More Than Meets The Eye 28: The Guilt of the Author

So, of course as soon as it was humanly possible to do so, I went out and gobbled up my copy of More than Meets the Eye 28 – the One Where Megatron Is Suddenly an Autobot. I read it through once last night just for the enjoyment of reading it, and to get an initial feel of the issue. It turned out I ended up having some surprisingly personal reactions to the issue, more than I expected, so here – as usual in no real order – are my thoughts about this issue.

1. The Guilty Authormegtowardpeace

Roberts presents the idea that Megatron is, at heart, a disillusioned writer. Naturally this particular angle of characterization hits me where I live, because I certainly struggle with my own work, what I consider a “life’s” work, and the motivations for trying to continue said work. I have more than once struggled with issues of silence versus speech. So for me, this aspect of the character is heartbreaking.

It’s not just about what Megatron said, it’s about what happened after he said it.

This is, in some ways, dangerously close to meta. We all build characters from pieces to ourselves. I don’t think ‘guilty author’ Megatron could have existed in season 1 of MTMTE, because Roberts needed the time to see the reaction to his work.  Any artist is going to be both impacted by outside reaction to, and also responsible for, the responses that come in answer to a work. Every artist struggles with issues of culpability and influence, and yet it’s also a fact that audiences often take things from our work that we never intended to put there.

From what we’re presented here, Megatron has (and it’s still not entirely clear how, but it has happened, so we may as well roll with it) connected to the responsibility side of being an artist . And, given his particular “life’s work” invoked a genocidal intergalactic war, it really sucks to have to own that. His failure to communicate well – to be a good enough author – had gigantic, life-altering consequences.

But Megatron-as-author is also someone who lost his own plot. He created from rage and from being backed into corners, and the work quickly got away from him. So not only did he lose control of the work, his intent in creating it was completely misinterpreted. Then he was carried along on the ‘audience’ (Decepticon) reaction, riding the wave of their furious feedback until he became convinced of his own rightness. He forgot about his original intentions in creating and he stopped giving a shit what the audience thought. This position is death to an artist. He further backed himself into the ultimate corner: defending a position that wasn’t the one he started on.

Anyone who’s ever written a blog post and had it launch a flame war can see his problem in miniature. (See also: Hideaki Anno and The End of Evangelion for a particularly brutal author-to-audience response)

What he wants now is to edit the Megatron-that-was out of memory, just as much as Chromedome wants to edit out the pain of losing Rewind. I’m pretty sure that out of all the graffiti painted on Megatron’s door, the word that hurts the most is “Pariah”.

2. And The Rest

So, Nautica and Brainstorm’s conversation is meant to poke us about “moral absolutism” and how we really shouldn’t apply that to our thinking about Megatron. It sets the stage for the larger themes of the issue, of course. I’m just still not bought into Nautica yet. She doesn’t feel quite there to me, and her interview with Swerve gave her, I think, one too many traits that push things a little too close to Mary Sueisms. We’ll see.

Rung is, apparently, a really terrible psychologist. Really, is that his best couchside manner? No wonder Megs wouldn’t open up.

Having Ravage on board is a no-brainer, so I can’t wait to see how that plays out with Soundwave and the remainder of the Decepticon faction later on.

Optimus is walking a tightrope here, and while I want to be sympathetic for the fact he has to play against a variety of bases and try to please everyone, it ultimately just makes me want to punch him, because he doesn’t seem to have the balls to just Make Decisions.   This is even pointed up where Rodimus is allowed to be the one saying what everyone’s really thinking anyway. The fact that Roddy’s getting sidelined (or it sure looks that way) from MTMTE is a pretty hard blow in this respect – I’m going to miss him, but as long as he’s not killed off I’ll deal with it – but I suppose Swerve can fill in that role?

Speaking of, LOL ‘crewditions’ I did appreciate the girls are basically snickering their way through the whole thing, though.

Also, way to be a dick about the Matrix, Prime, when YOU were so very careful with your ownership of it, huh?

FU LF  R  ACE – worthless detail or hint? I am intrigued.

Pretty sure Chromedome is going to end up erasing his memory of Rewind, because otherwise he’s not going to be able to go on. I think that’s what that whole sequence of overlays with Megatron’s dialogue, and the ‘missing 8’, is meant to clue us in to. I really like the idea of exploring this more. Human partners who have to deal with one of them dying is hard enough, but semi-immortal robots who have the capacity to completely obliterate something causing them emotional pain at the relative flick of a button would surely struggle a million times more with the idea of keeping or deleting.

Also, how and why is Magnus still SECOND in Command? Poor bugger, I guess he just can’t deal with that now. ;D

And hey,  now we can never ever again say that Transformers doesn’t have any literary merit – would you have expected to see Dostoyevsky quoted in an issue of a toy-based book about giant robots who punch each other?

On MTMTE Season 2

Okay, now that I finally finished that monstrous chunk of a post about the stupid Robotech movie, I can finally sit down and knock off some quick thoughts, in no real order, about what I’m hoping to see in MTMTE’s “second season”.

General thoughts, before reading the preview pages for MTMTE 28
Naturally, the Big Draw for me is going to get to be seeing Megatron get his ass handed to him over and over for being a moron for several million years. Roberts has already promised on Twitter that the first three issues are going to be a Megatron-centric storyline called “World, Shut Your Mouth”, and the advance solicits STRONGLY imply that the Lost Light itself is going to have a physical reaction to the presence of the former Decepticon.  We know that Blue(silver)streak is coming on board this time around. We know that Rodimus is backing down from command- although maybe not willingly.  Megatron has NO friends among the Autobots that aren’t already leaving for Earth (maybe you could say only Optimus Prime counts as a “friend”, at least as his closest frienemy)

Who’s gonna lead the ‘cons now? Soundwave would be a reasonable guess, though we can also guess that Galvatron is taking control after the end of Dark Cybertron. However, Megatron ALSO spared Galvy’s life when he wasn’t inclined to, and Galvatron did say a vague thing about “maybe it’s time for a new way.” Is the whole Decepticon FACTION going to disappear? How will the faction cope with the splitters who want to follow Megatron even if he’s wearing a ‘bot sigil? Somehow I DEEPLY doubt that the “Dawn of the Autobots” is going to be a species-wide conversion. Hell, even if every ‘con DID switch, there’s still the NAILS out there…

.And of course I hope for and imagine most or all of the following, in no particular order:

  • The return of Drift (please?)
  • Megatron versus the DJD
  • Fulcrum and the Scavengers ending up on the Lost Light -it’s so time for this.
  • Megatron getting blitzed off his aft at Swerve’s, sobbing about how nobody understaaaands him.
  • Megatron reading terrible emo poetry at Swerve’s while being drunk off his aft.
  • Megs once invited Hot Rod to join the Decepticons. Let’s follow up on that shit.
  • Ultra Magnus reading Megs the riot act for his new Autobot badge being .00001 micrometers off true. Conversely, the newer and more ‘trying to be relaxed about things’ Magnus is the only one who’ll even bother TALKING to Megatron.
  • Bluestreak was all too recently acting as Megatron’s guard during the restoration of Cybertron. He got shot when the ‘cons broke Megs out.  Bluestreak and Rodimus also have a bit of history together- let’s pick that up. I think Bluestreak may going to be the Season Two Cyclonus – kinda moody, kinda reclusive.
  • Megs snarking all the way through his Affiliation Ceremony. (Who’ll do the honors? Optimus?)
  • Nobody wanting to be Megs’ roomie on-board.
  • Cyclonus and Tailgate Adventures, Continued
  • More strange new planets and new civilizations!
  • More Decepticons than just Megs climbing on the Lost Light, too?

General thoughts, after reading the preview pages for MTMTE 28

  • Hm. Nautica. Do we have to? Win me over on this one Roberts, because I’m not quite feeling it yet. Maybe I still have a lot of lingering resentments about how much G1 Arcee was clearly a ‘token female’ Autobot…
  • …but ahahah Brainstorm. I love that he makes stuff that is almost literally impossible, like that tourth-wall breaking weapon in S1. It should seem cartoony, but somehow it doesn’t. It’s just fun.
  • How long before a Tumblr gets made called “The Lost Light Insider“? … Who am I kidding, there probably already IS one.
  • I forgot about Rung. OF COURSE Rung talks to everyone. OF COURSE he’ll talk to Megs. DUH.
  • That is very definitely a new Autobrand on the Megster.
  • Magic: Science that Rodimus doesn’t understand. So, that’s like, MOST of it? ;D
  • Yeah. Rod is NOT going to take this Megatron-as-captain thing well. Potential mutineer. Maybe he’ll rabblerouse the others! Unless he REALLY comes around to seeing Megs as something other than Decepticon skidstain. But Rod KNOWS how shitty he is as a leader, too, sooooo.
  • The look on Ratchet’s face on that third page is priceless.
  • Roddy says the Lost Light can jump all the way to the galactic rim in a single burst. Can we PLEEEEASE have it unexpectedly smash right into the middle of the Weak Anthropic Principle? 🙂
  • “my people”, Starscream? This is bad com… oh. uhm.

GUEST POST: What I hate about Dark Cybertron and other gentle tales of foulness [dKaboom]

We’ve been having a conversation this last week on /r/transformers about the ending of IDW’s Dark Cybertron arc. The arc’s produced plenty of buzz, no small amount of controversy, and a wide range of feelings throughout the fandom. Some of us on the sub nagged fellow user dKaboom to write up his thoughts about the thing and I invited him to send it to me as a guest post. So here’s that post!

Here there be spoilers as this is still relatively new material. Take it away, dKaboom!


Inconsistencies

We start DC #1 with the crew of Ark-1 reaching the Benzuli Expanse and entering it. Although, in Spotlight: Galvatron we had learned that it plunged towards the Dead Universe (DU) not on Nova’s command as it is now being stated, but because Galvatron had also felt the tug of the DU beckoning him and acted without anyone’s knowledge or approval to direct them there, before proper examination was fully carried. So the events portrayed are inconsistent with those before. Farewell, continuity. Nice knowing you.

From then, Shockwave creates an undead Titan for reasons that remain tenuous to grasp. Seemingly, it’s to create a portal/conduit to the DU. Okay, neat, but every other portal connects directly to the DU, as we’ve seen again and again, from Spotlight: Nightbeat to Heart of Darkness. So why does it just make a hologram teleconference connection to the DU? Why do they need a space-bridge now? And why would the space-bridge inside the titan be destroyed when mixing the two ores? It doesn’t really make much sense other than to draw out the plot. And speaking of not making much sense, suddenly Galvatron and Nova Prime are allies once more and when (righteously) voicing his doubts about this, all Shockwave and the readership get is a short dismissal. Like throwing sand in our eyes, scant lines brush that inconsistency aside like it was nothing. This kind of approach is an affront to the readers’ common sense, in my opinion. Past that, the Necrotitan then proceeds to emit its death waves, but not everyone suffers the same kind of damage, something that’s also pointed out, but never addressed as to why. At this point, it seems like a plot device to weed out the characters you don’t want to work with in the action.

Away from the titans for a while, Metalhawk is revived by one of the death waves to retrieve Megatron, from inside the city. As Metalhawk carries Megatron away, it is again implied that he was dead, like in RiD 21, even though he was merely trapped in a stasis field, from what was shown to us.

Next up, Shockwave tries to talk Megatron (revived, perhaps?) into joining him in his plan, despite having him captured and being able to simply activate the space-bridge within him, without his consent. This makes no sense at all, for a character driven by pure logic like Shockwave. He doesn’t even make a convincing argument and it ends up as just a waste of time that’s never addressed.

Within the DU, another inconsistent point is Nightbeat, who tracked Orion Pax’s party and later betrayed them, acting as though he had been partially brain-washed. But he wasn’t a sleeper agent on his own, he was controlled by Jhiaxus through a remote link, as we learn in Spotlight: Hardhead. No wavering control, no intermittent bouts with his own self, he was completely under someone else’s command, then. It’s also pretty shady that Hardhead went through the portal to the DU moments after he killed Nightbeat and stayed there – or at least in its periphery – until Heart of Darkness (3 years, give or take?), but on DC’s issue #5 he was surprised to see him there. It doesn’t add up.

Back on Cybertron, Megatron is back in action, after being released by a joint Autobot-Decepticon raid on Shockwave’s lair, only to be broken in two like a twig by Galvatron. Really, what an awful characterization. Galvatron was never before portrayed to be as strong as that. It would take a ludicrous amount of tension to break a body as large as his own – a newly, powerfully constructed body at that. And this sends a message of frailty that may fit, say, Guzzle when pitted against Overlord, but definitely not someone as vicious and powerful as Megatron – whom Barber must have some beef against. In my opinion, it’s a distasteful exaggeration, but even so, it doesn’t stay consistent, for a maimed Megatron still has the power to knock out a fresh Galvatron with his fusion cannon in the next issue.

Later, Shockwave directs the Necrotitan towards Iacon to bring it all to hell, despite the considerable damage already wrought by its death waves. Again, and as Prowl himself pointed out, it makes no sense, and we’re never given any proper explanation why. Again.

In the DU, Orion Pax finally goes up against Nova Prime, as expected. And lazily, the fight falls quickly into a cliché, where Pax gets beaten badly by Nova – he himself commenting on how he couldn’t even land a punch on him -, only to make a speedy recovery after a short pep talk from Rodimus that completely changes not only his outlook, but his name. Now, name changed back to Optimus Prime, he tears Nova Prime’s arm off and effortlessly shoves his fist into his chest plate, killing the undead. He couldn’t land a punch before, but call him Jean-Claude Van Damme, because he got his last-minute-bearings back on and it was just that easy, after all.

Despite all the turns of events and the impact set up from the coordinated counter-attack from Prowl and Soundwave’s forces against the assault on Iacon – the hanging suspense upon finding the creature’s weak-point -, it was painfully obvious from back to issue #3 that Metroplex would not only come to fight the Necrotitan, he would be the only one capable of doing so. A great idea, but one that was anticipated 5 issues earlier. So after Metroplex beats the Necrotitan and the day is seemingly saved, Shockwave and his party then begin to reveal his plan:

He needed Nova Prime out of the DU, or simply just dead, so that the dimension could be ungoverned, in order to allow him to use the time-drive to tap into its energies. He also needed a conduit into the DU, which would either have been the Titan or Galvatron, the latter being the ultimate choice. For this, he also needed to bring his ores to Cybertron and combine them to specific purposes, in order to create the physical conditions required to power the time-drive and manipulate reality towards extinction, with Cybertron at the epicenter of the singularity that would wipe creation out.

This is actually a smart angle to play, but it’s not entirely clear why Nova Prime would be a determent to this plan, since the time-drive would harness the energy from the dimension that the DU once was, rendering it devoid of life, and creating the DU as it is now known. That would’ve been BEFORE the Ark-1 even set out to penetrate it. Beyond that, the properties about the ores, the way he uses them and the purpose that is given to each combination in this masterplan is remarkably flimsy. But why explain this to Galvatron, in the first place? It served no logic, as he was entirely at the mercy of the proceedings done to him. It is plain exposition, in order to suddenly make sense of a giant cluster-fuck that had been DC all that time. Also, if all he ever needed was to mix the ores together, why do so in such conspicuous manner? Why not collect the ores without something as blatant as a Necrotitan inviting interference? This is especially relevant, when you consider that the presence of the ore-7 would end the Necrotitan and the death plague, seemingly. And how does a single Cybertronian convince/control/booby trap over 70 billion Ammonites to join his unknown, crazy cause when they have their own war to battle? Most of these answers seem to be left to chance and guess. You can tell the writers were trying to make this arc a massive event, but it seems as though it ended up just being needlessly complicated, instead of a mastermind’s conspiracy, deriving exclusively from logic and strategy.

The last of the clichés, however, is the “final battle” platform that the writers created. Where only a handful of chosen characters may enter the final stage, while the others are left behind by some reason. They tried this one on account of Skywarp’s dwindling control of his power, which fails to register as nothing but an excuse, since they also had the Lost light nearby, which they could have used to orbital bounce to that specific location. Keeping with this RPG/battle anime scenario, one by one, they encounter lesser “bosses” that require a few members to stay behind while the others press on to the “final boss” – first Bludgeon, then Jhiaxus in reactive armor. I can even hear Saint Seiya’s theme echoing as this goes on…

At the end, Shockwave and the time-drive were destroyed by Optimus Prime and Megatron, yet the singularity was still formed, although apparently self-contained. Megatron put it best: “(…) it makes as much sense as anything else…” In my opinion, a needless outcome that served only to grant a final, suspenseful adrenaline rush.

Megatron’s 180º and the perversion of the Decepticon cause

In terms of dialogue and writing, I think Roberts’ end is by parsecs of distance the stronger influence. Even then, I wouldn’t expect such a trite twist of the Decepticon agenda, as what we’ve been fed by Barber, since the prelude to DC with Soundwave. He’s trying desperately to make Megatron more humane, to make his cause more understandable, approachable. To make one feel as though the same line of reasoning could happen to any one of us. But in truth, it’s always been just a vortex of fixed, delusional and airtight ideology that draws the worst and most questionable of Cybertronians, they themselves reinforcing the movement’s evil ways. It’s a promise of a dystopian vision, based on anger, ruthlessness and conquest, and the war is an excuse to exact those urges from those who side with it. It needn’t be called a fight for freedom, a fight against repression, a fight for the people. Megatron understands – and the others follow as a way to weed out the weak – that his methods and the war are oppressing, ravaging and that freedom is an impediment to his vision of a better Cybertron. He may convince himself to care about the people in the longer run, but he’ll gladly stomp on them in the shorter (shorter spanning 4 million years, no less!). We have obtained all these cues from his past renditions, which turn explicit in Chaos Theory. To try and make it something morally superior is a bad joke that urges one to suspend disbelief, reading it from Soundwave or Megatron.

Continuing with Megatron, his sudden turn of personality, while an interesting point to explore, is without solid explanation, without a steady progression and based on a weak foundation. Whimsical in appearance, really, since the last time he was awake, he sought to rule Cybertron through guile and conquest yet again. This overhaul was just dropped out of nowhere.

Miscellaneous rants and the last hate-filled gasp

You know what the comics really needed? Less artist stability, more subpar line artists like Atilio Rojo. And thank Primus we finally have it, because I didn’t know what to do with myself with Griffith and Milne providing excellent work on a regular basis. Not that one couldn’t tolerate different styles and breaking slightly from the quality we had been used to, but Rojo is weak beyond words. He’s making Brandon Cahill – who seems to have legitimately improved his skill, in my opinion – look like Don Figueroa by comparison. And he’s all over the place, across the majority of issues of what’s supposed to be the biggest crossover effort of the last years. Who’s calling these shots?

You know what also really grinds my gears? The constant humanization. Prowl refers to Ravage as a dog, Ravage corrects him by knowing/caring about what a cat is, just for the sake of the old joke. Astrotrain has binoculars with him because he has “bad” eyes, instead of faulty optics which can be repaired. And somehow he hid this fact from Megatron for at least 4 million years. Really? How about having binoculars BECAUSE they provide strategic advantage in war or at least reconnaissance missions? Also, Transformers cough when they’re “sick” or dying, isn’t that nice? And stupid, since coughing happens because your trachea is stimulated by foreign objects to expel them from your respiratory system. Which machines don’t have or need. Then, there’s the sense of smell…

The back and forth shifts between Bumblebee asserting command, then ordering to stand down, to wait and see, seem painfully repetitive, especially with Prowl or others calling him out on how he’s hesitating (again). Same as what’s happened with Starscream being labeled the chosen one, the cursed one, the bringer of darkness over and over, despite his actual involvement in the crisis being remarkably passive. It’s also quite ridiculous to expect anyone to stop a Titan and its unknown, unstoppable emissions of death waves, so this aspect seems to really only tie with the prophecy drivel, in order to aggrandize the event.

Speaking of Bumblebee and Starscream, the body changes are random at best, asinine at heart. Never mind that this is a platform that is mainly based in G1, let’s get him in his Armada body and pretty much destroy the image of Starscream (seriously, even the face and the head don’t match with any type of recognizable screamer/seeker). And this change is brought about despite this visual being comparatively lesser known than his usual traits. And Bumblebee’s alleged damage requiring to change to his older body, in RiD’s prelude to DC was extremely unconvincing. Same with Arcee. Even Slag changing his name to Slug in issue #6 is dropped out in a dialogue that’s only as inconsequential as it is uninspired.

It’s a darn shame when Hasbro’s race to sell toys dictates the fate of the comic, rather than the other way around.

The result is a random and poor insertion of these changes in the storyline.

In a summary note, that seems to be the central theme hauling through Dark Cybertron: arbitrariness. And it’s a shame, because the concept itself had promise, but the writing failed to create a robust and believable progression in the story.


Thanks again to dKaboom for this great guest post!