminus under attack by Menasor, reinforcements are dispatched from Cybertron to assist in the defense of the Camiens, including Starscream's "secret weapon" - Superion! "The Sum And Its Parts" Story by Mairghread Scott and John Barber, written by Mairghread Scott, art by Sarah Stone.
On Caminus, the colony's control center detects a disturbance, and the consciousness of their Titan reacts in a way its Cityspeakers can't interpret. A security force dispatches to investigate, coming upon Swindle. But when subsequently met by Menasor, things go not very well. On Cybertron, Optimus brings Starscream up to speed, and Starscream dispatches his own troops to try to subdue Menasor. But when that too fails, Optimus forces Starscream to bring his best to the table, and in short order a battle of combiners has begun.
This is our first real look at the civilization on Caminus, and there's some nice building of this world through what's presented here. Some of the society follows on from clues revealed in the first Windblade series, such as preference for melee weapons as ranged arms are said to be seen as wasteful - a statement that makes much more sense having had the reality of the colony's situation clearly presented to us now. But the security detail that intercepts Swindle and Menasor is armed consistently with that philosophy, and I enjoyed seeing that put in practice beyond Windblade, given that Chromia has adopted firearms during her time on Cybertron as seen in Transformers 39. We get shown a portion of the world's culture through the prevailing belief system through which the world's government is organized. A tiny bit of this was explained in interviews before the crossover started, but you get rather more detail here, and it's presented very naturally and shown to you instead of having it mostly explained in narration or infodumpy dialogue.
Mairghread is as on-point with the character writing as ever. Her Starscream particularly is delightful to read, bridging the best qualities of a G1-flavored version with highlights of Transformers Prime, making for a fantastic fusion that she works through really well. The sequence of Starscream taking an emergency call in his office may well be the very best of the whole issue. Afterburner, who's the lead of the Camien security unit also shows a lot of character in the time he appears, which is pretty good for someone with only a few pages to his name in this issue. This has been one of the things I've always noticed about Mairghread Scott as a writer: she's fantastic with writing characters, whether they're established already or newly being developed, she is able to figure them out and express them and them them seem alive in a way that's uncommon enough that it really stands out like this when you're presented with it. It was a major highlight of the writing in the first Windblade miniseries, and it's doing the same thing here. I'm really glad to see it.
There are some odd points to note though. There's a flashback involving Blackjack which seems to be setting up ...something with him. But where it's placed in the issue makes it unclear what's being suggested, and there's no resolution to it that I can find given. It may pick up in a subsequent issue, but it feels really strange right now the way it's just dropped in here and seemingly left on its own while the rest of the issue's story goes on around it. The other thing is that the fight scenes run really rough. This seems more like a scripting matter than art, because the action jumps sometimes really sharply from one point to another where it's in the middle of a sequence that has no direct set up in between. The impression is kind of like there was a battle scene written, it couldn't be fit in the number of pages so it just got chopped down without otherwise modifying it to make sure everything still followed smoothly. But, there is one interesting piece of combiner-on-combiner violence, though you may not understand right away what's happening...
So during the fight there's some unconventional use of combiner body structure in a tactical use, but unfortunately the art has a hard time clearly showing what's happening at that point. Which is kind of a shame since the idea is pretty novel. The battle is a bit choppy, though the art mostly represents the parts we get to see well. Outside that one issue of unclear action, the rest is easy to understand as you go along. But once again where I think Sarah Stone shines most is in character expressiveness. Visor-faced Afterburner (or maybe Snipe, cause who knows what name they'll use here?) get a surprising range of expression both facial and in body language - kind of amazing given the context. Her take on combiners battling manages to bring across their greater size pretty well. Her style doesn't involve using surrounding reference points to get the idea, rather it's more delivered in the framing of the characters and isolation from surrounding elements, along with some good use of lighting to make them seem bigger than usual. I like the method, and it really seems to suit a battle at dusk or just nighttime like we've got in this case. When we get a ground level-up view on a combiner it looks really nice and conveys the hugeness, both with good posing and extra levels of detail visible to highlight the distinct scale. Lighting is used in this process too, accounting for the way light falls differently on larger objects.
And the strong awareness of lighting is found all through the coloring. Things like Starscream's helmet getting a subtle blue glow from the light of a hologram projector that you might not notice if it was absent, but it makes a panel seem a little more complete even though you won't immediately register why. Farther in there a wider shot at night with a mix of the glow of smoldering ruins and implied lighting from a city that mixes together in a really convincing way. And on the very first page the establishing shot of the Caminus colony is a beautiful space scene with a really well done gas giant taking up the background. It may show already, but I'm quite happy to have another book with Sarah Stone doing interiors. Some things in it are noticeably toned down compared to some of the previous work, especially detail on backgrounds, but it's not in a bad way. Mostly where you can actually see that happening ends up being places where the foreground events and characters ought to be more in focus anyway, so there's not a sense of lack. The environment still exists around them, it's not taking your attention away. If that's keeping everything else on track, I'm fine with it because the art is still doing what it needs to and a bit more besides and I love how the characters come across in this style.
So, in this issue's covers we have the alternate six for the shop-exclusive covers, now with Devastator smashing a range of comic retailers. None of these particularly grab me like the Superion ones since it's all just variations on piles of rubble. One or two of the other title's covers might have been nice enough to regret probably not being able to get hold of one, but I don't feel any loss on these. Now, for the main selection, we have the same assortment of creators behind all three. Casey Coller and Joana Lafuente bring the main cover, an Aerialbot and Windblade counter to Transformers' Menasor and Optimus, a subscription cover by Livio which is the other half of the Combiner Wars promo image, and another retailer incentive piece by Sara Pitre-Durocher featuring similarly styled art to the other cover, but with Superion, and Windblade standing in one hand while fist-bumping the other. Like the Menasor cover, this has a great digital paint style and I love the lighting and the clean detail on the characters. This interpretation of Windblade's design is not my favorite, but it's nice. Superion really steals the show though, as you'd expect.
|Date||March 23rd 2015|
|Score||(8 out of 10)|
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