Mega Man X2: Into the Underworld

Mega Man December continues: Mega Man X2 was released in Japan on this date, December 16, 1994. Today is the 20th Anniversary of X2!

X2

Mega Man X2: Into The Underworld

Coming off the heels of the very well received Mega Man X, X2 deepens the franchise story by creating an urgent quest for players and making it personal for X, the series main character. The game is significantly darker than its predecessor, with X struggling through an array of gritty factories, caves and dangerous facilities littered with hanging Reploid bodies to reach his goal. Mega Man X6 has the most depressing plot elements and dialogues, but Mega Man X2 looks and feels low, airless, grimy and gloomy, like a hard slog through Hades, in every way matching its morbid theme of gathering body parts from scavengers.

What Happens?

Zero, X’s partner and best friend, died near the end of Mega Man X1, killed during the uprising by blowing himself up to defeat a greater enemy. In Mega Man X2, Mavericks have stolen his body and you, as X, have to get it back. X faces off against a new set of vicious Mavericks to rescue his best friend from death and keep Zero’s power from falling into Maverick lord Sigma’s clutches.

What Was New Or Different About This Game?

The X-Hunters – a group of three powerful Mavericks who each take a piece of Zero’s body and run off with it. This isn’t the first time in the Mega Man series that sub bosses and boss characters appear, but this is the first time that they’re elevated to positions of plot significance. Each of the X-Hunters has a separate stage to fight X in, and they move around the map each time the player enters a stage. Each stage has a special hidden area that only is accessible when the X-Hunter in question is present. Because of this, and to properly collect the many available Ride Armors and upgrades, players often have to enter levels several times.

Wireframe graphicsMega Man X2 and its sequel Mega Man X3 are programmed to take advantage of a rarely chip in the Super Nintendo called a Cx4 or C4. This allows low-res vector graphics to be created, and in X2 and X3 the chip is used to create mini bosses and sub characters, as well as occasional graphical effects. It wasn’t really used to its full capacity, so this is more of an advertising gimmick, but it still marks out X2 as an interesting oddity in the SNES world.

Green Biker Dude – In the opening scrawl X leads a small group of Hunters toward a Reploid factory taken over by Mavericks. One of the nameless background characters pops a wheelie on his bike and is promptly blown to bits. The fandom adopted this nameless character as “Green Biker Dude” and he’s been an Internet meme ever since.

Where Can I Find It?

The original game was released for the SNES and can be found occasionally on eBay or in other resellers. Mega Man X2 can also be found included on the Mega Man X Collection for PS2 or Gamecube and, for modern systems, can be purchased through the Virtual Console for Wii.

Mega Man December is an ongoing celebration all month of the Mega Man series. You can contribute too! Join the Queen of Robots Facebook Page or post to QoR on Twitter and let us know your favorite game, series or memory of Mega Man!

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Maverick Hunter X

Maverick Hunter X was released in Japan on this date, December 15, 2005. It’s 9 years old today!

MHXMaverick Hunter X: Incomplete Series Reboot

The release of Maverick Hunter X in 2005 was series creator Capcom’s initial attempt to reboot and restart the Mega Man X series on modern era consoles. As a result, the 16-bit game play of X1 was upgraded into 3D platforming on the Playstation Portable. Apart from the locations of the capsules being swapped around, there’s very little loss of fidelity in regards to actual game play, stage mapping or player control, making Maverick Hunter X a very strong contender and much more fun to play than either Mega Man X7 or X8, the other 3D X games. Of course, the fact that it was only available on the PSP for a number of years crippled broad adoption, and the game underperformed on sales. The reboot of the series was cancelled, and no further remakes were slotted.

This is particularly frustrating as Maverick Hunter X made major adjustments to the series canon, including killing off an important support character three games early, which makes the game incongruous with later entries. Maverick Hunter X also appears to have begun a process of severely retconning or at least significantly altering the back story between Zero, Sigma, and the Maverick Virus- only further releases would have clarified Capcom’s intentions.

What Happens?

As in Mega Man X1, Maverick Hunter X concerns itself with the events of the rebellion of former Maverick Hunter commander Sigma, and his squadron of 8 “Mavericks”. Rookie Hunter X must deal with the betrayal of his former commander, and work together with his partner, the more experienced Hunter Zero, to take down the Maverick rebellion. Anyone familiar with the game-play of X1 will have no trouble picking up Maverick Hunter X.

What Was New Or Different About This Game?

Day of Sigma – The most significant addition to the X series canon is this 24 minute unlockable OAV embedded in the game – you can access it after beating the game once as X. While it plays fast and loose with the previous history of the series, including major alterations to support characters and the motivations of primary characters like Sigma, it’s also really well animated, and voice-acted by the same troupe that did X8 and Command Mission – Blue Water at Ocean. You can watch this online on Youtube in a number of versions including a subtitled Japanese original and the full English dub.

Vile Mode – Play as a fan favorite X series villain by finishing X’s game and unlocking Vile Mode. Levels don’t change, but the cutscenes are significantly altered, the game flow leads to a very different (and fun!) boss encounter with a paired X and Zero as your final obstacle, and Vile has his own storyline and reactions throughout, including custom animated cutscenes that appear to have been snipped from the larger whole of Day of Sigma, and his own unique ending.

New Dialogue and Story Elements – In keeping with the late entries in the X series, Maverick Hunter X now allows dialogue trees between Vile, X, and the Mavericks before battles. The original X1 was very sparse on this material in-game, so each of the Mavericks have now been given additional character depth and motivation. It does however mean that game play does slow down before each boss fight. There are actually three sets of Maverick dialogues – what you get on X’s first run, a new set of altered dialogues if you replay a finished game, and conversations with Vile. Sigma’s ultimate motivations for his rebellion now mirror those of Lumine from Mega Man X8 (released in the same year).

Additionally, all the animated cutscenes and talking heads for all the characters look great, with clean, optimized linework and updated designs.

Where Can I Find It?

The original PSP version of the game can be found on eBay and sometimes in second-hand stores. A port of MHX has been released on PSN and can be downloaded for play on a PS Vita or PSP. You can not play it directly on the Playstation 3, unfortunately.

Mega Man December is an ongoing celebration all month of the Mega Man series. You can contribute too! Join the Queen of Robots Facebook Page or post to QoR on Twitter and let us know your favorite game, series or memory of Mega Man!

Review: Appleseed Alpha (2014)

Apalph2

I picked up a rental of Appleseed Alpha last night. I was on the fence about this movie to begin with after seeing the trailer online and not liking the character design for Deunan.

The apple(seed)s are falling very far from the tree these days. It seems to me that every incarnation of the Appleseed concept after the original animated OAV conversion in 1988 has gotten it wrong in some significant way. Appleseed Ex Machina (2007, also dir. Aramaki) suffered from an excess of attention given to invented characters that did not exist in the original manga and a lack of respect for the primary partnership of its central characters or the original manga’s world-building; these are both problems shared by Appleseed Alpha.

Head over to QoR‘s sister blog, Nerd Like a Girl, for the rest of the review of 2014’s Appleseed Alpha!  QoR updates tomorrow with more Mega Man December.

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?

Robotech The Movie: Even More Bitching

This post is dedicated to the memory of Noboru Ishiguro, one of the gods of /m/ anime and the original director of several of the individual pieces that make up the following monstrosity. We fucked up some of his greatest works, so we at least owe it to him to acknowledge that. Thanks also to The Land of Obscusion, from whom I stole the cover image for this article.

Why does Robotech: the Movie matter?

I’m well aware that unless you’re either really dedicated or an ancient curmudgeon like me, you probably have no idea what either Robotech or Megazone 23 are- it’s not likely that you’ve heard of either one these days. Why does it matter? Because Robotech, for all its many flaws, helped create the market for anime in the US.

The series ran concurrently with The Real Ghostbusters and Transformers and He-Man, and it’s Robotech (along with Voltron, Mighty Orbots, Star Blazers and to a much lesser extent Tranzor Z, Galaxy Rangers and Saber Rider and the Star Sherriffs) that got a lot of 80’s nerdballs curious about them wacky cartoons from Japan.

At the time, it was not really well known – hey, we were like 13, man! –  that a lot of our favorite shows actually originated in Japan. But some of us started noticing how many series had Japanese names in the credits- when the companies could be bothered to actually give credits. If we were paying attention, we started to learn a couple of studio names:  TMS or Tokyo Movie Shinsha always had great animation, better than other studios. We started to be able to tell TMS episodes from other episodes by the art style alone. We knew Toei Animation from Transformers. We heard about Tatsunoko here and there. We heard a little about Sunrise. We knew that some guy named Tezuka had made some robot dude named Astro Boy in the 60s. We vaguely remembered something about Speed Racer. We knew something was going on and we wanted in.

Interest in Robotech and curiosity about its origins helped fill the doors of some of the first nation-wide fan organizations for anime (see: Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, god help us all), who created the first anime cons in the US, which brought together fans who yelled and screamed and petitioned and started companies all for the express purpose of bringing more and more of this material to the States, ultimately making it possible for you to today have Madoka Magica Blu-rays in Suncoast, G Gundam and Dragonball Z airing nationally on Toonami, and Howl’s Moving Castle being mainstream released by Disney.

Yeah. Robotech did that. Carl Macek did that. Sorry. 

Robotech: the Movie, on the other hand, is a spectacular train-wreck – a laughable failure and a warning from the early dark days of  “mainstream” anime releasing in the US. It’s a stark and vivid object lesson in How Not To Bring Content Here From Other Countries. Even the guy who caused it to be created hated it. It’s just plain bad.

“I don’t consider [the movie] to be a part of the timeline of the ‘Robotech’ era whatsoever. Really, I’d like everybody to forget about ‘Robotech the Movie’ altogether” – Carl Macek, 1990

The History of a Disaster

Robotech, following on the heels of  World Production’s Voltron, took three different popular anime series from 80’s Japan, smashed them into a blender, rewrote all three series to be one interconnected world, cut a bunch of material out for the tastes of the US market, and then ran it alongside Transformers in the mid-80’s on TV.  This was behavior that was par for the course at the time, and persisted even into the 90’s in some markets.

Megazone 23 Part One was the first successful OAV released in Japan, a smash hit in 85. Following MZ’s release, the OAV market exploded. Megazone 23 was a product of the ill-fated ARTMIC studio, which also gave us the stellar Bubblegum Crisis and Gall Force OAVs as well as the original form of the third section of Robotech, Genesis Climber Mospeada.

So as Robotech was still doing well, the folks behind it- Harmony Gold- thought they would try another market by releasing Robotech: The Movie. Combining these two things – both monster hits in their areas of origin – was a perfectly logical idea, right? Like putting chocolate in peanut butter!  Although Harmony Gold had initially wanted to do a straight dub of the OAV, their other licensors balked.

Cannon Films (yeah, THEM) wanted Harmony Gold to include more graphic elements and more tech; Tatsunoko didn’t want any visual or conceptual elements reused from Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Unfortunately Macross elements had been hacked into being the primary core concepts of Robotech. This was a problem.

Megazone 23 shared some production staff from Macross, and was built around the same general theme of a “generation ship” versus aliens (but please please please don’t think Megazone is in any way a sequel to Macross- at best it’s a in-jokey homage). That meant Harmony Gold couldn’t more explicitly tie the Megazone concepts to the Macross concepts; this also meant no mention of Zentraedi, “protoculture”, etc. So Harmony Gold decided to cut together the MZ 23 footage with snips and clips from Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross. Southern Cross was the least popular “middle section” of Robotech, and one which had suffered the most, story wise, in the conversion process.

The fact that Megazone 23 was in an entirely different screen resolution, film stock, and frame rate from the Southern Cross material didn’t deter Harmony Gold in the least.

Finally, Harmony Gold commissioned a third animation studio to create new footage to replace the ambiguous/unresolvable/ “downer” ending of the original Megazone.

Does your head hurt yet?

The movie had a limited release as a test run in 35 Dallas theaters at the end of July 1986. Transformers: The Movie came out a week later. You can imagine how well that went.

Later, the film negatives would be destroyed when the building housing them was flooded, making  an ‘official’ release impossible. The Memory Matrix, a very good fansite about this train wreck, suggests that there may be an alternate version, revised cut or even a whole separate dub, but so far that hasn’t surfaced.

The Bitching (aka Queenie’s Commentary Track From Hell For Robotech: The Movie)

A couple of years ago the movie surfaced on YouTube in fragments. I reviewed it at that time, going minute by minute and live blogging my reactions. I’d heard about it for years but never got to see it; I was stunned by just how bad it really was.

I left out a lot back then.

Another version has surfaced, which looks to be a fan-rebuilt cut by an Anon (Anarchy Reconstruction?), so since my original sources for the first article are no longer working, I decided to hold my nose and dive back in a second time- to update the previous post for full-length time-code notation, and add more context and clarification to the previous bitching. And add some more bitching. This movie is really, really terrible.

Continue reading

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!