This issue picks up the Orion Pax side story from Robots in Disguise #6, and runs Orion and his crew right in to the path of Turmoil's ship, crewed by the Reflector team after stealing it a couple issues back. And that's just the part of the issue you can immediately understand! Written by John Barber, with art by Livio Ramondelli.
Approaching LV-117 where Wheelie spent a long time stranded, it's already easy to start to get a sense of the situation when the crews of both ships start having odd flashes of time. This story follows Orion as he slides around through different points in the planet's timeline seemingly at random and slowly pieces together the situation while pursuing and being pursued by Bludgeon. LV-117 was the victim of one of Shockwave's experiments long ago, and the ultimate result seems to be that time doesn't really work right on that planet anymore. It's explained that the specific angle at which a traveler approaches the planet somehow affects where in time they'll arrive. Orion and his team landed a relatively short time after the Reflector trio by trying to match their entry angle as closely as possible. Meanwhile, Jhiaxus, Bludgeon and Monstructor arrived far in the future. Orion eventually catches up to Jhiaxus during what appears to be the death of the planet. Jhiaxus experienced a vision of the distant future where his and Nova Prime's dream of a galaxy-spanning Cybertronian empire had become reality. He tells Orion that what they saw in Cybertron's core was nothing compared to what was yet to come, and that LV-117, Shockwave's device, and Optimus Prime himself will be needed to reach the next step. Orion realizes that he can do nothing to prevent Jhiaxus and company from escaping, because their escape has already happened. Orion finds himself back near the starting point with his crew waiting for him. As they depart, Orion reflects on these experiences, knowing he has to stop whatever Jhiaxus and Shockwave have planned, and wonders whether it may have been Shockwave that will destroy LV-117, or maybe an even more terrible force.
Since there's nothing to immediately delineate the time flashes from the rest of the panels on a page it may be a little confusing to start with. Whether or not you're in the habit of reading an issue multiple times, it'll be necessary here. The flashes show points seen later in the issue, so after a couple passes through you can recognize that clearly and better follow the narrative. The mechanics of the story are fairly bold, seeking all at once to account for some missing aspects of Wheelie's backstory, smoothing out what long seemed a continuity error of Reflector appearing after having died in Spotlight: Wheelie, and setting up future storylines. It's clear John Barber has a long game in mind with this book, and as good as he's done in getting story elements fixed and kept together so far, I really hope he'll have the chance to carry through on what he's started setting up in this storyline.
Ramondelli's art style is very striking and gives quite a contrast to the regular story issues. While I really enjoy the painted style especially since it puts me in mind of old storybooks that were illustrated that way, I have to admit the art is not the easiest to follow here. More than once I ended up mistaking Monstructor for Orion, obviously leading to some confusion. In part, that's a matter of the very dark, high contrast coloring. While that can build atmosphere very well, it can hurt the readability if not used with care. This is far from the first science fiction story to use time jumps as a story telling mechanism, and I enjoy those sorts of stories because I like having puzzles to solve. Hard to grasp at first shake as it was, the story turned out well. This is not an easy thing to write, but given his track record I'm not surprised Barber managed it capably. The only serious complaint I'll pose is that I wish the art was a little clearer. Mood is great, but not so much when it muddies things and makes characters difficult to distinguish.
|Date||October 9th 2012|
|Score||(7 out of 10)|
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